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

Friday, November 5, 2010

You say good-bye, I say hello

Fall is in full swing here in Port Townsend. The leaves are changing colors, the Orcas are coming through, and wool socks are being worn. Usually with the start of fall the old AmeriCorps leave and new ones come in to take their place. This year however is different; all four AmeriCorps members will be returning for a second term at PTMSC.

Julia, Heather, Jess and Valerie are all super excited to come back and be part of PTMSC for another year.

Some of our extra goals for this year will be:
*Getting a running start on the Gull Bolus project
*Organizing 20+ years of beach seine data
*Participating in the Orca articulation for our Orca Project
*Gain more experience and knowledge in teaching classes

Sadly with our great big "Hello again!" we have to say "Goodbye" and a big thank you to our Summer and Fall interns. Thank you Claudia, Flor and Callie for all your hard work and for holding down the center while we were gone!

Stay tuned for upcoming blogs highlighting this years season in the marine exhibit and the release of our giant pacific octopus Persephone!
PTMSC Lab Coordinator