Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Eleanora the giant Pacific octopus returns to the Salish Sea

image courtesy Florian Graner

Eleanora the octopus, a former resident in our aquarium, seems content in her new den in Admiralty Inlet 

On Tuesday, August 27, with much coordination and care, we transferred Eleanora from the tank in the aquarium back to the waters of Admiralty Inlet where she was found (click first image below to read more and watch video). The dive team, that included our aquarist Ali Redman and documentarian Florian Graner, carried her to her new home where a den in a hollow log had been located for her (click second image for video). She immediately captured and ate the crab that she found there. Florian returned a day later to follow-up and he is happy to report that Eleanora is thriving in her new space.

Ecstatic thank-yous go out to: our aquarist Ali Redman and all our volunteers and AmeriCorps for keeping Eleanora safe and stimulated during her stay with us; to all the docents for helping visitors understand this complex, graceful creature; to our donors for supporting our work inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea (and the octopuses within); and to our visitors who came and marveled at one of our aquarium's most charismatic animal ambassadors. And thank you to filmmaker, Florian Graner who has documented Eleanora's stay in our aquarium and will help her story reach even more people.

Next time you look out on the Salish Sea, think about Eleanora and all the yummy crab she's eating.

PS -- Read more about Eleanora's release in this Sept. 4 article appearing in the Port Townsend Leader.

Enjoy the videos below!

We released Eleanora the octopus back to the Salish Sea this afternoon. 1. Eleanora all ready to go in her lift bucket in our holding tank. 2. Aquarist Ali Redman and specialist Ellie Kravets pull the lid off. Suspense heightens among all onlookers. 3. Ali and Ellie lift Eleanora out of the tank and pour her into the transport bin. 4. Intern Sophie (l) and Ellie (r) carry Eleanora down the steps of the dock to be released. 5. Aquarist Ali In snorkel receives Eleanora into the Salish Sea saltwater, to transport to project leader Florian Graner. 6. Florian takes the handoff of the octopus and guides Eleanora to her new undersea den. Florian reports that Eleanora loves her new home, and will check in on her tomorrow at high tide. We at #PTMSC are honored to have hosted Eleanora for the Octopus Project. Thank you all who have encouraged us with your excitement about learning about this amazing creature of the #SalishSea .
A post shared by PT Marine Science Center (@ptmarinescictr) on

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Adventuress Sail -- Get Your Tickets Now!

Sunday, September 1 

9 am - 3 pm 

$95 per person
($75 members of the Marine Science Center)

The Marine Science Center offers one 6-hour sailing adventure each year to see Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge aboard the 133' historic schooner, Adventuress.
On this cruise, you can help the crew sail this historic vessel while enjoying a leisurely tour to the wildlife sanctuary.
As on all our cruises, Port Townsend Marine Science Center will provide a naturalist and cruise hosts to assist in wildlife spotting and interpretation.
The sail departs at 9 am on September 1 from the Northwest Maritime Center dock at the north end of Water St. in Port Townsend, and returns to the dock at 3 pm.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

UPDATE: Eleanora's big day approaches

It’s almost Eleanora’s big day, when we release this beautiful giant Pacific octopus to seek her fortune in the Salish Sea!

by Ali Redman, PTMSC Aquarist

Eleanora, the giant Pacific octopus that took up residence at the PTMSC
in September 2018. Photo by Florian Graner.

We are getting giddy butterflies in our stomachs, the mix of elation and nerves that you feel when you release something you’ve nurtured. I’ve felt it on my son’s first day of school, with students I’ve mentored, and with animals being reintroduced into the wild. You wonder if they are prepared for the challenges, but most of all you are excited for the opportunities ahead of them. The feeling of excitement for her impending departure (mixed with a few nerves) is shared by everyone who has come to care about her including members, visitors, volunteers and staff.

PTMSC Aquarist Ali Redman observing Eleanora in the winter of 2018-19.
Photo by Wendy Feltham. 
Despite a relatively brief 10 months with us, Eleanora has had a large impact. She arrived a small and somewhat shy octopus that could fit in your hands. Now at nine feet tentacle tip to tentacle tip and growing larger by the day, she is less vulnerable to hungry predators and ready to explore.

She has delighted staff and visitors alike, amazing us with her curiosity, keen intelligence and agility. Over 14,000 visitors have been able to get “up close and personal” with her since her arrival in September 2018. They have watched as she deftly manipulated puzzles during enrichment sessions (video), explored her kelp forest exhibit or rested in her den. 
PTMSC Aquarist, Ali Redman (lower right) and AmeriCorps Aquarium Educator Marley Loomis (upper right)
conduct an enrichment feeding session with Eleanora, to the fascination and delight of Aquarium visitors.

