Friday, August 5, 2022

Nominations now open for the 2022 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is seeking nominations for the 2022 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award. 

Eleanor Stopps
This prestigious honor 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 or by calling (360) 385-5582 to request a form. 

Nominations can be submitted by email to or hand delivered to the PTMSC office at Fort Worden State Park. All nominations must be received no later than 5 p.m., Aug. 25.

The recipient will be honored at the annual PTMSC Stewardship Celebration at The Commons in Fort Worden State Park in mid-October.

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.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Summer Fundraising Campaign Honors 40th Anniversary

One of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s core values is multi-generational learning. Our 40 years are a testament to that.

Quinton Coley at age 5
with his grandpa Peter Badame 

Take Quinton Coley. He began exploring the Salish Sea with his grandpa, Peter Badame, who
was one of the first PTMSC staffers. Quinton, now 12, has attended summer camp every year
since he was five.

Quinton Coley (age 12) this summer, learning
about the Salish Sea at PTMSC's Marine
Biology: Afoot and Afloat camp  

“I have seen my grandson develop his skills of observation and deduction,” says Peter. “I’ve witnessed his increasing curiosity, and his respect and joy for the mysteries and interconnectedness of the natural world. The PTMSC connects youth like Quinton with the Salish Sea, which is so important for our shared future.”

Betty Petrie, former PTMSC board member

Then there’s former board members Johanna King and Betty Petrie were involved in flensing a gray whale found on the beach near Middle Point over 20 years ago. Little did they know how many generations would benefit from their discovery.

“It was a messy, smelly job flensing that whale,” says Johanna. “But it was well worth the effort when I see the next generation of marine scientists being inspired by these bones and the story of ‘Spirit’ the gray whale.”

Bee Redfield, PTMSC's Executive Director
Today, under the leadership our new executive director, Bee Redfield, we are poised to expand our mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea. Bee has been meeting with stakeholders since she started in April. A recurring theme is concern about climate change and its impact on the ocean and on sea level rise. 

“At the same time,” Bee says, “there is great excitement about how our new facility on Water Street is an opportunity to reach so many more people with the story of how we can powerfully respond to these big challenges.”

Please join us as we strive to inspire even more ocean stewards.

Your donation funds efforts such as:

  • Citizen science projects like the Dungeness crab larval study and the clam shell ocean acidification study to better understand current ocean conditions.

  • A program for 5th and 6th graders that includes a town-hall simulation teaching civic dialogue on issues such as a carbon tax to address ocean acidification.

  • Exhibits of Salish Sea habitats in our aquarium, the threats they face, and the solutions being created by scientists and advocates today.


Be part of the solution!  
Inspire more generations of ocean stewards like Quinton, Peter, Johanna and Betty by donating today.  

Double your money by taking advantage of a challenge match of $8,500 by August 31.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Local Earth Day 2022 beach cleanup sets records

2,100 pounds of debris removed

This was our first year loaning out 
wood-framed sand sieves, which were 
popular with families with small children 
for recovering microplastic debris.
On April 23, in honor of Earth Day, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center held our biggest beach cleanup ever, setting several records. Our sponsors included the Port Townsend Food Co-Op, Olympic Disposal, and the Washington State Department of Ecology, which provided funding.
The afternoon was sunny and cool. At 1 p.m., 134 volunteers began arriving. They continued to show up throughout the day, full of enthusiasm, with some joining the effort just an hour before our 5 p.m. wrap-up. Some people could only spare an hour; others spent the entire afternoon walking the beaches, crawling over rocks, and scrambling up and down banks.

They came singly and in teams, including children and senior citizens, high school and college students, families with toddlers, and groups from civic organizations. We loaned out work gloves, bags, and pickup sticks. This year we included mesh sand sieves for the first time, which allowed volunteers to isolate microplastics—an activity especially popular with families including young children. 

In the past, cleanup registration has been at Fort Worden State Park, and volunteers have been sent to a couple of spots in Port Townsend. For Earth Day 2022, people spread out over five official cleanup sites, each with its own registration station, located at:
  • Everyone returned with interesting items and a smile.
    Who knew picking up trash could be such a delightful task.
    Cape George Colony Beach
  • Fort Worden State Park
  • Downtown Port Townsend
  • Indian Island County Park
  • Shine Tidelands State Park
In addition:
  • The Jefferson County Trash Task Force cleaned up Flagler Road along the entire length of Indian Island.
  • A group of homeowners hauled in debris from their private beaches on the far side of the Hood Canal Bridge.
  • Two teams scoured several miles of beach in the remote locations of the southern tip of Marrowstone Island and at Hood Head.
  • Volunteers brought in debris from an unofficial cleanup at North Beach.
All this activity made for a grand total of 10 areas cleaned up.

