Monday, January 22, 2018

6th Annual Martin Luther King Day Weed Pull

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

Volunteers pulling invasive species and Himalayan Blackberries
Photo by Wendy Feltham 

The past month or so, the other AmeriCorps and I have been planning the 6th annual weed pull for Martin Luther King Day. Last Monday we finally got to see all our hard work come together and it turned out great! MLK Day is a day of giving back and serving your community. In partnership with AmeriCorps and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, we were able to bring 48 people from the community together and fill three very large trucks with invasive dune grass and Himalayan blackberries from the beaches here at Fort Worden. 

Sea Scout using all his strength against Blackberry bush
Photo by Wendy Feltham 
I woke up Monday morning to a beautiful sunrise and no rain in sight, lucky for us... Around 9 a.m., all the AmeriCorps began our set up and run-through for the day. 
Around 11:30 a.m., volunteers began to show up and mingled with one another until Lily, the AmeriCorps citizen science educator, gave a short presentation on the invasive species. Then out we went to work! The group split in half and began to tackle the plants. As the day went on, more and more sand was being revealed and the piles of invasive plants were growing taller on the beach. So much was pulled that we weren't able to fit it all in the trucks. 

Stacking Blackberry branches on the beach 

Volunteers helping State Park Ranger Todd fill the trucks with Blackberries
Photo by Wendy Feltham 
As an AmeriCorps member, we serve our community in many different ways but having the chance to serve on MLK Day with so many different people and organizations with the same common goal was an amazing thing to be a part of. 

AmeriCorps members Emilee (left) and Lily (right) haul Dune grass of the beach
Photo by Wendy Feltham 

PTMSC volunteer Linda Dacon helping pull Dune grass
Photo by Wendy Feltham

Written by Emilee Carpenter, AmeriCorps Natural History and Volunteer Educator

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Getting my Ducks in a Row

I’ve been serving as the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for three and a half months now, so I’m starting to settle into some familiar patterns surrounded by familiar faces (or beaks for the purposes of this blog).

I’ve gotten used to walking out on the pier every day and sending groups of pigeons scattering in every direction. I’m used to seeing a kingfisher perched on the corner of the pier, or seeing a bald eagle flying over the water being harassed by gulls. I love seeing the cormorant perched on a buoy with its wings spread out to dry, and it’s always a special treat when the great blue heron takes off from the shore squawking like a little pterodactyl.

Bald eagle on the pier

Great blue heron on floating kelp

 So naturally I was intrigued when I noticed some fresh faces one afternoon on my walk up the pier. They were a group of ducks who had rusty brown heads with a crest at the back. I excitedly went into the Marine Exhibit and asked a volunteer docent if she knew what kind of birds they were and she told me they were red-breasted mergansers (I learn so much from our volunteers!). I did some research and found that they are joining us for the winter after spending the summer breeding further north.

Red-breasted merganser photo by Wendy Feltham

I don’t usually pay much attention to the birds on the water as I’m not familiar with many of them and I find it hard to get a good enough look to make an ID. 

The red-breasted mergansers have been an exception to this because they have been consistently hanging out very close to the pier in a big group and I love the silhouette of their shaggy crested heads. I am beginning to get used to their presence, greeting them with all the other wonderful birds on my walk down the pier. 

They have inspired me to be more curious and want to learn more about the other waterfowl in the area!

Group of red-breasted mergansers, photo by Wendy Feltham

For more, an info graphic that shows the range of the red breasted merganser, and how it may be impacted by climate change:

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Otterly Fascinating Skeleton Articulation

Articulation is the process of re-assembling an animal’s skeleton: bone-by-bone, joint-by-joint. 

Articulated skeletons provide an invaluable educational tool as they reveal much about an animal's form, function, behavior, and adaptations. Museum collections are a resource for educators, artists, and scientists.

PTMSC’s articulated orca skeleton, Hope, on display in our Natural History Exhibit, is a great example! We have learned so much about her life and death from her bones.

Last year while volunteering at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, I assisted with the articulation of a sea otter skeleton.

