Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Volunteer Interest Meeting

Thursday, May 26 
4-6 p.m.

at the PTMSC Museum at Fort Worden 

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center invites you to explore opportunities to promote conservation of the Salish Sea!

    • Tour the aquarium at Fort Worden and learn about becoming a docent
    • Explore Citizen Science opportunities: the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, larval crab study, SoundToxins research
    • Discover ways to educate and engage visitors through conservation and marine science advocacy

Saturday, April 30, 2022

An Homage to Cephalopods

The author spending some quality time with Sylvia, PTMSCs current octopus on exhibit

To all the disenchanted tide poolers out there, I have a message of hope for you: The cool stuff from your guidebooks is out there! You can stumble across something so sensational that you would give up every creature comfort to stay squatting in a 45 degree puddle of seawater for just five more minutes in its presence. So it went one fateful night last fall, and I do not exaggerate when I say I haven’t been the same since.

There’s nothing glamorous about tide pooling during Pacific Northwest winters. When the best low tides occur between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. and the weather conditions are stuck on a pleasant cycle of cold and/or wet, it takes a potent concoction of peer pressure and nothing interesting on the Netflix queue to inspire you to pull on your three layers minimum and get down to the beach.

These are times to dredge up some enthusiasm for stumbling around on algae-slick rocks with your neck craned at a 30-degree angle for 2-plus hours. Sure, that thing you’re squinting at could be the rare nudibranch you’ve been hankering to find, but odds are high it’s just another shrimp: low expectations paired with fervent, inexplicable optimism is a critical mindset should you choose to play the game. In other words, keep manifesting that an orca will breach right in front of you on the perfect moonlit night, but you had best be cultivating a bottomless passion for marine snails at the same time.

While I’ve yet to develop a particular fondness for periwinkles, thinking this way did keep me coming back to comb the Washington shorelines where I was born and raised for years. Tide pooling was my happy place, and so what if the coolest thing I ever found was a half-eaten flounder? I’d made my peace with intertidal mediocrity.

It should thus come as no surprise when I say that the night we found the giant Pacific octopus at a negative 1-foot tide foiled everything I’d concocted to keep myself content.

Octopuses were my gateway drug to all things under the sea. I can’t even remember when I started loving them with the fierceness of a horse girl; looking back on my childhood, it seems there was never a time when octopus paraphernalia wasn’t draped over my bed, walls, and for at least five Halloweens running, my person. There’s something about the obvious otherworldliness of their trailing suctioned arms and undulations that draws us in; their mirrored interest in us when we stare at them has a humanizing power to transform them into inimitable creatures often as unsettling as they are mesmerizing.

For the giant Pacific octopus, being in the spotlight is hardly novel: as the largest octopus species in the world, researchers, fisherfolk, and casual beachgoers alike have been drawn to their many-armed mystique and compellingly (if misguided) eerie narrative for centuries. Wander through almost any coastal community and you’re guaranteed to find art, lore, town flags, and at least one shop selling ironic t-shirts that reflect a long history of pride in and love for the deep blue spaces in our backyards. The PNW does a particularly savvy commercial job of grafting the iconic image of eight swirling arms and a wary horizontal pupil to our regional identity, and as the proud owner of one ridiculously plush stuffed octo larger than my head (his name is Alan), I can’t say I’m mad about it.

Drumming up erroneous myths of krakens and looking cute and cartoonish on logos is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the goodly contributions octopuses have made. Boasting the largest body mass to brain ratio, these enigmatic invertebrates came into focus in the marine sciences as “model organisms”1 due to their high level of cognitive-behavioral abilities (eg. tool use) and remarkably evolved sensory organs. Accounting for their ability to learn, memorize, and problem solve, their biology can serve as a sort of guidebook for understanding non-human intelligence. Unfortunately, their masterful camouflaging makes witnessing this innate cleverness in the wild very challenging for those of us who aren't regularly donning scuba gear or studying them in a lab.

