Tuesday, November 14, 2017

PTMSC's Amazing Volunteers, Part 2

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is focusing on our impressive volunteer corps during the month of November 2017. Here is our second mini-profile, written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Coordinator Lily Evanston.

Chas Dowd has been volunteering at Port Townsend Marine Science Center for two years as a docent in the Marine Exhibit as well as a beach naturalist. Chas has always loved salt water. His personal connection to the Salish Sea comes from getting close enough to observe and experience it.  
Chas has sailed it, rowed it, and dove into it, and has found every minute of it fascinating.
“If you want to find weird and unusual, go down 18 inches in salt water. You’ll get all the weird and unusual you can handle,” he says.
Chas and his wife Debby have taken their 17-foot rowboat just about everywhere in the Salish Sea and had amazing encounters with nature and wildlife. One time, he says, a baby seal nearly climbed into their boat -- and would have -- if its mom hadn’t intervened!
Chas is a great story teller, so come find him on a day he’s in the Marine Exhibit if you want to hear more about his adventures with the Salish Sea and all the weird and unusual things he’s discovered in it.

Interested in becoming a PTMSC volunteer and working alongside inspired volunteers like Chas Dowd? Fill out our Volunteer Application! Questions? Contact Volunteer Coordinator Gabriele Sanchez at 360-385-5582 X 120, or send an email to volunteer@ptmsc.org.

Both our exhibits will be OPEN during Thanksgiving Weekend!

Our Marine Exhibit is OPEN all Thanksgiving weekend!

Wondering what to do after Turkey Day with family from out of town? 
Not sure if PTMSC will be open?
Well, here's the answers you are looking for:

Both our Natural History Exhibit
and Marine Exhibit will be OPEN: 

Friday through Sunday
November 24-26

Skip the mall! 

During your visit to PTMSC, check out our Gift Shop Holiday Sale:
10% off on all purchases (15% off for members!) 

Can't wait to see you this holiday!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thankgiving Wildlife Cruise

Saturday, November 25

Our Thanksgiving Wildlife Cruise offers a unique opportunity for an idyllic natural science adventure, enabling people to gain a better understanding of our marine ecosystems and interrelationships which abound in these waters. In good weather, the cruise will go through the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve and circumnavigate Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge located at the mouth of Discovery Bay. Or, if the weather is rough, we may head south toward Port Ludlow to remain in calmer waters. The three-hour cruise will depart from the Point Hudson Marina with Naturalists from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center serving as on-board interpreters to provide commentary on local birds, mammals, geology, history and weather.
On-board refreshments are available, or you may bring a sack lunch.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Gift Shop Holiday Sale

This holiday season,

Buy once. 

Save twice.

10% off on all purchases* Nov. 24-26

Every purchase helps save the Salish Sea!
*Members save 15%!
Gift Shop OPEN noon―5pm


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Future of Oceans: Short of Breath―Marine Life in a Warming World

Curtis Deutsch, PhD
Associate Professor, 
School of Oceanography, 
College of the Environment 
University of Washington
Sunday, December 10
3 pm
Curtis Deutsch, PhD
The Fort Worden Commons*

*Please note change of venue

Admission: $5
(students, teachers FREE)

Dr. Curtis Deutsch’s research is aimed at understanding the interactions between climate and ecosystems. He combines numerical models of varying complexity with diverse types of biological and physical data, to discover the ways in which climate produces spatial pattern and temporal variability in ecosystems, and thus influences their basic functioning. Most of this work has focused on biogeochemical cycles in the ocean, with a particular emphasis on the mechanisms that regulate the cycles of nutrients and oxygen over a range of time scales from years to millennia. He also works with terrestrial ecologists to understand how climate influences the patterns of thermal fitness, and their implications for biodiversity in a changing climate. He received an Investigator Award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and is a Fellow of the Kavli Frontiers of Science.

This is the third installment of The Future of Oceans lecture series (learn more about the series here).

This event is offered with generous support by the Darrow Family.

