Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Reflection on Communicating Conservation

Communication is not usually something we think about past grade school. We learn to read, write, converse, but once we've learned we just start using these skills without much additional thought. Words have a huge impact on people, and I've noticed that when I am trying to communicate environmental issues to the public I now think more carefully about how my words will mold their experience.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is going through many changes this year as we are designing and building new exhibits (made possible by a Public Participation Grant from the WA Department of Ecology). New exhibits also give us an opportunity to re-think how we communicate tough environmental issues. One of the first exhibits to get a face lift was a panel that was previously titled “Am I Contaminated Too?”  A picture of a little girl stared down at visitors surrounded by paragraphs about toxic chemicals that have been leaching from our industrialized lives into the environment and our own bodies. It was very grim. Our volunteer docents even avoided talking about the panel with visitors because of its negative tone and wordiness. We spent many hours designing the old exhibit, but it just wasn't an image that inspired people into action.

Change came in the form of our “Be A Toxic Free Zone” workshop, a free program that the Science Center has been providing for members of the Port Townsend community. My role was to help the design team translate the workshop’s emphasis on personal and community actions into a new interactive panel (briefly mentioned in an October Blog post).  Many design and text iterations later we came up with a magnetic panel that invited visitors to replace toxic household items with non-toxic alternatives. Lo and behold, the panel has been a success! Volunteers and visitors now engage with the new panel and try their hand at making their world a “toxic free zone.” 

AmeriCorps Member Allison Kellum installs “Be a Toxic Free Zone” interpretive panel 
in the Natural History Exhibit with PTMSC staff Phil Dinsmore and Jean Walat.

There has also been a large amount of crossover between workshop participants and exhibit docents. People have been so impacted by what they learned about toxics in the workshop that they are now sharing what they learned with others. To help them communicate these ideas, they are using the new display to illustrate actions that we can all take to help the Salish Sea.

I hone my communication skills every day when I type up an e-mail or catch up with a volunteer, but it’s been incredible to learn how strategic framing can take a conversation from negative to positive, from apathy to action.

by Allison Kellum, AmeriCorps - Natural History and Volunteer Educator

This Blog post is from a "Story of Service" submission to AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service. We have four AmeriCorps Members serving for the '14-'15 term at the Science Center and they are deeply involved in almost every aspect of the organization. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Film Screening and Lecture: Beneath the Salish Sea and new productions

the third installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

December 7 @ 3pm

Fort Worden Chapel

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is excited to have underwater videographer Florian 
Granar. Granar will be showing sequences from Beneath the Salish Sea as well as footage from recent projects here and in Europe. 

    Florian Granar holds  a Ph.D. Marine Biology with specialization in marine mammals and works full-time as a freelance marine cinematographer. Being a qualified marine biologist, he brings professionalism and extensive subject knowledge to his films.  

    Granar’s cinematography assignments have taken him around the planet. He has worked on many film assignments for the BBC including PACIFIC ABYSS, AMAZON ABYSS and THE BLUE PLANET; the UK documentary company Icon Films; the German television company NDR Naturfilm.  He is currently completing a presentation for National Geographic Channel. 

    Florian grew up diving in Germany, and became a certified research diver with the Biological Institution Helgoland (B.A.H.). He has since lived (and dived) in Norway, along spectacular Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord; and in the US, in quaint Pacific Grove, on California's scenic Monterey peninsula. Florian and his family now live on Whidbey Island, where he dives and  films in the waters of the Salish Sea.

    His production company, Sea-life Productions, films and produces wildlife documentaries. Florian is constantly pushing forward the boundaries, in terms of diving methods and camera technology, to bring unique images back to the surface. He hopes that this provides a resource for promoting the conservation of a truly global domain...the oceans.

    Visit him at, and for a trailer showing his work for a German film on the North Sea, view the video below.

View the event poster here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Join us for a Winter Wildlife Cruise!

Our cruises are hosted by seasoned naturalist Roger Risley, who provides excellent commentary on the natural history of the island and the wildlife sighted. Join us on a cruise!

