Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Eleanora the Octopus Featured In PT Leader

photo by Lily Haight, Port Townsend Leader
Our new resident octopus is featured in the news!

"Eleanora, who is roughly 2 years old, originally came from the area around Whidbey Island. She had been living at the Friday Harbor Laboratories, where she was helping researchers study the intelligence of the Giant Pacific Octopus. Now, Eleanora is a resident of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center aquarium, where she’s being featured in a film that Florian Graner, the underwater documentarian of Sealife Productions, is working on." 

Read more about how PTMSC aquarist Ali Redman and documentarian Florian Graner interact with Eleanora in the Leader's article.

And be sure to come visit Eleanora during exhibit hours; Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

Thanks to Lily Haight at the Port Townsend Leader for the feature.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Lecture: The Northwest Coastal Explorer

Sunday, November 11

3 pm

Robert Steelquist
Pacific Northwest writer, photographer,
naturalist, and environmental educator

The Fort Worden Chapel

Admission: $5

(students, teachers FREE)

Robert Steelquist is a native Pacific Northwest writer, naturalist, and environmental educator with a 30-year career introducing young and old to the nature of the Northwest. He has led hundreds on nature walks, backpacking trips, tall ship trainings, river floats, teacher workshops, archaeology field schools, and other outdoor learning adventures. With a practiced eye and patient voice he leads us to see the world around us, understand and experience its wonders. He lives in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, near Blyn, Washington. His latest book, The Northwest Coastal Explorer, was published by Timber Press in 2016. He served as Education Coordinator for NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary until retiring in 2014.

More info:


This is the second installment of The Future of Oceans lecture series.

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

Assisted Listening Devices available

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lecture--Swimming Through Swirls: Observing Ribbons and Rings of Ocean Circulation Autonomously

deploying underwater robots
Sunday, October 14

3 pm

Dr. Charles Eriksen
Professor, School of Oceanography, University of Washington
read bio here

The Fort Worden Chapel

Admission: $5

(students, teachers FREE)

Charlie Eriksen has helped change the way the ocean is observed, from top to bottom and shore to shore. His research group invented the Seaglider and Deepglider underwater vehicles. Scarcely six feet long, these autonomous vehicles swim thousands of miles while taking the pulse of ocean circulation: its temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, currents and biological properties. Eriksen deploys these robots to examine the undersea world of intense currents, where explosive turbulence and small subsurface waves interact with the global circulation.


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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Give Jefferson: Give Where You Live!

Through programs at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, kids get excited about science and environmental stewardship. With adequate preparation, high quality science jobs await the next generation.

Journey Orchanian, former PTMSC camper
“Going to a marine science camp was a lot of fun and I know it changed me. I am more confident and I tried new things because of it, like scuba diving and an oceanography class. Now I want to go into marine biology.” 

--Journey Orchanian

PTMSC is a proud 2018 Give Jefferson participant! This campaign is sponsored by the Jefferson Community Foundation and United Good Neighbors and offers people a way to learn about and support the wide variety of nonprofits enriching our county, including the Marine Science Center.

Visit to view the Give Jefferson online Giving Catalog.
Only available for the month of October.

Friday, September 28, 2018

2018 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award presented to Eloise Kailin, Sarah Doyle

Port Townsend Marine Science Center honors co-founder of Olympic Environmental Council and stewardship coordinator of North Olympic Salmon Coalition 

On September 28, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center announced co-recipients of the 2018 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award: Eloise Kailin, Olympic Environmental Council co-founder, and Sarah Doyle, the stewardship coordinator for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.

Pictured (left to right): Sarah Doyle; Janine Boire, PTMSC; Darlene Schanfald (representing Eloise Kailin)

The awards were presented at the annual PTMSC Stewardship Breakfast at The Commons at Fort Worden State Park.

The prestigious Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award recognizes significant contributions in the protection and stewardship of the natural environment of the North Olympic Peninsula. The award, now in its 14th year, pays tribute to Eleanor Stopps, whose vision, advocacy and determination exemplify the power and importance of citizen leadership.