Assisted Listening Devices available

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

PTMSC's Amazing Volunteers, Part 1

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is focusing on our impressive volunteer corps during the month of November 2017. Here is our first mini-profile, written by AmeriCorps Marine Science Educator James Swanson.

Jo Ferrero is one of our great volunteers and we are so fortunate to have her passion and dedication. She has been volunteering with the PTMSC since May of 2016 in all types of activities. Jo is a Marine Exhibit docent, Sound Toxins volunteer and helps out with fundraising events. 

Jo collecting water samples for Sound Toxins.

When asked what inspires her to conserve the Salish Sea, Jo took me outside and said, “Well, just look at it!"

Then we walked down to the floating dock and she showed me a fried-egg jelly that had drifted in, which we both admired. Jo has a deep passion for the natural beauty of the Salish Sea. 

A fun fact about Jo is that her Favorite Marine Animal is the sea otter because, “They are just so cute!" That, and she also understands their crucial role as a keystone species that eats sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp.

Fried-egg jelly

Interested in becoming a PTMSC volunteer and working alongside inspired volunteers like Jo Ferrero? Fill out our Volunteer Application! Questions? Contact Volunteer Coordinator Gabriele Sanchez at 360-385-5582 X 120, or send an email to volunteer@ptmsc.org.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Whale of a Back Bone!

IMG_4015.jpg IMG_4008.jpg
Left to right: New vertebra with juvenile gray whale skull and bones in background. Profile view of vertebra atop a table in the PTMSC Natural History Exhibit (photos by M. Vane).

A whale vertebra measuring approximately 3-feet tall and 4-feet wide arrived at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center last week. A couple found the bone while beachcombing in Southeast Alaska back in the 60’s. The unusual collectible was donated to PTMSC by their children all these years later with the intent to help the PTMSC inspire and inform others about whales. 

October 21 marked the 45th anniversary of the enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This act recognizes that some marine mammal species have been negatively impacted by human activities. By outlawing the take* of certain marine mammals, the MMPA strives to ensure these creatures can continue to fulfill their integral role in the marine ecosystem.

At the time of collection, there were no rules about bringing cetacean bones home and the PTMSC is overjoyed to have received this generous donation!

The crew here spent a good while fawning over the massive scale of the bone. Then came the task of identifying it. Which vertebra is it, and what species of whale did it come from?

First we looked at what area of the spine it came from...

Image: www.bajawhales.com
Our bone has three long projections. We decided on a lumbar vertebra.

Then came determining the species it came from. Using size as our main key for identification, we were left with a few options.

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)
The second largest animal to live on earth, coming in at an average length of 75 feet and weighing 80,000-160,000 pounds., the “Greyhound of The Sea” is known for its ability to travel at speeds up to 23 miles per hour.

Image: Online: The Royal Natural History, Vol. 3

Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
The largest animal to live on earth (that’s right, even bigger than the dinosaurs!), blue whales can grow up to 82 feet long and weigh 300,000 pounds on average. Blue whales move much slower than fin whales and are known to produce the second loudest call in the animal kingdom.

Photo: www.sbnature.org/buyabone
At the time of this posting, we haven’t come to any fixed conclusions and unfortunately may never know for sure. Our educated guess is that it is from one of the two species listed above. To confirm the exact species though, we would need more of the skeleton or to test its DNA.

Regardless, we are enjoying the discussion. Come in and see this monstrous vertebrae for yourself! Imagine the animal it was part of and its massive scale. What do you think it could be?

Posted by Mariah Vane, AmeriCorps

*Hunting, harassing, capturing, or killing any marine mammal or attempting to do so.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Next Information Session:

Thursday, October 19, 2017
2 - 4 pm

Natural History Exhibit, Building 502
Fort Worden

Volunteering at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is a great way to get involved in your community, meet new people, and learn new skills.
You don’t need a science background; just enthusiasm, passion, and a willingness to try new things.

Questions or to RSVP, contact Gabriele at volunteer@ptmsc.org.

Learn more about volunteering at:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2017 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award presented to John Fabian

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce that retired NASA astronaut John Fabian is the recipient of the 2017 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award. Fabian received the award at the annual PTMSC Stewardship Breakfast at The Commons at Fort Worden on Oct. 4.

