Monday, February 23, 2015

Lecture: Ocean Acidification - A Global Problem with Local Impacts

the fifth and final installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

March 1 @ 3pm

The Commons at Fort Worden (New Location!)

Pacific Oyster Photo by Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle P-I
No-host reception 
immediately following the lecture.

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)
FREE teachers & students

Increased concentrations of CO2 can cause significant changes in marine organisms due to ocean acidification. A more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on calcifying species including oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and plankton. When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may be at risk. It is estimated by the end of the century surface waters of the ocean could become 150% more acidic. Senior NOAA scientist and UW Oceanography Professor Dr. Richard Feely will discuss present and future implications of increased CO2 on the health of our ocean ecosystems and ocean-based economies.

Dr. Richard A. Feely
Senior Scientist, NOAA
Pacific Marine
Environmental Laboratory,
Seattle WA

Dr. Feely received the 2010 Heinz Environmental Award and is a lead participant on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize in collaboration with former Vice President Al Gore.

No-host reception immediately following the lecture.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Our 'Squidlets' Have Hatched!

Curious about these mysterious opalescent egg casings? So were we! 

On the morning of December 7, 2014, Fort Worden's Ranger Todd found them on his crab pot. Citizen Science Assistant AmeriCorps member, Ashleigh, decided to document the development of these Loligo opalescens, California Market Squid, eggs. Typically laid on sandy or hard substrates on the seafloor bottom, California Market Squid eggs hatch in 3-5 weeks but may require longer in colder water.

Over the course of the first 26 days, the eggs slowly transformed from circular yolks to more distinct shape.  Day 31 brings the initial development of the eye stalks which are then followed by rapid developmental changes.

In the Day 45 photo, one can note the eyes at the base of the mantle, the external yolk sac has decreased in size, and the rapidly developing chromatorphores. These chromatophores, or pigment spots, can be contracted and expanded to allow adult squid to turn from a transparent white to an opaque red-brown. Day 53 shows the yolk sac almost completely gone and the chromatophores expanded.

Finally, Day 55 brought us the moment we have been waiting for! Several 'squidlets' (non-technical term) have hatched!  The hatching of the paralarvae from each capsule was staggered over several days.  One can observe in the final 'Post-hatch Egg Capsule' photo where the juveniles emerged from small slits in their chorions. Using powerful contractions from their mantel, the squidlets entered the waters of our beautiful Salish Sea, fully capable of rapid movement in any direction and sustaining themselves on the remains of their internal yolk sacs. 

Check out this link to see a video of a squidlet mobilizing for their grand entry to the Salish Sea!  You can see the rapid movement of the mantel and changing chromatophores, both essential for life in their abundant and diverse ecosystem.

Thank you to Ranger Todd for sharing these eggs with us back in December! While our eggs took approximately three weeks longer to hatch than the expected 3-5 week gestation period, scientists have noted that development is delayed in colder water. Let's keep stunning creatures like the California Market Squid in mind and continue to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea together! 

Feel free to contact Ashleigh ( if you have any additional questions!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lecture: Imaging The Arctic

artwork by
Maria Coryell-Martin
the fourth installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

February 8 @ 3pm

The Chapel at Fort Worden

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)

Off the southwest coast of Greenland, artist Maria Coryell-Martin ( and scientist Dr. Kristin Laidre recorded the effects of sea ice loss on narwhals and polar bears at Baffin Bay. While scientists observed their health and movements, Corywell-Martin illustrated the environmental and scientific process with a captivating human touch.

“We are fortunate to host this incredible lecture presentation,” said Marine Science Center Executive Director Janine Boire. “We want to inspire communities to work together for the health of our oceans and it starts with building awareness. Imaging the Arctic is a perfect example of marrying art and science to communicate the effects of climate change on native species.” Climate change, toxics, and plastics are the main foci of PTMSC’s Gone Green? Go Blue! Campaign to raise awareness and inspire collective action to improve ocean health. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Way of Whales 2015!

Last Saturday, Port Townsend Marine Science Center staff and volunteers attended Orca Network's annual Way of Whales Workshop at Coupeville Middle School. The halls were filled with displays ranging from the region's many stranding networks to the Vaquita Fund. The Whidbey Audubon Society was a hoot as they gleefully gave passerby's temporary Pigeon Guillemot tattoos.

PTMSC's table shared how toxic chemicals make their way from our homes to the marine environment. Our table was a hit! Workshop attendees were especially interested in our Green Cleaning Recipes. In fact we ran out of copies by lunch!