While octopuses are intertidal creatures and known to travel relatively high up the shorelines to hunt, they are also crepuscular invertebrates (most active during dawn and dusk). Add to the mix their generally shy nature, and the challenges of searching for an animal that can change its color and texture to match its surroundings and travel across a beach by slipping through 2-inch rock crevices rise to daunting heights. Nevertheless, we had the dream, the drive, and a small collection bucket- and we were not giving up without a fight. With the winter low tides occurring later at night, we had high hopes that this drizzly November venture would be our lucky break.

My head was hung and my mind was planning a midnight snack as we trudged back towards our cars, when what should appear in the yellow column of my headlamp but two long, pale, suctioned arms sticking out from beneath a rock (see image 1). It was unrequited love at first sight. Beckoning the others over in a voice far more casual than what I thought I’d be capable of whilst reaching nirvana, we carefully lifted the rock the arms had retreated under- and behold! Out it came! Like a pink and white marbled piece of flotsam, this deflated bag-looking thing soundlessly flowed over the ground. We looked at it. It looked at us. We freaked out in barely contained whisper-shouts. It suddenly transformed into an old man with seashells tangled in his long white beard in a spray of sea foam, claimed it hailed from Poseidon’s court, and told us it would grant us three wishes.

Just kidding. Can’t have more than one dream come true at a time. Aside from the fact that we’d rudely busted into it’s hidey-hole, I’m fairly certain it didn’t care about us or the momentous encounter that was taking place one way or another. Hoping to get in its good graces after gently replacing the rock, we caught a shore crab and placed it outside its hiding spot as an offering. We watched for signs of life for another good 10 minutes (none were seen other than the sacrificial crab scuttling away), then left content in heart and mind, if rather damp in boot.

I regret to say that Lucky the octopus has not been seen since, despite revisits to the auspicious rock where it all began. But if there’s anything the years of fruitless searching for intertidal cephalopods have taught me… it's that getting a job at an aquarium is a great Plan B.

1 Nuwer, R. (2021). A Model Octopus. Scientific American, 324(8), 12-15. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0321-12.

Photoshoot with wild giant Pacific octopus found on Kinzie Beach, dubbed 'Lucky':

Image 1: The first sighting!

Image 2: What an octopus looks like in 2 inches of water

Video of octopus moving around 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Port Townsend Marine Science Center welcomes new executive director

Bee Redfield officially takes the reins on April 1

Bee Redfield, PTMSC Executive Director, effective April 1, 2022

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center is pleased to announce that Bee Redfield will join the organization on April 1 as its new executive director. Redfield replaces Janine Boire, who announced her departure last fall following an 8-year tenure.

“Last year, the board embarked on an intensive search for a new leader who would build upon and advance the extraordinary work done by Janine Boire,” said PTMSC Board of Directors President Ellen Hargis. “We identified four key areas where our next leader must excel: leading people, leading change, exercising business acumen and building coalitions.

“We are thrilled to welcome Bee Redfield. She has the nonprofit leadership experience, science expertise and commitment to conservation that meets those requirements,” Hargis said. “The Board has great confidence that Ms. Redfield will strategically guide the organization forward and develop rich and meaningful relationships with all our constituents.”

“I am so excited, grateful, and so incredibly blessed to be joining the Port Townsend community as the new executive director of the Marine Science Center,” Redfield said. “To have been chosen to help lead this organization into the future is such an honor. I will put my heart and soul into providing support and leadership towards the conservation efforts for the Salish Sea that we're working so hard to achieve.”

Redfield possesses over a decade of experience leading non-profit operations at the director-level, including at a wildlife center in Illinois. She holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a focus on bringing conservation programming and awareness to communities. In addition, she holds a second master's degree in human resources management and is currently finishing her Ph.D. in quantitative ecology.

“For the past 10 years, I've held leadership roles with nonprofits in the areas of community engagement and organizational operations,” Redfield said. “I've been really lucky to work with some amazing conservation organizations all around the world. I've gotten to conduct research in the Hawaiian Islands and off the coast of California in the Channel Islands. I've taught undergraduate ecology and ornithology classes at Purdue University in Indiana, and I have done hands-on work with many different animal species at zoos and aquariums.”