“We are so pleased to honor these two outstanding advocates for the people and the environment of the North Olympic Peninsula,” said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. “As a lifelong activist, still, at the age of 99, Dr. Kailin continues to work tirelessly to advance the health and well-being of our residents and our environment. And Sarah Doyle’s work with our youth, teaching them to be good stewards of the land and sea, inspires each of us to make this world a better place for future generations.”

Monday, September 24, 2018

A Summer of Citizen Stewardship in Protection Island Aquatic Reserve

Submitted to WA Dept. of Natural Resources Aquatic Reserve Newsletter by PTMSC's Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson:

It was a busy summer in the waters and along the shore of Protection Island Aquatic Reserve (PIAR). Citizen Stewards conducted the first Intertidal Monitoring Project with the Cape George Environmental Committee and Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteers and staff near Cape George Colony. Eleanor Hines, Michael Kyte and Erica Bleke brought their expertise from Fidalgo Bay and Cherry Point Reserves, to help make this a very successful event. Twenty people participated and recorded 88 species.

Out on the water, Port Townsend Marine Science Center and Puget Sound Express hosted five “Puffin Cruises” for 230 people through Protection Island Aquatic Reserve. (sign up for an upcoming Protection Island cruise here!) One trip took a detour to Smith Island to see a Horned Puffin that had been reported in the area. On their way back, a pod of orcas passed by making it a very memorable evening.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall Migration Cruises to Protection Island

2 Dates:

October 6


October 13

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.

Cruise trips will go through the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve and circumnavigate Protection Island, a National Wildlife Refuge located at the mouth of Discovery Bay. 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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2018/19 Lecture Series: The Future of Oceans

All lectures take place in the Chapel at Fort Worden at 3 pm on the designated day.

Sunday, October 14, 2018
Swimming Through Swirls:
Observing Ribbons and Rings of Ocean Circulation Autonomously

Charles Eriksen, Ph.D
Professor of Oceanography, University of Washington

Sunday, November 11, 2018
The Northwest Coastal Explorer
(lecture and book signing)
Bob Steelquist, Author

December 9, 2018
The Octopus Learning Project
Florian Graner
SeaLife Productions

January 13, 2019
Big Science in Our Small Ocean
Professor Jan Newton, Ph.D
Senior Principal Oceanographer, Applied Physics Laboratory
University of Washington

$5 per lecture (students & teachers FREE)
FREE admission for Octopus and Orca Donor Circle Members.
Become a member today.

Assisted Listening Devices available
Thanks to the Darrow Family for their ongoing support

Friday, August 31, 2018

International Coastal Cleanup

Saturday, September 15Meet at PTMSC Museum under the red tent

Hosted by Ocean Conservancy. Volunteers from around the world will work together to keep our oceans and the life in them as healthy and diverse as possible. Volunteer to be part of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s and ICC's Beach Clean-up. Pre-register at

Check in: Noon, PTMSC Museum, under the red and white striped tent. Get directions and beach locations, trash bags, and gloves and head out to the beach.
Weigh your accomplishments.
Visit the PTMSC as our guest.
Return to PTMSC: by 4 pm

Ocean trash is a serious pollution problem that affects the health of people, wildlife, and local economies. Make an impact locally in the Salish Sea by joining the world's largest volunteer effort for our oceans and waterways with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day.

It’s easy to participate! Here’s what you need to know:

• Stay for all or part of the event
• Bring gloves and extra buckets
• Wear closed-toed shoes
• Download the Clean Swell app
• Wear ocean-friendly sunscreen
• Dress for the weather
• Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated on the beach

15% OFF discount cards to all our beach cleanup volunteers from sponsor Howell's Sandwich Co. in downtown Port Townsend

for more info call 360-385-5582 x204

Thanks to Olympic Disposal and Howell's Sandwich Co. for their support.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Summer Camp 2018

At the end of this week, we will have brought our last summer camp of the year to a close. It's been a whirlwind of a summer, and - after 11 camp sessions and over 100 campers - there's a ton of stories to share. What follows is only a short, abbreviated handful.

