Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coastal Explorers Camp 2010

Students ages eight to twelve years old particitpated in our week long Coastal Explorers camp from July 5-9. Students spent the week examining the natural environments of beach, glacial bluff, forest, pond and meadow. Using observation skills, campers were able to discover how these places support life in the coastal ecosystem.

After learning about birds, we made masks!

In addition our coastal explorers spent time studying insects under microscopes, investigating life in our hidden forest pond, studying fossils, playing lots of fun interactive games, creating some sweet craft projects to take home and learnimg awesome science experiments from our very own Ms. Wiz!

Studying insects under the microscope.

Overall at the Marine Science Center the Coastal Explorers camp was a great success!

Building sand volcanoes.

-Florencia Sund, Marine Naturalist Intern

Friday, July 23, 2010

Deceptively Dry Drizzle: Water Conservation in Western Washington

Think that our persistent drizzly weather means Western Washington has an overflowing water supply? Think again! Dripping in at 36.2 inches, Seattle ranks a rather shocking 44th out of 100 major U.S. cities in average rainfall. While we do have frequent rain, the actual volume remains relatively low.  Additionally, unlike many parts of the country, our summer months prove to be the driest time of the year:

While the dry weather of summer may be enjoyable after a damp winter, these parched months also prove to be the time of highest water usage. With climate change and a predicted population increase of 46% by 2030, the pressure on the water supply is expected to become even greater. 

Tip: While partaking in water-intensive summer activities like caring for your lawn, try to reduce the amount you use. You can also consider conserving water year-round by installing water-saving appliances in your home. Look for the EPA’s new “WaterSense” decal; it serves as an excellent clue about a device’s efficiency. 

-Jess Swihart
Natural History Exhibit Education Coordinator

Sources & Additional Information:
WaterSense: An EPA Partnership Program 
State of Washington Department of Ecology
Partnership for Water Conservation, "Myth vs. Fact: Why Conserve" http://www.partners4water.org/MythsFacts.htm
The Alliance for Water Efficiency's "State Information for WA"
The 10 Rainiest Cities By AMOUNT of Rainfall:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)

Plankton, the tiny plants and animals that are the base of the marine food web, are everywhere in the Puget Sound. They are vital to our ecosystems and provide 50-75% of the oxygen that we breathe. Most plankton is good but there are some ‘bad’ ones that contain toxins, which they can release when triggered. A certain kind of plankton, called dinoflagellates (Pseudo-nitzschia pictured at left), are responsible for the Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) events seen in the Puget Sound area. These events occur mostly during the summer months when conditions like sunlight, temperature and nutrients are favorable and the plankton are able to reproduce at a rapid rate. During a PSP event, the harmful plankton is so numerous in the gut of clams, mussels or oysters that the shellfish becomes unsafe for human consumption. If these shellfish are consumed symptoms such as tingling, nausea or even death can occur.

Faithful Sound Toxin volunteers Dick, Louise and Stephanie look for harmful plankton

Viewer Tip:To prevent harm from PSP make sure to check the PSP Red Tide Hotline 1-800-562-5632 for current beach closures before harvesting clams, mussels or oysters. Cook all shellfish thoroughly. Make sure you seek medical attention immediately if you notice any of the early warning signs of PSP such as tingling in the lips or tongue.

Plankton blooms can sometimes change the color of the water, but not always.

Right now there are LETHAL levels of PSP in Clallam County along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Department of Health Office of Shellfish and Water Protection have issued an urgent press release to their media outlets and we have been doing the same thing. The testing results have come in and the last death from PSP in the state happened in Clallam County when levels were as high as they are now. With extremely low tides during prime day light hours this weekend please pass on this message to county employees. Clallam County is closed to ALL SPECIES of shellfish from Cape Flattery to Dungeness Spit.

Stay safe out there!
Valerie Lindborg
Lab Coordinator


Friday, July 16, 2010

Shedding one Skin for another: Bigger is Better

Ever wonder why you find so many dead crabs on the beach during the summer? Most of these “dead crabs” are actually crab molts. A molt is an exact copy of a crab, complete with gill coverings, without the actual animal in it! In order to grow, crabs have to shed their hard outer shell, also known as their exoskeleton. When a crab is ready to molt, it backs out of its shell through a split at the back edge of its carapace (the large flat surface on its back). This molting reveals the crab’s new soft shell, which fills with water to make the shell bigger than the old one. During the week it takes for the new shell to harden, the crab hides and doesn't eat.  The crab then spends the next year growing to fill the shell.

Size of the Dungeness crab before it molted

Size of the Dungeness crab after it molted

So, next time you are at your local beach, pay attention to how many crab shells you see. A simple way to tell the difference between a dead crab and a molt is to smell it. If it smells like a dead crab, then it is one. However, if it smells like the ocean, it’s a molt. If you don’t want to risk smelling it, simply try to lifting the back edge of the shell. If it’s a molt, the back of the shell will be detached from body and you’ll be able to look inside!
Dungeness crab molt

Crab molt, complete with gill coverings!

Most of the crabs at the Marine Science Center have now molted and are ready to spend the year in their new shell!

For information about crabs and crabbing, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crabreg/crabbio.htm