Hargis and Boire will host an introductory session with Redfield via Zoom on Friday, March 25 at 2 p.m. The session is open to the public; a sign-up link can be found on the PTMSC website.

In addition, Redfield will meet many of the PTMSC’s ardent supporters at the organization’s annual fundraiser on April 16 at the Fort Worden Commons. “You, Me & The Salish Sea” will feature both a live and silent auction and a 40th anniversary celebration. Online registration is available at https://ptmsc.schoolauction.net/ptmscauction2022/register/ticket_sales.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Port Townsend Marine Science Center debuts new exhibit space at Flagship Landing

Downtown location opens to the public on March 4

Left-to-right: Judy D'Amore, PTMSC co-founder; former PTMSC Executive Director Ann Murphy; PTMSC Executive Director Janine Boire; Libby Palmer, PTMSC co-founder

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center gave its supporters and the media a sneak peak at Phase 1 of a new exhibit space and store in downtown Port Townsend on March 2. The exhibit and store will open to the public on March 4.

In August 2021, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center made a big announcement: The non-profit purchased the Flagship Landing Building at 1001 Water Street. The acquisition was the result of the organization’s in-depth search for a new facility that will eventually house its aquarium, exhibits, store, labs and offices.
Interior display at Flagship Landing

Phase 1 serves as an introduction to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s programs including community citizen science, life-long education programs and exhibits, and a store for unique marine-friendly products. The organization is also celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022.

“What better way to celebrate 40 rides around the sun for this collaborative community committed to inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea,” said Janine Boire, PTMSC executive director. “One of our primary goals with the Phase 1 space is to share our vision and invite people to visit our aquarium and museum spaces at Fort Worden.”

Fort Worden State Park has been the home of the marine science center since 1982, when founders Libby Palmer and Judy D’Amore marshaled support to build an aquarium exhibit in the wooden building on the pier on Battery Way.

Ellen Hargis, the PTMSC board president, spoke to the future vision for the organization. She emphasized that the non-profit organization is not leaving Fort Worden.
Interior of gift shop at Flagship Landing

“The aquarium will continue to operate until the pier is removed by Washington State Parks in the coming years,” Hargis said. “And the museum building will eventually become an environmental field station and lifelong learning center.”

Another space in the back of the Flagship building has already hosted a traveling photographic exhibit that opened in mid-December: “We Are Puget Sound."

Hargis said that Phase 2 of the building’s renovation will begin in the coming years following an extensive planning and permitting process that includes working with current tenants, as well as conducting a capital campaign. Retrofitting for seismic preparedness and measures to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and weather extremes are also being planned. The entire project is expected to span 5 years.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean reflected on the PTMSC’s history, expressed enthusiasm about the organization’s growing influence and stature in the environmental community and praised its positive contributions to the city and county.

Beginning March 4, the new facility will be open to the public Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plans are underway to open six days a week beginning in May. For the latest information, visit https://ptmsc.org/left-menu/visit-us.

Ellen Hargis, PTMSC Board President
Hargis said that Phase 2 of the building’s renovation will begin in the coming years following an extensive planning and permitting process that includes working with current tenants, as well as conducting a capital campaign. Retrofitting for seismic preparedness and measures to mitigate the effects of sea level rise and weather extremes are also being planned. The entire project is expected to span 5 years.

Port Townsend City Manager John Mauro and Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean reflected on the PTMSC’s history, expressed enthusiasm about the organization’s growing influence and stature in the environmental community and praised its positive contributions to the city and county.

Beginning March 4, the new facility will be open to the public Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plans are underway to open six days a week beginning in May. For the latest information, visit https://ptmsc.org/left-menu/visit-us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Connie Gallant awarded 2021 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award

Port Townsend Marine Science Center honors longtime Olympic Peninsula activist

2021 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award winner Connie Gallant.
Photo credit George Sternberg, 3rd Act Magazine.

The Port Townsend Marine Science Center announced today that Connie Gallant is the recipient of the 2021 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award. The award was announced at the annual PTMSC Stewardship Celebration during a Zoom event.