Junior Explorers race to discover what insects will fall out of the next tree.
Campers discovered new loves. One Marine Biology camper tumbled into the world of chitons, and spent the better part of the week chasing down every specimen she could find (living, and quite a few previously scavenged). Many encountered the strange, alien world of plankton for the first time, and left with a greater appreciation of the little things in our seas. Still others hung out with the insects - aquatic and terrestrial - and learned that bugs can be creepy, crawly and quite a bit cool.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

We'll See You At The Wooden Boat Festival, September 7-9!

Join us this year at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival as we explore the Salish Sea! 

Journey into our walk-through model kelp forest, discover tiny plankton under a microscope, and learn how to identify the marine mammals you might encounter when you are out on the water.

Dates: Sept. 7-9
Time: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,a every day of the festival
Location: Adjacent to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife booth
Info: More Wooden Boat Festival information here!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Three Fascinating Things!

It’s officially been 10.5 months of service! This year serving as an AmeriCorps member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is finally coming to an end for me. It flew by so fast, and I’d like to share some of my favorite new things I’ve learned about.

I came to Port Townsend from Minneapolis, Minnesota where there is no marine life anywhere. So this year I was learning while I was teaching people. I’ve discovered so many fascinating things about the Salish Sea.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know what the Salish Sea was until I moved out here. I would like to share the top three most fascinating things I’ve learned and discovered during my year of service.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Communities near and far are eliminating single-use plastics

This summer the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is focusing on people and communities who are empowered to end plastic pollution in our oceans and reign in climate change. Please make a gift today to ensure that people everywhere can join a journey of stewardship through the programs offered by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. The goal is to raise $12,000. Gifts received by August 31 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $5,000. 

Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge,
where it washed ashore. (source: Susan White/USFWS)

Scientists increasingly warn that ocean plastic pollution has become a global crisis. Plastic bags, which can’t be recycled effectively, are known to adversely affect more than 200 species of marine animals in the Salish Sea alone. And microplastics are being found in large concentrations in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in an area twice as large as the state of Texas known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Nominate Your Environmental Hero!

Do you know someone who has worked to conserve or protect the North Olympic Peninsula, taken steps to encourage community-wide environmental sustainability, or altered the way you consider your impact on your local environment?

Make that person the next Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award winner!

Last year's winner, retired NASA astronaut John Fabian, spoke at the annual 
PTMSC Stewardship Breakfast about his work as organizer of the Hood Canal Coalition
From the 1960s through the 1990s Eleanor Stopps was an active member of the Northwest conservation community. Eleanor founded the Admiralty Audubon Chapter and took over the work of Zella Schultz to protect the nesting habitat for 72,000 pairs of seabirds nesting on Protection Island. She was also a tireless educator working with groups of students and Girl Scouts to raise environmental awareness.

Eleanor Stopps 
Eleanor Stopps recognized the need to protect the uniquely important marine environment of the Salish Sea. With no special political base or powerful financial backers, she formed a coalition of grassroots supporters who worked to get legislation and public support for protection of Protection Island and the surrounding marine waters. She was a primary driver behind the establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, one of the few established by an Act of Congress at that time.

Today, Protection Island is a critical habitat link in the preservation of the whole Salish Sea region, providing breeding habitat for Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets, Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons, Harbor Seals and Elephant Seals, and a myriad of other species.

The Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award is given annually to a citizen of the North Olympic Peninsula (Jefferson and Clallam counties) who, like Eleanor Stopps, has created a legacy of conservation.

Please take a moment to recognize your environmental hero by nominating them for the Environmental Leadership Award.

The winner of the award will join the visionaries and risk-takers before them with their name engraved on the Eleanor Stopps plaque as well as an official presentation of the award at the Marine Science Center's annual Stewardship Breakfast.

