Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Join our Plastic Free July Challenge!!

Plastic Free July is a global movement with the goal of helping individuals refuse single use plastics! This movement provides us with the opportunity to look at what we are throwing away and see how we can do better! Join us for weekly challenges throughout the month of July and see what improvements you can make. Let’s be part of the solution, together!

How it works: Starting July 1st, challenges will be posted weekly spanning Wednesday to Wednesday. With each challenge, we will provide extra resources and community inspirations to help build your waste-free future.

We encourage you to get creative and to send us photos! Either tag us on Instagram or Facebook, or email them to us at! We want to see how you are taking on these challenges!! Let’s inspire each other!

Follow along on our Instagram, or our Facebook event Plastic Free July: PTMSC Edition!

Let’s get started!!

Week 1 (July 1st-7th): Let’s take a look…

Alright - let’s see how much plastic you throw away in a week! For this challenge, we want you to collect your weeks’ worth of plastic waste. It’s easy, just pick a corner, set it aside, and watch it grow. Next Tuesday after you have collected your plastics, fill out this google form. Our ‘experts’ at PTMSC will compile this data and analyze what we as a community struggle with in regards to waste. This will also provide a personal baseline for your own waste weaknesses and provide a focus for your lifestyle changes during Week 2!


Pro tip: To avoid smell or mess, you 
can place your plastics in a separate
sealable container.
Collect it: Start by separating all of your plastic waste this week from recyclable materials (i.e. glass/paper) and food scraps. This means things like chip bags, candy wrappers, bottles, food containers and anything else you happen to use. This also includes the plastics you would normally recycle!

Count it: At the end of the week, fill in our google form to categorize what exactly you are throwing away so that you can identify what types of plastic you come across most often.

Capture it: Have a picture of your pile of trash? Snap a #TrashieSelfie of you and your pile of trash. Share it on social media by tagging us @ptmarinescictr and using the hashtag #plasticfreeptmsc2020, or email it us at

Disclaimer: The goal isn’t to have the biggest pile but bonus points for those who get creative.

To continue our Plastic Free July Challange click here!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Home Crew Members Miss Doing Their Chores

Good memories keep them going
Home Crew hard at work in the PTMSC aquarium. Photo by staff.

I know people who get great satisfaction from scrubbing floors, keeping windows spotless, and doing other house-cleaning tasks. I’ve never been one of them.

So imagine my surprise to learn that there are people who eagerly volunteer to do such chores. On early morning shifts, no less. And that they’ve sorely missed accomplishing these tidying tasks during Washington state’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy shutdown.

These dedicated cleaners are the 16 or so members of the Home Crew at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Aquarium. Before the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, a team of seven to nine people would arrive every week at the aquarium doors on Monday and Friday mornings. They worked a two-hour shift each session, performing an average of eight shifts per month for a grand total of about 112 hours of work per month.

The Home Crew cleaners don long-cuffed rubber gloves to protect themselves from the cold of the salt water, which is drawn from Puget Sound with minimal filtering.

“Since all of the water inflow comes directly from below, if the sea is very rough or at super low tides the tanks can get quite silty,” says Janette Mestre, a relative newcomer to the job who joined the Home Crew team in the autumn of 2019. “We scrub interior tank walls of algae, vacuum crud off the bottom and in the water column, and remove build up of algae, kelp debris, creature waste, and silt from the tank floor and rocks.”

Jan North takes a quick break to appreciate her work in home crew. Staff photo.

Dana Africa, who has been on the Home Crew for about five years, said they get to know the inhabitants of the tanks and, as they clean, they also inspect the animals and note any injuries, whether a female is gravid, and other health changes.

“People are generally assigned a tank," Africa says. "It may not be the same tank every week, but people tend to do the same ones.”

Dana Africa, home crew volunteer. Staff photo.
Dealing with leaks, low water levels, overflows, and fouled siphon tubes can be tricky and extra time-consuming.

Much of the crew’s work involves removing layers of algae, which grows especially abundantly in the summer sun, by scrubbing and scraping the interior of acrylic tanks. But acrylic scratches easily, and the scratches can impair the view into the tank.

“Trying to get an old, well-established algae rim formed at the bottom edge of tanks off the acrylic without scratching it” is Africa’s least-favorite job.

On the other hand, she loves siphoning, the technique used to “vacuum” debris out of the sand and gravel in the bottom of the tanks.

