Tuesday, March 31, 2015


On March 21st, a handful of PTMSC volunteers and I, AmeriCorps member Erika Winner, attended a oiled wildlife HAZWOPER training in Port Angeles. In case you're wondering, HAZWOPER stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard. We learned a lot about all the planning needed to respond to an oil spill and the hazards that responders can experience. The training also involved a demonstration of the protective gear responders wear. Of course, I volunteered! Please enjoy my humorous experience, thanks to Wendy Feltham and Nan Evans for photos. 

The sleeves have to be folded to fit in the gloves. Thanks for the help Wendy!

Got my boots taped on!

All set and ready to clean some wildlife!

Dana Kovac, Wendy Feltham, Nan Evans, and Kateri Schmeler were among the PTMSC volunteers in attendance. 

Are you interested in becoming an oil response volunteer? The Department of Ecology has a new website where you can look up training dates and register. Got to: http://www.oilspills101.wa.gov!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sea Star Wasting Annual Report

Are you curious about the data our citizen scientists have been collecting about sea star wasting? We're hard at work putting together our annual report so that we can show you.

 Check back to this page in early April to find out more! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Commited Community’s Passion For Fort Worden

A Story of Service 
By: Shannon Phillips
Marine Exhibit AmeriCorps

Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) is nestled into the heart of charming Fort Worden.  Fort Worden State Park is 434-acres of beauty with over two miles of saltwater shoreline and plenty of trails to hike.  You’ll find yourself entering the Fort and passing by the parade grounds as you head downhill, and then a dramatic turn and you’ll be overlooking the Marine Science Center out on the pier along the sandy shoreline from atop the hills. I find myself fortunate to be gazing out upon this view again as I come in for my second term of service. It’s become almost a second home to me and one that I’m very fortunate to have found. 
View of PTMSC at the end of the pier.
As I learned during my last service term, Fort Worden, in all of its beauty, is also currently serving as a home to several noxious weeds and invasive species. These noxious weeds overgrow and outplace many of the park’s native plants. English Ivy climbs atop the beautiful trees, causing limb breakage with all of the extra weight. Meanwhile, each mature Scotch Broom plant is able to drop over 10,000 seeds, which shade out the native vegetation. In addition to learning about the destructive forces, I also learned that many people are just as concerned about them as I am. The community of Port Townsend continuously gathers to work against noxious weeds in many organized weed pulls, including one I helped organized to be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2015. I have a feeling these weeds will only call Fort Worden a temporary home.

Introduction Lecture of the Importance of MLK Day, Pulling Noxious Weeds and Working Together
My one-word description of the Port Townsend community is passionate. The community is, as a whole, passionate about a diversity of topics, and all are able to find a home here. It is with this community that the AmeriCorps of PTMSC have established an annual Fort Worden State Park MLK Day Weed Pull. The many residents of Port Townsend, the AmeriCorps, Washington State Parks employees, and members of Friends of Fort Worden , devoted their day off to removing noxious weeds with assistance from Jefferson Land Trust, Native Plant Society, Noxious Weed Board, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The passion and commitment of those that showed up to assist removing Scotch Broom, English Ivy and Poison Hemlock that have a continuous positive impact on the ecosystem.
Some of the 44 volunteers that attended MLK Day Weed Pull 2015

It is with the community of Port Townsend, that I continuously gain the valuable lesson of collective action and the greater impact that it is able to make. This was my second time organizing the MLK Day Weed Pull at Fort Worden as part of my service term, from contacting organizations to advertising to presenting the importance of this event, I was a small piece in making this PTMSC’s Third Annual MLK Day Weed Pull. For the second year in a row, the passion of this community has astounded me with their devotion to ensuring the beauty of Fort Worden.  44 volunteers gathered on January 19, 2015, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. by donating a total of 117 hours to pulling 1420 pounds of Scotch Broom, English Ivy and Poison Hemlock! Ridding Fort Worden of these noxious weeds will allow the native plants to thrive, adding to the beauty of the place I call my second home. Working together, the community of Port Townsend was able to make this MLK Day, “a day on, not a day off.” I am proud to be a part of this community, serve with AmeriCorps at PTMSC and to help rid the noxious weeds from Fort Worden.
Walking back to PTMSC after a successful weed pull

Check out the 3rd Annual MLK Day Video Here:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lecture: Ocean Acidification - A Global Problem with Local Impacts

the fifth and final installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

March 1 @ 3pm

The Commons at Fort Worden (New Location!)

Pacific Oyster Photo by Gilbert W. Arias/Seattle P-I
No-host reception 
immediately following the lecture.

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)
FREE teachers & students

Increased concentrations of CO2 can cause significant changes in marine organisms due to ocean acidification. A more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on calcifying species including oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and plankton. When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may be at risk. It is estimated by the end of the century surface waters of the ocean could become 150% more acidic. Senior NOAA scientist and UW Oceanography Professor Dr. Richard Feely will discuss present and future implications of increased CO2 on the health of our ocean ecosystems and ocean-based economies.

Dr. Richard A. Feely
Senior Scientist, NOAA
Pacific Marine
Environmental Laboratory,
Seattle WA

Dr. Feely received the 2010 Heinz Environmental Award and is a lead participant on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize in collaboration with former Vice President Al Gore.

No-host reception immediately following the lecture.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Our 'Squidlets' Have Hatched!

Curious about these mysterious opalescent egg casings? So were we! 

