Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Content in the Natural History Exhibit!

Question: How do you balance a glacier?
Answer: Very carefully! 

Come learn more about the impacts of climate change on glaciers in Olympic National Park with a new interactive animation on Glacial Mass Balance.

How do glaciers respond to changes in the length of winter snowfall?
What causes glaciers to advance and recede?

Learn the answers to these questions (and more!) with this addition to our Climate Change display in the Natural History Exhibit.

This display was funded in part by the Public Participation Grant from the Washington Department of Ecology. Thank you to staff at Olympic National Park for providing the display content.

CAROLYN WOODS is the Natural History Exhibit and Volunteer Educator and an AmeriCorps Member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Play the Game: How to Tell the Difference Between Seals and Sea Lions

Really think about it, if you were walking along the beach as the sun was going down and saw a marine mammal in the distance, would you be able to identify it? It is okay if you are quietly saying to yourself, "no," I am going to help with that!

I have created a matching game. I am going to introduce different marine mammals that look very similar to each other and provide information about how to identify them, life history, and some fun stories and facts. I will post pictures at the bottom and you must see if you can guess the correct species! Next month, I will post the answers along with a new set of species, so make sure you check back and see if you got it right! Come summer, you will all be experts at identifying marine mammals!  

A little information about marine mammals:

Marine mammals are mammals that live in the marine environment for the majority of their lives. These mammals get their food from the ocean and their water from their food. We have over 31 species of marine mammals that call the Pacific North West home. So let’s jump right in and learn about them!

Week 1: Seals vs Sea Lion

Do you think you know the difference between a seal and a sea lion? What key characteristics would you look for to tell them apart?

Our seals and sea lions are fin-footed carnivorous marine mammals within the suborder Pinnipedia (meaning “wing-foot” or “feather-foot”). This suborder, which includes Seals (Family: Phocids), Sea Lions (Family: Otariids) and Walruses (Family: Odobenidae), have the widest distribution of any other suborder and inhabit all the oceans. Pinnipeds main sources of food are fish and squid, however some will eat mollusks, crustaceans and much larger prey.

Photo from National Geographic 1987
So how can you tell them apart?

There are a couple of noticeable differences between Seals and Sea Lions. When I am differentiating between the two, I focus on two characteristics: their flippers and their ears. 

The forelimbs of sea lions are longer and more developed than those of seals. They use them to move through the water and to prop themselves up and move quickly on land. Another noticeable characteristic is that their hind flippers can rotate forward. In contrast, a seal uses its hind flippers when propelling through the water, cannot prop themselves up, are awkward when moving on land, and cannot rotate their hind flippers forward.  

Another way to differentiate between the two would be by observing their ears. Sea lions have external ear flaps where true seals do not. This is not something you would see unless you were standing over a dead individual or you had binoculars. Never go up to a seal or sea lion to see if it has ear flaps or not, I promise you, it will not end well.

From "Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska" Kate Wynne

Below you can see some other characteristic differences between the two species:

Now that you have all the information do you think you can tell them apart? 

Who am I? 
Who am I?
Who am I? 
Who are we?
I am going to start off easy, just so that you can focus on noticing the differences. Don’t worry, the pictures will get more difficult. You can put your answers in the comment section below so I can see who gets them right! 

KATIE CONROY is the Marine Mammal Stranding Educator and an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Rainbow Connection

Today through Friday, 12/18, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is seeking to meet a $3,000 match challenge from a generous donor. Donate today and every dollar you give will go twice as far. With your help, we will meet our goal of raising $15,000 for our annual fund to double our impact next year. Thank you for helping to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea and monitor the health of our local ocean.