The workshop also included speakers from across the cetacean world. Local musician, Dana Lyons, kicked it off with a performance of the title track from his new album, The Great Salish Sea. If you would like to hear some fantastic music about our region, click here!

Next, Howard Garrett of Orca Network gave updates on the organizations activities. They have recently compiled a Google map of Puget Sound's Whale Sighting Viewpoints. Howard also spoke of the Lolita the Orca. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should deciding whether or not to end her exclusion from the Endanger Species Act listing of Southern Resident Killer Whales by the end of the month. Last, Howard discussed the plight of Chinook salmon, the key food source for Southern Residents. Much of the Chinook salmon's critical habitat is inaccessible due to four dams on the Lower Snake River. For more information on Lolita and Chinook salmon, check out Orca Network's website.

After Howard, Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research took the stage. He focused on the population trends of the Southern Residents and their positive correlation to Chinook salmon abundance. Though the outlook appeared bleak, there is some hope with the birth of J-50!

Then came the hexacopters! John Durban of NOAA Fisheries presented the use of hexacopter drones to study Northern Resident Killer Whales. The hexacopters can fly over the orcas and take detailed pictures, all the while not disturbing the whales! These pictures can then be used to identify individuals and take body measurements. This new technology is an amazing step in non-invasive monitoring. Through this research, NOAA will be able to keep track of orca health in real time. Check out this video to learn more.

Erin Ashe from Oceans Initiative presented her research on Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. In recent years, the dolphins have become more common in Johnstone Strait. As part of her PhD. thesis, Erin has created a photo catalog of the population. By identifying individuals, she has been able to study the population's abundance and social bonds.

The last speaker was John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective. He discussed recent research on the populations of large baleen whales along the West Coast. These whales can often become the victims of ship strike. Through the use of various archival tags and photo ID, John has been studying whale behavior and distribution. John's research is now being used to inform shipping lane managers on how to reduce and prevent collisions with whales.

Friday, January 23, 2015

2015 Wildlife Cruise Dates Now Available!

 Our cruises are hosted by seasoned naturalist Roger Risley, who provides excellent commentary on the natural history of the island and the wildlife sighted. Join us a 2015 cruise!


photos provided courtesy of Casey Gluckman

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Reflection on Communicating Conservation

Communication is not usually something we think about past grade school. We learn to read, write, converse, but once we've learned we just start using these skills without much additional thought. Words have a huge impact on people, and I've noticed that when I am trying to communicate environmental issues to the public I now think more carefully about how my words will mold their experience.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is going through many changes this year as we are designing and building new exhibits (made possible by a Public Participation Grant from the WA Department of Ecology). New exhibits also give us an opportunity to re-think how we communicate tough environmental issues. One of the first exhibits to get a face lift was a panel that was previously titled “Am I Contaminated Too?”  A picture of a little girl stared down at visitors surrounded by paragraphs about toxic chemicals that have been leaching from our industrialized lives into the environment and our own bodies. It was very grim. Our volunteer docents even avoided talking about the panel with visitors because of its negative tone and wordiness. We spent many hours designing the old exhibit, but it just wasn't an image that inspired people into action.

Change came in the form of our “Be A Toxic Free Zone” workshop, a free program that the Science Center has been providing for members of the Port Townsend community. My role was to help the design team translate the workshop’s emphasis on personal and community actions into a new interactive panel (briefly mentioned in an October Blog post).  Many design and text iterations later we came up with a magnetic panel that invited visitors to replace toxic household items with non-toxic alternatives. Lo and behold, the panel has been a success! Volunteers and visitors now engage with the new panel and try their hand at making their world a “toxic free zone.” 

AmeriCorps Member Allison Kellum installs “Be a Toxic Free Zone” interpretive panel 
in the Natural History Exhibit with PTMSC staff Phil Dinsmore and Jean Walat.

There has also been a large amount of crossover between workshop participants and exhibit docents. People have been so impacted by what they learned about toxics in the workshop that they are now sharing what they learned with others. To help them communicate these ideas, they are using the new display to illustrate actions that we can all take to help the Salish Sea.

I hone my communication skills every day when I type up an e-mail or catch up with a volunteer, but it’s been incredible to learn how strategic framing can take a conversation from negative to positive, from apathy to action.

by Allison Kellum, AmeriCorps - Natural History and Volunteer Educator

This Blog post is from a "Story of Service" submission to AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service. We have four AmeriCorps Members serving for the '14-'15 term at the Science Center and they are deeply involved in almost every aspect of the organization.