Everyone nominated for the award will receive public recognition on our blog, Octopress online, and in a press release to regional media.

Email your completed form to

Nominations must be received by August 23, 2018.

Honor your hero today...

Monday, July 30, 2018

The power of one empowers many: Angela Haseltine Pozzi

This summer the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is focusing on people and communities who are empowered to end plastic pollution in our oceans and reign in climate change. Please make a gift today to ensure that people everywhere can join a journey of stewardship through the programs offered by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. The goal is to raise $12,000. Gifts received by August 31 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $5,000. founder Angela Haseltine Pozzi with her tufted puffin creation.
Photo credit ©

Portland, Ore., native Angela Haseltine Pozzi has always believed in “art for all,” spearheading public art projects, community art and artist-in-residency programs wherever she went. But following the untimely death of her husband to a brain tumor in 2002, she needed to heal.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Eliza Dawson is just getting started

This summer the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is focusing on people and communities who are empowered to end plastic pollution in our oceans and reign in climate change. Please make a gift today to ensure that people everywhere can join a journey of stewardship through the programs offered by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. The goal is to raise $12,000. Gifts received by August 31 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $5,000.

Longtime Quimper Peninsula residents and newcomers alike have been watching and admiring the feats of Port Townsend native Eliza Dawson.

2018 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship recipient Eliza Dawson.

In 2009 when she was in fifth grade, Eliza was one of several children and adults who assembled the bones of a gray whale for display at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. When the body of "Spirit" had washed ashore on the North Shore of the Olympic Peninsula in 1999 at the tender age of 1.5 years, his death was a mystery.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

PTMSC Volunteer Trades Oars For Bike Pedals To Motivate Environmental Action

At age 10, Eliza Dawson volunteered at PTMSC on the Orca Project, preparing the bones of Hope the orca for display.

This summer, Eliza now 22, participated in the Great Pacific Race with Team Ripple Effect, an international team of young women to row across the Pacific from California to Hawaii to motivate environmental political action. Team Ripple Effect's guiding principle was that "while crossing the Pacific will be a monumental challenge, the challenges facing our planet are even greater. Each of us is working in our local communities to tackle issues threatening our planet and future. Together, we hope to have a global impact."

While the team had to end the row due to a medical emergency, Eliza has chosen to continue the mission on terra firma.

From Eliza's blog:

"This is my new plan: For the first two weeks of July, I will cycle 400 miles through the remote Alaskan and Canadian wilderness, getting an up-close view of rapidly receding glaciers, as well as bountiful wildlife and scenery. I remain determined to bring awareness to the impacts of climate change and I am looking forward to documenting my cycling journey."

Prior to her rowing journey, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center awarded the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship. “We continue to be inspired by Eliza,” said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. "We cheer her efforts to raise the consciousness of people everywhere about the threats to our marine environment."

Follow Eliza's blog to read more of Eliza's own words and for updates on her cycling journey.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Crabbing Season is here!

Summer is here, and that means crab season! Crab season in our local waters around the Port Townsend Marine Science Center will open this year on June 30. Other opening days in the Salish Sea region can be found here on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

Opening of crab season at the PTMSC means a lot of hustle and bustle. The sea becomes a minefield of bobbing red and white crab pot buoys, people hauling out crab pots from over the pier, and people checking their crabs to make sure they are the right sex and size (more info here). The picnic tables are full of children and parents getting their haul ready to take home. The waters are speckled with boaters doing the same things.

Every year it is estimated that sport fishermen will catch over a million pounds of Dungeness crab!

When returning crabs that don't meet WDFW catch standards, remember to use the 
PTMSC crab elevator to safely lower your crabs back to the Salish Sea. 

So, how do these lucky people catch all those crabs? Here are a few tips to keep in mind when crabbing.

First things first. Get your license from the WDFW. Anyone over the age of 15 is required to carry a current fishing license with a crab endorsement on it. 

Once you have your license, or are in the process of getting it, it's time to choose your catch method. The most common way to catch crab in the Salish Sea is by using a crab pot. Crab pots can be purchased or created according to WDFW standards found on their website.

