Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GiveBIG on May 15th

Jeeps, our Giant Pacific Octopus 
Photo courtesy of Wendy Feltham

Jeeps is hungry. She unfurls a slender red arm and slides up the smooth acrylic wall of her tank at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) in search of her daily snack. Jeeps (short for GPO or Giant Pacific Octopus) is one of many marine animals we nurture at the center in order to generate awareness of marine life conservation in our local Salish Sea.

Did you know Jeeps and her species can learn to distinguish shapes and patterns and solve mazes? They have individual personalities and show emotions by changing their colors.

How to train your octopus
How to train your octopus
Jeeps is curious and likes to interact with children, often stirring from her den and flashing from bright red to mottled white when students come to visit. She is even learning to open a jar lid to get her food- check out this video of the first time she did it. 

You can help the PTMSC support the continued care and public education for beautiful marine animals such as Jeeps by participating in the Seattle Foundations' GiveBig campaign on May 15th. It's easy and it's fun! Whatever amount you give toward our goal of $10,000 is "stretched" by the Seattle Foundation, meaning they'll add to the amount you contribute.

Look for more behind-the-scenes photos and videos of our much-loved marine animals on Facebook leading up to the GiveBig day on May 15th, and follow us on Twitter.

Stay tuned for more information about this exciting way to extend your donation in support of marine animals through GiveBig.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

PTMSC Lecture Series: KUOW's Ashley Ahearn to speak on coal exports

Thursday April 18
7 pm 
Quimper Unitarian
Universalist Fellowship, 
Port Townsend  
Join us as we welcome KUOW's Science and Environmental Reporter Ashley Ahearn and her presentation "Coal Export Terminals In The Northwest: A Look At The Policy, Science and Economics of Selling American Coal to Asia" 

$5 members 
$7 non-members 
FREE for ages 18 and younger
Learn more about Ashley Ahearn and her Earthfix blog here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Orcas, Octopuses and Urchins… Oh My!


All sessions are open to both new and current volunteers
RSVP to Jamie Landry at or call 385.5582, ext 112

April 17 @3:00 – Marine Food Webs – The Diverse Ecosystem of the Salish Sea   (In the Marine Exhibit on the pier)
April 23 – Trip to Fiero Marine Life Center, Port Angeles -RSVP to 

May 8 @ 3:00 – The Story of Hope and the Toxics Project (In the Natural History Building)              

May 15 @ 3:00 –  Marine Exhibit/Aquarium training (In the Marine Exhibit on the pier)

May 22 @ 3:00 – Natural History Building Training includes the class: Life at the Top: Building an Orca Food Chain (In the Natural History Building)

May 24 @ 9:30am – Low Tide Walk at Indian Island RSVP to

June 5 @3:00 –Giving a testimony – how to tell your story and connecting with your visitor (In the Natural History Building)
June 12 @3:00– Science on the Pier at PTMSC (In the Marine Exhibit on the pier)

View and download the PDF here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Buddy has left the building— or rather, the beach.

Northern Elephant Seal, "Buddy", on February 26th,
one day after hauling out to molt.
Note: Photo taken with telephoto lens from safe distance away.
Staff photo.

On February 25th, residents of an apartment complex in Port Townsend's downtown area were startled to find a 400-pound seal on their back patio. They were concerned that the seal was injured and reported the animal to the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network (EJCMMSN) at 360-385-5582 ext. 103. The EJCMMSN is run by PTMSC staff and volunteers, who promptly responded.   

The seal was identified as a juvenile Northern Elephant Seal (Mirounga angustirostris) that was beginning to molt.  Molting is a natural condition all elephant seals go through. Once a year, they shed their short, dense pelage along with large patches of old skin. The process can take 4 to 5 weeks. During this time, the seal will haul out along the shoreline, which warms up the skin and speeds up the molting process. Molting looks horrible and is often mistaken for injuries to the animal. Sometimes juveniles get what is called scabby molt with skin lesions-- this looks particularly gruesome.  

Photo taken March 3rd, six days after hauling out to molt.
Note: Photo taken with telephoto lens from safe distance away.
Photo credit: Patt Roche.

This elephant seal, affectionately named Buddy by apartment residents, is likely a juvenile male. Adult male elephant seals sport the attractive trunk-like snout that gives the species its name. You may have seen videos of these colossal animals, averaging 14 feet in length and weighing upwards of 5,000 pounds. Females are significantly smaller but still quite large, measuring closer to 10 feet and around 1,300 pounds. Northern Elephant Seals are polygamous, with an adult male dominating a large group of females during the breeding season. Young males are commonly pushed out of the breeding colony and may stray far away. Enter Buddy. 

Apartment residents hand-crafted a sign to keep people and dogs away.
Staff photo. 

Just why did Buddy haul out to molt on this busy beach? We don't know. Nature is often mysterious like that. Whatever the reason, we wanted to make his stay as stress-free as possible and keep people safe. EJCMMSN volunteers, in conjunction with apartment residents, set up signs and yellow tape to keep people and dogs a safe distance away. On the weekend, an entourage of caring EJCMMSN volunteers "seal sat" around the clock during daylight hours. Together, they educated more than 100 people about Buddy, the molting process, and elephant seals in general, all while attempting to minimize disturbance to the seal.

A quick story about Buddy: Dana Kovac and I were taking our turn at seal sitting one cool sunny Saturday, and chatting with an apartment resident. This day Buddy had quite neatly lodged himself in between the apartment building and some pilings jutting out from the beach, in what looked like a terribly uncomfortable place to lay. But then we were told that Buddy had chosen the exact spot the residents plant their tomatoes, which is the warmest place on the patio. How's that for clever?

Buddy was last seen on March 7th. After a week and a half of lounging on the apartment's back patio, he headed into the water and did not return. Presumably, to find a better place to finish molting. 

Here's to you Buddy, may you have finished sloughing your old dead fur on a peaceful sandy beach void of our prodding eyes and curious canine friends. Thank you for gracing us with your presence

And many thanks to the kind and protective residents who watched over Buddy and the EJCMMSN volunteers who donated their time and skills to help this special elephant seal!

What should YOU do if you see a marine mammal in distress on the beach?

1. Stay back (NOAA recommends a distance of 100 yards). Keep people and dogs away.
2. Call the appropriate number below

To report a marine mammal in Eastern Jefferson County, call PTMSC at 360-385-5582 ext. 103
To report a marine mammal anywhere else, call NOAA Stranding Hotline at 1-800-853-1964
If a marine mammal is being harassed or harmed, call NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964

It is against federal law, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, to disturb a marine mammal. 

Danae Presler
EJCMMSN Educator