On the first Saturday of every month, I get to hang out on the beach with three of Port Townsend's finest birders. Surveying seabirds with these citizen scientists as part of the Seattle Audubon's Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS) is a real treat. The PSSS has been a part of my service quite literally since Day 1. I arrived to my first day of service on the morning of October 1 completely unaware that I would spend my evening training on PSSS protocol until 7:30 PM, let alone leading my first survey two days later. These short, 30-minute surveys are now one of the projects I look forward to most each month as the AmeriCorps Citizen Science Educator at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. This month, we were graced with the presence of a full rainbow for the entire survey. It was truly remarkable!

PTMSC citizen scientists braving 30mph winds on December 5th, 2015, to conduct the monthly PSSS. We counted 39 individuals representing 8 species, and one double rainbow. (Pictured left to right: Bruce Marsten, Ron Sikes, and Bill Vogt. Photo credit: Zofia Knorek).

Rainbows are an optical illusion — they change based on the viewers' perspective. Since the rainbow lasted for over an hour, I was gifted with the opportunity to change my perspective numerous times. As a marine ecologist whose primary research interests are underwater, I spend a lot of time looking down and thinking about what lies below. This rainbow was a stark symbol of what glory there is to see if I remember to look up. Moreover, I now recognize the diversity of lenses — and hence, perspectives — I use at PTMSC to view and learn from the Salish Sea: my own eyes (and glasses), binoculars, spotting scopes, microscopes, cameras (digital and underwater!), and most importantly, the lenses of other organisms, human or not. To me, the processes of investigating (changing our perspectives) and communicating (sharing our perceptions) are what science and education are all about; I serve to embody and inspire these processes.

LOOK, A GIANT YELLOW GUNNEL! Or, AmeriCorps Marine Exhibit Educator Rebecca Mostow, living life from the perspective of our eelgrass tank inhabitants (while cleaning up their poop...nice multitasking!). (Photo credit: Chrissy McLean).

This season's sea star wasting survey (see Rebecca's blog report next week!) required climbing and crawling over and under barnacle rocks and peering into the smallest of crevices to observe our favorite five-armed phenoms. (Photo credit: Carolyn Woods).
In the holiday spirit of joy, light, and giving thanks, I would like to thank AmeriCorps/Washington Service Corps and PTMSC for this multifaceted rainbow connection (obligatory Kermit reference). Over the period of two short months, AmeriCorps and PTMSC have connected me to a phenomenal group of volunteers, visitors, students, colleagues, and scientists. It is quite fitting that my first taste of citizen science was ornithological in nature. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is renowned for pioneering the bridges (or, keeping in theme: connections) between citizen science and ecology. Further, seabirds are an important ecological connection between our ocean, land, and sky. Citizen science is not as prevalent in marine science as it is in other systems. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve at an organization that is at the forefront of marine citizen science, and studies such a wide array of subjects, particularly those that challenge me to think critically and broaden my interests.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a talented birder. I don't even think I qualify as an "okay" birder. I have astigmatism, so trying not to trip over what is right in front of me is enough of a daily chore — one that is not eased with a pair of binoculars. However, like anything else, careful practice brings improvement. My ability to spot and identify our friends of flight has been greatly refined  — the majority of my bird sightings used to turn out to really be leaves (what I jokingly called a 'leafbird', not to be confused with real leafbirds). Our study site is the open water of the Straits of Juan de Fuca just north of Pt. Wilson. Thus, we do not count birds in trees, which relieves some obstructive difficulties (and eliminates the potential for 'leafbirds' altogether), but does not come without other challenges. The birds are often highly active and can fly away at any moment without notice. Seabirds can also disappear underwater to dive and forage fish. On windy days, high wave action can obscure our direct line of sight to the birds. Thank you to Ron, Bill, and Bruce for sharing your birding knowledge and braving gnarly winds with me every month. And, thank you to all of our citizen scientists for your continued devotion to, and incredible patience with, your respective projects. You strengthen the institution of science more than you will ever know.

Finally, I am overwhelmingly thankful that this refracted light ignited such deep reflection of the inspiration I receive from you, my allies in conserving the Salish Sea, every day.