November 29

December 31

1-4 PM

For reservations and information: 
or book online at
Offered in partnership with and generous support from
Puget Sound Express

Since 1994, when the PTMSC started collaborating with PS Express, guests have been enjoying this great opportunity right in our own back yard. The cruises not only feature a comfortable boat, but also expert onboard commentary and the chance to better understand our local environment.

(DISCLAIMER: Depending on weather conditions, the cruise may go to either Protection Island or Oak Bay/Port Ludlow area.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

PTMSC Receives Grant For TEENS Projects

On Nov. 11th, the Jefferson County Community Foundation's Fund for Women and Girls awarded the Port Townsend Marine Science Center a $4000.00 grant for a project Titled "The TEENS project: Teens Envisioning & Engineering New Solutions." 

The project seeks to prepare and empower young women to be the next generation of change makers. Teen girls from middle and high school will explore public health and environmental challenges facing their communities and work together to create solutions utilizing the fields of science, technology, and math (STEM).

Friday, November 7, 2014

Octopus Sign Restoration

Restoration of the octopus sign on the Marine Exhibit is now complete (pretty much)! After many years weathering the elements the big blue octopus needed more than a little TLC.

Carolyn and Rae worked hard over the past month to sand and repaint the octopus sign. Working on tall ladders in the wind and rain was a fun challenge! 




Come stop by the Marine Exhibit to see the newly repainted sign in all its glorious detail!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Annual Holiday Gift Shop Sale

Friday, November 28 - Sunday, November 30th

Need gifts for the holidays?  Shop local, and come down to the PTMSC Gift Shop located in the Natural History Exhibit for our annual Holiday Gift Shop Sale! 

Members receive 15% off their purchase, and non-members receive 10% off.  What a deal!  We have great books by local authors, puzzles, field guides, toys, clothing, and more.  Gift memberships to PTMSC and gift certificates in any amount are also available.

Bring canned goods to donate to the Jefferson County Food Bank, and get a free gift.  Hot apple cider, hot chocolate, and other yummy treats available upon admission to the exhibits.

Can't make it that weekend?  That's okay!  We're open every Friday - Sunday 12-5pm through December.  You'll have plenty of opportunities to buy local! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Be A Toxic Free Zone in the Natural History Exhibit

Come see what's new in our Natural History Exhibit! Just in time for our currently running workshop series "Be A Toxic Free Zone," we've completed the installation of a new exhibit panel. The interactive display invites you to explore how the choices you make in your own home can positively affect the health of the ocean. 
Allison, Phil and Jean hard at work installing the new panel.
We have already had great conversations with visitors about changes they can make to ensure their homes and waterways are free of toxics. Stop by and see the latest addition to our exhibit!

The panel is a hit!
If you're interested in attending our free Be A Toxic Free Zone workshop series, you can find the schedule and other information here: Be A Toxic Free Zone

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Tides and Eddies of Puget Sound

the second installment of The Future of Oceans Lecture Series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

Sunday, November 2 @ 3pm
Fort Worden Chapel

$10 admission ($5 PTMSC members)

November’s lecturer, Parker MacCready, is Professor of Oceanography in the University of Washington’s College of the Environment. He has worked for the past 15 years studying tidal currents and general circulation of Pacific Ocean waters, including a number of projects in Puget Sound and the San Juans. His work combines detailed field studies with realistic computer models, trying to discover the processes that turn the energy of tides, winds, and rivers into the circulation patterns that control the biological productivity of the Puget Sound estuary.

In this talk he will explore the tides in Puget Sound, from their astronomical origin to the the extraordinary fronts and eddies so apparent to boaters. This then leads to consideration of the turbulent mixing these eddies cause, and how they drive a large, persistent current of deep Pacific water though the Sound. It is this circulation, many times greater than that of all our rivers, that brings nutrients which feed the abundant growth of phytoplankton in our waters.