"Siphoning is so satisfying! I most miss the mornings I come in to clean and feed the abalone babies," she says. "I’m in a separate space, and as I siphon there is a calming sensation in me. My thoughts run to all sorts of places I don’t usually take time to explore. Abalone are strange little people — I adore their tenacity and fabulous shells.”

The work of the Home Crew is not entirely without stress.

“We have a very popular unusual little fish, the grunt sculpin, and while we now have two, for a long time there was just one, and they’re quite elusive and hard to capture," says Mestre. "After seeing it in the tank [I was siphoning] and then not finding it after finishing, I spent a very nervous weekend thinking I had sucked it up without seeing it. Happily it reappeared from it’s hiding place by Monday!”

But Home Crew work also has its rewards.

“One morning there were eight of us all diligently cleaning when someone said, ‘Look! Eleanora [the giant Pacific octopus that lived in the central tank for much of 2018] is out of her hideout!’" Africa recalls. Within a minute all of us circled her tank as she displayed all of her spectacular moves. She went the full circle so everyone got a show and some eye contact. All chores were forgotten as we, as one, were completely blown away.”

Katherine Jensen (left) & Betty Petrie. Staff photo.
“Getting to constantly learn new things and become more aware of the local marine environment is a pleasure," Mestre says. "And the excitement of the staff for what they’re doing is infectious,” Janette adds. “I miss just being there, seeing the constant changes in tank dynamics, and the camaraderie of the crew.

"I have been really impressed by the quality of the facility and exhibits for a small nonprofit like this," she adds. "They do a huge job with what they have available, and I think it must be quite difficult to maintain everything and keep all the animals healthy with the skeleton crew.”

When pandemic conditions allow it, both volunteers plan to return to their tasks.

“I definitely plan to resume at the MSC. Can’t wait,” Africa says. “I’m ready to get excited about things again.”

Since the pandemic began, all the work usually done by the Home Crew has fallen largely to Aquarium Curator Ali Redman, with backup from AmeriCorps Member Marley Loomis. We’ll check in with them soon.

Written by PTMSC Volunteer Jenna Kinghorn.

Monday, June 22, 2020

PTMSC Peek of the Week!

Every Thursday at 2 PM

PTMSC Peek of the Week will feature a live Facebook video each week at the same time featuring something interesting happening around PTMSC.

Follow us on Facebook and receive alerts to this and other future events! 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Anika Pearl Hart Avelino awarded 2020 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship

$1,500 scholarship presented at Port Townsend High School ceremony

Port Townsend High School student Anika Pearl Hart Avelino was awarded the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship at a ceremony on June 8. The $1,500 scholarship is sponsored by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Avelino has been caring for salmon since grade school, when she helped maintain her school’s aquarium for salmon releases into the Quilcene River. In middle school, she was monitoring the return of adult salmon with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition. Currently she is an intern with the Clallam Marine Resource Committee, surveying smolt salmon and other fish species in Tumwater Creek in Port Angeles.

Avelino plans to attend Western Washington University-Huxley College of the Environment in the fall.

“I would love it if more of my life was dedicated to marine and freshwater species conservation,” Avelino said. “Through my internship with salmon—a crucial keystone species—I have again realized how much I enjoy being outdoors, especially when I get to learn about what role different flora and fauna play in the natural world. I hope that I get to work with more species so I can learn more about what is needed to preserve a healthy ecosystem.”

Avelino also trained to be a docent at the PTMSC Aquarium, volunteered for several of the PTMSC’s Earth Day beach cleanups and organized two community beach cleanups on her own. She was a crew leader for a Northwest Watershed Institute tree plantathon and volunteered with the Jefferson Land Trust to remove invasive weeds.

“I try to live an environmental lifestyle in my everyday life, whether this be working to reduce waste from the household, minimize my carbon footprint or reusing and recycling as much as possible,” she said. “I also love to appreciate the environment by exploring and observing the natural world.”

About the Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship
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.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Orca Skeleton ARTiculation!

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center created Orca ARTiculation. The community-oriented project allowed supporters to use their artistic skills to recreate the skeleton of “Hope,” the transient orca whose articulated bones are suspended from the ceiling of the PTMSC Museum. 

Notably, the project was undertaken during the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, which closed the Museum and Aquarium and imposed strict social-distancing measures.

Orca ARTiculation was spearheaded by AmeriCorps Natural History Educator Ellie Kravets. 