Watch Eleanora extract some treats from a long clear pipe. "Puzzle feeders" like this one 
mimic food-seeking activities and problem solving she might engage in the wild.

Eleanora’s reach as an ambassador for marine conservation will go even farther. As a subject of biologist and videographer Florian Graner’s Octopus Learning Project on octopus intelligence, described in his November 2018 Future of Oceans lecture, Eleanora will have an international audience and further the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s mission of inspiring conservation. 

The next exciting step for Eleanora may be parenthood. Once mature, she will have the opportunity to mate and lay eggs. If successful she will live long enough to tend to her eggs, while not eating during this brooding period. Once they hatch she will pass away, but her offspring will go on to play a role in the Salish Sea ecosystem and perpetuate this amazing species.
Eleanora's growth has been phenomenal, as evidenced by this May 2019 picture 
taken by PTMSC Marketing & Development Coordinator Brian Kay.

Over the next few weeks, we will devise a plan to return Eleanora to the location she originated from. It will be a carefully coordinated process involving many team members. Graner hopes to document her activities after release by paying repeat visits to the release site. To keep up to date on our progress and activities related to Eleanora, follow us on Facebook.
We are grateful for our time with this amazing animal. She has been an ambassador for the Salish Sea, helping thousands of people experience the beauty, wonder and importance of our marine environment. Join us in wishing Eleanora “Bon Voyage!”

Eleanora in repose. Photo by Florian Graner. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

PTMSC's 2018 Annual Report Is Here!

Check in with us as we take a look back at another year's highlights and accomplishments.

Read a special message from PTMSC's executive director Janine Boire, peruse our financials, read our "By The Numbers" summary.

We look forward to the work ahead of us and appreciate what YOU have done for us to make this mission to inspire the Salish Sea a reality!

Read the report here.

Nominations now open for the 2019 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award

Recipient will be announced at Oct. 3 Fort Worden event

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is seeking nominations for the 2019 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award. 

Eleanor Stopps
This prestigious award, now in its 15th year, recognizes significant contributions to the protection and stewardship of the natural environment of the North Olympic Peninsula. The award pays tribute to Eleanor Stopps, whose vision, advocacy and determination exemplify the power and importance of citizen leadership.

The nomination form can be downloaded at https://tinyurl.com/PTMSC-2019ESELA-form or by calling (360) 385-5582 to request a form.

Nominations can be submitted by email to info@ptmsc.org or hand delivered to the PTMSC office at Fort Worden State Park. All nominations must be received no later than 5 p.m., Aug. 22.

The recipient will be honored at the annual PTMSC Stewardship Breakfast at The Commons in Fort Worden State Park on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 8 a.m.

About Eleanor Stopps
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Stopps was an active member of the Pacific Northwest conservation community. She founded the Admiralty Audubon Chapter and continued the work of Zella Schultz to protect the habitat for 72,000 pairs of seabirds nesting on Protection Island.

Stopps was also a tireless educator and recognized the need to protect the vast and delicate ecosystem of the Salish Sea. With no dedicated political base or influential financial backers, she worked with groups of students and Girl Scouts to raise environmental awareness, eventually forming a coalition of grassroots advocates who labored to marshal public support and push for legislation to preserve Protection Island and the surrounding marine waters.

In fact, Stopps was a primary driver behind the establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1982, one of the few federally protected marine refuges established by an Act of Congress at that time. Today it is a critical habitat link in the preservation of the entire Salish Sea region, providing breeding grounds for Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets, Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, Harbor Seals and Elephant Seals, and myriad other species.

About the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award
The Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award is presented annually to a citizen of the North Olympic Peninsula (Jefferson and Clallam counties) who has:
- Led a successful resource conservation effort that benefits the north Olympic Peninsula and its residents directly;
- Acted as a community catalyst for programs, initiatives or ventures that demonstrate a commitment to the future of the earth and its biodiversity;
- Become a model for future leaders in business and education; or
- Has been an exemplary citizen or policy maker who has implemented decisions that, though they may entail risks, have helped our communities take the next step towards environmental sustainability.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to sponsor this award and invites nominations so that citizens who have demonstrated positive leadership for the environment can be recognized.

Monday, July 22, 2019

What does it mean to become a steward of the Salish Sea? Part 3

In 2019, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is spotlighting supporters who have become stewards of the Salish Sea. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here. 

What does it mean to become a steward of the Salish Sea?

For Tim Weissman, it was his internship with the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in 2016.

“When I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Tim says. “I spent the next two years of my life doing environmental education in various forms. When I came to Port Townsend to work at the marine science center, I figured this was just another stop on the map during my journey around the country.
Tim Weissman as a PTMSC intern in 2016.

