Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marine Biology Camp

Marine Biology camp started off this year with two fun activities- campers printed their t-shirts using an actual fish, and out on the dock we collected plankton samples to look at in the lab under a microscope.  We ended the day with a scavenger hunt on the beach, where campers looked for signs of animal and plant life, as well as elusive nurdles!

On Tuesday we started the morning in our Marine Exhibit, learning about the animals in our touch tanks- some of which we’d see later that day on the beach! One focus was the identifying characteristics of four major marine phyla- Cnidaria, Echinodermata, Arthropoda and Mollusca!

Before we headed out to the tidepools, everyone gathered together to feed Maddie the Giant Pacific Octopus. More than one camper shouted “release the kraken” when we gave Maddie a couple herring on a toy boat which she gleefully capsized for our entertainment.

After hunting for animals in the tidepools, we took a walk down the beach collecting trash as we went. Everyone got very eager to find some garbage when they heard there would be a prize!

We left the Marine Science Center on Wednesday for a field trip to some nearby mudflats, where campers rotated between digging up clams, sieving for worms, netting fish, and illustrating the animals they’d seen so far in their journals. One group dug up 92 clams! 

On Thursday our campers got to participate in a model of a marine food chain with plankton, herring, salmon, harbor seals and orcas. Of course, everyone wanted to be an orca! This set up our class on biomagnification, and we all learned that life at the top isn’t always so great when there are toxics in the water accumulating up the food chain.

The highlight of the day was using a 150-foot seine net to catch and examine animals living in an eelgrass bed just off shore. Everyone worked together to haul the net on to the beach. We collected the animals into a pool and examined juvenile salmon, fried-egg jellyfish, silverspot sculpins, and many more! All of the fish were then released back into the water.

On our last day together our campers got a chance to take an up-close look inside a fish during the herring dissection- although not everyone wanted to get that close! We learned how a herring’s organ systems work together to help the herring survive. We also worked as a team to reassemble the skeleton of a juvenile gray whale, comparing his bones to our own.

For our final activity together, everyone got to vote and pick a whale for our life-size sand sculpture on the beach! The winner was a 16 foot beluga whale, and our campers worked together to build it with buckets of wet sand. It was a great way to conclude the camp, and an example of how everyone worked together all week to help make camp fun and interesting!

A big thank-you to all our wonderful campers for a great week, we hope to see you next year!
-Carolyn Woods (Intern & Camp Counselor)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oceanography on the Dock

This is the 2nd year of Oceanography on the dock (O-dock) at Port Townsend Marine Science Center.   This year the focus of O-dock is on ocean acidification (OA).  OA is the result of burning fossil fuels, which releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. About one third of this CO2 dissolves into the world’s oceans. When CO2 dissolves into the water it forms carbonic acid.  The reaction of carbonic acid with water makes certain metabolic pathways for organism’s difficult, in particular calcifying organism.
This year PTMSC has a goal to educate and engage the public in conversation about OA.  I  was on the team that helped to develop the programming for this topic.   We wanted to design a place based program with a set of interactives that are very hands on, visual and simple and most of all empowering. This was a little challenging at times, because ocean acidification is not exactly a simple issue and the topic is not bright and cheery.  After a lot of thinking out of the box and tinkering with simple chemistry topics we came up with a program. We tried out the program once with PTMSC volunteers and then were able to give it a try with a high school group that was visiting.  We started out the program giving a brief overview of climate change and then asked if anyone in the group has heard about OA. No one had heard of OA!   This was huge surprise to me.  Not one kid from a high school group from Seattle had heard of an issue that has changed and will continue to change the marine waters in their backyard.
We went through the series of interactive.
1) Testing the pH of household liquids.
2) Looking at how our own breath changes the pH of water

3) Looking how a shell is effected by a higher acidify

 At the end of the program I felt excited that students walked away with new knowledge and enthusiasm for ocean health and thinking about how they could minimize their impact on the planet.  Although OA is not a bright and cheery topic, I feel proud to be a part of an effort to educate the community on this issue, which no doubt will have and has had a huge impact on the way of life in Washington State and the world at large.  Although this is was a tiny little step in the very big scheme of addressing the challenges that OA will bring, it is a tiny step in the right direction.  
Thanks for reading,
Annie (AmeriCorps Volunteer)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3-Day San Juan Islands Wildlife Cruise

September 28 – 30, 2014
Cruise the San Juans while benefitting the PTMSC

Join Puget Sound Express for an exciting 3 day cruise through the San Juan Islands in Washington State. Selected by National Geographic as one of the World's Top 3 destinations, the waters around the San Juan Islands are home to orcas (killer whales), minke whales, gray whales, stellar sea lions, porpoise, otters, and a dizzying array of seabirds.
3 Days, 2 nights; $675 ppdo/$750 per single person
(10% of proceeds donated to Port Townsend Marine Science Center) 
We'll leave Port Townsend at 10AM on September 28 aboard the comfortable MV Glacier Spirit. While crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca a light breakfast will be served. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is bordered by three mountain ranges, the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands.  It is one of the most beautiful seas to cross in the world. Along the way our captain will point out many seabirds and mammals that frequent these waters. Depending on where the orcas are traveling that day, we may also be fortunate to see them in transit.

