Summer on the beach

Students and faculty explore rich opportunities at WWU's Rosario campus


Biology classes at Walla Walla University’s campus in Rosario Beach, Washington were back in person after being held online last summer. 

Located in Rosario Bay on the southwest side of Fidalgo Island in Washington, the Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory offers biology students opportunities to study ornithology, marine environmental physiology, entomology, and more. Lower-division students can take an entire year’s worth of classes through the summer, or upper-division students can take two 400-level classes.

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given to study at Rosario,” said Jake Freedle, sophomore bioengineering student, “primarily because you can't get this experience anywhere else — especially on the main campus! I'm taking biology, so to be able to get a whole year’s worth of bio credits in eight weeks is convenient."

Roughly 40 students lived and studied at the Rosario campus this summer alongside eight faculty members and their families. 

“Rosario is an experience like no other because you actually get to be involved with the material you are studying in class!” said Eden Kim, junior biology student. “We are able to do lots of hands-on learning. For example, we have traveled around to various islands in the Puget Sound to go tidepooling and have the opportunity to be involved in some crazy awesome research projects!”

A couple projects the students help with include measuring carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and how that affects metabolic rates and hypoxia tolerance in smooth skin octopuses, as well as monitoring the effects of pollution from paper mills on phytoplankton. 

Outside of class, students spend time eating at the cafeteria, playing volleyball, scuba diving, and whale watching. Worship opportunities are provided on the beach at 9 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Each Saturday the faculty organize outings for students to explore the area. These have included boat rides around the Puget Sound, cliff jumping at Whistle Lake, and hiking at Mount Sauk.

“Last summer, classes were offered online, so it has been a relief for the Rosario regulars to be back on campus,” said Erin Banks-Kirkham, summer administration assistant at Rosario. While there is a high COVID-19 vaccination rate among occupants at Rosario, participants still wear masks when indoors. Those who have not received their vaccination are tested regularly for COVID-19. “Since everything we need is on campus, we are lucky to feel rather protected from the outside world,” said Banks-Kirkham. 

For more information, visit the Rosario webpage or see what our students have been up to this summer on our Instagram account.


Group of students and faculty gather on pebbled beach
"The spirit of Rosario is thriving this summer and it has been such a gift to all of us after the struggles of the pandemic." —Erin Banks-Kirkham
Row of boats on beach at sunset
Students learn in an environment full of natural beauty.