Thursday, July 13, 2017

Do you know how many youth attended learning camps at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center in 2016? 
How about the value of free science programs and scholarships offered to schools and summer campers in in 2016? (Hint: It was 50 percent more than 2015!)

Or how many people -- of all ages -- took part in our 2016 education programs about marine life, climate change and the future of the Salish Sea?

Guess how much financial and in-kind support was provided by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center “Pod” to harvest the skeleton of a 30 foot, 15-ton gray whale for a future educational display?

Or the number of guests who visited our exhibits in 2016?  (Hint: The average was 284 per week!)

You can find all those answers – and much more – in the 2016 Port Townsend Marine Science Center Annual Report, now available online. Learn how our incredible place-based, people powered, hands-on learning center is inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Under The Pier - Diving for Citizen Science

Diving for Citizen Science: Howard Teas 
This blog was written by PTMSC volunteer Howard Teas

Citizen science is alive and well at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Less well known is the role for divers in these activities. We collect data for the Sea Star Wasting Program as well as providing support for the Marine Exhibit, and from time to time we get extras, such as the regular monitoring of the grey whale as it was turned from a 15,000 pound carcass into a skeleton.

The sea star wasting monitoring program includes weekly counts of all stars at the Marine Exhibit and quarterly counts of stars in two long-term plots on the east jetty at the Indian Island county park which were established with Dr. Melissa Miner, UC Santa Cruise and the MARINe program. We added two subtidal sites to that on the east footing for the Indian Island bridge and along the main bulkhead under the Marine Exhibit. The Indian Island site was chosen for three reasons. First, it is close to the intertidal site. Conditions are very similar at the two sites. Second, the boundaries of area counted are easy to identify; the vertical surface of the footing down to the substrate. Third, there are no deep holes beneath rocks for stars to hide in. Counts are done during the same month as the intertidal counts, providing consistency in our data. There is only a short time during slack water between tidal changes, so the subtidal Indian Island counts are done snorkeling, rather than with scuba. We can move faster without the scuba gear and we can continue to work in somewhat higher currents. Counts are made in vertical strips about a meter wide, with markers on the bottom to help us maintain orientation within each strip. We swim to the bottom, then count stars while swimming toward the surface. Each star seen in the study area is identified to species and size is measured in 5cm increments (0-5, 5-10, 10-15, and >15) from the middle of the body to the end of one arm. The counts include ochre and mottled stars, with occasional blood stars included.

Crab on whale carcass still
from video taken by Howard Teas

The second subtidal site is along the bulkhead beneath the Marine Exhibit. We count all stars on the open water side of the old wood bulkhead, using the same protocol as at Indian Island. Typically we see more species here, and lower total counts. Ochre stars are seldom seen, while mottled stars are common. Blood stars and a few sunflower stars are also identified along the wall. The site allows the use of scuba, due to lower current speeds, but access is limited by wave action. The typical southeast wind for much of the year builds waves high enough to block counting. We are adverse to the extreme vertical motion when the wind is up and floating objects, like divers, are banged up against the piling while counting near or at the surface.

Other common activities include collecting fish, invertebrates, and kelp for the Marine Exhibit and maintenance projects, such as clearing the outside of the water intake pipes of barnacles and mussels. While not typical, we also snorkeled around the grey whale regularly last summer, checking on the progress the whale was making in losing weight. We videoed the status of the whale to show those above water the progress that was being made, and allowed the group to pull the whale out of the water before significant damage was done by the hungry marine cleaners.

Like these videos? Find a full playlist on YouTube.

For more information about citizen science projects, 
please contact Betsy Carlson

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Big Announcement! The Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship Winner Is...

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to present the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship to Tyler Sudlow.
Tyler did his senior project at the Marine Science Center, volunteering as a docent for a total of over 30 hours. He said in his application regarding environmental conservation, "There is a lot to be done and the world needs people working to protect it. I am particularly fond of the marine environment and the Salish Sea because I have lived near it my whole life and my dad is an avid fisherman so I know the benefits it has to offer."

This scholarship was created as a way to honor the legacy that Anne Murphy created at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center during her 24 years there as Executive Director. Anne's passion for learning and a deep love of the marine environment helped create the Marine Science Center. This scholarship supports these qualities in graduating high school seniors as a way of sending these qualities from the Marine Science Center out into the world. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Day of the Orca

Port Townsend Marine Science Center kicks off Orca Month and it’s 35th Anniversary year with The Day of the Orca, June 3rd.  

