Monday, April 30, 2018

Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s marine mammal programs in 2018

Throughout the 2018 GiveBig campaign, we are sharing the inspiring stories of the PTMSC’s support for marine mammals. Plan your donation now to support place-based, people powered, hands-on learning at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Knowledge is power, and together we can inspire even more people to conserve the Salish Sea!

Libby Palmer and Judy D'Amore at the Aquarium, circa 1983.
Since its founding in 1982 by Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center has been actively involved with the creation of programs that foster the health and well-being of marine mammals. In 2018, that commitment takes many forms.

Perhaps the best-known program supported by the PTMSC is the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration following the passage of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, the MMSN program is robust and boasts support from many citizen scientists.

The PTMSC-supported MMSN covers over 100 miles of Washington shoreline from Brinnon to Diamond Point. A stranded marine mammal may be dead onshore or floating in the water, alive but injured or unable to return the water, or alive but unable to return to its natural habitat without assistance. Staff and volunteers respond to stranding reports phoned in to a hotline, keeping shoreline users at a safe distance and collecting data from dead animals. 

Statistics for 2017 are still being assembled but the network received 141 calls in 2016, and a record of 192 calls in 2014. (The number of calls does not match the number of strandings because multiple reports can come in for one stranded animal.) The highest volume of calls occurs during July and August. Harbor seals account for approximately 3/4 of reported strandings and, of those, 70 percent are seal pups. (In the wild, only 50 percent of harbor seal pups survive.) More information is available here.

The PTMSC’s established role and capacity in the MMSN was responsible for the organization’s involvement in the 2016 effort to recover the skeleton of a female gray whale. PTMSC and AmeriCorps staff and a number of volunteers assisted in the subsequent necropsy and prepared the carcass for controlled decomposition. The skeleton will be articulated for educational use in PTMSC classes and exhibits, providing insights into the environmental threats affecting gray whales. 

PTMSC staff, AmeriCorps and volunteers hard at work preparing the gray whale carcass. 

Harbor porpoise monitoring is another citizen science program supported at the PTMSC. The second smallest porpoise in the world, harbor porpoises were once considered the most commonly spotted cetacean in Puget Sound. Their numbers dropped dramatically and by 1970 the species had all but disappeared. In 2015-16, the PTMSC teamed up with the Pacific Biodiversity Institute for an acoustic monitoring study, deploying a crew of volunteers to count the number of harbor porpoises and boats seen off of the Fort Worden pier. Spotting data is currently being correlated to acoustic data and, while final results are not yet available, preliminary findings suggest that fewer harbor porpoises are observed when motorized boat traffic is present. 

Harbor porpoise monitoring

The PTMSC maintains an active education effort about marine mammals, starting with its website where seals, sea lions, porpoises, whales and otters are described. And the “Toxics Project” provides online education and resources explaining how chemicals, some of which have been banned over 30 years, are still present in the marine environment and causing great harm, particularly to apex predators. The Story of Hope, a female orca whose articulated skeleton now hangs in the Museum, was the genesis for this project.

Classroom instruction and field observation are also taught in PTMSC school programs and at youth summer camps.

“Introduction to Marine Mammals” is a 90-minute program offered to youths in 4th grade and above (including adults). The class defines characteristics of marine mammals and investigates marine adaptations using photos, videos, bones, and pelts. Working in small groups, participants examine, make observations and sketch multiple marine mammal skulls.

The “Gray Whale” class, offered to the same age groups, teaches students about the biology and adaptations of gray whales. Participants learn about the gray whale’s life cycle, natural history, feeding behavior and migration route north and south along the West Coast. Students also assemble the complete skeleton of a juvenile gray whale recovered by PTMSC volunteers in 1999.  

PTMSC lecture-series speaker Dave Bonnett,
"The Sonic World of the Amazonian Pink Dolphin."
The PTMSC lecture series, “The Future of Oceans,” offered in the fall and winter, also advances marine mammal education in the community. During the 2017-18 season, attendees learned about “The Sonic World of the Amazonian Pink Dolphin.”

Finally, while wildlife cruises to the federal Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge spotlight breeding populations of seabirds and shorebirds, it is common for participants to view elephant seals and sea lions basking on the island’s shoreline. Harbor seals also depend upon the island for a pupping and rest area. Naturalists who accompany the cruises provide expert commentary on the habits of these marine mammals and their importance on the island’s ecosystem. 

Wildlife cruises to Protection Island offered in partnership with Puget Sound Express.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Citizen Science Day Success

April 14 was Citizen Science Day. It was a day to celebrate all things citizen science, and this year, we at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center decided to celebrate with an iNaturalist BioBlitz at Fort Worden State Park.