"I love looking for opportunities for people to take some aspect of the greater Salish Sea ecosystem and make it their own,” Ellie said. “At the PTMSC, we have this incredible resource in the Orca Bone Atlas to bring one part of our unique ecosystem right into our homes.” 

Starting on April 20, Ellie began sending emails to registrants with line art files of specific orca bones. 

“We encourage you to get creative with your bones!” Ellie wrote. “Feel free to print out our image files and color them, paint them digitally, or recreate your bones in the real world using found or recycled materials. The possibilities are endless - we can’t wait to see what you create!”

The instructions explained that completed bone art should be placed in front of a solid, contrasting background – such as a floor, wall, or curtain – and one or more photos should be taken at roughly the same angle as depicted in the original line art. Participants were asked to make sure all the images were well lit and in focus, without any dramatic shadows or moody ambiance. 

Following these steps allowed Ellie to compile the completed images and rearticulate the orca digitally for all to enjoy.

“I hope this project sparks curiosity in our participants, and I’m so excited to see the results," Ellie said as the May 31 deadline approached. 

Now completed, the Orca ARTiculation project is featured on the PTMSC website to further educate viewers about the story of Hope: her life, her stranding and how her skeleton came to the Museum.  

Friday, May 22, 2020

Seeking Environmental Educators for 2020-2021 AmeriCorps Term!

Seeking Environmental Educators for 2020-2021 AmeriCorps Term!
Join our fast-paced, fun organization and support our mission:
Inspiring Conservation of the Salish Sea

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) is seeking four Environmental Educator AmeriCorps Members to join our team dedicated to conserving the Salish Sea. These are full-time 10 ½ month positions starting October 1, 2020. These stipend-supported positions are sponsored by the Washington Service Corps AmeriCorps program. These positions are contingent upon funding. 

See the Recruitment Flyer for more information including position descriptions and application instructions. 

PRIORITY DEADLINE: June 12th, 2020

Virtual Low Tide Walk Events

Join us (remotely) for a series of online streaming Low Tide Walk events! Instead of our usual public programs, we’re going to be hosting a social-distancing friendly version. You can participate from home via social media during the scheduled event time, or visit a local tide pooling spot near you (while following current social distancing and recreation safety guidelines) for a self-guided experience. 

  • Tuesday May 26th:
    Low of -1.8 ft @ 1:09pm (posting time: ~12:30pm - 1:30pm)
  • Sunday June 7th:
    Low of -2.9 ft @ 11:40am (posting time: ~11:15am - 12:15pm)
  • Sunday July 5th:
    Low of -2.7 ft @ 10:40am (posting time: ~10:00am - 11:00am)

Staying home? Tune in to the Stories on our Instagram page @ptmarinescictr during the scheduled program time for broadcasts from local tidepools. Stories are visible from your mobile device or web browser if you’re logged in to Instagram; stories are visible for 24 hours after being posted, and will be saved as Highlights after that. 

Going out? Here’s a list of some local beach access/tide pooling spots - choose one close to you and make sure to follow current social distancing guidelines if you do go out. Have a back-up location in mind in case you arrive to a full or crowded parking lot (even better, walk or bike in). Remember to Leave No Trace! Take only pictures, pack out your trash if receptacles are full or unavailable. Keep in mind that in many places, restrooms are closed.   
State parks are currently open to local day-use only.  
Jefferson county parks and trails are open except: campgrounds, playgrounds, sport courts, and restrooms. 
-Fort Worden State Park (Discover Pass required)
-North Beach County Park (head either direction from parking lot)
-Boat Haven beach (limited parking at Larry Scott trailhead)
-Fort Townsend State Park (Discover Pass required)
-Fort Flagler State Park (Discover Pass required)
-Indian Island County Park (limited parking)
-Point Hudson (limited parking)

Here’s a guide on Tidepool Etiquette so you can observe good manners while you’re in the home of intertidal animals and keep them (and yourself) safe. If you find something interesting while you’re tidepooling, you can share it and tag us if you have any questions (@ptmarinescictr on Instagram). You can also post photos of animals, plants, or unknown living things to iNaturalist for identification from the community.

If you have children in your household, here’s a Tidepooling Scavenger Hunt activity to try while you’re out! 

