Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Giant Named Tiny: Rearing a Giant Pacific Octopus

This blog post adapted from a presentation by Ali Redman, Aquarium Curator.

It all started out with the “Light Trap.” So I must begin this story with how we came to have a light trap and why. 

This past spring we joined the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group, which is a diverse collaboration of crab researchers and managers who monitor larval recruitment of Dungeness crab using light traps with the goal of producing a sustainable Dungeness crab fishery. 

diagram of Light Trap used 
to count Dungeness crab larvae

The light trap is composed of a float attached to a 5-gallon water bottle with a light inside. Zooplankton enter through funnels, attracted by a light inside the water bottle. 
This past spring and summer, PTMSC staff and interns regularly counted the number of Dungeness crab larvae that were in the trap and reported that to the research group. Not surprisingly, lots of other kinds of zooplankton were also found in the trap. See the chart below for an idea of the diversity of “bycatch.”

Sample of diverse bycatch from the light trap

Even on the very first day, we found pelagic (floating in the water column) paralarval octopuses, both red Pacific octopuses and giant Pacific octopuses (GPOs). Raising octopuses from a paralarval stage in captivity is notoriously hard to do, and has only been done twice successfully. Keeping a pelagic paralarval octopus alive requires a kreisel or “jellyfish tank.” So we were not planning on collecting any octopuses from the light trap.

However, on June 10, we noticed an octopus zooplankton that was different. This female GPO was benthic, which means that she attached to things and crawled. We thought perhaps we could raise her without a specialized tank. We named her Tiny, because, well, she was tiny!

octopus as a pararval zooplankton!


During phase 1 of raising Tiny, we used a “muck tub,” a piece of aquarium equipment used for larval fish rearing. It had fine mesh covering the drain and a lowered water level to keep her from climbing out. And because octopuses are so intelligent, we kept the tub stocked with a variety of decorations to stimulate her natural curiosity. Tiny ate a diet of wild caught plankton (zoea and other tiny crustaceans), and enriched brine shrimp.

Tiny the octopus started out in this muck tub!
When Tiny got big enough, we began weighing her weekly. We were very excited to see steady and vigorous growth. Her average growth rate was 2% of her body weight each day! 

Finally, when she was big enough (but still tiny, of course) she was moved to a tank in the aquarium exhibit. Astroturf around the rim and a weighted lid is now required to deter Tiny from wandering.

Here are a few fun facts about octopuses.

GPO vs red Pacific:

2 rows of dots on tentacles=red Pacific

1 row of dots on tentacles=GPO

Sexing Octopuses

Male octopuses have a hectocotylus, on the tip of the third right tentacle.

Tiny doesn’t have a hectocotylus, therefore Tiny is female.

Check out this video titled "Tiny over Time" which documents Tiny's growth during her stay with us here at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center:

Donate to our GivingTuesday campaign TODAY!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

FUTURE OF OCEANS Lecture Series: "Immersions in the World of Kelp"

Betsy Peabody
Puget Sound Restoration Fund
Sunday, December 13
3 pm

via ZOOM

Lecture is FREE


Our lecture series, The Future of Oceans, draws on the commitment of professional researchers and educators across all academic spectrums to help define and inspire the health of our oceans.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center continues the lecture series by welcoming Betsy Peabody of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund has been steeped in kelp work for the last decade.  This presentation will delve into the results of the Hood Head seaweed investigation, R&D underway to restore bull kelp forests, a newly launched underwater kelp ecological survey program, and an upcoming 2021 kelp expedition.
Betsy Peabody is founder and executive director of Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF), a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to restore marine habitat, water quality and native species in Puget Sound.  She is also President of the Pacific Shellfish Institute.  In 2012, Betsy served on the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, and continues to be actively involved in efforts to mitigate the effects of ocean acidification.  In 2013, she collaborated with NOAA to establish a conservation hatchery at NOAA’s Manchester Research Station dedicated to restoring native shellfish and other living marine resources.  Betsy has a bachelor’s degree in English from Stanford University – and a strong appreciation for the role that marine resources play in our human story.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Creating Community Through Science

Hello everyone! Meghan Slocombe here, the new Community/Citizen Science Educator. 

I have been blown away by the science community we have built at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. In my first month, I have worked with our volunteers to find safe ways for them to continue collecting and processing water samples for our SoundToxins program. I’ve seen vets and community members assess stranded marine mammals, and joined individuals in the aquarium to monitor the growth rates of our pinto abalone. Yet, as winter closes in on us and COVID-19 continues to make it difficult to meet in person, I know many are having trouble finding ways to continue to connect with our science community.

Well lucky for you, I’ve found some great online opportunities for contributing to science. (These online programs have clear instructions on how to help, so don’t worry if you do not have experience with the program beforehand.) Now just because you’re conducting science online, does not mean you’re in it alone! We want to hear from you about what projects you’re contributing to.

Zooniverse is an online citizen science platform with projects in all sorts of topics!

Tell us about the fish you’ve recently identified in the waters off of the Hawaiian islands through the OceanEYEs project.

