Monday, October 18, 2010

Summer chum - doin' the dance

Early last week a few PTMSC staff took a mini field trip a few miles down the road to see salmon spawn in a local stream. Salmon have a pretty incredible life cycle and being from the east coast, my knowledge was pretty limited. I’d seen different juvenile salmon right off our pier over the past few months, but these were just little guys and most were the same species -- pink salmon.

On the lookout for salmon at Chimacum Creek.
On our trip into the woods last week, the salmon were adult summer chum in Chimacum Creek. Summer chum had been declared extinct in 1989 from this particular creek. By 1992, efforts to restore the creek and it's watershed began, involving many private and public entities, citizen groups and hundreds of volunteers. Since then, Chimacum Creek, Beach and the estuary have been nursed back to health and record returns have been reported this year. For more information on the creek restoration visit:

It was at Chimacum Creek where I first was able to attain a broader picture of the amazing salmon life cycle by witnessing their mating ritual. We saw the female chum digging a “redd,” which means creating an indentation in the river/stream bed where eggs can be laid. Behind her, males hovered, vying to become her mate. Eventually, a more dominant male won over and swam up beside the female. As she deposited her eggs, he released his milt. Voila! Let’s keep in mind that some salmon may travel hundreds of miles from the ocean to reach their freshwater spawning grounds. Salmon don't just swim to any old spot either, they travel to the location where they originated. The eggs we saw last week, if they survive to adulthood, will to, return to this spot to spawn. 
Summer chum swimming upstream.

The banks of this creek were strewn with decaying salmon who had already made the journey. At first I thought it unfortunate that they travel all this way, only to spawn and die but, it is all part of the salmon life cycle and important in its own right. 

We spend a lot of time at PTMSC talking about orcas, which are beautiful majestic creatures. I wouldn’t describe salmon as pretty, but they sure are vital to the Puget Sound Food web. They are a main food source for many marine animals, including the Southern Resident Orcas. And, they have a pretty cool story to tell. For more info on Pacific salmon:
Decaying summer chum.
Claudia Padilla, Summer/Fall Intern

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Orca Open House!

To coincide with the return of the Southern Resident Killer Whales to our area, we will be kicking off the Orca Project Capital Campaign with an Open House this Saturday, October 9th from 1-4pm. Free admission! 
This capital campaign will allow PTMSC to build a home for “Hope,” our orca skeleton. The goal of the capital campaign is to expand the Natural History Exhibit and create a new space which features the orca skeleton, video, hydrophone technology and other displays, in addition to room for class instruction. Through the display, the Orca Project will tell the story of our connections with the ocean, the interconnectedness of food webs, and how to build a healthy future for all species including our own.
J pod whales swimming past Port Townsend.
Photo credit: Susan Berta
Visitors can drop in between 1:00-4:00pm to partake of the following:
1:00pm (Marine Exhibit) "What is the Whale Trail?"- multi-age presentation on the Whale Trail program in the Salish Sea with Donna Sandstrom
1:30pm (Marine Exhibit) "Listen to the Orcas"- (hydrophone presentation)
2:00pm (Natural History Exhibit Portico) "Orca-dontics” - learn about orca teeth and bones with Heather Jones
2:30pm (Natural History Exhibit) Tour of the “Whales in our Midst” exhibit with Libby Palmer
3:00pm (Natural History Exhibit) Orca Capital Campaign Kick-off

On-going activities:
- Craft activites for kids in the Natural History Exhibit
- Campaign display with architectural drawings, watercolor of new building, brochures, etc.

Hope to see you there!