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. You, too, can become a SeaSteward donor by contributing monthly with a recurring payment. Please make a gift today to ensure that more people are inspired to conserve the Salish Sea!

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.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Whale of a Time

On May 31, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared the abnormal number of gray whale strandings along the West Coast as an Unusual Mortality Event, or UME.

A UME needs to “involve a significant die-off of any marine mammal population; and demand immediate response."
 
Americorps members, Michael Siddel and Ellie Kravets,  conducting our initial observations. 
The very same week, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center received a report of a stranded adult male gray whale floating in our marine mammal stranding network zone. Over the next few days, we waited for the whale to land and worked out what our plan would be once that happened.

Thanks to many local organizations, NOAA and PTMSC volunteers, we were able to construct a team to move the whale by boat to a more isolated beach location. There, a necropsy was performed in order to determine the cause of death.

Volunteers towing the whale to his new location. 
Finding an appropriate location is important because the remains need to decompose wherever the whale is necropsied. And let me tell you, a 30-ton decomposing whale does not smell pretty!

Would you have guessed a whale had so many intestines? 
As you can imagine, not everyone wants a decomposing whale on their favorite beach walk. In addition, most of Washington's coastline is privately owned. This means a location that isn’t heavily trafficked and one that we have permission to use can be extremely difficult to find.
Fortunately for us, two of our very own volunteers offered up their beach property: Stefanie Worwag and Mario Rivera. Their incredible generosity was reported by numerous news outlets.



As with most of the other gray whales that have stranded during the UME, our whale was found with nothing but some eelgrass and a fruit snack pack in his stomach -- he was extremely malnourished. Currently, NOAA is working to figure out what is the reason behind these increased numbers of emaciated whales.

Two theories are currently under consideration.

First, by studying the West Coast gray whale population trends over the past 30 years, it may be possible that the “carrying capacity” has been reached. In other words, there may be as many gray whales as the West Coast can sustainably support. Gray whale numbers have been increasing and with that comes an increase in competition for food and other resources. This could be the reason behind the spike in mortalities.

The second explanation looks into the possibility that the UME is a result of climate change. It may be possible that warmer Arctic waters are inhibiting the availability of gray whales’ main food sources in those northern waters. 

As more information emerges, we will be sure to update this blog for our supporters.

Written by AmeriCorps Volunteer Program Educator Mandi Johnson.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Keeping up with Eliza Dawson

Eliza Dawson, who grew up around Port Townsend, spent many days volunteering at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and was awarded the 2018 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship, has started a blog, Keeping Ice Cool, that describes her work as a geophysics Ph.D. student at Stanford University.

Eliza Dawson, posted on her Twitter account @keepingicecool. 
“I model and measure the evolution and stability of ice sheets,” Eliza writes. “Drawing on a multidisciplinary knowledge base across earth sciences and engineering, I am working to develop novel techniques to integrate ice penetrating radar observations with numerical modeling.

“My research works to advance our understanding of ice sheet basal thermal transitions and the onset of sliding, and improve projections of sea level rise,” she adds.

The latest entries on her blog, which was started in March, describe her time studying the Sermeq Kujalleq Glacier in Greenland.

You can keep up with Eliza’s blog via email, by subscribing in the left-hand column on her blog’s website. Or follow her on Twitter, @keepingicecool!



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Grace Johnson awarded 2019 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship

$1,500 scholarship presented at Port Townsend Marine Science Center annual meeting


On July 9 at its annual member meeting, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center announced the winner of the 2019 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship: Grace Johnson of Nordland, Wash.
 
Grace Johnson, recipient of the 2019 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship.

Johnson, a recent graduate of Chimacum High School, has volunteered in ecosystem projects in the local community and recently participated in the Northwest Watershed Institute’s “YES! Leaders Program,” a hands-on environmental education initiative. For the last year Johnson has volunteered at the PTMSC, caring for aquarium animals, cleaning tanks and interacting with the public.

“When I first became a member of the Youth Environmental Stewardship 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,” Johnson said.

“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,” she added.

Johnson was also a featured speaker at the annual PTMSC Benefit Dinner and Auction in March, where she inspired the audience with a story of her interaction with a young boy. 

Grace Johnson, speaking to the audience at the 2019 PTMSC Dinner & Auction on March 16.


“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,” Johnson said. “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.”

A resident of Marrowstone Island, Johnson will attend Peninsula College in Port Angeles to obtain an Associates of Science Degree. She intends to use the $1,500 scholarship to supplement her tuition, books and room and board.