Or send us pictures of the invertebrates you’ve catalogued for the California Academy of Sciences Invertebrate Zoology Collections.

Better yet, report back on the history of Daytona Beach’s fisheries operations after identifying fish from old photographs.

Fish aren’t your cup of tea? How about you help identify plankton off the California coast. Who knows, it might give you something to talk to our SoundToxins volunteers about!

For those still looking to brave the winter weather, check out the King Tides from November to January. Visit a site before and after the highest tides of the year. Just make sure to be careful!

The point is, while winter may limit our ability to meet in person we are still a community. (And a strong one at that!) My hope is that we can continue to make our community stronger and larger by contributing to the science of other communities. If you want to share with PTMSC your experience with community science or some pictures of your most recent beach walk or winter paddle, email Meghan Slocombe (Community/Citizen Science Educator) at mgslocombe@ptmsc.org.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

FUTURE OF OCEANS Lecture Series--In Deeper Waters: Exploring Earth's Largest, Yet Least Understood, Biome

In Deeper Waters:
Exploring Earth's Largest, Yet Least Understood, Biome

Sunday, November 8
Dr. Christopher Kelley 

3 PM
Virtual ZOOM Meeting

Our lecture series, The Future of Oceans, draws on the commitment of professional researchers and educators across all academic spectrums to help define and inspire the health of our oceans.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center welcomes Dr. Christopher Kelley in this first lecture to kick off this year's dynamic lecture series. 

Earth is a water world with the sea covering 70% of its surface. Even though the depths below SCUBA represent the largest biome on the planet, the "deep sea" is also the least understood because its environment is hostile to us terrestrials and our technology. However, accessing this huge unknown territory and discovering what is going on down there is crucial to the understanding of our planet as a whole. Dr. Kelly has led a variety of projects using sonar mapping, manned submersibles, and ROVs throughout the Pacific ranging in depth from 200 m to 6000 m. He will share with you not only the "why and how" of deep sea research but some of his more interesting experiences and findings while working in deeper waters.

Lecture is FREE

In addition to the lecture on Nov. 8, the PTMSC is offering a new, in-depth interaction with lecturers in The Future of Oceans series: Deep Dive Conversations. On Nov. 9 from 6:30 --7:30 p.m., the PTMSC will host a limited attendance, science cafe-style Deep Dive Conversation with Kelley on Zoom. The moderated virtual discussion, which costs $5 per person, will focus on how remotely operated vehicles are providing new insights into the deep-sea ocean environment.
To RSVP for this limited engagement, please click the link above.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Water World Online

Join us for the first ever session of Water World Online! Centrum and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center are teaming up to take our full-immersion science and arts program online, and into your home, with four days of engaging online classroom sessions and hands-on learning and creation. Through the lenses of science and art, students will explore the marine environments of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea, as well as the aquatic ecosystems around their own home. This program is limited to students in Washington state. 

For more information and to register, visit Centrum's website: 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

PTMSC Trivia Night


Tuesday September 15
6:30 PM

We had a blast with our Virtual Trivia Night last month so we thought we’d do it again! This time, it’ll be focused on ocean pollution in honor of our beach cleanup this month! 

Missing your weekly trivia night? 
Look no further because PTMSC is hosting Virtual Trivia Night on Zoom! 
Come show off your marine science skills and maybe even win a prize! 

Prizes include: 

  • Name a fish in the aquarium 
  • Name a krill that will be fed to an animal in the aquarium  
  • Name an crab in the aquarium  

Click here to RSVP, and we will send the Zoom link with extra instructions!

We can't wait to see you all there!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

International Coastal Cleanup

Join the movement to Fight Ocean Trash

with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, WA CoastSavers and Ocean Conservancy on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Saturday September 19

In partnership with the Ocean Conservancy. Volunteers from around the world will work together to keep our oceans and the life in them as healthy and diverse as possible. Volunteer to be part of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s and ICC's Beach Clean-up. 

Pre-register at coastsavers.org.

Check in: 9:30 am
PTMSC Museum Entrance, under the portico. 
Get directions and beach locations, trash bags, and gloves and head out to the beach.

Return to PTMSC: by 1:30 pm - Weigh your accomplishments. 

Ocean trash is a serious pollution problem that affects the health of people, wildlife, and local economies. Make an impact locally in the Salish Sea by joining the world's largest volunteer effort for our oceans and waterways with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day.

It’s easy to participate! Here’s what you need to know:

• Stay for all or part of the event
• Bring gloves and extra buckets
• Wear closed-toed shoes
• Read the clean up FAQ page.
• Wear ocean-friendly sunscreen
• Dress for the weather
• Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated on the beach

Be COVID Safe: If you plan on joining us for the ICC, please follow all COVID-safety guidelines set by Washington State. Please wear a mask, stay six feet apart from others, and wash your hands or bring hand sanitizer with you.


Pre-register at coastsavers.org.

More information at WA CoastSavers website: www.coastsavers.org
Or email PTMSC at mjohnson@ptmsc.org

Thanks to Olympic Disposal and Port Townsend Food Co-Op for their support.