Tide pooling at Kinzie Beach in Fort Worden State Park

Monday, May 4, 2020

LIVE From The Aquarium

In our aquarium, spring is in the air: there's new creatures in our tanks. Our aquarium curator Ali Redman will guide you through the tanks on a personalized tour!
Even though our aquarium is closed to the public, we can still bring the aquarium happenings to you with Facebook Live!
Part of our GiveBIG 2020 Fundraising Campaign to raise $20K to support our mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship

Accepting applications for the annual Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship Scholarship
Please share this information!

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce the annual $1,500 Anne Murphy Ocean Stewardship scholarship for a graduating East Jefferson county senior.
Applicants should be graduating seniors from a public or private school, or a home-schooled student who expects to complete high school level instruction by June 2020.  The person who wins this scholarship will be selected on the basis of his or her demonstrated interest in science and the environment. Having volunteered on behalf of education about or conservation of the Salish Sea is especially desirable, particularly at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. The scholarship may be used for tuition, books, or living expenses while pursuing higher education.

To apply for the scholarship, please go to and search for "Anne Murphy Ocean Stewards Scholarship". Questions, please contact Liesl Slabaugh, Development and Marketing Director, at or 385-5582 x101.

Applications are due by May 22, 2020. The winner will be selected and notified by May 30.  The award will be given at the school’s award ceremony or another event TBD.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Nature Break: Sound Mapping

If you’re looking for a reason to get outside (and learn something new at the same time) nature journaling is a great way to get started! We’re going to be posting prompts and ideas for journaling each week and encourage you to follow along and share what you create.  

Everyone’s heard the advice to stop and smell the roses but what about stopping and listening to the sounds of nature and your neighborhood? You might be surprised at what you hear when you focus on just one sense! Making a sound map can be a great way to keep track of what’s in the environment around you. What might be something nearby that you can hear, but not see?

Try this: divide your page into four equal sections, with yourself at the middle. You can label your quadrants like a compass if you know which way is North; or mark your orientation with landmarks you choose. Set a timer for a brief listening period (try one minute) while you close your eyes and focus on listening. Then, mark down what you heard!

Sound Map of Fort Worden beach, June 22nd 2018

  • How do the sounds you hear change depending on the time of day? What about changes depending on the day of the week, or the change of seasons? Make a series of sound maps to find out.  
  • How does what you hear compare with someone else? Create a sound map in the same time and place with someone else in your household, and compare/contrast!
  • Want a resource to identify the bird sounds you’re hearing? The Audubon Bird ID app is a great field guide for North American birds - and it’s free! 

If you choose to go outside for nature journaling, be sure to stay safe and follow public health guidelines for social distancing and local closure notices. Nature journaling can be done safely from home in your backyard, porch, balcony, or even a window! Tag us on Instagram @ptmarinescictr to share your journal. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Take A (Nature) Break!

You can find things to journal about in your own backyard!

If you’re looking for a reason to get outside (and learn something new about the natural world at the same time) nature journaling is a great way to get started! It's a practice we often use in education programs and can easily be done at home. We’re going to be posting prompts and ideas for journaling and encourage you to follow along and share what you create by tagging us on Instagram: @ptmarinescictr

Not sure where to start? Here’s a previous post with some ideas on what tools might help you get started.

If you don’t have a journal or sketchbook handy, you can make your own! Here’s one method for a DIY journal; for an even easier version, you can find instructions on how to fold an 8-page mini zine online.

You can also use a stapler in Step 3 instead of a needle and thread. 

While taking breaks in nature is a great way to learn, it’s important to follow current public health guidelines to keep yourself and others safe. Keep trips local (ideally walking distance within your own neighborhood!) and avoid any unnecessary stops.

Happy journaling!

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

BIOBLITZ 2020: Social Distancing Friendly!

Saturday, May 9th, 10 am 
Sunday, May 10, 10 am

Fort Worden State Park*

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center will be conducting its third annual iNaturalist BioBlitz! The goal for this project is to document as many living species as possible within a 24-hour period in Fort Worden State Park. For this year's event, we are making the entire experience available while still following all the guidelines for social distancing. If you aren't going to be outside of your home, you can still follow along throughout the day by watching the results roll in.

It's very easy to participate, and everyone is welcome. Before May 9th, sign up for a free iNaturalist account on their website ( or with the iNaturalist app. On May 9th, head to Fort Worden State Park and photograph any living thing (including plants, animals, fungi, and everything else) you encounter, then upload your observations to iNaturalist. You can take photos with your smartphone and upload them to the iNaturalist app, or with a camera and upload them to the iNaturalist website when you get home. All of the observations that you make in Fort Worden State Park during the BioBlitz will be automatically added to our iNatualist BioBlitz page.

