Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Protection Island

December 31 dawned chilly and clear; the perfect end to a great year. To cap off 2015, Katie and I were invited to join the Protection Island New Year’s Day Cruise run by Puget Sound Express. We were both thrilled to spend our last day of the year out on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Looking out at the water all day from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) pier always makes me yearn to float.

Protection Island
Photo by Charlie Mostow

A view of the Olympic Mountains with Protection Island on the right
Photo by Katie Conroy

We boarded the Red Head over calm water and under clear skies. As if the weather wasn’t enough of a good omen, on trundled Jan North and Katherine Jensen, two fabulous PTMSC volunteers. It was a pleasant surprise to see them out of their full body  rain gear  and elbow length gloves (they are both part of HomeCrew, the team of volunteers that cleans the Marine Exhibit tanks). Rodger Risley, the onboard naturalist, peppered us with fascinating facts about the history of the island and the many birds and mammals we boated past.

A harbor seal in the sunset.
Photo by Katie Conroy
Did you know that Protection Island is home to the largest colony of glaucous-winged gulls in the state? To say nothing of the nesting rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, and tufted puffins that call the island home in the summer. The day of our cruise was calm. We saw eagles circling overhead, several deer wandering around on Protection Island’s steep slopes, and a few mixed rafts of buffleheads, long-tailed ducks, and goldeneyes. It was wonderful to see the verdant, mellow island and imagine how bustling and wild it will be in only a few months. I spent a summer on a seabird nesting island so I know the sounds, movements, and, yes, smells, of thousands of seabirds very well.

A painting of Point Wilson by Jessica Artman (another Puget Sound Express passenger and a member of my family)
Thanks to Puget Sound Express and to the PTMSC volunteers who make these cruises possible. It was a wonderful way to close out 2015.

Our Spring Migration Cruises begin again on April 23. Reserve your spot today! Tickets are $80 per person — $60 for PTMSC members.

REBECCA MOSTOW is the Marine Exhibit Educator and an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

COMING SOON: The Tides of March Benefit Dinner and Auction is the Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds allow the Center to connect face-to-face with over 20,000 people each year, spreading the message of marine health and local action. Our playful theme this year is Undersea Spree. Register Today!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Bendy Bunch: Service Keeps Us Limber

Every year, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center AmeriCorps crew earns a group nickname.

Amidst this year's major staff transitions, this year's four PTMSC AmeriCorps members have needed to maintain extreme flexibility both figuratively and literally. Together, we decided the Bendy Bunch seemed to be a rather fitting title that we have embodied since our arrival on October 1 (and one we can embrace a bit more than a previous nickname, AmeriCorpses). Outside of our time at PTMSC, several of us have been practicing yoga in a studio. But, who says you can't practice in, say...a fish tank? Without further ado, I present a behind-the-scenes view of your 2015-16 AmeriCorps, yoga four, the Bendy Bunch.

Rebecca (top) and Katie (bottom), both in a modified chair pose, experience life from the perspective of our eelgrass and piling tank inhabitants.

Zofia in the classic "pooper scooper" inversion.

A candid of Rebecca in her natural state, achieving the epitome of grace and poise as she swan dives into the "invasive grass removal" pose.


Carolyn stepping into a "mussel-wrangling pyramid" pose, with a trusty mallet for extra support. Photo by Zofia Knorek

Inverting myself over some barnacle rocks in search for our sea star friends.

Photos 1, 2, & 3 by Chrissy McLean | Photo 4 by Amy Johnson | Photo 5 by Zofia Knorek | Photo 6 by Carolyn Woods

ZOFIA KNOREK is the Citizen Science Educator and an AmeriCorps Member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

COMING SOON: The Tides of March Benefit Dinner and Auction is the Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds allow the Center to connect face-to-face with over 20,000 people each year, spreading the message of marine health and local action. Our playful theme this year is Undersea Spree. Register Today!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Celebrating our Women in Science

Today marks the first-ever International Women in Science Day (#WomeninSTEM) a day to celebrate the achievements made by females in all areas of science, engineering, technology, and math.

I am constantly amazed and inspired by the strong, inquiring women scientists I work with here at the Marine Science Center — our volunteers, our members, our board, and our staff.

I ask you to join me in honoring these women today and the important work they do every day to inspire the conservation of the Salish Sea!