When creating and setting your crab pot, make sure to follow these tips to make sure that your pot and catch are not lost. 
  • Avoid marine transit and ferry lanes.
  • Check tides and currents: Avoid crabbing during strong tidal changes and currents.
  • Use high visibility buoys to clearly mark your gear.
  • Use a weighted line to sink below the surface and avoid being cut by passing boats.
  • Weight your pot so they do not move in high currents or tidal changes.
  • Use longer line. Use 1/3 more line than water depth to allow for changes in tides and currents.
  • Secure lid and escape panels with biodegradable cotton escape cord. This allows crabs to escape from lost pots after the cord degrades.

Here are a few helpful videos:

How to weight your pots

How to rig your line

When to set your pot

How to set your pot

How to modify your crab pot

You are now ready to catch some crab! These helpful hints will help you keep your catch and prevent your pot from becoming one of the 12,000 crab pots that are lost every year. Once lost at sea, crab pots become derelict or abandoned fishing gear. 

Derelict gear is considered to be a long-lasting marine debris and can include abandoned or lost nets, lines and pots. Most synthetic fishing gear can take decades (or more) to degrade and will continue to "ghost fish" or catch animals until removed from the ocean, as well as damage important habitat for animals. This gear is also a fiscal loss to the owner and becomes a hazard for divers, plus it can entangle boat motors and cause significant damage.

AmeriCorps member James with recovered derelict crab pots 
from under the PTMSC pier. Photo by Wendy Feltham

Thanks to the Northwest Straights Commission and WDFW, thousands of derelict fishing gear has been removed from the Salish Sea. With the help of fishermen all around the Puget Sound, WDFW has been able track and remove lost gear. If you are unable to recover your crab pot during crab season remember to contact WDFW or the Northwest Straits Commission.

There are no penalties when reporting lost or abandoned gear! Report your lost crab pot or fishing gear here.

Written by AmeriCorps Natural History and Volunteer Educator Emilee Carpenter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Coastal Explorers -- July 9-13

Attention parents and grandparents!

We’ve got the perfect summer activity for 8 and 9 year olds: PTMSC Coastal Explorer day camp, July 9-13.

During the 5-day session, campers will discover how the beach, pond, glacier, and forest ecosystems support life on the Salish Sea. 

Our skilled camp counselors will guide your child in exploring the vast and wondrous underwater world that our marine environment has to offer.

Camp is $285 ($10 off for PTMSC members).

Only a few spaces remain, so sign up today!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Best Tidepooling

When I started my service term at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, I found that I had been left a letter of advice from Brooke Askey, the AmeriCorps member in my position before me. It contained all sorts of wisdom and included one sentence in particular that intrigued me: “Salt Creek Recreation Area has the best tidepooling I’ve ever seen.”

My first view of the recreation area

So I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have been looking forward to our Salt Creek Education Program with the Blue Heron Middle School 8th graders since my first day here.

PTMSC Education Coordinator Carolyn Woods showing off some seagrass

The Blue Heron students have been going to Salt Creek for many years now accompanied by PTMSC staff, AmeriCorps and volunteers to do a monitoring project that looks at how water quality relates to efforts to protect salmon habitat. They collect data at Salt Creek with their teachers and look at plants, animals and substrates in the intertidal zone with us.

Students surveying their plot

It was so fun to watch the students test out their scientific field surveying skills and discover their monitoring plots. Often when students first arrived at their plots they would proclaim with disappointment that there was nothing there. However, once they were encouraged to look more closely and move the top layer of seaweed, they were amazed at the beautiful world of bizarre life forms they uncovered.

We found tidepools full of juvenile sculpins darting between shadows, mating spotted leopard nudibranchs, vast swaths of mussels and barnacles, little shore crabs at every turn and the biggest gumboot chiton I’ve ever seen!