“I interacted with and taught thousands of people from all over the country ranging in age from 5 to 75, whether they were a part of a school group, a summer camp, or they were just visiting. I realized the Port Townsend Marine Science Center had me hooked. This is where I wanted to stay,” he says.

Tim’s first low tide walk was memorable.

“I was still learning about the flora and fauna of the area and I was a little nervous to be teaching others about things I was actively learning myself, but with the help of [former PTMSC Board Chair] Wendy Feltham and [former PTMSC Program Director] Karlisa Callwood, it made everything much easier,” he says. “However, I wasn’t quite ready for the nearly 100 people that showed up to join us on the walk! It was a great experience and ever since then I have been a proponent of trial by fire.”

Today Tim is an environmental health specialist with Jefferson County, but he still makes time to volunteer with the PTMSC.

“The countless ways that we can touch people and move them to feel a certain way about this very special place and our planet, leaves me hopeful for the future,” he says. “We can continue to provide life changing experiences to the next generation and continue being hopeful for the future for those who come after us.”

Through their support of the PTMSC for more than 15 years, Linda Martin and Mike Cornforth have helped nurture future ocean stewards like Tim.

Mike and Linda at the end of their regular Friday docent shifts.
“We have been docents, auction donors and ambassadors, and sustaining financial donors since 2007,” says Linda, who eventually became a PTMSC board member. “Mike and I knew we'd be supporting the PTMSC the first time we set foot in the Natural History Museum.

“Watching a visitor's face light up with glee when a touch tank resident responds to a gentle touch gives my heart a happy thump,” she says. “Seeing visitors from all over the world meet their first orca in our museum is a joy.”

Recently, Mike and Linda decided to become SeaSteward members, making their donation with an automatically recurring monthly payment on their credit card.

“The advantages are two-fold,” Mike says. “First, PTMSC has a steady, stable source of funding for day-to-day operations. And second, our charitable contributions are stable and predictable.”

Adds Linda: “Keeping the Aquarium and Museum doors open to the public is a service to the local and global community. We are honored to be a part of that effort.”

Monday, July 15, 2019

What does it mean to become a steward of the Salish Sea? Part 2

In 2019, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is spotlighting supporters who have become SeaSteward donors. Read Part 1 here.

What does it mean to become a steward of the Salish Sea?

For Grace Johnson, the flame was lit as a member of the Northwest Watershed Institute's Youth Environmental Stewardship Program (YES!) in her junior and senior years of high school.

Grace Johnson, recipient of the
2019 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship
“When I first became a member of the YES! Program, our group attended a 30-minute class at the Marine Science Center where several of the staff shared with us the importance of learning [about] the harmful chemicals that are ingredients in many consumer products that are being used in our everyday lives. 

“The information presented in this class was astounding, I realized how extensive the issue of toxic waste really was, not only to marine life, but to the animals and humans who inhabit the Earth as well,” Grace says.

For the last year Johnson has volunteered at the PTMSC, caring for aquarium animals, cleaning tanks and interacting with the public.

At the annual PTMSC Benefit Dinner and Auction in March, she inspired the audience with a story of her interaction with a young boy.

“I told him that [sculpins] enjoy eating clams and small fish, that they prefer to live in inshore rocky and sandy areas, and how they usually swallow their food whole,” Grace says. “As I saw his excitement, I realized in that moment that, just maybe, I had stirred a curiosity within him that just might develop into a life-long passion.” 

For her dedication to the marine environment and instilling that passion in others, Grace was awarded the 2019 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship.

Ed Robeau is a longtime supporter who understands what it takes to create and nurture ocean stewards just like Grace.
Ed Robeau, docenting at the Aquarium.

“The mission is important for many reasons: education, research, monitoring, publicity and more,” he says. “I became a member in 2010, starting as ‘home crew’ cleaning tanks in the Aquarium. Then I became a docent in both exhibits. I am approaching 800 hours of service.”

Ed cited several meaningful examples of progress and success as a result of his work and other PTMSC supporters.

“Data gathered contributes to problem identification and solutions, there’s increased public awareness of issues, and PTMSC is a strong presence in discussions and decisions of other entities, such as Fort Worden State Park,” he says.

Asked why he supports the PTMSC with regular monthly donations, Ed was quick to respond.

“The PTMSC needs it, and I can afford it,” he says. “It’s easy for me with an automatic credit card charge and it gives the PTMSC a steady, dependable base income from which to pay its bills and staff.”

Thanks to ocean stewards like Ed, the PTMSC is transforming the lives of more and more young people like Grace. He encourages others to step up.

“Besides helping accomplish the mission of the PTMSC, this is a great organization to which to belong,” he says. “We work together to perform important services and we provide each other mutual support.”