Gallant and her husband moved to Olympic Peninsula in 1982. Shortly thereafter, her future as an environmental activist came into focus. Monitoring dissolved oxygen levels on Quilcene and Dabob bays, Gallant and fellow activists organized opposition to the excessive commercial oyster farming that was depleting the local waters of oxygen essential to sustaining the ecosystem.

Soon Gallant was working with the Olympic Forest Coalition, the Olympic Park Associates, the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society and the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club to halt deforestation throughout the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic Forest Collaborative was the outgrowth of that cooperation.

One of Gallant’s most notable achievements has been her groundbreaking work on the Wild Olympics Campaign, which spawned the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The federal legislation has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and awaits approval by the U.S. Senate. If passed by both chambers, the legislation is expected to become law following President Biden’s signature.

“We must come to understand that it is cheaper to protect than to restore wilderness,” Gallant said in a video announcing the award. “We are talking about our planet ... This is it. You have to be on top of all these issues all the time. But regardless, never give up fighting for what you believe in.”

About the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award
From the 1960s through the 1990s, Eleanor Stopps was an active member of the Pacific Northwest conservation community. She founded the Admiralty Audubon Chapter and was a primary driver behind the establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1982, one of the few federally protected marine refuges established by an Act of Congress at that time. Today it is a critical habitat link in the preservation of the entire Salish Sea ecosystem, providing breeding grounds for pigeon guillemots and rhinoceros auklets, bald eagles and peregrine falcons, harbor seals and elephant seals, and myriad other species.

Stopps died in April 2012 at the age of 92.

The leadership award created in her memory is presented annually to a citizen(s) of the North Olympic Peninsula (Jefferson and Clallam counties) who has led a successful resource conservation effort that benefits the North Olympic Peninsula and its residents directly; acted as a community catalyst for programs, initiatives or ventures that demonstrate a commitment to the future of the earth and its biodiversity; become a model for future leaders in business and education; or has been an exemplary citizen or policy maker who has implemented decisions that, though they may entail risks, have helped our communities take the next step towards environmental sustainability.

The PTMSC has sponsored this annual award since 2009.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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Monday, August 23, 2021

New interactive orca exhibit opens at Port Townsend Marine Science Center

‘Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home’ explores the history and challenges of Southern Resident orcas

The Port Townsend Marine Science is pleased to announce the Aug. 21 opening of a new exhibit, “Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home,” at its museum facility at Fort Worden State Park. The interactive exhibit explores the natural history of the orca species and the extreme challenges facing the Southern Resident orca families that frequent Puget Sound. The exhibit will be up until October 31st.

Based on the book of the same name co-published by The Seattle Times and nonprofit publisher Braided River, the special showing features captivating photography by Steve Ringman and others, and stories by author and Seattle Times journalist Lynda V. Mapes about the power, majesty and plight of two endangered – and intertwined -- species of the Salish Sea: Southern Resident killer whales and Chinook salmon.
“Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home” is a traveling exhibit that is touring Salish Sea marine centers in 2021-22. It complements the PTMSC’s permanent exhibit, “Learning from Orcas – The Story of Hope” at the PTMSC museum.

"We are grateful to Lynda Mapes, Braided River and The Seattle Times for bringing this complex story into focus,” said PTMSC Program Director Diane Quinn. “The writing, photographs and illustrations will reach visitors in a new way and help us all remember what's at stake for the orcas and for us."

Quinn said the exhibit is designed for all ages. For children there’s an orca rocker, a drawing and coloring table, children's books about orcas, a dorsal fin to measure one's relative height, model whale toys and an orca rope to show the size of adult and newborn orcas. While the children are engaged, parents can review the display panels, view the Seattle Times’ Hostile Waters webpage, and read newspaper reprints and excerpts from Mape's book. Also, a monitor will be running the orcasound.net website as well as a sound loop of orca recordings made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Janine Boire, PTMSC executive director, said the traveling exhibit is the result of a collaborative effort by the marine science centers around Puget Sound to support each other to achieve their common goals.

"This is what the collective is made for,” Boire said “Throughout the pandemic we've found ways to support each other. I can't imagine a more perfect next step for these organizations to take together."

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