On the morning of December 7, 2014, Fort Worden's Ranger Todd found them on his crab pot. Citizen Science Assistant AmeriCorps member, Ashleigh, decided to document the development of these Loligo opalescens, California Market Squid, eggs. Typically laid on sandy or hard substrates on the seafloor bottom, California Market Squid eggs hatch in 3-5 weeks but may require longer in colder water.

Over the course of the first 26 days, the eggs slowly transformed from circular yolks to more distinct shape.  Day 31 brings the initial development of the eye stalks which are then followed by rapid developmental changes.

In the Day 45 photo, one can note the eyes at the base of the mantle, the external yolk sac has decreased in size, and the rapidly developing chromatorphores. These chromatophores, or pigment spots, can be contracted and expanded to allow adult squid to turn from a transparent white to an opaque red-brown. Day 53 shows the yolk sac almost completely gone and the chromatophores expanded.

Finally, Day 55 brought us the moment we have been waiting for! Several 'squidlets' (non-technical term) have hatched!  The hatching of the paralarvae from each capsule was staggered over several days.  One can observe in the final 'Post-hatch Egg Capsule' photo where the juveniles emerged from small slits in their chorions. Using powerful contractions from their mantel, the squidlets entered the waters of our beautiful Salish Sea, fully capable of rapid movement in any direction and sustaining themselves on the remains of their internal yolk sacs. 

Check out this link to see a video of a squidlet mobilizing for their grand entry to the Salish Sea!  You can see the rapid movement of the mantel and changing chromatophores, both essential for life in their abundant and diverse ecosystem.

Thank you to Ranger Todd for sharing these eggs with us back in December! While our eggs took approximately three weeks longer to hatch than the expected 3-5 week gestation period, scientists have noted that development is delayed in colder water. Let's keep stunning creatures like the California Market Squid in mind and continue to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea together! 

Feel free to contact Ashleigh (apilkerton@ptmsc.org) if you have any additional questions!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Lecture: Imaging The Arctic

artwork by
Maria Coryell-Martin
the fourth installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

February 8 @ 3pm

The Chapel at Fort Worden

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)

Off the southwest coast of Greenland, artist Maria Coryell-Martin (expeditionaryart.com) and scientist Dr. Kristin Laidre recorded the effects of sea ice loss on narwhals and polar bears at Baffin Bay. While scientists observed their health and movements, Corywell-Martin illustrated the environmental and scientific process with a captivating human touch.

“We are fortunate to host this incredible lecture presentation,” said Marine Science Center Executive Director Janine Boire. “We want to inspire communities to work together for the health of our oceans and it starts with building awareness. Imaging the Arctic is a perfect example of marrying art and science to communicate the effects of climate change on native species.” Climate change, toxics, and plastics are the main foci of PTMSC’s Gone Green? Go Blue! Campaign to raise awareness and inspire collective action to improve ocean health. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Way of Whales 2015!

Last Saturday, Port Townsend Marine Science Center staff and volunteers attended Orca Network's annual Way of Whales Workshop at Coupeville Middle School. The halls were filled with displays ranging from the region's many stranding networks to the Vaquita Fund. The Whidbey Audubon Society was a hoot as they gleefully gave passerby's temporary Pigeon Guillemot tattoos.

PTMSC's table shared how toxic chemicals make their way from our homes to the marine environment. Our table was a hit! Workshop attendees were especially interested in our Green Cleaning Recipes. In fact we ran out of copies by lunch!

The workshop also included speakers from across the cetacean world. Local musician, Dana Lyons, kicked it off with a performance of the title track from his new album, The Great Salish Sea. If you would like to hear some fantastic music about our region, click here!

Next, Howard Garrett of Orca Network gave updates on the organizations activities. They have recently compiled a Google map of Puget Sound's Whale Sighting Viewpoints. Howard also spoke of the Lolita the Orca. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) should deciding whether or not to end her exclusion from the Endanger Species Act listing of Southern Resident Killer Whales by the end of the month. Last, Howard discussed the plight of Chinook salmon, the key food source for Southern Residents. Much of the Chinook salmon's critical habitat is inaccessible due to four dams on the Lower Snake River. For more information on Lolita and Chinook salmon, check out Orca Network's website.

After Howard, Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research took the stage. He focused on the population trends of the Southern Residents and their positive correlation to Chinook salmon abundance. Though the outlook appeared bleak, there is some hope with the birth of J-50!

Then came the hexacopters! John Durban of NOAA Fisheries presented the use of hexacopter drones to study Northern Resident Killer Whales. The hexacopters can fly over the orcas and take detailed pictures, all the while not disturbing the whales! These pictures can then be used to identify individuals and take body measurements. This new technology is an amazing step in non-invasive monitoring. Through this research, NOAA will be able to keep track of orca health in real time. Check out this video to learn more.

Erin Ashe from Oceans Initiative presented her research on Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. In recent years, the dolphins have become more common in Johnstone Strait. As part of her PhD. thesis, Erin has created a photo catalog of the population. By identifying individuals, she has been able to study the population's abundance and social bonds.

The last speaker was John Calambokidis of Cascadia Research Collective. He discussed recent research on the populations of large baleen whales along the West Coast. These whales can often become the victims of ship strike. Through the use of various archival tags and photo ID, John has been studying whale behavior and distribution. John's research is now being used to inform shipping lane managers on how to reduce and prevent collisions with whales.