Thursday, April 12, 2018

Join the fun at Earth Day Beach Clean Up in Port Townsend, Saturday, April 21

Washington CoastSavers event sponsored by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center with support from the Port Townsend Food Coop

On Saturday, April 21, volunteers from near and far will celebrate Earth Day weekend by picking up trash and debris along Olympic Peninsula coastlines during Earth Day Beach Clean Up. The annual Washington CoastSavers event is spearheaded locally by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Because the PTMSC is the only check-in site on the eastern side of the Olympic Peninsula, scores of people from around the region are expected to register at the PTMSC Natural History Exhibit before heading out to clean area beaches at Fort Worden State Park, Fort Flagler State Park, Fort Townsend State Park, Chetzemoka Park and North Beach.

Check-in time at the PTMSC Natural History Exhibit is 11 a.m. and the debris receiving station closes at 5 p.m.

Once again, the Port Townsend Food Coop is offering valued support for Earth Day Beach Clean Up, providing $5 gift cards to be used the same day for all registered volunteers.

More information, including participant pre-registration, is available on the PTMSC website at:,cntnt01,show_event,0&cntnt01rid=400&cntnt01returnid=58#h1_anchor.

For the latest information about the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, visit and Also, look for #PTMSC and #SalishSea or @PTMarineScience on Twitter and Instagram.

Science is a Team Sport

On Jan. 25, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center hosted an event at IslandWood called the Puget Sound Citizen Science Summit. It was a working conference for people involved in citizen science in the region to get together with the goals of:
  • Discussing how citizen science can best be integrated into and assist the work of practitioners, researchers, organizations and agencies, and 
  • Providing a venue to strengthen communication, collaboration, communities of practice and partnerships focused on advancing Puget Sound Recovery through citizen science

This event was spearheaded by our very own Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson and organized by a committee of individuals from multiple organizations. 

Betsy Carlson and Julia Parrish leading a group discussion. Photo by SymPoint Communications.
Dr. Joe Gaydos, science director of the SeaDoc Society, gave the keynote presentation and made the point that people are having a hard time knowing what to trust these days, but if citizens, and/or their friends and neighbors are involved in the research, they are more likely to trust the results.

Some of the important topics that were generated by the group in the morning and then discussed more in depth in the afternoon were: access to information, collaboration and connection, communication, volunteers, and funding.

Photo by SymPoint Communications

My Citizen Science AmeriCorps position at the PTMSC has been my introduction to citizen science, so this gathering was such a fantastic opportunity for me to get to learn from a passionate and dedicated group of people who have been working in this field for much longer than me. I have a relatively small role in the big picture of citizen science, so this was an opportunity for me to see what I am a part of and get a sense of the needs and goals of the citizen science community of this area moving forward.
Photo by SymPoint Communications
In her closing remarks, COASST Executive Director Julia Parrish, associate dean of the University of Washington College of the Environment, made some points about why citizen science is so important and necessary now more than ever. The first was that humans are moving away from understanding our connection with nature and citizen science can help people reconnect with nature. She also made the point that learning is what keeps us alive; it is what makes us human and citizen science taps into that. One of my favorite points that she made was that science is a team sport and that citizen science is an extension of that team. An article that Parrish co-wrote ends with a paragraph that elaborates on this team sport mentality stating:

“For biodiversity science, the era of ivory tower science is over. We need a paradigm shift, wherein scientists and nonscientists work collaboratively to contend with emergent, large-scale environmental issues. If biodiversity science does not engage nonscientists, as biodiversity and ecosystem services continue to erode, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of a public that may offer local solutions to global problems.” (

The attendees of the Puget Sound Citizen Science Summit who represented projects and programs reported working with over 5500 citizen science volunteers. What a Team! I feel proud to be a part of that team and am excited to see the growth and impacts of it moving forward.

To read the full report from the summit, see []. 

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Puget Sound Citizen Science Summit 2018 report released

13 educational institutions and programs, 13 local, state and federal government agencies and 15 environmental organizations represented

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center released a report April 11 following the one-day Puget Sound Citizen Science Summit 2018 at IslandWood Retreat on Bainbridge Island, Wash., January 26. Attended by 55 participants representing 13 educational institutions and programs, 13 local, state and federal government agencies and 15 environmental organizations, the goal of the summit was to advance the citizen science community-of-practice dedicated to Puget Sound recovery and conservation.