After lunch onboard the boat, we'll reach our home base for the next couple of days - Roche Harbor Resort, on San Juan Island. The story of Roche Harbor began more than 200 years ago, in 1787, when Captain de Haro and his crew became the first Europeans to actually sail among the forested San Juan Islands. In 1886, a sleepy Hudson Bay camp was transformed into a full-fledged lime works and company town. Today because of its beauty and location to Canada, Roche Harbor is the most popular boating resort in the Pacific Northwest and the Resort is renowned as the centerpiece of this harbor. You'll have plenty of time to explore the scenery around Roche Harbor. Hiking, kayak and bike rentals, tennis and swimming are all possibilities for you to enjoy. Dinner is on your own at Roche Harbor Resort.
On September 29 we'll board the Glacier Spirit at 9:30 for a wonderful day of sightseeing and hiking through the San Juan Islands.  A light breakfast will be served aboard while we journey to famous Sucia Island State Park for 2 hours of hiking. Sucia Island State Park is a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline. It is considered the crown jewel of the state's marine park system and is consistently ranked as one of the top boating destinations in the world. The shoreline is famous for its evocative, highly eroded sandstone formations - with cliffs, hoodoos, arches, and caves. Sucia Island is also a tremendous viewing area for seals, porpoise, eagles, seabirds, and whales. 
Upon arrival at Sucia, a sack lunch is provided for you as you explore the island for the next two hours.  We'll return to Roche Harbor at 4:30 where you can enjoy the late afternoon and dinner on your own.

On September 30, we begin our return loop back to Port Townsend. We'll say goodbye to Roche Harbor at 9AM.  While enjoying a light breakfast, we will head on a new course through the islands, south through the Swinomish Slough and on through Deception Pass.  Wildlife should be plentiful and the scenery simply stunning.  After taking in the historic La Conner waterfront and the nearby tidelands, soaking in the views and the endless variety of shorebirds, we will journey through the wild tide currents of Deception Pass.  

Back out on Strait of Juan de Fuca we will head south past Smith Island Marine Sanctuary - an island in the middle of the sea that is home to thousands of seabirds and mammals.  Weather permitting, we expect to arrive in Port Townsend at 3PM.

Package includes:
Three days aboard Glacier Spirit
Breakfast and lunch meals aboard the vessel
Two nights accommodation at Roche Harbor Resort

To sign up, go to PugetSoundExpress.com or call (360) 385-5288
Enter code "PTMSC10" as you order, and PSE will give 10% of the proceeds to PTMSC

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Meet The Author

Sat. July 26th


Pippa’s Real Tea
636 Water St - Port Townsend

Join us for an evening of tea, wine, and goodies as we partner with Pippa's Real Tea to bring Sandra Pollard, local author and marine naturalist to Port Townsend for a book signing of her newest book, "Puget Sound Whales for Sale: The Fight to End Orca Hunting."

Book sales are available; purchase a PTMSC membership, and get a book for free. You can't beat that deal!

Friday, June 20, 2014

A plot to spot wasted sea stars

From the Port Townsend Leader, June 4, 2014:

Hunched over jagged rocks slick with seaweed on a jetty at low tide, John Conley spots a purple starfish, or sea star, in a crevice and proceeds to measure its size, calling out his observations to Shannon Phillips, who stands nearby, noting them on her clipboard.
Conley, a Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) volunteer, uses yellow chalk to mark the rock just above the ochre star and moves on to the next as fellow volunteers do the same, scouring two 390-square-foot plots at Indian Island County Park.

“There is clearly disease here,” said Melissa Miner, a Bellingham resident who has worked for the past 20 years as a research associate with the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), a consortium of research groups collecting comparable data from more than 200 monitoring sites from Southeast Alaska to Mexico.
Read the rest of this article on the PT Leader webpage.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Did somebody say seal pups?

PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Summer Update

We received our first seal pup call of the season a few days ago, and several  more since. 
Around here, harbor seals usually have their pups between June and August, but sometimes procrastinate into October. Now that the season has officially kicked off, it's time for a few friendly reminders of what to do (and what not to do) when you see a seal pup.