PTMSC staff and volunteers will be online to review your observations as they are uploaded and help you identify what it is you saw. If you are interested in participating remotely, this is something you can do as well! As long as you have an iNaturalist account, you can review any observation on our BioBlitz page and help identify it.

The BioBlitz will officially begin on May 9th, 2020 at 10:00am and end on May 10th, 2020 at 10:00am. Any observation that you make during this time will be added to our BioBlitz.
PLEASE observe all social distancing guidelines. In order to help visitors to Fort Worden State Park maintain a safe social distance, we are requesting that all BioBlitz participants register for the event.
Register here

If you have any questions, please send them to the PTMSC Citizen Science Educator AmeriCorps Michael Siddel at

A guide for getting started with iNaturalist is available at

Helpful iNaturalist video tutorials are available at

photo by Wendy Feltham

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Salish Sea Science

A Field Trip Program for Local Third and Fourth Graders

The articulated skeleton of Hope, the transient orca, hanging in the PTMSC Museum. 

Since 2008, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s Salish Sea Science Program (formerly Free Science Classes) has served more than 8,575 children from East Jefferson, East Clallam, and North Kitsap counties, including Whidbey Island. This program brings third and fourth graders to the PTMSC where they participate in activities that help them decide how to think about the sustainability of our Salish Sea.

The classes are held mid-January to mid-March. Carolyn Woods, PTMSC education coordinator, also attends the classes and interacts with the children when they break out into groups.

Salish Sea Science Program participant Arianna Beringer. 
“The Salish Sea Science class provides hands-on science field trip programs for third and fourth grade students in the region that lets them connect with their local marine environment and inspire them to protect it,” Woods said. “We don’t charge for the program and we also provide bus stipends to schools to make it as accessible as possible for the teachers and students who would benefit most from a field trip experience.”

On February 12, a big, yellow bus full of students from Chimacum Elementary arrived at the PTMSC. The classes split in two groups, one headed for the Aquarium on the pier and the other for the Museum across the street.

The energy and enthusiasm was contagious, and not just because the students were outside of their normal routine — their interest in the material was clear. They excitedly raised their hands or shouted out answers to questions.

AmeriCorps members Marley Loomis (PTMSC aquarium educator) and Ellie Kravets (PTMSC museum educator) taught the interactive classes. AmeriCorps, which is sometimes referred to as the domestic Peace Corps, is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service. It was created by President Clinton in 1993 with the goal of assisting nonprofits with their work.

The children attending the Salish Sea Science Program sat on the Museum floor surrounded by buckets and backpacks. They participated in experiments that modeled concepts like sustainable fishing techniques, using corks in a kid’s pool to represent desired fish species versus bycatch. Bycatch can be a different species, the wrong sex or size, or juveniles of the target species (NOAA: Understanding Bycatch). The morning and afternoon sessions lasted 90 minutes each, with lunch in the middle.

Sam Thompson learning about marine toxins. 
The students learned about different gear, the length of the fishing season, how much bycatch was acceptable and how many fish they needed to sustain an imaginary fishing business. Using this information for three levels of experiments, they decided which combination of methods worked best to limit over fishing or killing too much bycatch.

The first experiment was an eye opener for the youngsters. A free-for-all left the pool mostly empty with “dead catch” covering the floor between the fishing area and their bucket boats. They soon realized that there were no fish left to reproduce, and wide segments of the food web had been taken out of the picture, leaving no food for any creature. The students quickly decided this wasn’t the way to go.

By the third experiment, the youths had determined the necessary balance to sustain the fishery and maintain their fishing business.

The Aquarium session was centered around the food web (Food Web/National Geographic). Students learned about organisms, producers, consumers, predators and prey and how they eat, or feed, each other.

The intertwined cycle begins with producers, generally a plant that transforms energy from the sun for its own nutrition. Students used photos to create a diagram of the interactions between various organisms that show they can serve more than one purpose in various food chains. They also learned that if only one organism is removed from the web, all the other organisms could be affected.

Reilly Goss and Adele Fordham in the Aquarium. 
Reilly Goss and Adele Fordham had attended the program several times. When asked whether they learned something new this year, Reilly realized that a food chain is not the same as a food web. In a web the lines can go to different organisms and directions.