The prestigious award recognizes significant contributions in the protection and stewardship of the natural environment of the North Olympic Peninsula. The award, now in its 13th year, pays tribute to Eleanor Stopps whose vision, advocacy and determination exemplify the power and importance of citizen leadership.

Hood Canal Coalition organizer John Fabian
"Through his pioneering work with the Hood Canal Coalition, Dr. John Fabian has led a determined effort to preserve the pristine ecosystem that is inextricably linked to the health of the Salish Sea," said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. 

"Like Eleanor, he is a powerful coalition builder," said Boire. "It is so fitting that Dr. Fabian is this year's Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award winner. We are very pleased to recognize his leadership and grassroots advocacy today."

Upon receiving the award, Fabian said: "I am indeed honored to accept the Eleanor Stopps Award on behalf of the Hood Canal Coalition and its 6,000 members. Environmental stewardship encourages us to react responsibly to projects and policies that threaten our region."

One of the few people to view the Earth from space, Fabian said most who have had that privilege share his concerns about the vast impact of human activity on the global environment.

"I don't know anybody who's done it and hasn't come back more environmentally aware," Fabian told a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter in 2004. 

John Fabian, NASA astronaut
Fabian received his Ph.D. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from the University of Washington in 1974. In addition to his national service with NASA, Fabian also distinguished himself as an Air Force pilot, served the Pentagon as Director of Space, and spent a decade leading a think tank that studied space systems.

In 2004, while retired and living in Port Ludlow, Wash., an announcement from Fred Hill Materials --a nearby Olympic Peninsula gravel mining company -- caught Fabian's attention. The company was planning to send strip-mined gravel on a 4-mile conveyor belt through the unspoiled woods that would end at a 1000-foot industrial pier on the shores of the bucolic Hood Canal.

Fabian sprang into action, writing letters, speaking at meetings and eventually co-founding the Hood Canal Coalition to fight the proposal. The coalition has grown to 6,000 members and, despite the odds against them, Fabian and his followers have, thus far, succeeded. 

In 2012, Fred Hill Materials closed and the company that took over -- Hood Canal Sand and Gravel -- lost a suit in 2016 that challenged a conservation easement. The ruling effectively blocks the company's plans. 

"I think the existing plan is dead," Fabian told the Port Townsend Leader in September 2016. "Whether they have an alternative plan, I don't know. We'll have to wait and see."

Eleanor Stopps
About the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Eleanor Stopps was an active member of the Pacific Northwest conservation community. She founded the Admiralty Audubon Chapter and was a primary driver behind the establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1982, one of the few federally protected marine refuges established by an Act of Congress at that time. Today it is a critical habitat link in the preservation of the entire Salish Sea region, providing breeding grounds for Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets, Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, Harbor Seals and Elephant Seals, and myriad other species.

Stopps died in April 2012 at the age of 92.

The leadership award created in her memory is presented annually to a citizen of the North Olympic Peninsula (Jefferson and Clallam counties) who has led a successful resource conservation effort that benefits the north Olympic Peninsula and its residents directly; acted as a community catalyst for programs, initiatives or ventures that demonstrate a commitment to the future of the earth and its biodiversity; become a model for future leaders in business and education; or has been an exemplary citizen or policy maker who has implemented decisions that, though they may entail risks, have helped our communities take the next step towards environmental sustainability.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has sponsored this annual award since 2005.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Future of Oceans: Dave Bonnett to reveal acoustic research about Amazonian pink river dolphins

The PTMSC's Future of Oceans lecture series, started in 2014, explores the frontiers of ocean research and emerging technologies while confronting the human capacity to understand and sustain healthy oceans. Each year hundreds of attendees are challenged and informed with thought-provoking presentations. To view the 2017-18 schedule of lectures, visit https://ptmsc.org/programs/learn/lecture-series

Marine acoustic researcher and citizen scientist Dave Bonnett will present the most recent findings of his work with Amazonian pink river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) at the first of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's 2017-18 lecture series, "The Future of Oceans," at the chapel at Fort Worden State Park on Sunday, October 8, at 3:00 p.m.