Photo by Wendy Feltham 

iNaturalist is a social network for naturalists, a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. It is a great application that can be used for citizen science projects, to generate species guides, and to help people learn more about -- and connect to -- the natural life they encounter every day.

Photo by Wendy Feltham 

A BioBlitz is an intensive 24-hour study of biodiversity in a specific location. On Citizen Science Day, we spent the day outside around Fort Worden State Park looking for and recording birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, trees, flowers, grasses and more.

Photo by Wendy Feltham 

We invited the community to come join us, and about 40 people showed up to the event. For folks that couldn’t make it out in person, we also needed help identifying the species we observed. So far, 65 people have helped us identify our species online on iNaturalist. We have made 713 observations including 178 different species. The species number will continue to change as additional IDs are made.

Photo by Wendy Feltham 

As the event organizer, one of my goals for the event was engaging new people who may not have an interest or the time to be involved in our ongoing citizen science projects. With this in mind, I reached out to a few high school groups.

Brandi Hageman, a science teacher at Port Townsend High School, encouraged her students to participate in our BioBlitz and 26 of those students ended up attending. I was very pleased with this turn out because I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to engage high school students in citizen science during my time as the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator.

Some of our participants brought bags to get garbage off the beach
Photo by Wendy Feltham 

Citizen science is an empowering experience and an iNaturalist BioBlitz is an excellent activity for people of all ages. It is an appealing excuse to look closer at the natural life around us and can hold the attention of folks who are socially and/or technologically oriented.

Photo by Wendy Feltham 

Personally, the BioBlitz helped me learn a lot about the plants and animals around Fort Worden, including afterwards while looking at all the organisms that were observed. If you are interested in learning more about what we found, you can check out our project page at

One of the special things participants observed were these by-the-wind sailors 
Photo by Betsy Carlson
Now that Fort Worden is a designated place on iNaturalist, we can continue to add to the species guide we began on Citizen Science Day.  So, it’s not too late to create an account and get out there and make some observations yourself!

Written by PTMSC AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator Lily Evanston 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Magnificence of Marine Mammals, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Throughout the 1990s, whales generated increasing interest among the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s members and supporters. In the Fall 1997 Octopress newsletter, docent Chuck Louch contributed a fascinating account of humpback whales lunge feeding in Frederick Sound during a boating trip he took along Alaska's Inland Passage. One year later, Louch wrote an informative essay about the echolation patterns of resident and transient orcas.

Echolation patterns of resident and transient orcas,
Fall 1998 Octopress

In the Fall 1999 Octopress, PTMSC Volunteer Coordinator Anna Bachmann described the organization’s first foray into flensing (the practice of removing tissue from the skeleton of a carcass). A deceased 25-foot gray whale had washed ashore on a beach facing Protection Island on July 5. It was one of dozens of gray whales that washed up on Puget Sound beaches that summer for reasons unknown.

On Aug. 8, with the permission and supervision of the appropriate state and federal agencies, a crew of 20 volunteers, swathed in rubber gear and armed with an assortment of carving knives -- even a machete -- made their way to the young whale's remains. Their mission was to remove and bag up all the bones for further cleaning. The whale was so advanced in its decay that the bones were almost falling out and, in just five hours, the primary job was done.
The bones were then sown into net bags and submerged to allow shrimp, crab and other detritus eaters to clean the remaining flesh away. After coating the bones in a protective “glue,” they became an integral part of the PTMSC’s classroom display in the Museum, where they are still used today in for education purposes.

During the 2012 rollout of “The Story of Hope,”described in Part 1 of this blog, the PTMSC launched “Whales of the Salish Sea,” a 3-day education program piloted with Port Townsend School District 5th graders in 2011, and still offered today as part of the Maritime Discovery Schools initiative. The Winter 2012-13 Octopress explained:

Students were immersed in orca education for three days, learning about plankton, marine food webs, orca communities, marine mammals, and more. Students engaged in classes which pushed them to think differently, ask questions, and form conclusions, much like real scientists. In the program’s final day, students used forensic techniques to determine the demise of PTMSC’s orca “Hope” and participated in a mock town hall meeting about tidal turbines in Admiralty Inlet... The experience equips students to participate in important decisions about their local environment and seek careers in science fields.

Winter 2012-13 Octopress

In that same issue, Octopress editors took pride in announcing that, for the seventh year, the “Free Science Classes” program would be offered to cash-strapped schools to bring a total of over 700 students to thePTMSC for hands-on, interactive, place-based science education to help students meet the state’s learning standards. The class topics in 2012-3, thanks to generous donors and sponsors, were: “Marine Mammals: Form, Function and Food” and “The Diverse Ecosystems of the Salish Sea.”

