This week we rocked our new citizen science project, Oceanography on the Dock. This project is a volunteer and staff led public program. It’s free to the public and meant to familiarize park visitors with some of the basic principles of oceanography and ocean conservation. The best part is that participants get to use actual test equipment to measure parameters such as salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and more.
Many participants of various ages attended our first few sessions on the PTMSC floating dock. I hosted my very first session and two groups joined me – including parents, children, girl scouts, and aspiring geologists and historians. The large group of girl scouts admitted that they did not know what oceanography meant, but after I explained the basic concepts they bravely agreed to help me conduct our research. Every single hand shot up in earnest whenever a helper for a new task was needed. These noble citizen scientists peered over the edge of the railing to watch the secchi disk to measure turbidity, carefully read the YSI meter to find out dissolved oxygen, pressure, and temperature and, fought over the chance to peer into the refractometer to determine salinity. They also tested the pH of the water using old fashioned pH strips and compared what they found with the more precise electronic meters. One dutiful data recorder, always close at hand, filled out the data sheet neatly and competently. The best part about working with these young ladies was realizing that they illustrate how just about anyone can be a scientist.
In addition to educating the public, it’s important to us that park visitors get a chance to contribute to real research. One of the reasons for conducting this research is hanging only feet away from where the program took place. Housed in a small cage, secured to the dock, are 100 baby Pinto Abalone from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund hatcheries. The Pinto Abalone are experiencing such low population numbers in the wild that they are unable to functionally reproduce. It is important to monitor the basic physical conditions of the water surrounding the precious growing mollusks here at PTMSC.
The new Oceanography on the Dock program gives anyone with curiosity and enthusiasm the opportunity to be a scientist. I was thrilled that so many individuals were willing to learn about oceanography and its importance to conservation. Here’s hoping visitors continue to enjoy our new summer program!