Marine acoustic researcher Dave Bonnett 
Bonnett, a PTMSC supporter since its inception 35 years ago, is experienced in the field of underwater acoustical research. He has undertaken numerous trips into the Peruvian Amazon with his wife Dottie, a marine biologist, to record and study the particular sounds of pink river dolphins and learn how ecosystem changes are impacting the species. 

"Our main objective in the beginning was to investigate the efficacy of using underwater sound recordings, along with behavioral observations, to identify and count individuals," Bonnett said. "We have discovered a very complex world associated with Inia, and are continuing to evolve and expand our research." 
Bonnett's lecture will also focus on how his research relates to local species of Cetacea in the Salish Sea.

"There is a growing urgency to better understand this threatened species because of increasing anthropogenic pressures on both Inia and their habitat," Bonnett said. "This is a story that will be familiar to citizens of the Salish Sea."

For the latest information about the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, visit www.ptmsc.org and www.facebook.com/PortTownsendMarineScienceCenter. Also, look for #PTMSC, #SalishSea or @PTMarineScience on Twitter and Instagram. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Sonic World of the Amazonian Pink Dolphin

Sunday, October 8, 2017 
3 pm
David Bonnett, Citizen Scientist
The Fort Worden Chapel

Admission: $5
(students, teachers FREE) 

Mr Bonnett will present his most recent finding of his acoustical research with Amazonian Pink Dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) including how ecosystem changes in the Amazon are impacting this species and how this research relates to our local species of Cetacea. His research grows from decades of underwater acoustical research and designing ultra-quiet vessels. 

This is the first installment of The Future of Oceans lecture series. 
This event is offered with generous support by the Darrow Family.

Assisted Listening Devices available

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sunning The Whale Day

Friday, September 1


Fort Worden Pier

Come visit the PTMSC when we "daylight" the gray whale bones on the Pier for a long dose of sun and warmth. For this one-day-only event, staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about gray whales, how this one came to be part of the PTMSC collection, and what we can learn from marine mammals in our midst. You can also learn more about the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at work right here in Port Townsend.

In May of 2016, a juvenile gray whale died in Elliott Bay in Seattle and was towed to a site on Indian Island provided by the US Navy. A team of volunteers, staff, and AmeriCorps members assisted with the necropsy and additional preparation of the body for preservation of her skeleton. The PTMSC has been storing the skeleton until it can be articulated for use in educational programs and exhibits. 

From Park to Pier: The Early Days of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Part 4 of 4

(This is the last of a four-part series about how Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer founded the Port Townsend Marine Science Center 35 years ago. Read Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 3 here.)

Although Libby Palmer returned to Port Townsend in 1990, for the next two years her job often took her out of the area. Still, she now had more time to devote to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and the important work that co-founder Judy D’Amore, the part-time staff and the growing base of volunteers were sustaining.

2017 Water World, photo by David Conklin
One of the programs Libby spearheaded in 1991 was Water World, a collaboration with Centrum at Fort Worden in which elementary school students integrate scientific investigation with the creative arts. Thanks to the ongoing support of the PTMSC and Centrum, the residential program continues to this day.   

“Water World is a combination of art and science,” Libby says. “Centrum hires a visual artist, a writer and movement person, and we supply the science. Participants create drawings and stage performances to describe the marine world. From the kids’ point of view, it’s seamless.”

Nearly a decade had passed since Judy and Libby started the PTMSC, and the organization was becoming increasingly well known in the community. Credit flowed to the incredible networking efforts of the founders and the organization’s many volunteers. The PTMSC was on the radar of local, state and federal agencies, and local businesses were supportive.

The PTMSC’s 14-year involvement with the Port Townsend Bay Monitoring Project (MOPO) was a good example.

“We started the project hoping we could detect signs of contamination from activities around the bay,” says Judy. “We included places we thought might be impacted by activities going on there, to compare with sites without those activities.”

