Monday, January 23, 2023

Port Townsend Marine Science Center volunteerism: vital and deeply appreciated

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has rebounded from a pandemic low of 2,635 hours of recorded volunteer service in 2020 to an amazing 5,300 donated hours for 2022. In the uncertain days early in the pandemic, the museum and aquarium were both closed and the volunteer corps largely stayed home.

Although many volunteers remained cautious about participating in indoor activities, in 2022 the quantity of hours recorded surged, even with fewer volunteers overall. That means we are doing more with fewer people – such dedication!

Additionally, we were thrilled to welcome scores of new volunteers this year who stepped into a wide variety of roles: from exhibit volunteers, to citizen scientists, event helpers and more. 

The dedicated staff at PTMSC rely on volunteers in every area of programming. Let’s hear from these folks as they share what volunteerism at PTMSC means to them. 

John Conley shared details of his volunteer service
at the Evening with the Stars event
One of my favorite ways that volunteers impact my job as Development Director is when they speak at events about their experiences as volunteers. Like this past summer, when John Conley, Sue Long and Lisa Greenfield spoke at Evening with the Stars about why they volunteer and what it means to them. It was educational, heartwarming and inspiring. I feel so grateful to get to hear their pearls of wisdom and wise insights. - Liesl Slabaugh

Volunteers in our education programs helped with such classroom activities for K-12 students as the crab lab, the herring dissection and plankton lab with low tide walks and beach explorations. 

Education Coordinator Carolyn Woods had this to say:

Volunteer Patti Hoyecki assisted in the
Way of the Whales class

One of the strengths of our education programs are the hands-on activities we can provide that aren't available in school classrooms, and volunteer assistance is crucial in making these activities engaging and accessible for students. Just in December, volunteers helped students handle gray whale bones safely while providing clues to direct students in assembling the skeleton, as well as assistance in the aquarium finding calcifiers (organisms that grow calcium-based shells) while investigating the effects of ocean acidification in the Salish Sea. Having volunteers help with field trips allows us to reach more students and provide them a better experience - I'm so grateful to them for sharing their time and knowledge! 

Through such dedicated long-term assistance as volunteer docents and greeters, public events and fundraising helpers, our volunteers become valued friends and are key to our ability to promote conservation of the Salish Sea to our many publics.

Program Director Diane Quinn shared this sentiment:

I have had so many meaningful, inspiring, educational, funny and touching moments with volunteers at PTMSC in the past year, but the word that keeps coming to mind above all the other words is Generosity. I am no longer even surprised, but always grateful, when a volunteer agrees to help out with some random thing at what seems like, and often is, the last minute: making something for us to sell, fixing something that has been languishing in its broken state, cleaning something that has been neglected, filling countless shifts and volunteering for one-off events that need a little more support. They show up with snacks for the staff, or bring in a ladder, an air filter, a wagon, paper bags, a broom
and dustpan, and on and on. So many things that they just know we need and are too busy to get. Their generosity has shown in every way this past year, through their actions, their gifts, and their
attitude toward our visitors, students and each other. I learn so much from our volunteers each year, and that is to be expected, but the thing I try to emulate is their sincere willingness to share their time, skills, ideas and creativity because it's just what they do. 

In less public ways, the citizen science volunteers put in many solitary mornings scooping up water samples, examining sea life through microscopes and caring for stranded marine mammals.

Volunteers Diane Baxter, Linda Dacon and Nancy
Jamieson pause for a moment in the museum portico.

Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson shares her appreciation for key individuals and projects meaningful to her program area:

All the SoundToxins volunteers deserve a shout out for continuing to work through the year searching water samples for signs of potentially harmful algae -- being part of the early warning system for safe shellfish consumption. Ken Anderson, James Arnn, Pam Bauer, Brad Bebout, Lee Bebout, Dennis Cartwright, John Conley, Dan Darrow, Soozie Darrow, Doug Eggert, Joanmarie Eggert, Gary Elmer, Jo Ferrero, Jackie Gardner, Frank Handler, Keith Knol, Kathy Nyby, Mike Nyby, Melody Stewart, Rich Stewart, Rosemary Streatfeild, Kathleen Woods-Smith

  • Dennis Cartwright of course, who does so much. From sorting clams to counting phytoplankton and larval crabs too. He keeps our labacita (the  small lab behind the museum) supplied, trains SoundToxins volunteers and AmeriCorps, enters data, moves samples and cleans and cares for the microscope. Did you know he stepped in to help run the aquarium before Ali was hired? We are so lucky that Dennis is committed to marine conservation.

Darryl Hrenko and a Salish Coast Elementary school
student with a gray whale skeleton

  • Darryl Hrenko, who along with his buddy John, made the European green crab acrylic casts for display and education.

  • Patti Hoyecki whose creative spirit and boundless energy brightened our downtown exhibits and gift shop offerings.

