Thursday, December 30, 2010

A year in review: The 12 days of PTMSC

This blog is a quick year of highlights from the marine science center. These pictures are just some of the accomplishments, loves, and interests from this past year. Looking forward to many more experiences like these in 2011!

12 Clean Bones! 
(Staff and volunteers cleaned about 120 bones!)

11 Cast Teeth!
(Actually 44 teeth cast)

10 Children Learning!
(7,500 students joined us for educational programs this year!)

9 People beach cleaning!
(20 people joined us for our Ocean Day beach clean-up)

8 Volunteers exploring!
(We have 175 active volunteers at PTMSC)

7 Pseudonitzchia in a line!
(This plankton is considered the 'bad guy' in our SoundToxins program)

6 Gulls perching!
(Watching the gulls perch on our dock is one of our favorite things!)

5 Campers singing!
(We had 87 campers join us for Summer camp this year!)

4 Amazing AmeriCorps

3 Nudis in a row!
(We get excited when nudibranchs appear in our tanks!)

2 Lumpies Resting!
(One of our favorite additions to our center this year!)

1 Baby Slime Star!

All from one amazing organization!

We love you PTMSC!

From all of us at PTMSC we wish you Happy Holidays and a healthy New Year!
Peace. Love. Fishes.

Valerie Lindborg
PTMSC Lab Coordinator

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two Workshops by Ken Wilson

Experiencing Seabirds
Saturday, January 8, 2011 9:30AM- 3PM
Marine Exhibit Classroom at Fort Worden State Park

This workshop will go beyond simply identifying seabirds- it's for anyone with an interest in natural history or ecology, adaptation or even how the brain effects animal behavior.

Experiencing Animal Behavior
Saturday, January 22, 2011 9:30AM- 3PM
Marine Exhibit Classroom at Fort Worden State Park

Here you will have a fascinating look into how natural selection acts upon animals behaviors as much as it operates on anatomy and physiology.  This will connect animal behavior to adaptation and ecology.

PTMSC, Audubon or Burke Museum Members $25
(Free to current and new PTMSC exhibit docents)
General Public $30

Contact Ken Wilson,
or phone (360) 821-1101

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sea Lion Deaths from Leptospirosis

This year in Oregon has seen a striking increase in California sea lion deaths from leptospirosis, a contagious bacterial disease that causes kidney failure and manifests visibly as emaciation and lethargy.  The animals may also be observed drinking water; a highly unusual behavior for marine mammals which normally obtain all needed water from their food. The coastal population of California sea lions has been increasing overall, making mortality rates tricky to determine. Nevertheless, it is certain that far more animals are testing positive for the disease, warranting significant concern from researchers and beach-goers. 
Infected California Sea Lion

Leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans and other animals via direct contact with the urine. Dogs running free on the beach are especially at risk since the disease can also be spread through contact with contaminated sand, soil or vegetation. As a result, Oregon State University marine biologists are recommending that beach visitors maintain at least a 50 foot distance from any beached animal while keeping dogs on a leash.

"On the LEFT in the phtograph is a NORMAL KIDNEY, while on the RIGHT is KIDNEY FROM A SEA LION WITH SEVERE LEPTOSPIROSIS. In infected sea lions, the Leptospira bacteria often concentrate in the kidneys, initally causing the affected kidney to swell and become pale due in part to tissue damage and inflammation. Without treatment the damaged kidneys may eventually shut down. Thus the sea lion loses its ability to produce urine as a means to excrete body wastes and toxins."

If you see dead or sick marine mammals on Oregon beaches you're encouraged to call the Oregon State Police (1-800-452-7888).

For more information:

Jess Swihart
Natural History Exhibit Education Coordinator

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 at the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Here at the Marine Science Center, we manage the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline. This year we have had a total of 75 calls reporting 54 animals of 6 different species. 
The “percent response” shown above indicates how many calls about strandings were actually responded by a trained volunteer. While it initially appears as if our response has declined throughout the years, the number of calls has been increasing every year which naturally increases the difficulty of responding to every call. The growing number of calls is likely due to enhanced awareness of the network.

Unusual Stranding in Our Region
This year we had two fairly unusual strandings:
1. A harbor seal pup at Fort Flagler that  stuck around from 7/24 – 7/30, necessitating a large contingent of dedicated volunteers that were willing to remind inquisitive park visitors and their canine companions to keep their distance from the pup. The animal eventually swam away; a success story which helps to counterbalance the many deaths we witness.  
Photo by Janice Longstreet
2. A Steller Sea Lion carcass was found by Kateri Schmerler on 8/28/10 near Gardiner. We are in the process of collecting this skeleton.  Unfortunately, the skull has gone missing, but the PTMSC “C.S.I. Team” is hot on the trail!
Photo by Kateri Schmerler

The Stranding Network is enormously dependent on large group of trained volunteers. We're incredibly grateful for all they do; without their hard work and dedication our work would not be possible. To learn more information about the EJCMMSN or to get involved, check out our website (or send me an email!):

Jess Swihart
Natural History Exhibit Education Coordinator

Monday, December 13, 2010

You're a cute one, Mr. Grunt

It's that time of year again!  The eggs our grunt sculpins laid in late summer have finally started to hatch!  On Saturday, the first 22 eggs hatched while their tank was being cleaned.  I lovingly took the larval fish out of the tank with a turkey baster so they wouldn't be caught by the anemones.  Last year we weren't successful in raising the larval fish, so this year I decided to release them off the floating dock.  Hopefully they found shelter in the nearby eelgrass bed and will grow to be adorable adults. 
The grunt sculpins with their eggs (in the lower barnacle)
Stay tuned for more news on the eggs, last year they were hatching from Thanksgiving to May!