Volunteer Sue Long examining a large gumboot chiton

I can now say with confidence that Brooke was right and I will pass on this tidbit to the next AmeriCorps in my position: Salt Creek Recreation Area has the best tidepooling I’ve ever seen.

AmeriCorps James Swanson and I, clearly excited about the inter-tidal zone! 
Photo by Jo Ferrero 

Written by PTMSC AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Earth Day Beach Clean Up: A Marine Debris Debrief

The beaches and waterways around Port Townsend look so beautiful and pristine, it is hard to believe they are facing some very serious threats from pollution. Especially in the Salish Sea, a unique binational estuary that is home to some very large metropolitan cities such as Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Tacoma, and smaller port towns such a Bellingham, Olympia, and Port Angeles.

The beaches in the Salish Sea are used for recreational, residential, commercial and industrial purposes but they are also home to many unique species.

Marine debris is one form of pollution that can impact human and wildlife health. Marine debris is defined as:

Any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment.
Marine debris may enter directly due to human action, or indirectly when washed out to sea via rivers, streams and storm drains. Marine debris has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways.*

Some of the most commonly found marine debris items are:

On Earth Day weekend, 2018, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center partnered with Washington CoastSavers and the Port Townsend Food Coop to host a local beach cleanup to remove marine debris from our local beaches.

The day started early with volunteer divers Howard, Tim, and Tusker gearing up and heading out right under the PTMSC pier. They worked together to remove five abandoned crab pots tangled on the pier pilings. These pots were sitting on the bottom and posed a threat to animals living there (see upcoming post by AmeriCorps Emilee on derelict fishing gear).

Volunteer diver, Howard. Photo by W. Feltham
Volunteer divers, Tusker and Tim. Photo by W. Feltham

AmeriCorps member James (and PTMSC Aquarist Ali ) helped 
pull the pots up onto the pier once they were cut free. Photo by W. Feltham
Volunteers stopped by the Natural History Exhibit portico to sign in and get their beach assignments. Photo by W. Feltham

We had volunteers remove debris from North Beach, Chetzemoka, Downtown Port Townsend, Boat Haven, Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and a few places in between.

Thanks so much to all of the PTMSC volunteers who enthusiastically 
ran the check-in station, helped sort debris, fill out data cards, and 
connect the clean up with the significance of caring for the Salish Sea.
What a great crew! Photo by W. Feltham

Beach Clean Up volunteers embark on their beach walk, scanning the ground for man-made debris while also enjoying the beautiful weekend day.
Photo by W. Feltham

Over 130 people volunteered their time to clean up Port Townsend’s beaches. Many were locals but we also had participants visiting from Seattle and elsewhere.

Photos by W. Feltham
Once volunteers returned with their loot, the debris was weighed and sorted. We threw on gloves and dug into the garbage to document and itemize our findings. We recycled cans and bottles and completed a Washington Coast Savers data sheet so we could track what we were seeing.

Photos by W. Feltham
We saw a lot of cigarette butts, straws, bottle lids, shotgun shells, plastic food wrappers, rope bits, and construction debris. All of this debris can be harmful to wildlife and humans.

Plastic is especially dangerous. As it sits in the water, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces and begins to absorb pollutants in the water, becoming extra concentrated with contaminants. As it degrades, it becomes harder to remove. 

Plastic can also begin to take on a fishy smell as it sits and absorbs toxins and collects marine life. It is easily mistaken for prey and ingested by marine animals. Once consumed, this debris can cause illness from toxins or can block digestive pathways causing starvation. Plastic has been found in the bodies of small bait fish (a staple of marine food webs), seabirds, whales, and a plethora of other animals. It has even made its way into shellfish and fish markets for human consumption. Gross huh?

There is an unimaginable amount of marine debris in the world’s oceans and the Salish Sea. Beach clean ups are a great way to remove what washes ashore. But what if we could prevent human debris and plastics from entering our waterways in the first place? One way to do this is to stop supporting the creation of single-use plastic products by:
  • supporting reuse 
  • considering the lifespan of the products we are buying 
  • seeking out products with little or no packaging 
  • saying NO to straws 
  • considering where you are creating waste and try to reduce it 
Collectively, during this clean up, we removed 659 lbs of garbage from Port Townsend beaches!