“The conversation surrounding citizen science programs in Puget Sound – and by extension, the Salish Sea -- began in earnest a decade ago,” said PTMSC executive director Janine Boire. “Citizen science has activated thousands of people in our region to engage in research, which in turn has increased our collective understanding of the state of our marine environment.”

PTMSC Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson said: “We now have an opportunity to further develop our programs and build grassroots support for policy initiatives that are essential to solving the many challenges we face in our efforts to conserve our marine environment.”

Key findings from the summit include: 
  • Reliable data, the stock-in-trade of science, is paramount.
  • Consistent methods, the bedrock for reliable data, require conformity in project applications, sites and time.
  • To ensure robust data management, a coherent system with clarity of ownership and accessibility is fundamental.
  • Communication is crucial, from dialog in recruiting and training volunteers to keeping them in the loop when reporting results.
  • While citizen science is cost effective, it requires equipment and coordination by paid staff and has ongoing overhead costs which are most frequently funded through transitory, short-term grants. 
 The summit was funded in part by a grant from the Satterberg Foundation and organized by the PTMSC with support from numerous organizations, including the University of Washington’s Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, the Northwest Straits Commission, the U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Sea Grant and the Washington State University Extension.

The Puget Sound Citizen Science Summit 2018 Report, including proposed next steps, can be downloaded here.

Celebrate Citizen Science Day at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

The PTMSC is celebrating the nation’s annual Citizen Science Day on Saturday, April 14 with special activities at its Natural History Exhibit and Marine Exhibit at Fort Worden State Park. Visitors can take part in a BioBlitz and tour the redesigned marine exhibit, featuring a new conservation lab. For details, click here
For the latest information about the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, visit and
Also, look for #PTMSC or @PTMarineScience on Twitter and Instagram. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Saturday, April 14: Celebrate Citizen Science Day at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Highlights include BioBlitz and redesigned Marine Exhibit

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is celebrating the nation’s annual Citizen Science Day on Saturday, April 14 with special activities at its Natural History Exhibit and Marine Exhibit at Fort Worden State Park. Visitors can take part in a BioBlitz and tour the redesigned marine exhibit, featuring a new conservation lab. 

The BioBlitz will take place at the Natural History Exhibit from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Our BioBlitz is a fun and intensive study to catalog every living species we can find around the PTMSC and Fort Worden in a single day,” said PTMSC Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson. “We’ll look for birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, trees, flowers, grasses and more. People of all ages and skill levels are welcome.”

Bioblitz participants will download the free iNaturalist app and create an account before arriving. Observations can be made during the event with a smart phone or with a camera that can upload photos afterward. More details at

Due to limited space for the BioBlitz, please RSVP to AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston at There is no admission fee, but donations are encouraged.

From noon to 5 p.m., the PTMSC will be showcasing its redesigned Marine Exhibit on the pier, featuring an all-new conservation lab. PTMSC members are admitted free. For other, the admission fee is $5 for adults and $3 for youths ages 6-17. Children under 6 are free.

“With the help of an ALEA [Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account] grant from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, our visitors will get an even better understanding of the nearshore habitats of the Salish Sea and their importance to human and animals alike,” said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. “As a result, our staff and volunteers have been hard at work during the winter months improving our popular live plant and animal displays.

“We are especially proud of our new conservation lab, which functions as a citizen science demo area and exhibit,” said Boire.

Visitors to the Marine Exhibit will learn about four nearshore habitats -- eelgrass, kelp forest, oyster bed and rocky subtidal -- when interacting with the marine science center's popular tidepool touch tanks and aquarium exhibits. And the newly built conservation lab showcases citizen science projects and programs.

Support for citizen science is a key tenet of the PTMSC mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea. Over 3,500 citizens have engaged in nearly 40 projects over a period of 22 years. Popular programs include SoundToxins, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sea Star Monitoring, the Puget Sound Seabird Survey, the Ocean Acidification Study and Beach Environmental Assessment. Download the 2016 report here.

Because April 14 is a Washington State Parks Free Day, there is no charge to enter Fort Worden State Park and vehicle parking is free at both marine exhibits.