MacCready began his exploration of moving fluids with human-powered vehicles. His research career was stimulated when his father, Paul MacCready, created the first human powered aircraft, the Gossamer Condor. As a teenager, Parker MacCready was one of its first cyclist/test pilots. Their second aircraft, the 70 lb. Gossamer Albatross, hangs in Boeing’s Museum of Flight, in Seattle: this was the first human powered vehicle to cross the 22-mile wide English Channel, on June 12, 1979. At California Institute of Technology, the younger MacCready built a human powered hydrofoil craft, the ‘Pogofoil’, for his Master of Science degree. He then completed his Ph.D. research at University of Washington, producing a new theory of the circulation of the deepest layers of the ocean, which overturned traditional ideas about the way the ocean interacts with its coasts and bottom.

The Future of Oceans Lecture Series: With more than seven-tenths of the planet’s surface covered in salt water, the future health of our oceans is critical. Join the PTMSC for a series of five lectures on The Future of Oceans the first Sunday of every month, from October through March, (except January due to holidays) to learn about topics such as El Niño, the tides and eddies in Puget Sound, what’s beneath the Salish Sea, Arctic images, and ocean acidification. All lectures are at Fort Worden and the series is provided by the generous support of the Darrow family.

see the poster here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If You Give An Octopus a Camera...

Octopus Handling 101: As fun as it might seem at the time, it's probably not the best idea to entrust a wiggly octopus with your underwater camera. Although we thought it would be fascinating to have Inky film the inside of her tank and get her perspective on life at the Marine Science Center, it turned out that she was more interested in playing with the camera than filming with it! 

First we attempted to retrieve the camera with grabbers, but Inky was having far too much fun to let go just yet. We were worried she would try to open the camera to see if there was some food hidden inside!

We finally managed to retrieve the camera (while still filming!) with the skillful use of several nets. We offered her a treat in return for the camera, but Inky seemed put out at losing her favorite new toy. 

You can view the footage Inky shot (with appearances by Shannon, Carolyn and Rae) on our YouTube channel: 

DO WELL BY DOING GOOD - Estate Planning for You, Your Family and Your Community

photo by Jamie Montague

November 5th, 2014 
3 – 5 p.m.
Natural History Exhibit at Fort Worden State Park       

You are invited to join three knowledgeable professionals for a free seminar on estate planning. Learn how to make an estate plan that will benefit you, your loved ones, and the organizations you support. You will learn what to include in your will, how to avoid probate, which gifts to leave to heirs and which to charitable causes to get the best tax advantages, how to receive income while making a gift during your lifetime, and other strategic giving options. An estate plan can help you provide for your family, as well as leave a lasting legacy through the non-profit organization(s) of your choice. Planned gifts offer people of all income levels a way to make a difference for future generations.

The seminar will be conducted by:
  • Stephen C. Moriarty, Attorney at Law, specialist in estate planning  with the firm of Platt, Irwin and Taylor;
  • Betty A. Abersold, Investment Advisory Associate, Girard Securities, Inc.
  • John Mackey, Certified Public Accountant with the firm of Gooding, O’Hara and Mackey

You will not be solicited in any way, nor will any particular investment products or methods be promoted.  The seminar is free and open to everyone. Please call 385-5582, ext 101 with questions or to RSVP.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be A Toxic Free Zone Workshops

This workshop is FREE and open to the public. 

Every Wednesday 2-4 pm
Start Date: Wednesday Oct 15
End Date: Wednesday Nov 19

Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
2333 San Juan Ave, Port Townsend

Port Townsend Marine Science Center staff offer a six-week class to help you reduce your personal daily exposure to toxic chemicals, and to share how toxics are regulated, how they move through the environment and how to take action to address this issue in our society. This workshop is funded by the WA Dept. of Ecology and the Foss and Horizon Foundations. All materials will be provided.

Sign up ONLINE HERE. or call Megan Veley at 607-319-9344.

Monday, September 8, 2014

el Niño-The Boy Wonder of World Weather

the first installment of The Future of Oceans lecture series

with generous support by the Darrow Family

Sunday, October 5 @ 4pm
Fort Worden Chapel

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) is offering the first lecture in a series titled The Future of Oceans on Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 4 p.m. in the Chapel at Fort Worden.

El Niño—the Boy Wonder of World Weather is being presented by noted ocean researcher, Michael McPhaden, senior scientist at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle. Admission is $10 and $5 for PTMSC members. Students and teachers with ID will be admitted free of charge.