Port Townsend Marine Science Center, 11am-5pm
Free Admission to Fort Worden State Park; Free Admission to PTMSC
Come help celebrate with us and learn about the Southern Resident and Transient Orca populations that swim these local waters. For thirty-five years the Port Townsend Marine Science has been dedicated to inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea for a healthier environment for orcas and all marine creatures. The Marine Science Center is home to one of only 8 fully articulated orca skeletons which is featured in the exhibit, Learning from Orcas. The exhibit tells this orca’s story and how our community came together to have her remains inspire all of us to take action for a healthier Salish Sea.
“What better way to begin our 35th year and celebrate Orca Month, than to partner with Puget Sound Express and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce to create Orca Fest, a month long learning opportunity of these remarkable animals.” said Janine Boire, Executive Director, Port Townsend Marine Science Center. For more information and other events celebrating Orca Month go to:
June 3rd activities at PTMSC will include:
  • Welcome – with Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director Janine Boire, and Jamestown S’Kallam tribal member and Chief Chetzemoka descendent Marlin Holden
  • Introduction to Our Orcas – with Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research, PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire, and photographer and Puget Sound Express Naturalist Bart Rulon (Seating is limited)
  • How to ID Orcas – with Puget Sound Express Naturalist Bart Rulon
  • Get To Know Your Orcas session for children and families
  • Tours of Hope – one of only 8 fully-articulated orca skeletons in the world
  • Free Boat Tours on Puget Sound Express whale watching vessels
  • Listen to Orcas – Learn how orcas communicate and listen in via the Hydrophone Listening Network
Family-Oriented Art Projects take place throughout the day

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Become a Member Today & Celebrate 35 Years with Us!

There is an African proverb, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And look how far we’ve come together over the last three and half decades.

In this our 35th anniversary year we celebrate all of you, our members through the years, who have helped the Port Townsend Marine Science Center flourish. With your ongoing support we can do so much more. Your membership, joined with 625 others, makes possible programs like the recent gray whale project, free science classes, and the new energy efficient lighting systems in the Marine Exhibit.

We want you with us this year as we revel in the stories and celebrate all of us coming together for a healthier Salish Sea. Please renew your membership today and join us for a year of celebrations both looking back 35 years and looking forward to PTMSC’s exciting new programs including Birding from the Pier and Tots Storytime.

Janine Boire
Executive Director

P.S. Renew or join now to help reach the goal of 700 members which is just 20 people for each of our 35 years! Take action now and you will get an invitation to our members-only Party-on- the Pier, August 5th.

P.P.S Here’s a fun challenge: find the hidden octopus logo in the above graphic and win a prize! Claim your prize in the gift shop during open hours before June 30th.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Thank You for Giving BIG!

Thank you for your generous donation during the recent GiveBig campaign. Because of you, the one-day campaign ended with a total of $24,794, exceeding our goal of $22,000.

Didn't get a chance to donate on the Big Day? You can Donate now and help support kids summer camps today! 

The funds are critical now as we receive camp scholarship requests for families with financial need and as we work toward increasing our capacity to offer camps to more kids. In this time of computer games and screens, getting kids out to the beach to get sandy and wet, is transformative. Your generous donation will change lives. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spring Migration Cruise May 26th

Just outside of Port Townsend is an amazing National Wildlife Refuge — Protection Island. Nearly 70 percent of the nesting seabird population of Puget Sound and the Straits nest on the island, which includes one of the largest nesting colonies of rhinoceros auklets in the world and the largest nesting colony of glaucous-winged gulls in Washington. The island contains one of the last two nesting colonies of tufted puffins in the Puget Sound area. About 1,000 harbor seals depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area.
This 364-acre island is covered by grass and low brush, with a small timbered area, high sandy bluffs for seabird nesting, and low sand spits on two ends of the island.
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center – in collaboration with Puget Sound Express – hosts special expeditions to Protection Island. Cruises are scheduled in spring and fall, timed to coincide with annual migrations, with special trips planned for Thanksgiving weekend and New Years Eve.

Puget Sound Express hosts this special 2 hour expedition to Protection Island aboard the Red Head, with an on-board naturalist sharing information of bird and wildlife sightings.  On a recent Marine Science Center cruise, participants sighted a few tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, and an elephant seal among the harbor seals on the island beach. 

PS Express welcomes Marine Science Center members, volunteers, and the public with a special rate for the May 26 cruise of $45 for PTMSC members and $65 for nonmembers. The cruise departs from the Point Hudson Marina.
Location: 2333 San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, WA
Date: 5-26-2017

TIME: 3-5 pm

Apply Now for PTMSC Anne Murphy Scholarship for HS Seniors

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce the annual $500 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship scholarship for a graduating East Jefferson county senior.  Applicants should be graduating seniors from a public or private school, or a homeschooled student who expects to complete high school level instruction by June 2017.  The person who wins this scholarship will be selected on the basis of his or her demonstrated interest in science and the environment. Having volunteered on behalf of education about or conservation of the Salish Sea is especially desirable.  The scholarship may be used for tuition, books, or living expenses while pursuing higher education. To apply for the scholarship, please answer the questions below.  Applications may be emailed to or sent to Liesl Slabaugh, Development Director, PTMSC, 582 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368. You may also apply through Washboard by creating an account here.