  • Peggy Albers and Diane Baxter,our Summer BEACH program water sampling team, taking water samples for lab analysis to be sure the Fort Worden beach is safe for swimming. 

Our Executive Director Bee Redfield sums up how important our volunteers are to us to enable us to do our work:

Volunteers make everything that we do possible. They give their time, their wisdom and their heart to our mission. Through their actions, our volunteers show our visitors and our community what is most important in life, and through their passion they inspire others to want to make a difference too. 

Thank you to all who have helped promote conservation of the Salish Sea with their gifts of time!

Written by PTMSC Volunteer Program Coordinator Tracy Thompson

#volunteers, #volunteerism #conservation #marineeducation

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Dan and Soozie Darrow: Two of PTMSC’s most dedicated volunteers


A wonderful encounter with former Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director Anne Murphy at the Low Tide Festival is what initially drew Dan and Soozie Darrow to the Port Townsend area from their long-time home north of Chicago. 

The Low Tide Festival was the annual PTMSC thank you to the community and celebration of our marine environment (that formerly took place in July).Their delight with this event encouraged them to move west, and after arriving in 2002, they were eager to get involved in their new community. They both became involved with PTMSC.

Soozie and Dan Darrow
Soozie and Dan began their volunteer journey as greeters in the aquarium, and since that time, they have been involved with nearly every volunteer task the organization has to offer, including  extensive work with the Citizen Science program, collecting megalops for the Skokomish tribe, helping with fish seining for school groups, and hosting Protection Island cruises and low tide walks. In past years they have also done considerable work assisting with the annual fundraising auction.

After their initial greeting days, Soozie says they “graduated from taking money” and joined the Home Crew. The Home Crew was the team of volunteers who assisted in the aquarium, cleaning tanks and taking care of the animals.

“Cleaning was fun, and the people we worked with were nice and we got to feed the animals,” recalls Soozie.

The very persuasive Gordon James encouraged Dan to join the board, which he did, providing his services as a board member for nine years, two of those as board president. Dan continues his board service today as a member of the Finance Committee.

Fate brought the two together in their college days where Soozie attended Mount Holyoke and Dan went to Amherst College. Dan had a career with distribution companies, handling inventory and supplies. Soozie enjoyed a career in the admissions office of a community college.

Dan says, “I’ve always been a sailor,” and  notes that his very first words were “hard a-lee” (sailor talk for turning the helm hard to leeward – into the wind) and he enjoyed his time racing a J30 on Lake Michigan with a dedicated crew of seven. Soozie was not as involved in sailing as a racer, but enjoyed cruising with Dan and their two daughters.

The J30 stayed in Illinois and, once at their new home in Port Ludlow, Dan began racing with the Port Ludlow Fleet, a group of eleven Etchells 30s, an open cockpit, no-amenities sailboat made for racing. 

The current fleet of Etchells is now down to two boats, so Dan now focuses on sailing his T37 - a 37-inch long, radio-controlled boat that he races on the pond in front of the Port Ludlow Yacht Club. He proudly shares his favorite part of this current racing endeavor, the post-race gathering of friends all bundled up and relaxing in portable chairs on the lawn.

Soozie’s fascination with the natural world began as a child as she accompanied her older brother in the marshes in New Jersey, where he collected animal specimens which he then taxidermied and brought to the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“I was scared to death walking over the boardwalk into the marsh, but I loved seeing all the birds, so I just kept going,” Soozie recalls about those early expeditions with her brother.

The Darrows have been active as citizen scientists with the SoundToxins program for 10 years now, taking water samples from Mystery Bay and then examining them with a microscope for the existence of harmful phytoplanktons. 

“I like to think we’re helping other scientists figure out how we can help the earth,” Soozie says about her motivation for continuing with the monitoring.

“Plus, I like to look in the microscope and see creatures that no one else gets to see,” she continues.

Both Soozie and Dan stress the importance of the organization’s role in educating the public. They feel strongly that PTMSC is “not just for the grandkids” and that the perils of climate change and the threats to the Salish Sea are important for the public to know.

Their commitment to the important education work of the organization is made clear through their financial support of the Future of Oceans lecture series, currently underway on various Sunday afternoons this month through March. Their ongoing support has made this series possible and they both particularly enjoyed Dr. Christopher Kelley’s November lecture, “Deep Sea Mining is coming: What you need to know about this potentially huge new industry.”

Beyond their considerable involvement with PTMSC, Dan and Soozie have volunteered for years with other organizations, with Soozie serving as Secretary for the Port Ludlow Trails Crew, and Dan serving on his Home Owners Association finance committee.

Their goals for the PTMSC include seeing the organization transition into the Flagship Landing location, and to continue shining a light on the issues important to the protection of the Salish Sea.

Written by PTMSC Volunteer Program Coordinator Tracy Thompson

#volunteers #citizenscience #salishsea #soundtoxins