Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Citizen Science in Pictures

How well do you know our Citizen Science projects? Here’ s a test! Below are short descriptions of the various projects volunteers carry out here at PTMSC and groups of photos. Can you match project descriptions with the pictures? Let’s see!

Sound Toxins: Volunteers sample for plankton at various sites, looking specifically for species that cause harmful algal blooms.  These organisms are harmful to human health and/or the economic health of Puget Sound, and we serve as an early warning system!

BEACH: Our volunteers brave the cold water (wading in a few feet) to monitor bacteria levels at local beaches and educate the public about the risks of polluted water.  We work with the government to close beaches when levels are dangerously high.

Mussels/PSP: We collect samples of blue mussels which are sent to a lab (via UPS! What an adventure!) and tested for the toxins responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning.

Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS): We identify local seabirds to develop a baseline of their populations and learn about how to target response efforts in the case of oil spills.

Ocean Genome Legacy Project: We take tissue samples of dead marine animals (that die in our exhibit or that wash up on shore nearby).  Their genome is sequenced to further scientific understanding of the marine environment in light of biodiversity loss in our world’s oceans.

Purple Martin: We’re keeping track of Purple Martins that land and nest in the houses built on our pier. Purple Martin’s experienced a dramatic population decrease in the last century so we’d like to know how our own local birds are faring.

Abalone Halfway House (brand new!): Due to the staggering population decline in Pinto Abalone caused by recreational overfishing, we partnered up with the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to raise 200 juvenile Abalone. We are housing one group in the lab and another on the pier and gathering data on their growth rates.

Oceanography on the Dock (brand new!): A free program intended to get the public involved in testing some physical oceanography parameters. Guided by a staff or volunteer, O-dock participants measure salinity, pH, temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and more while learning about their connection to conservation. 

Now…here’s your test! Match the project descriptions with their photos. Answers at the bottom.

Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
Project 4

Project 5
Project 6
Project 7
Project 8


Project 1 - Abalone Halfway House
Project 2 - Purple Martin
Project 3 - BEACH
Project 4 - Ocean Genome Legacy
Project 5 - Oceanography on the Docks
Project 6 - Puget Sound Seabird Survey
Project 7 - Mussels/PSP
Project 8 - Sound Toxins

Did you pass the test?  I hope this gallery of our fabulous work inspires you to keep working hard as a volunteer or to get involved if you aren't already.  Keep in mind there are always ways that you can be a citizen scientist!

Coming Soon:
Roof Runoff: We’ll be sampling roof runoff from houses both in Port Townsend and Seattle to test for toxic chemicals.  If you are available to be trained for sampling in the fall and want to participate, we’d love for you to get involved!  Please contact Jamie Landry at jlandry@ptmsc.org or 385 5582 x112.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Oceanography on the Dock Kickoff

This week we rocked our new citizen science project, Oceanography on the Dock. This project is a volunteer and staff led public program. It’s free to the public and meant to familiarize park visitors with some of the basic principles of oceanography and ocean conservation. The best part is that participants get to use actual test equipment to measure parameters such as salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and more.

Many participants of various ages attended our first few sessions on the PTMSC floating dock. I hosted my very first session and two groups joined me – including parents, children, girl scouts, and aspiring geologists and historians. The large group of girl scouts admitted that they did not know what oceanography meant, but after I explained the basic concepts they bravely agreed to help me conduct our research. Every single hand shot up in earnest whenever a helper for a new task was needed. These noble citizen scientists peered over the edge of the railing to watch the secchi disk to measure turbidity, carefully read the YSI meter to find out dissolved oxygen, pressure, and temperature and, fought over the chance to peer into the refractometer to determine salinity. They also tested the pH of the water using old fashioned pH strips and compared what they found with the more precise electronic meters. One dutiful data recorder, always close at hand, filled out the data sheet neatly and competently. The best part about working with these young ladies was realizing that they illustrate how just about anyone can be a scientist.

In addition to educating the public, it’s important to us that park visitors get a chance to contribute to real research. One of the reasons for conducting this research is hanging only feet away from where the program took place. Housed in a small cage, secured to the dock, are 100 baby Pinto Abalone from the Puget Sound Restoration Fund hatcheries. The Pinto Abalone are experiencing such low population numbers in the wild that they are unable to functionally reproduce. It is important to monitor the basic physical conditions of the water surrounding the precious growing mollusks here at PTMSC.

The new Oceanography on the Dock program gives anyone with curiosity and enthusiasm the opportunity to be a scientist. I was thrilled that so many individuals were willing to learn about oceanography and its importance to conservation. Here’s hoping visitors continue to enjoy our new summer program!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Adventures With the Junior Explorers

Last week (June 25-29) was our Junior Explorers summer camp with kids ages 5-7. I was a little nervous as that Monday had only been my fourth day working at PTMSC and I was still learning all the ropes. However, this was a fun group of kids and it was a great learning experience for all of us. We went over everything from marine mammals to tide pools to insects to birds.

On Wild Woods Wednesday, we looked at insects we found  on the trail.

It was Tidepool Tuesday with a great low tide! We found crabs and a sea cucumber among many other cools things.

Build-a-bird! We have our "loon" on the left and our "eagle" on the right.

Making sand critters on the beach!

At the end, we somehow ended up digging holes to bury people in...

So as you can see, we had quite the adventures that week! Even some inclement weather couldn't dampen our enthusiasm. I think the kids came away with a better understanding of the creatures we share our home with and hopefully this will make them want to take part in conservation efforts in the future.

Your new PTMSC intern,
Kimberly McClurg