“We’re honored to welcome a speaker and scientist of Dr. McPhaden’s caliber to launch our The Future of Oceans lecture series,” said Janine Boire, executive director for the PTMSC. “He is the driving force behind the world’s largest scientific detector, NOAA’s ‘TAO’ array of deep-sea instrument moorings that span one quarter of the Earth’s circumference.”

The October 5 lecture will focus on El Niño, the year-to-year seasonal differences often reflect the chaotic nature of the atmosphere. But variations in the climate system, the most prominent of which is El Niño, can also influence seasonal weather patterns in the Northwest. Together with its companion La Niña, characterized by periods of unusually cold tropical Pacific waters, these two phenomena comprise the strong year-to-year fluctuation of the climate system on the planet.

This lecture will describe what causes El Niño and La Niña, how they affect our weather, how we measure and predict them, and how they may change in the future as concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere increase.

McPhaden is also an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. He is an author of some 300 scientific papers, and has mentored many successful graduate Ph.D. students. He recently served as president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), a 62,000 member body which represents many facets of oceanography and earth sciences. Visit him at

The Future of Oceans Lecture Series: With more than seven-tenths of the planet’s surface covered in salt water, the future health of our oceans is critical. Join the PTMSC for a series of five lectures on The Future of Oceans the first Sunday of every month, from October through March, (except January due to holidays) to learn about topics such as El Niño, the tides and eddies in Puget Sound, what’s beneath the Salish Sea, Arctic images, and ocean acidification. All lectures are at Fort Worden and the series is provided by the generous support of the Darrow family.

see the poster here.

view the slideshow presentation here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marine Biology Camp

Marine Biology camp started off this year with two fun activities- campers printed their t-shirts using an actual fish, and out on the dock we collected plankton samples to look at in the lab under a microscope.  We ended the day with a scavenger hunt on the beach, where campers looked for signs of animal and plant life, as well as elusive nurdles!

On Tuesday we started the morning in our Marine Exhibit, learning about the animals in our touch tanks- some of which we’d see later that day on the beach! One focus was the identifying characteristics of four major marine phyla- Cnidaria, Echinodermata, Arthropoda and Mollusca!

Before we headed out to the tidepools, everyone gathered together to feed Maddie the Giant Pacific Octopus. More than one camper shouted “release the kraken” when we gave Maddie a couple herring on a toy boat which she gleefully capsized for our entertainment.

After hunting for animals in the tidepools, we took a walk down the beach collecting trash as we went. Everyone got very eager to find some garbage when they heard there would be a prize!

We left the Marine Science Center on Wednesday for a field trip to some nearby mudflats, where campers rotated between digging up clams, sieving for worms, netting fish, and illustrating the animals they’d seen so far in their journals. One group dug up 92 clams! 

On Thursday our campers got to participate in a model of a marine food chain with plankton, herring, salmon, harbor seals and orcas. Of course, everyone wanted to be an orca! This set up our class on biomagnification, and we all learned that life at the top isn’t always so great when there are toxics in the water accumulating up the food chain.

The highlight of the day was using a 150-foot seine net to catch and examine animals living in an eelgrass bed just off shore. Everyone worked together to haul the net on to the beach. We collected the animals into a pool and examined juvenile salmon, fried-egg jellyfish, silverspot sculpins, and many more! All of the fish were then released back into the water.

On our last day together our campers got a chance to take an up-close look inside a fish during the herring dissection- although not everyone wanted to get that close! We learned how a herring’s organ systems work together to help the herring survive. We also worked as a team to reassemble the skeleton of a juvenile gray whale, comparing his bones to our own.

For our final activity together, everyone got to vote and pick a whale for our life-size sand sculpture on the beach! The winner was a 16 foot beluga whale, and our campers worked together to build it with buckets of wet sand. It was a great way to conclude the camp, and an example of how everyone worked together all week to help make camp fun and interesting!