Looks like I found a service (s)pot o' gold at each end of the rainbow! (Photo credit: Zofia Knorek).

ZOFIA KNOREK is the Citizen Science Educator and an AmeriCorps Member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Whales of the Salish Sea: It's WOSSome!

As an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, part of my duty is to provide educational opportunities to underserved communities, in addition to supporting our organizational mission of inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea. Our residential program, Whales of the Salish Sea (WOSS), is a perfect example of how these tasks combine and complement each other. For three days in November, almost fifty 5th graders toured the Marine Science Center and received hands-on lessons in marine biology and public policy. WOSS was also a chance for our entire AmeriCorps team to work together and learn from each other and experienced educators, including WOSS Coordinator (and past AmeriCorps member) Megan Veley.

On the first day, we introduced students to marine mammals and dove into the ecology of orca communities. Everyone received a hands-on lesson about the important role of blubber in insulating whales from the cold waters of the Salish Sea. I got the chance to coach several students through the process of scientific drawing when we observed marine mammal skulls as a class to identify their adaptation for living in the ocean. The students also answered questions including “how do researchers identify individual orcas?” and “what kinds of relationships exist between pods of orcas?”

Left: Students used an insulated "blubber glove" in a bucket of seawater to understand how whales keep warm Right: Gray whale skeleton articulation in progress

Next, students got an up-close look at the tiniest animals in the Salish Sea and a hands-on lesson with one of the largest when they examined plankton under microscopes and articulated Spirit, our gray whale skeleton.

Plankton collection on the dock also included a surprise visit from a juvenile harbor seal, an important illustration of the abundance of marine life in the waters around Port Townsend.

The program culminated in a mock Town Hall Meeting, a chance for all the students to synthesize the content they’d learned over the past three days and discuss the merits and drawbacks of a proposed tidal turbine in Admiralty Inlet. I was impressed at how confident and informed the students were in presenting their opinions. It was extremely satisfying to see how our work during the lessons had paid off with a greater understanding of the interdependence of humans and animals living in the Salish Sea.

Even more inspiring were the students who told me they were now interested in pursuing a career in marine biology!

The class was excited to share their opinions at the mock Town Hall meeting
In addition to providing valuable learning experience for our students, I had the chance to immerse myself in the curriculum that our team will be using in the coming months for our Free Science Classes. I look forward to continuing to improve my skills as an educator and working with more groups of curious students.

Thank you to Megan Veley, Nancy Israel, Amy Johnson, Susan Bullerdick, and Gabriele Sanchez for making Whales of the Salish Sea a success!

CAROLYN WOODS is the Natural History Exhibit and Volunteer Educator and an AmeriCorps Member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ocean Monitoring and Conservation Using Cabled Observatory Technology

The following is a guest post from Nam Siu, a marine biologist and Marine Science Center Oceanography on the Dock educator. 

Today through Friday, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is seeking to meet a $1000 match challenge from two generous donors. Donate today and every dollar you give will go twice as far toward sparking curiosity and inspiring stewardship of the Salish Sea. With your help, we will meet our goal of raising $15,000 to double our impact next year and inspire more people like Nam to become passionate stewards of our marine environment.

Nautilus in Victoria

In August 2015, I returned aboard the E/V Nautilus as a data manager. The ship had just transited from San Francisco to Victoria to pick up crew and equipment in preparation for the last cruise of the expedition season. This last cruise was rather unique as Dr. Robert Ballard's Ocean Exploration Trust, the non-profit that operates the E/V Nautilus, was collaborating with Ocean Networks Canada to perform maintenance on their underwater observatory as well as various scientific missions.