Applications are due by May 22, 2017.   If you have questions, please call 385-5582 x101.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Marine Mammal Stranding Network Training

Through global efforts, stranding data gathered by scientists and volunteers alike has changed how we as environmentalists respond to stranded and entangled marine animals.
The stranding network of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is responsible for managing stranding reports and other animal calls year-long. The work and science we do benefits marine life and the global environment, as well as the local community. We can examine stranded animals to determine not only what may have caused their deaths, but also to complete valuable research. Whales and dolphin research on most species is limited due to the elusive nature of the animals and the funding for field research. Training for working with these animals is essential. As a volunteer or scientist, one needs to know what they’re up against and how to educate the public. Betsy and I have been working hard to prepare a wonderful and thorough training to prepare volunteers to work with these animals properly.

Mattie Stephens, Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator AmeriCorps
I have been working with marine mammals for three years, starting in a lab with where I articulated a bottlenose dolphin skeleton to put on display at Galveston Island State Park. During my senior year at Texas A&M at Galveston, I traveled to New Zealand working with Professor Bernd W├╝rsig to take part in a dusky dolphin research team. While there, I worked with the Department of Conservation on the first response team to a stranded Cuvier’s beaked whale stranded half an hour from base camp. When we arrived, he had been dead 15 minutes. This whale is the deepest diving whale. In accordance with the Maori culture and their respect for these animals, you must ask Maori authority in order to collect more than basic samples due to the sacredness of the animal. Therefore, I only collected blubber and muscle tissue samples with a Maori-approved researcher.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale stranded in New Zealand
It is uplifting to see a culture with such appreciation of animals; a sentiment I brought back with me and hope to spread back in the U.S. Here at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, our stranding network has an upcoming training Saturday, May the 27. The network is important for the Salish Sea because it helps the animals, researchers, and legislators.
The EJC MMSN is looking forward to new volunteers at the upcoming training. Come by and receive a stranding kit that will allow you to respond to live and dead animal reports throughout the EJC area and learn about the mammals in the Salish Sea. If you have been a MMSN volunteer, please know that we need you to attend this training or speak with Mattie Stephens or Betsy Carlson to remain on our volunteer list.
A healthy seal pup on the shores of Fort Worden - Photo Credit: Michael Tarachow
Marine Mammals play an integral role in the Salish Sea ecosystem, and volunteers are an important part of the stranding network! Become a trained responder through PTMSC and join in collecting important scientific data, working with live animals, and educating the public on our local marine mammals. Training attendance is required to join the network. Betsy and I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Today is the Day! Take action for kids!

Today is the big day for you to GiveBIG! Thank you for taking action in support of summer camps by helping us raise $22,000 Today!

Now more than ever nonprofit causes need your help. At the Marine Science Center, we are dedicated to getting kids outside this summer to make memories that last a lifetime. 

Your gift will provide scholarships for children who otherwise would not be able to attend because of financial hardship. Donations will also fund the capacity of the Center to offer more camps. Plans are in the works for expanded facilities and more camp offerings. But we need your help!

The GiveBIG campaign ends tonight at midnight so GiveBig Now! Keep following along on Facebook and the PTMSC blog for stories and updates.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hear From Our Summer Camp Instructors & GiveBig Tomorrow!

Sand, Sun, & Fun!

Just because school is out for the summer doesn’t mean that learning has to stop!  Longer days and lower tides mean more time to spend exploring the beach. At PTMSC we run several weeks of camp each summer, providing hands-on marine science activities for children 3 to 13 years old.

Carolyn guiding students in the Marine Exhibit @ PTMSC
I’ve spent the past three summers working on science camps, including two years at PTMSC. I enjoy the opportunity to spend a week with a group of kids exploring and learning about the marine environment, and it’s especially satisfying to see learning happen while kids are having fun. The ability for both staff and campers to experiment and try new things out is one of my favorite features of our summer camps. Many campers return to us year after year, which is a great opportunity to build on their knowledge and their relationship with the Marine Science Center.

Carolyn presenting science models to summer campers
I’m most looking forward to expanded camp offerings this year, including an additional week of Marine Biology Afoot and Afloat. Many children have already been turned away this year because of full enrollment. Plans are in the works for expanded facilities and more camp offerings. We couldn't do what we do without the amazing work of our Americorps members who are actively involved in the summer camp programs and engage with kids directly about the marine environment.

I learn more every year about which experiences inspire the most excitement and passion in our campers, helping make each camp more fun and memorable. While planning programs I often think back to the outdoor education experiences I had as a child, and the impact that those activities had in shaping my interest in the natural world and my passion for conservation.

 - Carolyn Woods, PTMSC Education Coordinator 

On Wednesday, May 10, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center invites you to help raise $22,000 for summer camps scholarships and capacity-building to offer more camps through GiveBIG, a one-day, online charitable giving event hosted by the Seattle Foundation, but we can't do it without your help! Thanks to a challenge match from a group of local donors, the first $11,000 donated will be matched dollar-for-dollar. The #GiveBIG campaign only lasts for one day, so follow along onFacebook and the #PTMSC blog for stories and updates before the BIG day.