A big thank-you to all our wonderful campers for a great week, we hope to see you next year!
-Carolyn Woods (Intern & Camp Counselor)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oceanography on the Dock

This is the 2nd year of Oceanography on the dock (O-dock) at Port Townsend Marine Science Center.   This year the focus of O-dock is on ocean acidification (OA).  OA is the result of burning fossil fuels, which releases Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. About one third of this CO2 dissolves into the world’s oceans. When CO2 dissolves into the water it forms carbonic acid.  The reaction of carbonic acid with water makes certain metabolic pathways for organism’s difficult, in particular calcifying organism.
This year PTMSC has a goal to educate and engage the public in conversation about OA.  I  was on the team that helped to develop the programming for this topic.   We wanted to design a place based program with a set of interactives that are very hands on, visual and simple and most of all empowering. This was a little challenging at times, because ocean acidification is not exactly a simple issue and the topic is not bright and cheery.  After a lot of thinking out of the box and tinkering with simple chemistry topics we came up with a program. We tried out the program once with PTMSC volunteers and then were able to give it a try with a high school group that was visiting.  We started out the program giving a brief overview of climate change and then asked if anyone in the group has heard about OA. No one had heard of OA!   This was huge surprise to me.  Not one kid from a high school group from Seattle had heard of an issue that has changed and will continue to change the marine waters in their backyard.
We went through the series of interactive.
1) Testing the pH of household liquids.
2) Looking at how our own breath changes the pH of water

3) Looking how a shell is effected by a higher acidify

 At the end of the program I felt excited that students walked away with new knowledge and enthusiasm for ocean health and thinking about how they could minimize their impact on the planet.  Although OA is not a bright and cheery topic, I feel proud to be a part of an effort to educate the community on this issue, which no doubt will have and has had a huge impact on the way of life in Washington State and the world at large.  Although this is was a tiny little step in the very big scheme of addressing the challenges that OA will bring, it is a tiny step in the right direction.  
Thanks for reading,
Annie (AmeriCorps Volunteer)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

3-Day San Juan Islands Wildlife Cruise

September 28 – 30, 2014
Cruise the San Juans while benefitting the PTMSC

Join Puget Sound Express for an exciting 3 day cruise through the San Juan Islands in Washington State. Selected by National Geographic as one of the World's Top 3 destinations, the waters around the San Juan Islands are home to orcas (killer whales), minke whales, gray whales, Steller sea lions, porpoise, otters, and a dizzying array of seabirds.
3 Days, 2 nights; $675 ppdo/$750 per single person
(10% of proceeds donated to Port Townsend Marine Science Center) 
We'll leave Port Townsend at 10AM on September 28 aboard the comfortable MV Glacier Spirit. While crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca a light breakfast will be served. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is bordered by three mountain ranges, the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juan Islands.  It is one of the most beautiful seas to cross in the world. Along the way our captain will point out many seabirds and mammals that frequent these waters. Depending on where the orcas are traveling that day, we may also be fortunate to see them in transit.

After lunch onboard the boat, we'll reach our home base for the next couple of days - Roche Harbor Resort, on San Juan Island. The story of Roche Harbor began more than 200 years ago, in 1787, when Captain de Haro and his crew became the first Europeans to actually sail among the forested San Juan Islands. In 1886, a sleepy Hudson Bay camp was transformed into a full-fledged lime works and company town. Today because of its beauty and location to Canada, Roche Harbor is the most popular boating resort in the Pacific Northwest and the Resort is renowned as the centerpiece of this harbor. You'll have plenty of time to explore the scenery around Roche Harbor. Hiking, kayak and bike rentals, tennis and swimming are all possibilities for you to enjoy. Dinner is on your own at Roche Harbor Resort.
On September 29 we'll board the Glacier Spirit at 9:30 for a wonderful day of sightseeing and hiking through the San Juan Islands.  A light breakfast will be served aboard while we journey to famous Sucia Island State Park for 2 hours of hiking. Sucia Island State Park is a 564-acre marine park with 77,700 feet of shoreline. It is considered the crown jewel of the state's marine park system and is consistently ranked as one of the top boating destinations in the world. The shoreline is famous for its evocative, highly eroded sandstone formations - with cliffs, hoodoos, arches, and caves. Sucia Island is also a tremendous viewing area for seals, porpoise, eagles, seabirds, and whales. 
Upon arrival at Sucia, a sack lunch is provided for you as you explore the island for the next two hours.  We'll return to Roche Harbor at 4:30 where you can enjoy the late afternoon and dinner on your own.