For the latest information about the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, visit and Also, look for #PTMSC and #SalishSea or @PTMarineScience on Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Summer Camps 2018

Join us for a wet, sandy, adventurous, fun-filled week! Check out 2018 camps at

Online Registration:
To register your child for a PTMSC Summer Camp, please click on one of the camps below. You will be directed to the online registration form. Fill out this form once for each child per camp. Payment in full is requested upon completion of the online registration form.

PTMSC members receive $10 off each registration (use promo code MEMBER when registering). If you are not yet a member, we invite you to join today to enjoy this and many other members-only benefits!

Seal Pups Day Camp: 

Ages 3 - 4 | $100

Explore and learn about the beach and sea creatures. Activities will enhance the natural curiosity and vivid imagination of this age group. Campers will spend time outdoors and at the touch tanks with trained and attentive counselors.

Junior Explorers Day Camp: 

Ages 5 - 7 | $160

Spend a week exploring and discovering marine and coastal life, animals, plants, and secret spots. This half-day camp is all about fun, with activities in and around the Marine Science Center. It’s a great program for the younger camper who loves marine animals and exploring on the coast.

Coastal Explorers Day Camp:

Ages 8 - 9 | $285

Ready, set, explore! Examine the varied coastal environments of beach, glacial bluff, forest, pond, and meadow. This is the perfect camp for nature-loving kids who want to explore it all! Using observation skills, campers discover how these places support life in the coastal ecosystem.

Marine Biology Day Camp:

Ages 10 - 12 | $285

Immerse yourself in Marine Biology! Campers engage in exciting classes, labs, and field programs. A few of the many captivating activities include: sieving through goopy sediments looking for brittle stars, pulling a seine net through eelgrass beds to learn where young fish hide and using microscopes to observe the plankton that supports all life in the sea.

Marine Biology Afoot & Afloat:

Ages 11 - 13 | $415

Calling all budding Marine Biologists! This camp takes marine biology skills to the next level through hands-on activities. Students sail aboard Northwest Maritime Center vessels while doing scientific investigations. Ashore, students participate in intertidal surveys and labs in the touch tanks and exhibits. Campers work together as a team while learning to be stewards of the marine environment.


If you have questions about any aspect of camp, please email us at or call us at 360-385-5582 ext 120.

Scholarships are available to those who qualify.

PTMSC Cancellation Policy for Day Camp:

In the event that you can’t make it to camp, PTMSC is happy to refund 75% of the full cost of camp retaining a 25% cancellation fee provided the cancellation request is made at least 30 days prior to the start of camp. After that date, no refunds are made.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Maui Mamas

Last month, the day before I was set to travel to Maui for a vacation with my parents, I saw a post on Facebook shared by the Orca Network saying that “Big Mama,” a well-known humpback whale who visits the Salish Sea, was just spotted near Lahaina Maui.

A few days later I found myself on a whale watching boat leaving from… you guessed it: Lahaina Maui! I had never seen whales from a boat and was buzzing with anticipation.

Photo by John Evanston

We couldn’t have been on the water for more than 10 minutes when we saw our first spout. We headed towards it, slowing to a stop a little more than 100 yards away -- which was as close as we could legally get to the whales. We saw a humpback whale breach once with a big splash, and then again.

After the second splash, out of the corner of my eye I saw something else: a little pickle shaped body, less than half the size of our first whale, breaching to my right. It breached once, then twice just like its mama. It had to be the cutest little whale I had ever seen!

Photo by Lily Evanston

The boat captain made fun of my mother and me for calling the baby “cute” and “little” because, of course, it was actually about three times my height.

After the show, the mother and calf swam closer together and came to inspect the humans, swimming right under our boat.

Photo by Lily Evanston

The interpreters on the boat didn’t identify the whales we saw, but on my trip I must have seen around 5 pairs of mother and baby humpback whales, and I like to think that one of those mamas may have been the one that people know in the Salish Sea as “Big Mama.”

These humpback whales spend their winters in Hawaii and their summers in Alaska, so we get to see some of them in the Salish Sea during their migration in the spring and fall. It is so amazing to me that these huge animals make this epic journey every year. I thought my travels were exhausting and I only had to take a shuttle from Silverdale to SeaTac and then nap on a plane.