When you see a sleeping seal pup on the beach (like the one pictured above) you might be tempted to cuddle with him, but you shouldn't. Nor should you pick him up, feed him, or sit nearby and count his shaky breaths. Here's why:

Seal pups need time to rest. A mother harbor seal will leave her pup on the beach to sleep and warm up. Meanwhile, mama seal is out foraging nearby, trying to fill up so she can give her pup the nutrients he needs. The young pup needs this time to sleep, and won't get it if we oooo and ahhh and pace back and forth. Similarly, the mother needs time to eat, but won't get it if she's worried that we're endangering her pup. Mother seals are very wary of people and won't come to get the pup until everybody clears the area (often, this is after dark). This is why we ask people to stay back 100 yards and require pups to be monitored for 24-48 hours before any action is taken. 
A pup's best chance of survival is with its mother.

You should never pick up or move a seal pup. The mother will be looking for him where she left him. The pup may move around a bit as the tide comes in or goes out, but they'll be able to reunite by calling to each other. Just like we can find our family member in a crowd by the sound of their voice, seals can do the same. In some cases, it is necessary to relocate a seal pup, but this is a careful decision made by our Principal Investigator in communication with the Regional Coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and carried out by trained responders.

Sometimes we see a seal pup that is very thin. Even then, you should not feed it. Young pups nurse on their mother's milk and cannot digest solid food. Older pups and yearlings are able to hunt for themselves. 

Are you curious why you shouldn't count a seal pup's breaths? The reason for this one has nothing to do with the seal's well-being and everything to do with your own. We often get panicked reports from people who are concerned a seal pup is dying because it's 'barely breathing' or 'taking shaky breaths'. It can be very stressful for the person watching. However, seals are conscious breathers (whereas we are voluntary). This means that they have to think about every breath they take, and it's not as often or smooth as we breathe. In a nutshell, this is perfectly normal seal behavior, and it's perfectly normal for it to freak us out until we know better. Conscious breathing makes sense, though, when you consider that these are marine mammals that spend a good chunk of their life underwater.   

If the reasons above aren't enough to leave the seal pup be, I should also mention that it's illegal to harass a marine mammal. Harassment includes touching, feeding, or disturbing the animal. 

So what CAN you do?

  1. Tell other people why they shouldn't cuddle, move, or feed a seal pup, or count its shaky breaths.
  2. Help keep people and dogs a safe distance away. Federal guidelines recommend 100 yards back to keep from disturbing the animal.
  3. Leash your pup. Dogs are often much better at spotting seal pups than people, and sometimes harass the animal, or worse. The very saddest call I've responded to involved a seal pup who had been attacked by off-leash dogs. 
  4. Call us, we're here to help! We rely on reports from concerned citizens. 
PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network
(360) 385-5582 ext. 103
Put this number in your phone. Someday you may be very glad you did.

A Few Reminders

Call the stranding network if...
  • A whale, dolphin, or porpoise is out of water. Please call us IMMEDIATELY.
  • You find a marine mammal that is dead, injured, or in a bad place. Photos are extremely helpful.
  • You find a marine mammal and aren't sure what to do.

Seals and sea lions commonly use shoreline habitat. This is natural behavior; please remember to 

Share the Shore!


Your local seal savers

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

JCS students present pinto abalone research at PTMSC

As Jefferson Community School (JCS) students have learned, Pinto Abalone, a shellfish unique to Puget Sound, are nearly extinct. On Monday, June 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC)’s Marine Exhibit on the pier at Fort Worden beach, science students from JCS will present results from their year-long research projects on Pinto Abalone. Admission is free.

Mikayla Hemsley (left) and Rio Golden are removing
abalone from their nursery cage to record growth
of shell length and mass of the individual. 
"We welcome the public to the students’ presentations about their work over this past year and invite questions regarding their findings," said Jamie Landry, PTMSC citizen science coordinator and head science teacher at JCS. "The students' research is real science—they are contributing valuable data to the scientific community on how this almost-extinct species responds to different types of food.”

This is important data the students have gathered, because the faster researchers can raise juvenile abalone in a lab setting, the faster they are able to release them into the wild for restoration efforts. Students used a stock of juvenile Pinto Abalone given to the PTMSC for research by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Once the research projects were completed, several individual abalone were kept by the PTMSC for display in the science center’s aquarium tanks. Attendees to the event will have an opportunity view these rare animals and learn more about the restoration efforts taking place in our region. For more information, contact Jamie Landry at 360.385.5582, ext. 112 or via e-mail at jlandry@ptmsc.org.