On September 30, we begin our return loop back to Port Townsend. We'll say goodbye to Roche Harbor at 9AM.  While enjoying a light breakfast, we will head on a new course through the islands, south through the Swinomish Slough and on through Deception Pass.  Wildlife should be plentiful and the scenery simply stunning.  After taking in the historic La Conner waterfront and the nearby tidelands, soaking in the views and the endless variety of shorebirds, we will journey through the wild tide currents of Deception Pass.  

Back out on Strait of Juan de Fuca we will head south past Smith Island Marine Sanctuary - an island in the middle of the sea that is home to thousands of seabirds and mammals.  Weather permitting, we expect to arrive in Port Townsend at 3PM.

Package includes:
Three days aboard Glacier Spirit
Breakfast and lunch meals aboard the vessel
Two nights accommodation at Roche Harbor Resort

To sign up, go to or call (360) 385-5288
Enter code "PTMSC10" as you order, and PSE will give 10% of the proceeds to PTMSC

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Meet The Author

Sat. July 26th


Pippa’s Real Tea
636 Water St - Port Townsend

Join us for an evening of tea, wine, and goodies as we partner with Pippa's Real Tea to bring Sandra Pollard, local author and marine naturalist to Port Townsend for a book signing of her newest book, "Puget Sound Whales for Sale: The Fight to End Orca Hunting."

Book sales are available; purchase a PTMSC membership, and get a book for free. You can't beat that deal!

Friday, June 20, 2014

A plot to spot wasted sea stars

From the Port Townsend Leader, June 4, 2014:

Hunched over jagged rocks slick with seaweed on a jetty at low tide, John Conley spots a purple starfish, or sea star, in a crevice and proceeds to measure its size, calling out his observations to Shannon Phillips, who stands nearby, noting them on her clipboard.
Conley, a Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) volunteer, uses yellow chalk to mark the rock just above the ochre star and moves on to the next as fellow volunteers do the same, scouring two 390-square-foot plots at Indian Island County Park.

“There is clearly disease here,” said Melissa Miner, a Bellingham resident who has worked for the past 20 years as a research associate with the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), a consortium of research groups collecting comparable data from more than 200 monitoring sites from Southeast Alaska to Mexico.
Read the rest of this article on the PT Leader webpage.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Did somebody say seal pups?

PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Summer Update

We received our first seal pup call of the season a few days ago, and several  more since. 
Around here, harbor seals usually have their pups between June and August, but sometimes procrastinate into October. Now that the season has officially kicked off, it's time for a few friendly reminders of what to do (and what not to do) when you see a seal pup.

When you see a sleeping seal pup on the beach (like the one pictured above) you might be tempted to cuddle with him, but you shouldn't. Nor should you pick him up, feed him, or sit nearby and count his shaky breaths. Here's why:

Seal pups need time to rest. A mother harbor seal will leave her pup on the beach to sleep and warm up. Meanwhile, mama seal is out foraging nearby, trying to fill up so she can give her pup the nutrients he needs. The young pup needs this time to sleep, and won't get it if we oooo and ahhh and pace back and forth. Similarly, the mother needs time to eat, but won't get it if she's worried that we're endangering her pup. Mother seals are very wary of people and won't come to get the pup until everybody clears the area (often, this is after dark). This is why we ask people to stay back 100 yards and require pups to be monitored for 24-48 hours before any action is taken. 
A pup's best chance of survival is with its mother.

You should never pick up or move a seal pup. The mother will be looking for him where she left him. The pup may move around a bit as the tide comes in or goes out, but they'll be able to reunite by calling to each other. Just like we can find our family member in a crowd by the sound of their voice, seals can do the same. In some cases, it is necessary to relocate a seal pup, but this is a careful decision made by our Principal Investigator in communication with the Regional Coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and carried out by trained responders.