What Did We Find? What Didn’t We Find!?

I arrived for my afternoon shift prepared to help volunteers weigh their hauls and sort their items for recycling, reuse or the dumpster. There were only a few bags and loose items piled in one corner of the gargantuan dumpster at 2 p.m.

Soon people began arriving and dumping out their reusable trash bags. We used a luggage scale and found most loads in the range of 1.5 to 5 pounds.

I didn’t think we’d be able to fill up the gargantuan
dumpster in a mere four hours, but I was wrong!
Then the first big load arrived, 125 pounds of debris from North Beach, brought to us in the back of an SUV because it didn’t fit into the cans provided there. Then a pickup truck arrived, and then another, both brimming over with several hundred pounds of debris. Word came that two more trucks were expected. In between unloading the trucks, more volunteers arrived with their reusable trash bags.

They dragged back everything from microplastics and aluminum cans to old tires, lost traffic cones and wayward construction materials. An entire fiberglass dinghy, rolled up carpet remnants and throw rugs, a three-legged plastic chair and PVC pipes of all sizes ended up in the dumpster. In went hoses, golf balls, scraps of fishing gear, buckets, shattered ceramic dishes, tile, plastic food wrappers, pieces of foam and many lengths of weathered lumber—complete with rusty nails sticking out!

Trash hauled off the beach came in by the
truckload in the late afternoon.
Beside the dumpster we piled a couple dozen plastic shellfish grow bags, which we hope to return to their owners. Volunteers took home several of the dozen-or-so styrofoam crab pot buoys to use as space-fillers under the dirt layer of large pots for plants. Everyone was enthusiastic about saving the collection bags, which were repurposed from originally holding bird seed or agricultural materials.

For those who were interested in a detailed analysis, a printed form helped us tally their takes. A 5-year-old volunteer named Ellie and I dumped out her small bag of trash, and she carefully counted out microplastics (20 pieces), bottle caps (3), straws (1), rope (1), bottles (1), pen-cap (1), and cans (1). Like everyone else who helped out on our Earth Day cleanup, Ellie took great pride and pleasure in her work that day.

PVC pipe, buckets, and hoses were also
common in the debris recovered.
Olympic Disposal, who generously donated their services, recorded a final whopping 2,100 pounds of debris removed!

My spirits were uplifted for days afterwards. I can’t wait to do dumpster duty again in September, when we’ll participate in International Coastal Cleanup Day. I hope you can join us, stay tuned for the date by checking out our Coastal Cleanups webpage here.

By Jenna Kinghorn, PTMSC Volunteer

Monday, June 13, 2022

Elio Wentzel awarded Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship

High school senior to attend Yale University
Elio Wentzel, recipient of the
2022 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center announces that Elio Wentzel has been awarded the 2022 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship. The $1,500 scholarship will help Wentzel (who uses they/them/their pronouns) in their study of foreign languages and architecture, interconnected by environmental studies, at Yale University.

"We are thrilled to be able to help this exceptional young person take their passion for the Salish Sea out into the world and make a difference," said PTMSC Executive Director Bee Redfield.

“Throughout my entire life, my wonder for the natural world has driven my passion for protecting it,” Wentzel said. “Linguistics provides me with a precise approach to studying language and, in turn, humanity. These ideas of communication connect to an interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies.

“Architecture can be a conduit for environmental policy, serving my passions for math and design while allowing me to make a real impact in people’s lives as I endeavor to make spaces that are intentionally equitable and accessible, as well as beautiful,” they said.

As a youth, Wentzel attended the PTMSC’s Junior Explorers summer camp. In high school, they participated in the Students for Sustainability (SFS) and Youth Environmental Stewards (YES) clubs. SFS was instrumental in the passage of the city council’s ordinance to ban plastic straws – a source of marine pollution – that was enacted in January 2021.

“I have conducted regular beach clean-ups for the Salish Sea and been a student representative with our local chapter of the Sierra Club, which often discusses action items to help solve marine environment injuries,” Wentzel said.

“Another issue close to my heart is sustainable farming and food production practices, which also affect our sea and other nearby environments. Through YES, I leaned into the education portion of activism, volunteering my time to create a Fort Worden plant guide full of photography and easily accessible information,” they said.

