Student research may eventually help protect a small endangered seabird in the South Sound.

Browns Point Lighthouse Park is remarkably silent on a Tuesday morning in late July.

The gentle waves of the Puget Sound, tamed further by the embrace of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay, are barely audible. The hum of cars on nearby WA-509 fades as you walk down from the parking lot to the shore. Even the seabirds, hanging low and lazy in the sky, don’t break the peace. Everything at Browns Point is serene, right down to the quaint little art deco lighthouse.

The quiet makes the sudden excited energy from two barefoot college students seem all the more out of place.

One points a finger above the water line, and both stare into the air. The young man reaches for binoculars. He sighs, then passes them over to his partner, telling her, “PIGU.”