Monday, February 20, 2012

Our Awesome Ocean!

Today's blog: Awesome Things in the Ocean!!

Sit back and enjoy some fun facts and pretty photos to keep your week rollin'!

A shaggy mouse nudibranch underwater
at Point Hudson (photo by Elise Gorchels)

Did you know...

- Some nudibranchs (sometimes known as "sea slugs" but they're really so much cooler!) have the ability to not only eat the stinging cells found in jellyfish and anemones without injury, but actually pass them through their digestive tract un-activated and use them for their own defense??  One local species that has this ability is commonly known as the "shaggy mouse"

- The geoduck (pronounced "goey duck"), found intertidally in the Puget Sound, is the world's largest intertidally found clam, weighing in at an average of 2.2 pounds.  They can grow to be upwards of 10 pounds each and live to over 100 years!  If you've got eight minutes to kill, check out the video of Mike Rowe harvesting them for Dirty Jobs:

A GPO (not actually so "giant", it was approximately the size
of a grapefruit) out for an underwater stroll at
 Redondo (photo by Elise Gorchels)

- There are 289 known species of octopus worldwide; only two of them are known to live (or at least commonly found) in the Puget Sound.  They are the Giant Pacific Octopus (or GPO as many divers and marine enthusiasts refer to them) and the Red Octopus. 

- Hermit crabs have bodies that coil either to the right or the left.  Similarly, snail shells coil in either direction.  If a hermit crab finds an appropriately sized home, but it coils the wrong direction, he is out of luck!

It's cool, I'll just hide behind this...foliage...(photo taken at Les Davis pier by Elise Gorchels)
 - Many people have heard that sea stars can regenerate lost limbs, but did you know they can regenerate more than that?  All that is required is one intact arm and 1/5 of their central disc (the part that the arms all attach to)  In theory, you could cut a sea star into five exactly equal portions, and end up with five sea stars!
-Anemones are animals, not plants, and are capable of moving when they find their habitat undesireable.  Some species, such as the swimming anemone, move by contracting alternating sides of their column.  Others might detach and inch along the bottom, and still others will completely roll in their foot (the part of their body that attaches to the surface they live on) and flip on their side, rolling much like a barrel in the current.

A Painted anemone at Langley Tire Reef (photo by Elise Gorchels)

That's all for now!  Stay tuned for updates on our marine exhibit tanks, which will reopen in April and recaps from our annual auction, happening March 10th!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's all about the packaging

Pepsi or Coke isn't the only choice
you'll have to make this Super Bowl Sunday

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, apparently, and while millions scramble around cleaning and cooking I am sitting quietly at work.  Had the Packers won a few weeks back, I would be frantically searching for a website to listen to the game and a computer with speakers, but they didn't and I'm thankful today that I don't have to find myself cheering for one of these teams (whew!)
But outside my little bubble people are hitting the grocery stores, doing some last minute shopping for snacks, soda, and libations.  It is definitely a great day to indulge in salty food and a comfy couch.  As shoppers fill the grocery aisles they are making decisions on every purchase: diet or regular; tortilla chips or sour cream and onion; Miller or microbrew; bottles or cans?  And one thing I'm sure hardly factors into anyone's purchase is the item's packaging.

How much trash does one party
It's a scenario that could be straight from our Free Science Classes, which coincidentally began this week.  You're feeding 30 people.  Do you choose paper plates that might not support the baked beans and mini chili dogs, plastic plates which will ultimately cost more, or are you going to put out your own ceramic plates and wash them all?  Should you buy a 12-pack of soda cans or a couple 2-litre bottles and some cups?  Just how recyclable is that plastic bottle?

Plastics do not biodegrade clogging
our oceans when they escape our
trash, and mimic food sources of
many marine animals.

The conclusion we generally guide our students to is this: plastic can be a great thing - it makes things such as airbags, pacemakers, and even our fish tanks possible - but we can have too much of a good thing.  One of the biggest problems future generations will face is plastics in the ocean as plastic bags, rings, and fragments choke marine life, smother coral reefs, and fill the stomachs of marine birds.  Much of the plastic in use currently is actually not recyclable, and that plastic often ends up in the trash.  That trash will never degrade using present technology; all plastic ever produced on this planet is still in existence.

One thing we can all do is reduce the demand for plastic at its source.  Use fabric shopping bags, carry your own coffee mug, and opt for metal or paper packaging as much as possible.  The energy saved by recycling *one* aluminum can can power a television for three hours.  Filling a reusable mug each day saves 365 cups, sleeves, and lids - which stacked on top of one another would reach roughly 16 stories high.

I love my rockin' pink camo coffee mug, but it's
plastic -- do I drink enough coffee to justify that? 
If you know me, the answer to that question is quite clear...

Life is ultimately about choices.  Sometimes, buying plastic is the best or only option (just try to make a balloon without it!) but often there are reasonable alternatives.  Here at PTMSC, we're interested in what you are doing every day to support marine life.  We invite you to comment below and visit our website to find out how you or your class can visit our exhibits and learn more about the threat of plastics in the marine environment.

Until next time,