If it seems the PTMSC cannot get enough of whales, look no further for validation than the most recent skeleton articulation project on tap. In April 2016, a juvenile female gray whale in distress was repeatedly sighted in central Puget Sound and eventually died. The whale’s carcass was towed to a site on Indian Island provided by the U.S. Navy. PTMSC and AmeriCorps staff and a number of volunteers assisted in the subsequent necropsy and prepared the carcass for controlled decomposition. The PTMSC plans to articulate the skeleton for educational use in its classes and exhibits, providing insights into the environmental threats affecting gray whales.

2016 Gray Whale Project
Today, ocean debris – particularly plastic – is a major focus of marine conservation efforts around the world. PTMSC was a front-runner in this effort, already calling out this emerging issue, as noted in the Spring-Summer 1988 Octopress edition. Titled “Trash in the Ocean,” the feature said:

The litter of plastic trash, becoming commonplace on even our most remote beaches, poses a serious threat to wildlife, which fortunately is gaining some much-needed attention. Heartbreaking images of birds and mammals entangled in our familiar misplaced trash are beginning to reach us all, reminding us of the tragic effects of our society's carelessness with its wastes... Our recent love affair with cheap, convenient, non-recyclable products has had enormous unseen costs, only one of which is the problem of the pollution of the marine environment.

The newsletter noted that nearby residents are already taking positive steps.

Locally, the City of Port Townsend and Jefferson County sponsored a Spring Clean-up Rally from April 16-31st. Volunteers of all ages from numerous community groups hit the roads, parks and beaches with trash bags, in what will hopefully become a yearly event.

Indeed, the event is now part of the annual Port Townsend Earth Day Beach Clean Up, sponsored by the PTMSC and Washington Coastsavers in support of International Coastal Clean-Up Day.

Harbor seals and elephant seals were the focus of a newsletter feature written by Addington-MacDonald in the Summer 1995 Octopress. Noting that harbor seals are year-round residents of the Salish Sea, she wrote:

Last year, however, we were visited by two migrating Northern Elephant seals... Elephant seals molt every summer. They haul out (come ashore) to shed skin and fur in patches. They do not eat during the molting, which takes about three weeks. The ill look is normal. They rest on shore and cool off in water. Water quality and biological conditions may cause a molting Elephant seal to haul out in unusual places. It was remarkable to see one hauled out at Ft. Worden since they generally prefer more remote islands and the outer coast. A very young seal, like the one we observed molting here, may not know the rules yet.

Northern elephant seal, "Buddy." 

While unusual, there would be more opportunities in the coming years to educate Port Townsend’s residents about elephant seals. Danae Presler, the AmeriCorps MMSN educator working at PTMSC in the spring of 2013, described how residents of a downtown apartment complex were startled to find a 400-pound seal on their back patio, in this PTMSC blog posting.

The episode was also artfully documented in the video “Port Townsend Marine Science Center - The Link to Action.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Magnificence of Marine Mammals, Part 1

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has a long history of supporting marine mammal education and protection, as well as advocating for programs and policies that safeguard their health and well-being. Octopress-- the PTMSC newsletter started several years after the non-profit was founded by Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer – provides a wealth of anecdotal examples.

One of the first compelling stories, recorded in the Fall 1986 Octopress, concerned a stranded harbor seal pup.

Itti-Vik, a stranded harbor seal pup.
Itti-Vik, as he came to be called by a caring group of 20 PTMSC volunteers, was abandoned by his mother in early July. With no formal training on how to deal with strandings, the group placed many phone calls to area veterinarians and seal researchers in order to collect information and develop a feeding schedule. In the process, they discovered Itti-Vik had been born prematurely. Taking shifts, the team worked around the clock to rehabilitate the pup, giving him electrolytic liquids, whole herring, a fat-protein supplement, vitamins and antibiotic injections. Eventually Itti-Vik’s care was turned over to a Kingston vet who had maintained a seal rehabilitation center for a number of years.

The experience, retold in this 2012 blog post, was a tremendous learning opportunity for the PTMSC and its volunteers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had established the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN) in the early 1980s under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act, but the MMSN rollout was still underway (the Northwest network was not formalized until 1992) when Itti-Vik was found. Armed now with the procedures to properly respond to marine mammal strandings, the PTMSC leveraged this episode to become one of the earliest MMSN response organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, wild mammals living in and around the PTMSC were nothing new. River otters, though not marine mammals, made their dens in the nearby hills and frequently used the floating dock adjacent to the Marine Exhibit as a play area. When not munching on crabs and sculpins caught below, the fun-loving animals took great delight in chasing each other around the dock, and still do to this day.
River otters
The activities of the otters, along with the many varieties of marine mammals, fish and birds that inhabit the Salish Sea, were the subject of PTMSC summer school programs for youths of all ages. In fact, youth summer camps were one of the first and most enduring programs offered by the PTMSC.