Come visit these fish and all our animals in the Marine Exhibit December 28-30th, 12-4pm.

Julia Ledbetter
Marine Exhibit Education Coordinator

Thursday, November 18, 2010

OrcaFest & Orca Rocker

On November 7th, Libby and I packed up our show-and-tell items and headed to OrcaFest in West Seattle.  OrcaFest was a celebration of our resident orcas and was co-sponsored by The Whale Trail and Killer Whale Tales.  The event was a great opportunity to share our orca knowledge with the community of West Seattle. 

The T'ilibshudub dance group from the Dunwamish Tribe sang and danced; they even invited us to join in!  Jeff Hogan from Killer Whale Tales educated young visitors through his unique storytelling ability, and The Whale Trail led us in a game of orca bingo.  A wishing tree stood in the corner of the room and visitors filled the branches with wishes for our orcas.

Libby and I set up a table with information about PTMSC's Orca Project.  Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to work so closely with orca bones and teeth. Seeing the excitement on the faces of our visitors as they held a real orca tooth was a perfect reminder. We really do have a great thing going on here.
Heaher with a real orca tooth (left) and cast (right)
Photo by: James Castelline

Libby Palmer arranging the display table
Photo by Heather Jones

In other news....
One of my favorite things about working at PTMSC is bearing witness to all the creativity here!  Occasionally I am able to take part in this creativity.  This was the case most recently when volunteer, Roger Wilson, invited me to help him with a special project.   Roger recognized the ever present need for hands-on children's activities in the Natural History Building and thought up the idea of creating an orca rocker.  Roger took on the woodworking and I stepped in to help paint.

An enthusiastic visitor tries out our finished product....

What a great success!

Heather Jones
Orca Project Coordinator

Monday, November 15, 2010

Releasing the Queen

Dear Persephone,

In Greek mythology your name means the "Queen of the Underworld." Although you were a little deviant at times, you were definitely the queen of our hearts. You were a great octopus and we loved having you at our center!

We remember when we first got you from our friends on Whidbey Island last September. You were barely the size of a golf ball. It seems like only yesterday that you were hiding in the back of your tank,  shy and unsure... but look at you now! After a year of love from our visitors and volunteers and plenty of food you have grown to over 3 feet long!

Thank you Persephone for keeping us entertained during Homecrew, dancing with us, and reminding us how fascinating ocean creatures are! Good luck in the big blue!

~PTMSC staff and volunteers

Aspiring marine biologist enamored with Persephone

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gone with the Wind

Were you one of the 10,901 people that visited the Marine Exhibit this season?  If not, you missed catching a glimpse of our silver spotted sculpin, pipefish, kelp perch, Persephone the Giant Pacific Octopus, and SO much more!  The Marine Exhibit has now closed for the winter, but just because the exhibit is closed, this does not mean all work has stopped. 

For Jess and I, the closing of the Marine Exhibit means starting the task of releasing animals and draining most of our tanks for maintenance.  Jess and I spent last week taking down almost all of our tanks (except the touch tanks and the wall tanks) and became very efficient in taking them down, even inventing several techniques.  If you are ever in the position of needing to empty large aquarium tanks, here’s how to do it:

1.  Take all “habitat” (eelgrass, kelp, wood, etc.) for the fish out and use a siphon to lower the water level, this makes it easier to catch the fish.
Draining the woody cluster after taking the wood and kelp out
2.  Use nets to catch fish and transfer them to buckets.  As the number of fish dwindle in the tank, it may be necessary to "double-team" the fish to get them out.
Double teaming the evasive shiner perch in the piling tank
3.  When the water level is low enough, get into the tank to remove the remaining rocks and find any animals that succeeded in evading the nets.
Acrobatics to get rocks out of the tank

4.  When the water is as low as you can get it, begin to fill buckets with the gravel from the tank floor and pass them out of the tank.

Moving the last rocks out of the tank
5.  The remaining water that could not be siphoned can then be picked up with our patented squeegee/dustpan technique (unfortunately we don’t have pictures, but if you NEED to know it, ask). 

6.  Rinse the tank is with fresh water and scrub the algae off the walls. 

7.  Repeat with the next tank (until finished).
Tank after completing step 6
Tank before starting step 1

Now that the tanks are down and washed, Jess and I are ready to start the process of buffing scratches out of the acrylic tanks, a technique we have learned and perfected.  

The Marine Exhibit will be open November 26-28 and December 28-30 and will open on weekends starting April 1st, 2011.

Thanks for visiting this season!!

Julia Ledbetter
Marine Exhibit Education Coordinator