Monday, July 16, 2012

What a freezer could tell

Biology has a certain smell. In the case of marine biology it’s a very distinctive smell indeed—salty, fishy and sometimes overly pungent, in the case of marine mammal parts or the unique scent of low tide.

When you crack the freezer open at PTMSC, you are sometimes hit with all of these smells at once. Our freezers serve many purposes—they hold clams, krill, herring and squid for feeding our animals, whole tilapia used for fish printing, plankton samples collected by our citizen scientists and a bunch of rather unusual specimens stored for various purposes. There is a set of baleen plates from Spirit, the gray whale on display in NHE. A wide variety of fish specimens stored for later drying and use as educational tools. A river otter, Northern fur seal, and several small birds await the opportunity to be cleaned up and shown in a display or class. Two seal pups are on hold for future trainings on marine mammal strandings. 
Last year we stored a whole orca flipper until we could to have it scanned to accurately map out its bones for re-articulation. In past years it was the rare Lancet fish that washed ashore, Humboldt squid collected by local fisherman, and an occasional dog fish shark that was saved for a dissection demonstration. 
If those freezers could talk, they would tell the story of questions wanting answers and riddles waiting for their turn to be solved. This is the central idea of marine science—that the questions are more plentiful than the answers. Answering these questions is often a hands-on (and potentially smelly) investigation—which all starts in the freezer. 

By Chrissy McLean

This is one of 30 reasons to give $30 to celebrate 30 years. Or increase your impact and give more. All funds support the Future Fund to keep the PTMSC going strong. Donate online or call (360) 385-5582, ext. 104, or send a check to 532 Battery Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

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