Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Necropsy Training at PTMSC!

Hello all!

Port Townsend Marine Science Center had a very exciting (and smelly) Harbor Seal pup necropsy training early last week with marine mammal veterinarians, Pete Schroeder and Betsy Lutmerding. This training was to inform our staff and stranding network volunteers how to perform a basic necropsy and collect samples/data. The purpose of a necropsy is to determine the cause of death of the animal and to collect information used for monitoring and learning about local marine mammals. During the necropsy we looked for notable wounds, unusual tissue or organs, and signs of human interaction. To search for pathogens and toxins, samples were taken of blubber, major organs, internal fluids, and stomach contents. This time collecting samples was just for the training; during future necropsies we will interpret and use the results of the analyzed samples.

Receiving Prescott Grant funding, which started in October, has made training and future necropsies possible for our stranding network. The East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network (EJCMMSN) now has funding to install information signs at 10 beaches, create and print a brochure, improve the marine mammal stranding information on our website, plan additional trainings, and perform and analyze samples from 5 necropsies.

Chrissy Mclean (PTMSC’s Marine Program Coordinator) and I would like to thank our wonderful stranding network volunteers as well as Pete Schroeder and Betsy Lutmerding for their time, effort, and smiling faces they contribute to our stranding network. Thank you all very much!

Jen Stevens
Marine Mammal Citizen Science Assistant

(See photos from the necropsy training below! CAUTION: Photos are Graphic)

Interested in joining our team of stranding network volunteers? Contact Jean Walat at for more information!
Examining the stomach contents from one of the seal pups– all that was found were a few very small fish bones. Photo by Richard Smith

Marine Mammal Veterinarian Betsy Lutmerding measuring the blubber layer during the necropsy training. Photo by Sandy

PTMSC staff, stranding network volunteers, and marine mammal veterinarians worked together to perform two successful Harbor Seal pup necropsies. Photo by Sandy Dengler

Marine Life Trivia

Okay so here’s a little Marine Life Trivia for you…

What species…

• Lives to be somewhere between 20 and 30 years old, with the females reaching the upper limit of this range…

• Has an average adult male that can weigh up to 1500 lbs (!) with females averaging 600 lbs…

• Will regularly travel up to 250 miles to find food and as deep as 600 feet…

• Needs to eat at least 6% of its body weight each day in order to survive? Let’s do the math… average male is 1500 lbs. x 6% = 90 lbs. a day!! *

So… we’ll give you a hint… it’s a mammal!

   ** Puzzled?......

Okay, here’s another hint… Our Marine Program Coordinator Chrissy McLean and AmeriCorps Citizen Science Assistant Jamie Landry responded to a stranding of one of these guys last week! So can you guess now???

Okay, Okay, I’ll tell you!!

A Steller Sea Lion!!

PTMSC’s Marine Program Coordinator, Chrissy McLean and Artemis the male Steller Sea Lion

PTMSC's AmeriCorps Citizen Science Assistant Jamie Landry helps document Artemis' stranding

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is part of NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) and responds to calls of mammal stranding on a regular basis. Last week, a local citizen reported a dead and beached Steller Sea Lion on Marrowstone Island. After collecting basic information on this endangered species, Chrissy and Jamie collected the head in hopes to get tissue samples and a fully intact skull which the Marine Science Center will use for educational purposes. We have named the male Steller Sea Lion Artemis and are looking forward to having his skull in the Natural History Museum at Fort Worden State Park. It was an exciting call and we want to give special thanks to our volunteers who participate in the MMSN and all locals who place calls to inform us of marine mammal stranding in the East Jefferson County area.

If you find what you believe to be a stranded mammal, please visit our website for more information on what to do and who to call.

* Statistics credit: The Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission
** Cartoon Credit: Mark A. Hicks

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What's New at the Marine Science Center?

Hi there guys and gals!  It's been a while since we've posted on the blog- partly because we wanted to let Chris' thoughts on "poop" really sink in- and partly because we've been so busy with all the transitions around here.

So what kind of transitions are we talking about? And who is "we"?

Well, "we" is the new AmeriCorps team for the 2011-2012 season!

From the left: Jamie, Elise, and Jen are getting settled in and finding their way at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.  (Clarification: Jamie doesn't actually drink the lab chemicals, Elise is not stored in the Eelgrass Tank, and Jen is not part fish.)

So here's a little bit more about these ladies and what they hope to bring to the Marine Science Center this coming year:

Jamie Landry comes to us from her hometown of Gilford, NH.  After graduating from the University of Rochester, she moved to Iceland in 2009 to pursue her Master's Degree in Coastal and Marine Natural Resources.  After spending an additional year in Iceland as a head volleyball coach, she moved back to the US to work as a naturalist and environmental educator with the Adirondack Mountain Club outside Lake Placid, NY.  Now residing in Uptown Port Townsend, she can be found at PTMSC in the Discovery Lab, around town on her early morning runs, playing volleyball with the local club, or knitting traditional Icelandic sweaters. 

Elise Gorchels is a very busy, well-caffeinated, scuba diving conservation biologist whose greatest fear in life is being boring, followed closely by being bored.  She is a transplant from Madison, WI and can most frequently be heard discussing cheese, microbrews, and Badger football.  When she isn't at work she's probably underwater photographing all the great life the PNW has to offer!  After graduating from UW Madison in 2008 she spent two seasons as an educator on Orcas Island and one year as an AmeriCorps member at a community center in Madison.

Jen Stevens is originally from Minnesota and has a Bachelors Degree in Marine Zoology from The Evergreen State College in Olympia. She spent time doing husbandry and research of sea turtles at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida and recently worked as a zoological aide at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Jen’s main objective at PTMSC is the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and lately has been helping run seal necropsy trainings. When not at PTMSC she can be found exploring downtown, hanging out with her two felines, or playing Dungeons and Dragons with her friends in Olympia.

So there you have it!  These three vivacious ladies look forward to working with all of our wonderful volunteers and inspiring future Marine Science Center visitors with their enthusiasm and passion for the magnificent Salish Sea.

Aaaaannnnd... we have more exciting news! Some of you might recognize this lovely lady...

You may have recently seen former PTMSC 2010 Summer/Fall Intern, Claudia Padilla around a bit more than usual. After spending last winter and spring working various jobs around town and traveling, she's back as staff through October 2012. She will serve as the Education and Volunteer Program Organizer to assist with a variety of tasks such as working with the volunteer program, writing education curricula, organizing and planning Free Science Classes, and helping to maintain the NHE among many other responsibilities.

Claudia is originally from Pennsylvania where she attained her Journalism degree from Penn State. She served as an AmeriCorps as part of the Maryland Conservation Corps, before moving to Washington, DC in 2006. After a few years in DC at different non-profits, she was ready for career shift, starting with PTMSC in June 2010. Being in the Pacific NW has rekindled her love of the outdoors and educating the public about the environment. Swimming, cooking, exploring the Olympic National Park and reading are some of her favorite things to do.

So, stay tuned for more updates and thanks for reading!