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

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