Laura Tucker, mentor to the Students for Sustainability, says "It’s students like Elio that are going to change this world for the better."

About the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship

The PTMSC awards the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship annually to an East Jefferson County student or graduate who embodies the values that Murphy demonstrated in her 24 years as the organization’s executive director: curiosity, wonder and love of the marine environment.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Volunteer Interest Meeting

Thursday, May 26 ,4-6 p.m.

... at the PTMSC Museum at Fort Worden

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center invites you to explore opportunities to promote conservation of the Salish Sea!

Tour the aquarium at Fort Worden and learn about becoming a docent
Explore Citizen Science opportunities: the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, larval crab study, SoundToxins research

Discover ways to educate and engage visitors through conservation and marine science advocacy


Saturday, April 30, 2022

An Homage to Cephalopods

The author spending some quality time with Sylvia, PTMSCs current octopus on exhibit

To all the disenchanted tide poolers out there, I have a message of hope for you: The cool stuff from your guidebooks is out there! You can stumble across something so sensational that you would give up every creature comfort to stay squatting in a 45 degree puddle of seawater for just five more minutes in its presence. So it went one fateful night last fall, and I do not exaggerate when I say I haven’t been the same since.

There’s nothing glamorous about tide pooling during Pacific Northwest winters. When the best low tides occur between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and the weather conditions are stuck on a pleasant cycle of cold and/or wet, it takes a potent concoction of peer pressure and nothing interesting on the Netflix queue to inspire you to pull on your three layers minimum and get down to the beach.

These are times to dredge up some enthusiasm for stumbling around on algae-slick rocks with your neck craned at a 30-degree angle for 2-plus hours. Sure, that thing you’re squinting at could be the rare nudibranch you’ve been hankering to find, but odds are high it’s just another shrimp: low expectations paired with fervent, inexplicable optimism is a critical mindset should you choose to play the game. In other words, keep manifesting that an orca will breach right in front of you on the perfect moonlit night, but you had best be cultivating a bottomless passion for marine snails at the same time.

While I’ve yet to develop a particular fondness for periwinkles, thinking this way did keep me coming back to comb the Washington shorelines where I was born and raised for years. Tide pooling was my happy place, and so what if the coolest thing I ever found was a half-eaten flounder? I’d made my peace with intertidal mediocrity.

It should thus come as no surprise when I say that the night we found the giant Pacific octopus at a negative 1-foot tide foiled everything I’d concocted to keep myself content.

Octopuses were my gateway drug to all things under the sea. I can’t even remember when I started loving them with the fierceness of a horse girl; looking back on my childhood, it seems there was never a time when octopus paraphernalia wasn’t draped over my bed, walls, and for at least five Halloweens running, my person. There’s something about the obvious otherworldliness of their trailing suctioned arms and undulations that draws us in; their mirrored interest in us when we stare at them has a humanizing power to transform them into inimitable creatures often as unsettling as they are mesmerizing.

For the giant Pacific octopus, being in the spotlight is hardly novel: as the largest octopus species in the world, researchers, fisherfolk, and casual beachgoers alike have been drawn to their many-armed mystique and compellingly (if misguided) eerie narrative for centuries. Wander through almost any coastal community and you’re guaranteed to find art, lore, town flags, and at least one shop selling ironic t-shirts that reflect a long history of pride in and love for the deep blue spaces in our backyards. The PNW does a particularly savvy commercial job of grafting the iconic image of eight swirling arms and a wary horizontal pupil to our regional identity, and as the proud owner of one ridiculously plush stuffed octo larger than my head (his name is Alan), I can’t say I’m mad about it.

Drumming up erroneous myths of krakens and looking cute and cartoonish on logos is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the goodly contributions octopuses have made. Boasting the largest body mass to brain ratio, these enigmatic invertebrates came into focus in the marine sciences as “model organisms”1 due to their high level of cognitive-behavioral abilities (eg. tool use) and remarkably evolved sensory organs. Accounting for their ability to learn, memorize, and problem solve, their biology can serve as a sort of guidebook for understanding non-human intelligence. Unfortunately, their masterful camouflaging makes witnessing this innate cleverness in the wild very challenging for those of us who aren't regularly donning scuba gear or studying them in a lab.