Her future plans?

“Although my future career path is not environmentally geared, I plan to continue to contribute in environmental conservation, specifically the marine environment by continuing to volunteer throughout college at centers, such as the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, during my first two years of college, or possibly the Marine Life Center in Bellingham, while I finish my degree in kinesiology.

“By doing this,” Johnson said, “I can continue to gain and share my knowledge and experiences with others, in hopes of inspiring them to volunteer or even pursue a career in this area.”

She added: “Once my schooling is complete, and I’ve started my career, I plan to attend the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s annual fundraising event where I can donate to the program that helped me discover my new found love for marine life.”

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.


Monday, July 8, 2019

What does it mean to become a steward of the Salish Sea? Part 1

In 2019, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is spotlighting supporters who have become SeaSteward donors. Read Part 2 here. You, too, can become a SeaSteward donor by contributing monthly with a recurring payment. Please make a gift today to ensure that more people are inspired to conserve the Salish Sea!

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

Ella Piatt traces her first inspiration to the time she came to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center as a child to work with co-founder Libby Palmer on a fish seine.

Ella Piatt at the 2019 "Enchanted Salish Sea" Dinner & Auction.
“I loved every bit of it,” Ella remembers. “We would all wait eagerly to see what the haul would bring us. We would get nudibranchs, crabs, starfish, sculpin, gunnels and so on.”

That excitement brought her back for a high school internship in 2009 to work on the Orca Project. The story of “Hope, the orca that stranded and died due to a high level of toxins in her body, was profoundly moving to Ella.

“The public was allowed to put together the skeleton, like a giant jigsaw puzzle,” Ella says. “I remember a young boy in particular who would work on the orca skeleton as much as he could. There was so much passion and determination in this young man to finish the orca skeleton.”

Ella went on to earn an Associate of Arts degree in marine and environmental conservation, followed by a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and anthropology. She is currently working in Maine on a study of saltmarsh sparrows.

At the 2019 “Enchanted Salish Sea” Dinner & Auction on March 16, Ella addressed the audience, giving voice to the inspiration that motivates everyone who works, volunteers, funds or otherwise supports the PTMSC.

“I want to restore a world that was once beautiful and pollution-free, back to the way it should be,” she said. “I want to find ways to encourage the whole world to take a different path that's less harmful to nature. I want to make a global change. It's a huge goal but together it can be done."

This human-to-human sharing of passion and excitement is at the heart of how the PTMSC creates ocean stewards and transforms lives.

Linda Martin and Mike Cornforth have supported the PTMSC for more than 15 years.

Mike and Linda at the end of their regular Friday docent shifts.
“Mike and I knew we'd be supporting the PTMSC the first time we set foot in the Museum,” says Linda, who eventually became a PTMSC board member. “It was 2004 and our first visit to Port Townsend while searching for the perfect retirement location. A friendly volunteer staffer found out we were docents at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla, California, and she told us we'd be most welcome as volunteers at the Marine Science Center. We took the first interpretive training as docents while river otters raced around the beach, screeching and rolling around.”

Describing the thrill of interacting with the public, Linda says: “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. Seeing visitors from all over the world meet their first orca in our museum is a joy.

“We have been docents, auction donors and ambassadors, and sustaining financial donors since 2007,” she says.

More recently, Mike and Linda decided to become SeaSteward members, making their donation with an automatically recurring monthly payment on their credit card. Mike explains it this way.

“The advantages are two-fold,” he 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.”







Thursday, July 4, 2019

Summer Low Tide Walks


Sunday, July 14th

9 am - 11 am

Saturday, August 3rd

11 am - 1 pm

Saturday, August 31st

10 am - noon


All dates: meet at PTMSC Museum Portico entrance

Free with price of admission
(members always free)

Meet at the Museum exhibit portico entrance for a guided Low Tide Walk on the beach with PTMSC naturalists. Explore tide pools and learn about how marine organisms are adapted for the challenges of living in the intertidal zone.

We recommend weather-appropriate clothing and shoes with good traction for moving around on wet slippery rocks.


Please RSVP to Carolyn Woods at cwoods@ptmsc.org or call
(360) 385-5582 x 109

BARSTOOL BINGO at Hilltop Tavern

Wednesday, July 31st

7 - 9 pm


Hilltop Tavern


Join us as we ink up some cards for the Salish Sea!

Fun and prizes!

Proceeds go to support our programs. We'll see you there!