I am honored that I got to encounter these majestic mamas in their winter waters. Now that spring has sprung in the Salish Sea, I’ll have to get out and see if I can find any familiar flukes!

Photo by John Evanston

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Come Dream with Us!

This year's Tides of March Benefit Dinner and Auction celebrates a Salish Sea Reverie at The Commons at Fort Worden State Park.

Join the camaraderie on Saturday, March 17, starting at 5:00 p.m., as we raise funds to support the mission of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center: Inspiring Conservation of the Salish Sea!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Kelp Kelp Kelp!

When we think of a forest, a few things come to mind. Many of us think of trees, plants, animals and, massive amounts of biodiversity. Forests are highly productive ecosystems on land. However, forests exist in the sea as well.

Kelp forests are important ocean ecosystems which exist along coasts all over the world. Here in the Salish Sea we have these forests around us, as well. Just as the forests on land provide habitat, these ecosystems also provide habitat, food, and shelter for many marine species.

The Salish Sea has two types of canopy-forming kelp: giant kelp and bull kelp. Giant kelp grows on the western coast of Washington down to Baja California. It doesn’t extend past the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Giant kelp has a different anatomy than bull kelp and its forests are where you find sea otters.

Giant Kelp (

Bull kelp grows in the Salish Sea, as well as the west coast, and you’ve probably seen it washed up on the beaches around Port Townsend. It is part of an ecosystem that plays an important role in keeping the Salish Sea so productive.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Volunteer Information Session

Saturday | February 10 | 10 am - noon

Natural History Exhibit Classroom

Do you know someone interested in learning about volunteer opportunities with the Marine Science Center? Please let them know about our volunteer orientation! 

If they have any questions or to RSVP, they can contact Gabriele at You can also share the link to our website page on Volunteering at PTMSC. Thank you!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Harbor to Harbor Beach Clean Up

Saturday, February 24th 9-11:30am

Cleanup starts and end behind Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.
Bring your own gloves! 
Hosted by NWMC/OCEAN Program

Friday, February 2, 2018

Low Tide Walk at Night, Monday, February 26, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

When: Monday, February 26, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Low tide @ 7:11p.m. (-1.5 ft.)

Where: North Beach County Park, Port Townsend

Cost: FREE (donations accepted)

What: Find out what marine critters get up to after dark!

How: Join us for a guided low tide walk led by PTMSC staff and volunteers.

Bring: Weather-appropriate clothing, flashlight and/or headlamp!

Please RSVP to James Swanson
at or
call (360) 385-5582 x 115

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Port Townsend Marine Science Center offers admission by donation to Natural History Exhibit

Pilot program will run through March 25

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center announced today it is offering "admission by donation" to the Natural History Exhibit through March 25. The exhibit, which features "Learning From Orcas: The Story of Hope," is open Friday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m., with last admission at 4 p.m.

PTMSC Natural History Exhibit featuring "Learning From Orcas: The Story of Hope,

about a transient female orca that beached and died locally in 2002.

"We would all like to see more visitors in the Natural History Exhibit, especially this time of year," said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. "Because we want to serve people from all walks of life, our admission pricing is already low, but even this can be a barrier for some visitors to Fort Worden State Park and from our community.

"We are hoping that this test period between now and the end of March will provide information about how we can best serve our community and visitors alike," Boire said.

Monday, January 22, 2018

6th Annual Martin Luther King Day Weed Pull

“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.”

Volunteers pulling invasive species and Himalayan blackberries.
Photo by Wendy Feltham 

The past month or so, the other AmeriCorps and I have been planning the 6th annual weed pull for Martin Luther King Day. Last Monday we finally got to see all our hard work come together and it turned out great!

MLK Day is a day of giving back and serving your community. In partnership with AmeriCorps and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, we were able to bring 48 people from the community together and fill three very large trucks with invasive dune grass and Himalayan blackberries from the beaches here at Fort Worden. 

Sea Scout using all his strength against blackberry bush.
Photo by Wendy Feltham 
I woke up Monday morning to a beautiful sunrise and no rain in sight, lucky for us... Around 9 a.m., all the AmeriCorps began our set up and run-through for the day.

