And thus began a super-impressive, rarely-seen whirlwind of individuals, groups, and organizations coming together to accomplish an incredible feat in a short amount of time. Betsy Carlson, our new Citizen Science Coordinator, exuberantly took the reins to develop, coordinate, and oversee this operation.
Having only observed small animal necropsies (such as a harbor porpoise), I was excited and nervous to participate. The smells of decaying marine mammals are some of the worst I've experienced; I couldn't imagine what it would be like emanating all around me from such a large mass. Would I toss my cookies? (I ate a light breakfast that day.) Would I pass out? (is blubber a good cushion?) Would I stand strong in front of the tough Navy guys? It turns out I didn't have a thing to worry about. I did not toss my cookies or pass out, and I stood strong in front of those tough Navy guys. In fact, they were incredibly impressed that out of the 17 participants working on the whale, only four were male. Go, women power!
I also captured the faces of those working on the whale — faces of disgust (this whale was stinky!) and faces of utter exhaustion. Sometimes I traded my camera for a shovel, and got to help bury the whale's intestines. How often does one get to respond with "I buried whale intestines" when asked what they did that day? I consider myself lucky.
And of course, thank you for your pursuit and support of marine science education. This gray whale represents a new chapter of citizen science projects, educational opportunities for our students, and incredible exhibit content for us at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. We can't wait to see what comes next!
AMY JOHNSON is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.
guided low tide walk! We're expecting to have great weather, so if you haven't ever participated in one of PTMSC's low tide walks, this would be a great weekend to grab your brand-new PTMSC hat and come out to explore!