Here are just a few of PTMSC's own Women in Science:

Lee Whitford, Interim Education Coordinator
Lee holds a Masters of Education in Natural Science/Science Education, worked many years at North Cascades Institute, and at PTMSC oversaw the creation of a new residential programming, including Whales of the Salish Sea.

Amy Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator
Amy graduated from University of Washington, Bothell in 2007 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a focus on environmental studies. She studied marine zoology/botany at the UW Friday Harbor Labs and served as an intern with NOAA’s Marine Mammal Program before joining Washington Conservation Corps and serving as an AmeriCorps Member with the Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee. Amy loves teaching people about marine science, and working with all groups of people to help inspire conservation of the Salish Sea. She's even collected killer whale poop!

Janine Boire, Executive Director
Janine began her career as a High School intern at Pacific Science Center in Seattle in 1978, where she continued to work for twelve years before serving as the founding director of the ¡Explora! Science Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1997, Janine was awarded a fellowship for graduate study at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. After completing her Master’s Degree in Public Policy in 1998, Janine was asked to stay on as a consultant to the School in planning several initiatives including developing the Master’s Degree recruiting strategy and exploring the creation of a public policy consultancy affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson School. Subsequently, Janine worked with Leadership for Environment And Development International (LEAD International), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in New York. With the mission to develop a global network of emerging leaders dedicated to sustainable development, Janine was responsible for the start-up creation of the US affiliate LEAD USA. Prior to joining the PTMSC team, Janine served as the Executive Director of Discovery Center of Idaho where the organization’s mission and her personal mission converged: Inspire lifelong interest and learning in science, technology, engineering and math.

Betsy Carlson, Interim Citizen Science Coordinator
Betsy has a Bachelor’s of Science in Plant Science from the University of Delaware and a Masters of Environmental Studies from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She has worked with Washington State University, Olympic National Park, ForTerra, Olympic Park Institute, and Peace Corps Madagascar. Always up for an adventure, Betsy is an outdoor enthusiast and loves to travel. She fell in love with the Pacific Northwest as a backcountry ranger for Olympic National Park and spent six years in Madagascar, one on a remote island studying forest habitat of an endangered primate, the Aye-aye.

Rebecca Mostow, AmeriCorps & Marine Exhibit Educator 
Rebecca graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 2013 with a BA in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Hispanic Studies. At Oberlin, Rebecca studied desert plant systematics, but since graduation she has spent equal time in deserts and rain forests. In the past two years she has worked in ecological field research and outdoor education. Recent adventures have taken her from seabird nesting islands in Southeast Alaska to the sand dunes of central Nevada. Most recently, she worked as an Outdoor Environmental Educator at YMCA Camp Colman in nearby Longbranch, WA.

Katie Conroy, AmeriCorps & Marine Mammal Stranding Educator
Katie graduated from Clark University in Massachusetts with a B.A. in Environmental Science & Conservation Biology. She has worked as an outdoor educator for Nature's Classroom in Maine, and as a research technician studying a variety of marine mammals at Blue Ocean Society in New Hampshire, Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, and The Alaska Sealife Center in Alaska.

Carolyn Woods, AmeriCorps & Natural History Exhibit Educator
Carolyn graduated last spring from the University of Washington with a Bachelors of Science in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology and a minor in Environmental Science and Resource Management. Carolyn spent a summer at PTMSC as the Marine Mammal Stranding intern and spent eight months in the San Francisco Bay Area as a Visitor Services and Environmental Education intern at the Don Edwards SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Zofia Knorek, AmeriCorps & Citizen Science Educator
Zofia earned her BA in Biology from Hendrix College in Arkansas. Zofia has helped develop laboratory curricula and completed research projects on topics ranging from urban stream microbes to whale breathing muscles. Prior to her AmeriCorps term, she was a tutor and laboratory assistant at Hendrix, and guest student at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

Nancy Israel, Summer Camp Director and Marine Program Educator 
Nancy is our Summer Camp Director and Marine Program Educator with the Plastics Project. Nancy has been working in the environmental and experiential education field since 1992. She studied marine science at College of the Atlantic in Maine and also completed a Sea Semester program out of Woods Hole, MA studying oceanography and ocean sailing aboard the brigantine Corwith Cramer. Her work experience has included Education Director for Sound Experience aboard the Schooner Adventuress, Captain/Instructor for Northwest Maritime Center, Captain and Mate for Salish Sea Expeditions, and Field Instructor at Olympic Park Institute. She has also spent time working for Outward Bound and NOLS as a skipper and instructor. Nancy loves to combine her passions for sailing, marine science, and working with youth.

Thank you all!

ALISON RILEY is the Marketing & Development Coordinator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

COMING SOON: The Tides of March Benefit Dinner and Auction is the Center’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds allow the Center to connect face-to-face with over 20,000 people each year, spreading the message of marine health and local action. Our playful theme this year is Undersea Spree. Register Today!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Take a Walden Moment

Four words, expressed beautifully in an email, unequivocally wormed their way into my heart and mind today: "...take a Walden moment," Betsy Carlson, our interim Citizen Science Coordinator, wrote to staff, in reference to Henry David Thoreau's book, Walden, or, Life in the Woods.

The brilliant blue sky beckoned me outside, away from the harsh light of the computer screen, and I eagerly welcomed the warmth of the sun on this not-so-frigid February afternoon. A mundane Monday became an exciting outdoor adventure on my lunch break, where I would take full advantage of this beautiful day!

With my camera in tow, I set out on a mission; to connect with nature and find the beauty of our natural world in simplicity. In the words of Thoreau from Walden:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.... I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and....to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

It's in days like these that I'm able to step back and fully appreciate the beauty that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest, and particularly Fort Worden State Park.

We are so fortunate to live in place of amazing landscapes, stunning vistas, and incredible wildlife. Even the "common" glaucous-winged gulls have a special glow about them in the soft afternoon light.

In fact, it seemed like everyone had a special glow about them today; a little more spring in their step, and excitement in their voice as they greeted each other in homecrew, when making phone calls, or when crossing paths on the beach. Behold the power of the sun!

While it's true that winter has not surpassed us, I'm looking forward to each day as we get closer to spring — when the sun gets warmer, the trees begin flowering, and the urchins, abalones, and barnacles start spawning. That's when I know spring has arrived!
Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!

How do you take your "Walden moments"? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Amy Johnson

AMY JOHNSON is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Answering the Call to Serve: MLK Day Weed Pull

The MLK Day of Service invasive weed pull is an important project for the Americorps team and a yearly tradition at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC). Each year volunteers from around the community gather to embrace the power of collective action, and this year was no different.

Americorps and volunteers braved the wind to pull invasive dune grass on the beach
On MLK Day, Volunteers and Americorps met at the Marine Science Center to help make MLK Day a day on, not a day off. Dedicated volunteers chose to serve their community and restore native beach habitats at Fort Worden by removing invasive plants. Rebecca started the afternoon with a call to service from Martin Luther King Jr. himself:

“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

As Americorps, we have already chosen to answer a call of service with our decision to serve at the Marine Science Center. On MLK Day, we asked the community of Port Townsend to join us in a day of service and celebration of the activist's legacy, and they answered. Over thirty volunteers gathered to learn about the history of invasive plants at Fort Worden and worked together to change that history.
Rebecca explains the differences between native and invasive dune grasses
After learning how to identify the weeds we would be pulling, it was time to head out to the beach. Despite strong winds and unpleasant weather, 31 volunteers donated 89 hours to pull over 1,100 pounds of invasive weeds. The large pile ready to be hauled away at the end of the day was an impressive testament to the dedication of our volunteers, staff, and the Port Townsend community.

Zofia and Katie keeping our invasive dune grass pullers motivated
In addition to the European dune grass that was planted in the park decades ago to stabilize the dunes, volunteers targeted invasive Scotch Broom as part of an ongoing eradication project led by the trail crew at Fort Worden, another excellent example of dedication to service.

A load of Scotch broom ready to be hauled away

The PTMSC Americorps team (plus guests!) gather to celebrate a tough day of weed-pulling

This event wouldn't have been possible without the help of numerous community organizations and individuals who donated their time, skills, and supplies. Thank you to the Friends of Fort Worden, Washington State Parks, the North Olympic Salmon Coalition, the Washington Native Plant Society, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Thanks also to Jan North, Forest Shomer, and Ranger Todd Jensen. Thank you also to Katie, Zofia, and Rebecca for their work in organizing, promoting, and running a successful weed pull. And most of all, thank you to the community members from Port Townsend and beyond who joined us in our MLK Day of Service.
Volunteers and staff return to the NHE after another successful weed pull

CAROLYN WOODS is the Natural History Exhibit and Volunteer Educator and an AmeriCorps Member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.