“It was a lot of fun. It would be fun to visit with family, too,” said Reilly.

Adele Fordham said: “I didn’t understand before that an organism is everything from the littlest to the biggest things. I learn so much, and different things, each time I come here.”

The Salish Sea Science Program isn’t all fun and games though. Students take a test after each session to reinforce what they learned that day. The tests are also used to verify if the program is working as intended.

“Having worked for the National Marine Fisheries Service [part of NOAA], I am extremely impressed with the sophistication of scientific concepts anchoring this lesson,” said Kit Pennell, Chimacum Elementary teacher. “Students actively learn how gear types, bycatch and population dynamics affect a food web, and how to attain sustainable practices. What a brilliant example of modeling the complexities of a marine system for our kids! Bravo PTMSC team!”

Janine Bolling’s Fourth Grade Chimacum Elementary class also participated in the sessions.

Isabelle Spears and Liam Reid pose in front of a whale skull. 
What will the children do when they go home? In their words, “I will protect the Salish Sea from litter.” “Use less plastic.” “Don’t overfish the place.”

If you are concerned about the environment and the health of our planet, the Salish Sea Science Program is one of a number of programs offered by the PTMSC to inform and educate children and adults.

Please visit for more information about how to participate in classes and events, support this and other valuable programs, become a volunteer or citizen scientist, or make a donation.

Text and photos by Sandra Smith, PTMSC volunteer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Bone Project Protects Elephant Seal Legacy

Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

What started as a decaying elephant seal, washed up on the shores of Marrowstone Island, is now much more than a pile of blubber and bones.

It’s a stunning success story celebrating the renaissance of a species hunted to near-extinction for its oil, one that can inspire future marine biologists.

More than a year has passed since we checked in with Mandi Johnson, AmeriCorps volunteer program educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center working on the Northern Elephant Seal Project, and things are moving ahead rapidly.

Last we heard, after recovering the deceased male elephant seal (estimated to be 8 or 9 years old) with the gracious help of Dyanna Lambourn, marine mammal biologist and pinniped* expert at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Johnson and a team of volunteers and other staffers transported the seal’s bones to hang beneath the Fort Worden pier. There, the soft tissues were decomposed in the salt water, an early step in preparing the skeleton for education and possible exhibit use.

After soaking the bones in various mixtures of salt water, soap and ammonia, and peroxide and water, the team carefully moved the bones into a historic Fort Worden building, generously on loan from the Washington State Parks, for further preservation and articulation.

Rib bones and vertebrae, photo by Margot Desannoy.
The bones are now almost all cleaned and coated with resin to preserve them and make them safer and easier to handle for display and teaching purposes.

Also, a bone count is underway. Specialists estimate elephant seals have more than 200 bones compared to the 206 bones in the adult human skeleton.

PTMSC is currently seeking a grant to fund the design of what could be described as a “3D sculptural puzzle” of the seal’s skeleton parts that can be used in the classroom to recreate its structural beauty, bone by bone, flipper by flipper. The idea is to create a hands-on “Elephant (Seal) in the Room” kit, transportable in a sturdy box or frame, along with curriculum materials, bone diagrams and charts. 

Tiny bones from the flippers shown with toothbrush to
indicate relative size
. P
hoto by Margot Desannoy.
“As a child I found puzzles to be frustrating and boring,” Johnson noted, “but I loved to build sculpture-type things. This project is so dynamic, it’s all learning as we go. I am excited about seeing the full skeleton laid out and ready for exhibit, as well as the school project.”

Since December 2019, the elephant seal bone-cleaning team, including Johnson, PTMSC Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson and four energetic and knowledge-hungry volunteers -- Mary C., Sally Davis, Mike Hilt and Joanne LaBaw -- has worked more than 30 hours sorting and preparing the bones. For guidance, they relied on books such as the "Pinniped Projects, Vol. 4" by Lee “The Boneman” Post, a renowned expert on saving, cleaning, restoring and recreating skeletons of birds and large mammals.

Mandi Johnson with seal dancing ‘cheek to cheek.’ Photo by Margot Desannoy.
Once the bones are consolidated, the team will line them up in order. They hope to complete this phase of the project by late spring or early summer. Then, if the grant application is successful, work will begin on crafting the portable teaching kit.