Among them were the Port Townsend Boat Haven marina, the Paradise Bay Salmon Farm net pens, and the Port Townsend Paper Corporation -- one of the major employers in the region. (The budding relationship would later result in the use of the paper company’s lab for other PTMSC projects.)

Students examining benthic animals with MOPO
“We asked permission to bring our boatload of students out to sample on a monthly basis and they were all very cooperative,” Judy says.

It took some time to determine the best sampling methods, but the MOPO team finally decided to measure the biodiversity of benthic (bottom dwelling) animals at the different sites.

“This turned out to be very informative, which is why I was able to use the data to write a paper on it years later when I got my master’s degree,” Judy recalls.

At this point, The PTMSC was offering a regular lecture series around town, with knowledgeable researchers as speakers. Week-long youth summer camps had also become a fixture.
PTMSC Summer Camp

In the fall of 1994, Judy was hired to teach a 9th grade physical science class, taking her away from leading MOPO and teaching all of the Port Townsend School District classes. The following year, she applied to the Peace Corps. While waiting for her assignment she went back to teaching the marine science classes for the school district, eventually departing for Panama in 1996. She would not make Port Townsend her home again until 1999.

Despite Judy’s absence, Libby says having a staff made a big difference and was the reason the PTMSC was able to continue its programs.

“By that time, Anne Murphy was our executive director and we had a volunteer coordinator, Judy Friesem, and then we hired Cinamon Moffett as the first marine educator,” says Libby.

In 1997 the PTMSC launched Onshore-Offshore, a marine ecology teacher training program designed and directed by Libby. Participants spent a week onshore doing labs and classes and half a week onboard the schooner Adventuress gaining hands-on experience with intertidal animals & plants.

Two years later, after returning from the Peace Corps, Judy finished her master’s degree at Friday Harbor Labs and worked with the FHL for two years in outreach education, including the renewal of the MOPO program that she started.

In 2001, the PTMSC opened its new Natural History Exhibit with displays created by Libby. And in 2004, Judy was hired as the new NHE Educator with responsibilities that included teaching the Onshore-Offshore program.

Cutting the ribbon to the new NHE in 2001 
Looking back at their time as active co-founders, Libby and Judy say they welcomed the added professionalism and the skills each person brought to the team as the organization continued to mature.

“Every growing organization has its tensions, but we knew we were not going to fail,” says Libby. “I knew I did not have all the necessary skills. I realized what was involved in starting an organization, but there were other skills needed to continue one.”

“Anne was good at managing people and grant writing,” says Judy. “And we had a bigger board with knowledgeable people helping guide our direction.”

“I never wanted control,” adds Judy. “I could have applied for the various [management] jobs, but I said, ‘No, I want to teach, I don’t want to be a manager.’”

“It seemed, right from the beginning, that we both had a strong feeling that our work needed a connection to research,” says Libby. “We always wanted to know the most effective way to learn a subject and share it with other people.”

As evidence, she points to a two-year grant project undertaken in the mid-2000s to study the habits of forage fish, such as herring, that involved outside researchers. Teaching sessions were also open to the public.

AmeriCorps team circa 2010
Both women agree that, starting in 2001, the addition of college graduate staffers from the AmeriCorps program – women and men rotating in and out of the PTMSC on an annual basis -- not only provides the young adults with valuable on-the-job training, it also helps the organization remain fresh and vibrant.

“It’s an experiential sort of graduate school and what they learn here is phenomenal,” says Libby.

Perhaps the most enduring quality infused into the formation of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center by Judy and Libby was a perpetual spirit of collaboration.

“It's amazing to see how the PTMSC is touching other people's lives,” says Judy. “I'm struck by how it's grown to such a wonderful thing. It's like having a baby. We had a hand in making it, and it's turned into something just beautiful with everyone's contributions." 

# # #            

Libby Palmer
Judy D'Amore

This year, in honor of our 35th anniversary, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is asking our supporters to match a generous $10,000 bequest from Mirriel Bedell, the mother of co-founder Judy D’Amore, to underwrite our commitment to place-based, people-powered, hands-on learning. Donate today to help us reach our goal and fulfill our mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea!