Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
If you have been listening to the news lately you will have heard that there have been massive sea bird kills from the California coastline all the way up to Washington in from September to early November. The culprit... microscopic phytoplankton in large numbers named Akashiwo sanguinea. Phytoplankton blooms are common and normal in nature when extra nutrients are being turned up. "The interesting thing about this particular dinoflagellate is that when it is churned up in heavy surf the hard outer shell breaks open releasing a surfactant that is then whipped up into essentially a coastal bubble bath" (Penelope Chilton, Research Coordinator for COASST). The bubbles make it impossible for birds to preen and soon their skin gets wet and they beach themselves and die of hypothermia. (Photo by Valerie Lindborg)
Akashiwo sanguinea (from our Sound Toxins lab) A beached loon with foam (Picture from National Geographic)
Well I hope you learned something about sea foam! People are helping locally in every way they can to help these birds and get them back into the wild check out the other news articles:
Thanks for reading!
Lab Coordinator at PTMSC
Friday, November 6, 2009
This week Libby, several devoted volunteers and myself created a set of 46 false teeth for our orca skeleton. These false teeth or "orca-dentures" (another clever term toss around) will be on display in the mouth of our articulated orca skeleton due to be on display later this spring. Why false teeth instead of real ones? It turns out killer whale teeth, when dried out, become very frail. Pieces can begin to flake off and even shatter. Also, returning the teeth to NOAA allows them to be studied in further detail. Although we know "Our Whale" is a mature female, the exact age has yet to be determined; also further knowledge about her diet can be learned through teeth analysis.
photo by: David Plude
photo by: David Plude
By the time we reached the next step we had an article in the local paper and had become professional mold makers! Step 2-Teeth casting. Once our molds had set for the required 24 hour period we began the task of removing the teeth from the molds. Once teeth were removed we put on our mad scientist gear (goggles and gloves of course) and headed outside. The chemicals being used to create our casts were toxic and ventilation was a must!
Lucky for us the epoxy used for casting only needed to sit for 30 minutes. It was great to see the results of our work so quickly. Every single mold created nearly identical casts! Results prove what great volunteers we had this week at the workshop.
By Friday we reached our final step. Step 3- Teeth painting. Painting teeth was a change of pace from the rest of the week. It allowed us to express ourselves artistically and also just enjoy talking with one another around the table.
By the end of the afternoon session Friday we had created 46 false teeth for "Our Orca". The work done this week was flawless! Several observers have already looked at the teeth and replied, "wait those aren't the real teeth? They look so real".
I want to thank everyone who came and helped out this week. The Port Townsend Marine Science Center really does have amazing, passionate and devoted volunteers! Thanks for feeding me your knowledge and welcoming me into your community.
What can I say, I've got the orca fever!
Heather, Orca Project Coordinator
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Jonathan feeding the eelgrass tank
Angela with the whale skull.
We will miss them!
Julia, Marine Exhibit Education Coordinator
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Yesterday we emptied out the eelgrass tank- it was quite the adventure! After safely removing the animals and eelgrass, we drained the water and I suited up in rain gear, climbed into the tank and carefully scooped out all the shells that had been covering the bottom. While in the tank I took a moment to imagine what life had been like for all those gunnels, pipefish and tube snouts during the long summer months. Fortunately I had less people staring at me than they did...
After the shells were all taken care of, we rinsed the walls and I set to work scrubbing out all the patches of algae clinging to the walls. Finally we rinsed the tank again, used a bilge pump to drain the remaining water and Julia mopped up the rest!
The tank looks so empty now!
In the coming weeks we'll be emptying out the other tanks in the cluster as well as the piling tank. Julia and I will be spending many hours this winter buffing out all the scratches that have accumulated during the year.
Even though our eelgrass tank is down for the season, you can still learn all about the important role of eelgrass meadows in the near-shore ecosystem on our website:
You can even download a coloring poster to decorate your wall in classy eelgrass style!
And hey- it was just one more reminder that being an AmeriCorps here at the PTMSC is pretty darn AWESOME:
Thanks for reading!
Monday, November 2, 2009
The Marine Exhibit is now closed (except for special Holiday weekends), but exciting things are still happening in the salty water. This Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) was releasing her eggs on Sunday afternoon. Usually these crabs lay eggs between spring and fall so this one is a little late.
Male dungeness crabs only will mate with females that have recently molted, the female will keep the sperm until her eggs are fully developed. After the female releases the eggs they will go through a series of free floating planktonic stages, molting, changing and growing for up to a year, they then settle to the bottom as little crabs and begin their rough life in the ocean! At about 4 or 5 these species can weigh 2-3lbs and measure 6.5 inches across. If they can escape traps long enough they can also live up to 13 years!
Make sure to come back to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in the spring to catch some more egg laying action by our resident crabs and other animals!
Thanks for reading!
PTMSC Lab Coordinator,
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