Nam and his colleague, Katie, on deck
Nam with Dr. Robert Ballard

Ocean Networks Canada operates and maintains both the Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea (VENUS) and North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments (NEPTUNE) observatories providing real-time in situ data from various scientific instrument platforms through the Salish Sea (VENUS) and Northeast Pacific (NEPTUNE). The scientific instrument platforms on these ocean observatories monitor everything from hydro-acoustics for marine mammal and shipping traffic research, to bottom pressure sensors as a part of the earthquake and tsunami early warning system, to HD cameras recording the succession of hydrothermal vent tubeworm communities, and much more.

Onboard observation room
Nam and a small octopus

It was a real privilege to work on both the VENUS and NEPTUNE observatories in our own backyard of the Salish Sea and Northeast Pacific. Moreover, for someone like me, who regularly SCUBA dives in this area and is usually restricted to the shallow water environment down to a maximum 30 m of depth, it was absolutely amazing to explore the deepest parts of the ocean here. For instance, the deepest site on this cruise, the “Endeavor Hydrothermal Vent Field” was at a depth of approximately 2,300 meters! This is a good time to clarify that no, I was not SCUBA diving on this research cruise and no, I did not go down in a submersible. The E/V Nautilus hosts two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Hercules and Argus, that we remotely operate from the comfort of the control room on the ship. It was with these two ROVs, especially Hercules, which was the business end of the system with manipulator arms that we used to perform maintenance of instrument platforms and surveys on the seafloor.

Hercules front view
Hercules in the vent field

The highlight of the cruise for me was when we finally transited 400 km offshore to dive on the Endeavor Hydrothermal Vent Field at the Juan de Fuca and Pacific plate spreading ridge. This was the deepest site at 2,300 m below the surface of the Northeastern Pacific. Here we found gigantic hydrothermal vents, black smoker chimneys, and spires that rose up to 30 m above the sea floor.

The spreading ridge
Smoke and mirrors

As a marine biologist, the most interesting thing to me, besides the giant hydrothermal vent spires, were the vast tubeworm communities hosting a diverse array of chemosynthetically dependent organisms.


The data collected by Ocean Network Canada is available to the public and anyone can go to www.oceannetwork.ca to make an account and start viewing the data and video streams. Moreover, videos and pictures from this expedition and previous ones can be seen on www.nautiluslive.org.

NAM SIU is a Marine Biologist and Project Manager at Marine Surveys & Assessments where he conducts scientific SCUBA surveys throughout the Salish Sea and assesses the environmental impact of various marine related projects. Occasionally Nam goes to sea with Dr Robert Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust aboard the exploration vessel Nautilus to explore hydrothermal vents and the deepest parts of the ocean with remotely operated unmanned submersibles. Nam has an M.Sc. in biology with oceanography emphasis, as well as a dual B.Sc. in Marine Science and Biology. He is a district one representative on the Jefferson County Marine Resources Committee serving on several subcommittees dedicated to protecting and restoring the marine resources of Jefferson County. Nam also works part-time at the Jefferson Community School as a marine science educator and dive master for their overseas diving expeditions. Above all, Nam volunteers at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center mostly helping out with the citizen science program Oceanography on the Dock.

Help create more stories like Nam's. Donate today!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Zella" the Seal Pup

Yesterday I responded to my first Marine Mammal Stranding Network call! Luckily for me, I didn't have to travel far to see this marine mammal because she was hauled out on the beach right next to the PTMSC pier.

Zella, the harbor seal pup, resting on the beach

Maybe she'll come tour the exhibit next weekend!

Around 1 o'clock on Saturday, a harbor seal pup climbed up on the sandy, protected shore right in front of the Marine Exhibit. She looked healthy, chubby, and relaxed. I think this is the same pup we've seen playing and hunting by the pier for the past month or so. On Friday, one of our smallest visitors decided to name her Zella. All the visitors to the Marine Exhibit on Saturday got to see her resting on the beach from the safe distance of the pier. We reminded everyone to admire her from afar and not to approach her.