Sometimes we see a seal pup that is very thin. Even then, you should not feed it. Young pups nurse on their mother's milk and cannot digest solid food. Older pups and yearlings are able to hunt for themselves. 

Are you curious why you shouldn't count a seal pup's breaths? The reason for this one has nothing to do with the seal's well-being and everything to do with your own. We often get panicked reports from people who are concerned a seal pup is dying because it's 'barely breathing' or 'taking shaky breaths'. It can be very stressful for the person watching. However, seals are conscious breathers (whereas we are voluntary). This means that they have to think about every breath they take, and it's not as often or smooth as we breathe. In a nutshell, this is perfectly normal seal behavior, and it's perfectly normal for it to freak us out until we know better. Conscious breathing makes sense, though, when you consider that these are marine mammals that spend a good chunk of their life underwater.   

If the reasons above aren't enough to leave the seal pup be, I should also mention that it's illegal to harass a marine mammal. Harassment includes touching, feeding, or disturbing the animal. 

So what CAN you do?

  1. Tell other people why they shouldn't cuddle, move, or feed a seal pup, or count its shaky breaths.
  2. Help keep people and dogs a safe distance away. Federal guidelines recommend 100 yards back to keep from disturbing the animal.
  3. Leash your pup. Dogs are often much better at spotting seal pups than people, and sometimes harass the animal, or worse. The very saddest call I've responded to involved a seal pup who had been attacked by off-leash dogs. 
  4. Call us, we're here to help! We rely on reports from concerned citizens. 
PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network
(360) 385-5582 ext. 103
Put this number in your phone. Someday you may be very glad you did.

A Few Reminders

Call the stranding network if...
  • A whale, dolphin, or porpoise is out of water. Please call us IMMEDIATELY.
  • You find a marine mammal that is dead, injured, or in a bad place. Photos are extremely helpful.
  • You find a marine mammal and aren't sure what to do.

Seals and sea lions commonly use shoreline habitat. This is natural behavior; please remember to 

Share the Shore!


Your local seal savers

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

JCS students present pinto abalone research at PTMSC

As Jefferson Community School (JCS) students have learned, Pinto Abalone, a shellfish unique to Puget Sound, are nearly extinct. On Monday, June 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC)’s Marine Exhibit on the pier at Fort Worden beach, science students from JCS will present results from their year-long research projects on Pinto Abalone. Admission is free.

Mikayla Hemsley (left) and Rio Golden are removing
abalone from their nursery cage to record growth
of shell length and mass of the individual. 
"We welcome the public to the students’ presentations about their work over this past year and invite questions regarding their findings," said Jamie Landry, PTMSC citizen science coordinator and head science teacher at JCS. "The students' research is real science—they are contributing valuable data to the scientific community on how this almost-extinct species responds to different types of food.”

This is important data the students have gathered, because the faster researchers can raise juvenile abalone in a lab setting, the faster they are able to release them into the wild for restoration efforts. Students used a stock of juvenile Pinto Abalone given to the PTMSC for research by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Once the research projects were completed, several individual abalone were kept by the PTMSC for display in the science center’s aquarium tanks. Attendees to the event will have an opportunity view these rare animals and learn more about the restoration efforts taking place in our region. For more information, contact Jamie Landry at 360.385.5582, ext. 112 or via e-mail at

Friday, April 25, 2014

GiveBIG on May 6th

You can Go Blue! by supporting our AmeriCorps volunteers to take action on climate change, plastics, toxics and ocean health by participating in the Seattle Foundations' GiveBig campaign on May 6th. It's easy and it's fun! Whatever amount you give toward our goal of $11,500-which will pay for two AmeriCorps volunteers next year-will be matched dollar-by-dollar from PTMSC donors and "stretched" by the Seattle Foundation.
Gone Green? Go Blue!
Gone Green? Go Blue!