Thank you so much for all of the attention to detail and love you brought with you to clean up our beaches! What a great way to appreciate this amazing ecosystem we all call home!

All photos by PTMSC volunteer (and past PTMSC Board President) Wendy Feltham -- Thank You Wendy!

* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Report to Congress: Impacts and Control of Combined Sewer Overflows and Sanitary Sewer Overflows” August 26, 2004, (EPA Publication 833-R-04-001),

Written by AmeriCorps member Mariah Vane

Friday, May 18, 2018

Spring Off The Pier

Coming from the Midwest, my experience of spring has been a bit different from the way it is out here on the Olympic Peninsula and the Salish Sea. I figured it would be fun to share a few of the new things I’ve encountered so far this spring at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Since spring is in the air, many animals have been feeling frisky. The kingfishers have been out and about chattering away with each other. I’ve even witnessed them diving for schooling fish under the pier a few times.

There is always something new to see when looking off the pier into the water below. Since April has started, this is especially true. Jellyfish and ctenophores are frequently visible. On first glance I only saw a few, however when I focused more I noticed hundreds of them. I have never seen so many live jellies in the wild before, so this really was an experience.

Ctenophore caught off the pier.

Each of these jellies was about the size of a quarter.

Large schools of sand lance, tube snout, and herring (known as bait balls) have been coming into the pier for its sheltered waters. These large schools sparkle and shine in the water due to their counter shading. Counter shading is a technique used to disorient their predators. It looks like an underwater light show! 

The plankton we’ve sampled in the last few weeks have had a lot more activity in them. Baby barnacles, crabs, copepods and more were common in our samples. This increase in plankton has to do with sunlight being stronger and nutrient availability greater than in the winter months.

Even the animals in the aquarium have got more energy. Over the winter, most of their appetites were reduced, but in the last couple of weeks everybody is eating a lot more food. Many have been spawning, including the invertebrates that are broadcast spawners. This means they release their sperm and eggs into the water, hoping they mingle and fertilize. This makes for some murky water conditions in the tanks when it happens.

We also have been collecting animals lately to add to the exhibits. Recently we netted some eelgrass right off the pier. Babies critters were everywhere: juvenile flounder, gunnels, crabs, and sculpins were coming up in the net. This was so exciting to see since eelgrass beds are nurseries for juvenile fish. That is one of the reasons we have two tanks dedicated to eelgrass because it is so important for the early life stages of certain species, especially salmon.

Two juvenile flounder hiding in the sand of the eel-grass tank.
(There is also an orange-tipped nudibranch hiding in the back)

There is too much for me to mention in one blog post, but not being from the Northwest and witnessing all this going on I can only think one thing: The Salish Sea is one productive body of water, especially this time of the year. The PTMSC Aquarium and pier here are the perfect place to showcase that richness!

Written by AmeriCorps Marine Science Educator James Swanson.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Explore the Salish Sea: Joe Gaydos Beach Walk and Book Signing

Image courtesy Little Bigfoot Books
Saturday, June 2

Orca Exhibit Classroom

Joe Gaydos, VMD, PhD
photo by Wendy Shattil
Lead scientist for the SeaDoc Society Joe Gaydos, co-author of "The Salish Sea, Jewel of the Pacific Northwest," wildlife veterinarian, self-proclaimed science nerd and wildlife fanatic has just published the much anticipated "Explore the Salish Sea, A Nature Guide for Kids."

In this special meet-the-author family event, Joe will be giving a short kid-friendly presentation in the Museum classroom based on his book before leading a beach walk here at Fort Worden. Copies of both books will be available in the Gift Shop, or bring your copy for a signature.

The talk is most suitable for children over 8 years of age. The program and beach walk are free with admission to PTMSC on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited.

Reservations are encouraged -- Click here to RSVP!