An excerpt from the Fall 1990 Octopress recalled:

This summer, the Center offered two, one-week sessions of camp. We spent two very full weeks exploring the marine environment through observation and hands-on activities. These activities included beach seines, fossil hunts, tide pool exploration, expeditions up Chimacum Creek to explore wild salmon habitat, and exercises and games to help define terms like “habitat” and “observation.

The PTMSC also has a strong legacy of offering courses and lectures that provide adults in-depth knowledge about marine mammals and the ocean environment. For example, in the spring of 1996, PTMSC Educator Kay Addington-MacDonald launched a 7-week course, "Marine Birds & Mammals," that was offered through Peninsula College. The popular course was offered numerous times in the following years.

The Winter 1990 Octopress told the story of a young orca whale found dead in Alberni Inlet in Barkley Sound, located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. The dead cetacean was from the L pod (identified as L14), a teenage male 18-20 feet in length and weighing around 5,000 lbs. Although baseline levels of mercury in orcas had not been established at the time, a necropsy revealed L14 had extremely high levels of mercury in his liver and scientists suspected it was the probable cause of his death.
Orca illustration from the Winter 1990 Octopress

The account of L14’s demise was an eye-opener for the PTMSC, its supporters and the local community, revealing the many stresses—both environmental and man-made—that apex predators must withstand to survive in the Salish Sea.

The tale also foreshadowed one of the PTMSC’s most ambitious educational projects, originating with a transient female orca (CA189) that beached herself near Dungeness Spit in 2002 and died shortly thereafter. The flensing (the practice of removing tissue from the skeleton of a carcass, especially that of a whale), necropsy and subsequent skeleton articulation was a major undertaking by the PTMSC and its supporters. The Fall 2010 Octopress describes the extensive effort, including a significant campaign that eventually funded the refitting of the Museum to display the orca skeleton, named “Hope” following a community-wide naming contest.

CA189 stranded near Dungeness Spit in 2002
Hope’s skeleton, whose articulation was led by renowned “Boneman” Lee Post, is now the centerpiece of an educational display that teaches visitors how this majestic mammal lived and died. “The Story of Hope” -- including the documentation that Hope carried one of the highest loads of PCBs and DDT ever tested in a marine mammal – received extensive media coverage at the time and is described in detail in the summer and fall 2011 issues of Octopress, as well as online at the PTMSC website and blog and in the video “An Orca Named Hope.”

To be continued...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Eliza Dawson awarded $1,000 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship

Port Townsend native is a longtime Marine Science Center supporter

2018 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship
Scholarship recipient Eliza Dawson
The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce the winner of a $1,000 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship: Eliza Dawson. 

Dawson, 22, grew up in and around Port Townsend and spent many days volunteering at the PTMSC. A 2018 University of Washington graduate with a B.S. in atmospheric sciences, Dawson is undertaking an enormous challenge with three other women in June, rowing 2,400 miles from Monterey, Calif., to Honolulu in the Great Pacific Race (

A member of the UW crew in 2016 and 2017, Dawson and her teammates on Ripple Effect Rowing hope to break the world record for a women’s rowing team while simultaneously calling attention to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an enormous gyre of ocean garbage approximately 1.6 million square kilometers in size—more than double the size of Texas.

“We continue to be inspired by Eliza!” said PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire. “When she was 10, she and her younger sister were vital members of our Orca Project, preparing the bones of Hope the orca for display in our Natural History Exhibit.

“Now as a brilliant young adult, she is pushing the boundaries for herself, inspiring all of us to work even harder for healthy oceans,” Boire said. “We cheer her efforts to raise the consciousness of people everywhere about the threats to our marine environment We are honored to support her and through this challenge gift encourage others to support the Ripple Effect Rowing project.”

Dawson is raising funds and will document her journey with photos and videos on her blog,

“I will row in a 24-foot long boat with three other crewmates, completely human powered by our determination,” Dawson wrote. “My goal is to set a new world record for the fastest crossing by an all-female crew [less than 50 days] and in doing so bring attention to climate change and other environmental issues.”

The PTMSC awards the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship annually to an East Jefferson County student or graduate who embodies the values that Murphy demonstrated in her 24 years as the organization’s executive director: curiosity, wonder and love of the marine environment.

PTMSC will present Dawson’s scholarship award at a Row4Climate fundraising event at FinnRiver Cidery on April 27, 5:30 to 7 p.m. PTMSC invites others to match this award dollar-for-dollar and help Dawson reach her funding goal.

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.

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.