While octopuses are intertidal creatures and known to travel relatively high up the shorelines to hunt, they are also crepuscular invertebrates (most active during dawn and dusk). Add to the mix their generally shy nature, and the challenges of searching for an animal that can change its color and texture to match its surroundings and travel across a beach by slipping through 2-inch rock crevices rise to daunting heights. Nevertheless, we had the dream, the drive, and a small collection bucket- and we were not giving up without a fight. With the winter low tides occurring later at night, we had high hopes that this drizzly November venture would be our lucky break.

My head was hung and my mind was planning a midnight snack as we trudged back towards our cars, when what should appear in the yellow column of my headlamp but two long, pale, suctioned arms sticking out from beneath a rock (see image 1). It was unrequited love at first sight. Beckoning the others over in a voice far more casual than what I thought I’d be capable of whilst reaching nirvana, we carefully lifted the rock the arms had retreated under- and behold! Out it came! Like a pink and white marbled piece of flotsam, this deflated bag-looking thing soundlessly flowed over the ground. We looked at it. It looked at us. We freaked out in barely contained whisper-shouts. It suddenly transformed into an old man with seashells tangled in his long white beard in a spray of sea foam, claimed it hailed from Poseidon’s court, and told us it would grant us three wishes.

Just kidding. Can’t have more than one dream come true at a time. Aside from the fact that we’d rudely busted into it’s hidey-hole, I’m fairly certain it didn’t care about us or the momentous encounter that was taking place one way or another. Hoping to get in its good graces after gently replacing the rock, we caught a shore crab and placed it outside its hiding spot as an offering. We watched for signs of life for another good 10 minutes (none were seen other than the sacrificial crab scuttling away), then left content in heart and mind, if rather damp in boot.

I regret to say that Lucky the octopus has not been seen since, despite revisits to the auspicious rock where it all began. But if there’s anything the years of fruitless searching for intertidal cephalopods have taught me… it's that getting a job at an aquarium is a great Plan B.

1 Nuwer, R. (2021). A Model Octopus. Scientific American, 324(8), 12-15. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0321-12.

Photoshoot with wild giant Pacific octopus found on Kinzie Beach, dubbed 'Lucky':

Image 1: The first sighting!

Image 2: What an octopus looks like in 2 inches of water

Video of octopus moving around 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Port Townsend Marine Science Center welcomes new executive director

Bee Redfield officially takes the reins on April 1

Bee Redfield, PTMSC Executive Director, effective April 1, 2022

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce that Bee Redfield will join the organization on April 1 as its new executive director. Redfield replaces Janine Boire, who announced her departure last fall following an 8-year tenure.

“Last year, the board embarked on an intensive search for a new leader who would build upon and advance the extraordinary work done by Janine Boire,” said PTMSC Board of Directors President Ellen Hargis. “We identified four key areas where our next leader must excel: leading people, leading change, exercising business acumen and building coalitions.

“We are thrilled to welcome Bee Redfield. She has the nonprofit leadership experience, science expertise and commitment to conservation that meets those requirements,” Hargis said. “The Board has great confidence that Ms. Redfield will strategically guide the organization forward and develop rich and meaningful relationships with all our constituents.”

“I am so excited, grateful, and so incredibly blessed to be joining the Port Townsend community as the new executive director of the Marine Science Center,” Redfield said. “To have been chosen to help lead this organization into the future is such an honor. I will put my heart and soul into providing support and leadership towards the conservation efforts for the Salish Sea that we're working so hard to achieve.”

Redfield possesses over a decade of experience leading non-profit operations at the director-level, including at a wildlife center in Illinois. She holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a focus on bringing conservation programming and awareness to communities. In addition, she holds a second master's degree in human resources management and is currently finishing her Ph.D. in quantitative ecology.

“For the past 10 years, I've held leadership roles with nonprofits in the areas of community engagement and organizational operations,” Redfield said. “I've been really lucky to work with some amazing conservation organizations all around the world. I've gotten to conduct research in the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of California in the Channel Islands. I've taught undergraduate ecology and ornithology classes at Purdue University in Indiana, and I have done hands-on work with many different animal species at zoos and aquariums.”

Hargis and Boire will host an introductory session with Redfield via Zoom on Friday, March 25 at 2 p.m. The session is open to the public; a sign-up link can be found on the PTMSC website.

In addition, Redfield will meet many of the PTMSC’s ardent supporters at the organization’s annual fundraiser on April 16 at the Fort Worden Commons. “You, Me & The Salish Sea” will feature both a live and silent auction and a 40th anniversary celebration. Online registration is available at