“This is such a great learning opportunity for the community,” Carlson explained. “Periodically, we process a dead marine mammal to use for display in our exhibit or for educational programs. Our agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration allows us to curate these items.

Betsy Carlson mixes up some resin using Paraloid B72 in a jar to dissolve overnight. Respirators and gloves are safety-first essentials when mixing water with volatile and flammable acetone to create the resin. Photo by Margot Desannoy.

“We are very grateful to Dyanna Lambourn for her invaluable, on-going assistance and to the Washington State Parks for letting us use the Fort Worden space which is well-ventilated and heated, perfect for the bones to be left out safely,” she said. “And of course to NOAA, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the wonderful volunteers who are putting it all together.”

* The pinnipeds (from the Latin meaning ‘fin-footed’) are a group of marine mammals which includes seals, sea lions and walrus (

Written by Margot Desannoy, PTMSC volunteer.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Low Tide Walk at Night

Wednesday, February 19th
6:30 pm - 8 pm

North Beach County Park, Port Townsend
FREE (donations accepted)

Find out what marine critters get up to after dark!
Join us for a guided low tide walk led by PTMSC staff and volunteers

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

Parking is limited; please carpool

Please RSVP to Marley Loomis
at or call (360) 385-5582 x 115

Monday, February 3, 2020

Fiber Art Inspired by Marine Science: 2-day Intensive Workshop

With Carla Stehr,
Marine Biologist/Fiber Artist

Saturday and Sunday, May 9-1010 am - 4:30 pm

Port Townsend Marine Science Center @ Fort Worden
$300 plus $30 materials fee
Explore, observe, record, and research the nearshore marine environment as a source of inspiration for your artwork. This two-day workshop is designed to guide you through a close examination of the beach and water using the tools of marine science, and then turn these observations into fiber art of your own.
  • Day One: Draw or photograph what you see on the beach, in the Aquarium, or in water samples taken from the pier. Use microscopes to get a closer look at what you see, and use these digital images or your own drawings to plan your fiber art project for the second day.
  • Day Two: "Experiment with layered fabrics, paint, water-soluble coloured pencils and more to transform your observations into artwork."

“I hope this workshop provides people with opportunities to see aspects of marine life they might not be aware of because they are hidden between rocks or too small to see without a microscope.”

Learn More & Sign Up Here!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A day of service, and sand

Pulling invasive weeds with a lovely view. 

This year, we set a record for our Martin Luther King Day of Service! Over 60 individuals showed up to volunteer their afternoon for our annual invasive weed pull on the beaches in Fort Worden. And thank you Wendy Feltham for taking all the beautiful photos in this post.

PTMSC and FFW volunteers working hard! 

                                   A total of 157 volunteer hours were logged for this event.

And we had volunteers of all ages!

PTMSC volunteers Doug Rogers, Jane Guiltinan, and friends. 

 With so many people having such great energy, we were able to split into two groups and conquer two separate invasive European dune grass patches! 

While doing all of this, everyone maintained plenty of smiles -- even when the wind picked up. 

Take a look at those awesome volunteers and that truck full of weeds! 

Thanks to the Native Plant Society, Washington State Parks, and the Friends of Fort Worden for all your help organizing this remarkable event.

And a big thank you from the AmeriCorps!

Written by Mandi Johnson, AmeriCorps Volunteer Program Educator.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

LECTURE: Toxic Phytoplankton in the Pacific Northwest

Sunday, February 9, 3 p.m.

Neil Harrington, Environment Biologist, Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe

Neil Harrington
Admission: $5 (students, teachers FREE)
FREE admission for Octopus and Orca Donor Circle   Members.

Environmental biologist Neil Harrington is the featured speaker at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s “The Future of Oceans” lecture on Sunday, Feb. 9, 3 p.m., at The Chapel at Fort Worden State Park.

“Phytoplankton are wonderous organisms with some fascinating life strategies,” Harrington said. “They form the basis of most marine food webs, however some of them produce biotoxins which can affect humans and animals.”
Harrington has worked for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe since 2012. His work has focused on harmful algal blooms, shellfish safety, invasive European green crab monitoring and outreach to school children. He has 17 years of experience working on natural resources on the North Olympic Peninsula. He holds a Master of Science in Biological Oceanography from UC Santa Cruz.

More info about the lecturer:

This is the fifth and final installment of The Future of Oceans lecture series for the 2019-2020 season. This event is offered with generous support by the Darrow Family.

Assisted Listening Devices available.