Monday, January 15, 2018

University of Washington's E. Virginia Armbrust is lecturer at Port Townsend Marine Science Center's Future of Oceans Series, Sunday, Feb. 11, 3 p.m.

School of Oceanography director to discuss phytoplankton in a changing ocean climate

Admission: $5 (students, teachers free)

E. Virginia Armbrust, Ph.D., Director of School of
Oceanography at the University of Washington
E. Virginia Armbrust, Ph.D., director of the University of Washington School of Oceanography, will be the featured speaker in the fifth and final installment of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's 2017-18 series, "The Future of Oceans."

Armbrust's lecture, "Phytoplankton in a Changing Ocean Climate," will take place at the Chapel at Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Wash., on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 3:00 p.m.

"Dr. Armbrust is known for her innovative approach to oceanography," said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. "While her research focuses on the micro-world of phytoplankton, the implications of her work have an important global reach. These tiny organisms create much of the oxygen in our atmosphere. In her lecture she'll be sharing how the rapidly changing ocean climate impacts this microscopic life form."

Most recently, Armbrust has identified chemical signals that form the basis of cross-kingdom communication. Her group developed ship-board instrumentation that now permits the fine-scale continuous mapping of distributions, growth rates and loss rates of different groups of phytoplankton.

"Dr. Armbrust's research focuses on marine phytoplankton, particularly marine diatoms, which are responsible for about 20 percent of global photosynthesis," said Boire. "She has pioneered the use of environmental genomics and transcriptomics, combined with metabolomics, to understand how natural diatom communities are shaped by the environment and by their interactions with other microbes."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Getting my Ducks in a Row

I’ve been serving as the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for three and a half months now, so I’m starting to settle into some familiar patterns surrounded by familiar faces (or beaks for the purposes of this blog).

I’ve gotten used to walking out on the pier every day and sending groups of pigeons scattering in every direction. I’m used to seeing a kingfisher perched on the corner of the pier, or seeing a bald eagle flying over the water being harassed by gulls. I love seeing the cormorant perched on a buoy with its wings spread out to dry, and it’s always a special treat when the great blue heron takes off from the shore squawking like a little pterodactyl.

Bald eagle on the pier

Great blue heron on floating kelp

 So naturally I was intrigued when I noticed some fresh faces one afternoon on my walk up the pier. They were a group of ducks who had rusty brown heads with a crest at the back. I excitedly went into the Marine Exhibit and asked a volunteer docent if she knew what kind of birds they were and she told me they were red-breasted mergansers (I learn so much from our volunteers!). I did some research and found that they are joining us for the winter after spending the summer breeding further north.

Red-breasted merganser photo by Wendy Feltham

I don’t usually pay much attention to the birds on the water as I’m not familiar with many of them and I find it hard to get a good enough look to make an ID. 

The red-breasted mergansers have been an exception to this because they have been consistently hanging out very close to the pier in a big group and I love the silhouette of their shaggy crested heads. I am beginning to get used to their presence, greeting them with all the other wonderful birds on my walk down the pier. 

They have inspired me to be more curious and want to learn more about the other waterfowl in the area!

Group of red-breasted mergansers, photo by Wendy Feltham

For more, an info graphic that shows the range of the red breasted merganser, and how it may be impacted by climate change:

Written by AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Otterly Fascinating Skeleton Articulation

Articulation is the process of re-assembling an animal’s skeleton: bone-by-bone, joint-by-joint. 

Articulated skeletons provide an invaluable educational tool as they reveal much about an animal's form, function, behavior, and adaptations. Museum collections are a resource for educators, artists, and scientists.

PTMSC’s articulated orca skeleton, Hope, on display in our Natural History Exhibit, is a great example! We have learned so much about her life and death from her bones.

Last year while volunteering at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, I assisted with the articulation of a sea otter skeleton.

Illustration by Master Articulator, Lee Post, Small Mammal Manuel Manuscript

Under the tutelage of skilled museum staff, I sorted the skeleton left from right, front from rear, and began piecing together all of the many hand and foot bones. I then drilled tiny holes into the ends of the bones where they jointed with neighboring bones. Wire was inserted and glued into the drilled holes to hold everything together.