Look for more behind-the-scenes photos and videos of our treasured AmeriCorps volunteers on Facebook leading up to the GiveBig day on May 6th, and follow us on Twitter. Stay tuned for more information about this exciting way to extend your donation in support of the AmeriCorps program at PTMSC through GiveBig.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Earth Day Beach Clean-Up and Weed Pull Extravaganza

Saturday, April 19
(meet in the Natural History Exhibit at 10AM)

We had so much fun at our last weed pull, we wanted to do it again!  Celebrate Earth Day with some of your favorite people and join us in partnership with WA State Parks, the Friends of Fort Worden, and Washington Coastsavers to help clean our beaches and remove invasive species as part of ongoing restoration efforts at Fort Worden.  Families and friends welcome!  Snacks will be provided; please bring a lunch.  RSVP not required, but encouraged to get an accurate headcount. 

Please contact Amy Johnson360-385-5582 x204 to let her know you're coming, or if you have any questions.

PTMSC Annual Meeting with Erich Hoyt

Wednesday, May 7, from 5:00 – 6:30 PM
Fort Worden, Building 204, in Port Townsend

Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Annual Meeting w/ Featured Speaker Erich Hoyt
“Adventures with Orcas in the North Pacific, from Stubbs to Iceberg” 

Annual Meeting Remarks (15 minutes) directly followed by lecture.
Book sale and signing following lecture (6:30 - 7:00 PM)

Cost:   PTMSC Members – free, Adults $7, Youth (under 18) $3

Erich is the author of the books, Orca: The Whale Called Killer and Marine Protected Areas for Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. A Research Fellow with Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) in the UK, he is co-founder of the Far East Russia Orca Project which has recorded the Russian killer whale pods and photo-IDed some 1500 orcas off Kamchatka and in the Commander Islands—including three white orcas found so far in the study areas.

“We are living in an era and in a part of the world where whale research has exploded,” says Erich Hoyt. “And we’ve got some amazing orca stories to tell here—mostly positive, some heartbreaking, but all compelling.”

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by contacting  Brian Kay at 
360.385.5582 x104  or
You can pay the non-member admission in advance with a VISA/MC or you can pay at the event.
Don't miss it!

Monday, March 31, 2014

SIGN UP! Be a Toxic FREE Zone! Workshop

This workshop is FREE and open to the public. 

Every Tuesday evening 6:30-8:30 pm
Start Date: Tuesday April 22nd
End Date: Tuesday May 27th

This workshop was created by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) with funding from Washington States Department of Ecology. The goal of this workshop is to bring people together to take on toxic chemicals that challenge their everyday life. Each week will focus on a different aspect of your life: cleaning products, personal care products, household items, and food.

Questions or concerns please contact Program Lead Megan Veley at or leave a message at 360.385.5582 x 104.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What Happened to That Cup?

In the Fall of 2013, PTMSC volunteer Nam Siu was fortunate enough to participate in the Ocean Exploration Trust’s Ocean Science Internship aboard the E/V Nautilus. Nam decorated this styrofoam cup with the PTMSC logo and sent it down to approximately 4000ft with ROV Hercules and ROV Argus. The tremendous pressure at that depth crushed the cup to its current size.

Nam working on ROV Hercules
This dive was made during the last leg of the 2013 exploration season off the west coast of Grenada, where the E/V Nautilus and her ROVs were exploring “Kick’em Jenny” the largest active submarine volcano in the Caribbean.  During these dives, the ROVs explored iron-rich hydrothermal vents with orange bacterial spires, methane cold-seeps with the world’s largest mussels at 14inches, and the abyssal planes around the volcano. 

Hydrothermal vent 
The Ocean Exploration Trust (OET), founded by Dr. Robert Ballard (famous for discovering the wrecks of the Titanic and battleship Bismarck and many other ships), is a non-profit organization for ocean exploration and education. OET owns the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, a 211ft research ship outfitted with two remotely operated vehicles used to explore the seafloor in real-time online via telepresence technology. The E/V Nautilus spent the 2013 exploration season in the Caribbean Sea exploring the “Caribbean Ring of Fire”, which is a series of submarine volcanos located on the eastern edge of the Caribbean plate caused by the subduction of the Atlantic plate.

Thanks Nam for including PTMSC in this amazing adventure!