Illustration by Master Articulator, Lee Post, Small Mammal Manuel Manuscript

Under the tutelage of skilled museum staff, I sorted the skeleton left from right, front from rear, and began piecing together all of the many hand and foot bones. I then drilled tiny holes into the ends of the bones where they jointed with neighboring bones. Wire was inserted and glued into the drilled holes to hold everything together.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice 2017

December 21st marks the shortest day of the year and the official first day of winter. This also means that starting Friday, December 22, the sun will be out a few seconds longer each day.

The winter solstice, due to the way the earth rotates on a tilted axis, happens the moment the sun’s rays reach their southernmost point over the Tropic of Capricorn. Here in Washington, we will get just over 8 hours of daylight on December 21.

This day marks the changing of the seasons and is an important Pagan festival where many people gather at the Stonehenge in England to celebrate re-birth.

Here at PTMSC, the AmeriCorps and staff are celebrating the coming new year by making marine-themed snowflakes and creating New Year’s resolutions focused on supporting the health of the Salish Sea.

Octopus snowflake 
Sea star snowflake 
Luminary made by AmeriCorps Mariah 
We are also hard at work preparing the Marine Exhibit and the Natural History Exhibit for a fun week of arts and crafts. Lots of cutting and taping going on -- come visit us and see what we’ve been up to! We will be open the 27th through the 31st from noon to 5 p.m.

AmeriCorps James deep cleaning tide pool tank #1

Written by PTMSC AmeriCorps Natural History and Volunteer Educator Emilee Carpenter

Friday, December 15, 2017

Flexing our Citizen Science Mussels

On December 1, 2017, Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteer Darryl Hrenko and I ferried over to Whidbey Island and made our way to Penn Cove to pick up a truckload of “mussel kits.” These kits were provided to PTMSC, as well as Jefferson County Marine Resources, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and Feiro Marine Life Center, to participate in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring program.

That night at zero tide, PTMSC staff, AmeriCorps, and volunteers split into three groups, each heading out to a local site to deploy our mussels. In February 2018, the mussels will be collected, delivered to WDFW labs and tested for toxins.

Mussels are filter feeders so they accumulate toxins found in the water, and that helps scientists determine which toxins have been present in a given area since they have been there.
Nate Wold helping to light the way for Carolyn Woods as she attaches the mussels to their cage.
Betsy Carlson and her son Gus Wennstrom

The report from the 2015-2016 survey provides some context, stating that “stormwater [runoff] is considered one of the biggest contributors to water pollution in the urban areas of Washington State because it is ongoing and damages habitat, degrades aquatic environments, and can have serious impacts on the health of the Puget Sound. Monitoring pollutants and their effects on the marine biota of Puget Sound is critical to inform best management practices and remediation efforts in this large and diverse estuary (”
AmeriCorps Mariah and Emilee excitedly getting ready to deploy their mussels.
I am so excited that such an important project is utilizing the power of citizen scientists. I’m happy because it means that I get to be a part of this project and also because I think citizen science is an amazing tool for collaboration, outreach/education, and creating more opportunities for scientific discovery!

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Coordinator Lily Evanston.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Interview with Curtis Deutsch, University of Washington Professor of Chemical Oceanography

Enjoy KPTZ Radio's Nature Now host Nan Evans's interview with Curtis Deutsch, University of Washington Professor of Chemical Oceanography, our featured speaker on Dec. 10 at the Fort Worden Commons for the third installment of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Future of Oceans Series: Short of Breath -- Marine Life in a Warming World. 

The Future of Oceans: Sea-Level Rise’s Impact on Humans and Habitat in the Salish Sea

Eric E. Grossman, PhD
USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program
Sunday, January 14
3 pm
Eric E. Grossman, PhD
The Fort Worden Chapel

Admission: $5
(students, teachers FREE)

Urban growth, rising seas and changes in Pacific Northwest stream runoff are placing unprecedented pressure on coastal ecosystems and communities across Puget Sound. Estuaries, beaches and floodplains support many important uses, including fish and wildlife habitat, nationally-important farmland, and natural flood protection to prime real estate, industry and transportation corridors. Intensifying competition for coastal lands raises both the urgency and the challenge of adaptively managing ecosystems and the services they provide for long-term human well-being while accommodating near-term farming, growth and other land-uses. This presentation will synthesize climate change impact pathways leading to coastal squeeze of the Salish Sea and new research aimed to help resource managers and communities plan for adaptation.