REBECCA MOSTOW is the Marine Exhibit Educator and an AmeriCorps member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My First Stranding as the Americorps Marine Mammal Stranding Educator

Nine days. It only took nine days to get my first stranding call. Actually, by the official definition, it was not technically a stranding.  However, I am going to count it because it was a good, easy call to start my Americorps term as the Marine Mammal Stranding Educator.

I’m from Brooklyn, New York. We don’t have many marine mammals in those waters. My first experience with them was after college and ever since then I’ve stayed close to the field volunteering for organizations involved with stranding, but this was my first interaction with a stranding as the marine mammal stranding member — I was excited.

Before I go on, let me first define what a stranding actually is. A stranding is when a marine mammal is in one of four different situations:
  1. In a place that is dangerous to humans or animals
  2.  Dead on shore or in the water
  3.  On shore and able to return to the water, but in need of medical assistance
  4.  In the water but not able to return to its natural habitat without assistance
My first "stranding" was none of those.

It was 5:30 pm on a Saturday. I had just closed the Orca Exhibit and I was tired. Neil, the intern, had left the building right before me. By the time I had gathered my things and locked up he was back at the entrance wearing the same tired look as I wore on my face. “There is a seal pup down the beach.” 

It was in front of the camping kitchen, so not far at all. As we walked up to it, my heart started to melt. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen! It was not more than two or three months old and it was just resting so peacefully on the beach. It looked so comfortable and content and at one point it stretched its little flippers and yawned. I wanted to hug it, I wanted to pick it up and snuggle with it. But then I remember the Marine Mammal Protection Act and decided against a huge fine and possible jail time.

Harbor Seal pup sleeping on the beach.
Isn't it the cutest thing you have ever seen?!?!
Normally I would have called volunteers to sit with the seal, but it was after 5:30 pm and slowly getting dark. In any other situation, I would not have hesitated leaving the seal to sleep on the shore — even though they are marine mammals, seals spend some of their time on land to rest. This time was different; it just so happened that there was a party in the camping kitchen only 20 feet away!

My maternal seal instincts kicked in and all I wanted to do was make sure this adorable sleeping seal pup would be okay. I wanted to protect it from any sniffing dogs and curious children. After about 30 minutes of setting up a barrier of driftwood pieces, I finally said my goodbyes and went home.

Now, I do not have children, but I’m sure that the painful, heart-wrenching feeling of saying goodbye to this seal pup is exactly how all parents feel when they drop their kid off at school for the first time. I was so scared for the seal pup, but I was also tired and hungry so I decided to go home. After all, the seal was not hurt and there was nothing else I could have done.

The next day I checked where the seal had been, and it was gone. It must have woken up from its slumbers and gone back to the sea where its actual mother was waiting, too scared to come ashore. I am happy that it safely made it back to its natural habitat, but secretly (or not so secretly) I wish I could have kept it in a bath tub in my office.

So if you remember anything from this story, remember that seals need their rest. It is natural for them to come on to shore and sleep. They don’t check to make sure people are not there, they just wiggle their cute bodies out of the water and onto the sand.

If you do see an injured or dead marine mammal, give us a call at 1-(360) 385-5582 x 103! And remember, don’t hug a sleeping seal! As fun as that may be, the Marine Mammal Protection Act protects seals, and other marine mammals from any humans interaction. So give it at least 100 yards of space and let it rest.

KATIE CONROY is the Marine Mammal Stranding Educator and an AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sea Star Wasting Strikes Again

Today through Friday, 12/18, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is seeking to meet a $3,000 match challenge from a generous donor. Donate today and every dollar you give will go twice as far. With your help, we will meet our goal of raising $15,000 for our annual fund to double our impact next year. Thank you for helping to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea and monitor the health of our local ocean.

During my first week at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, our tanks suffered a minor catastrophe. We had another small bloom of sea star wasting disease, a notorious viral infection that has been killing off sea stars all along the north Pacific coast. 

I have personally seen the effects of wasting on beaches from Alaska to California, so I was anxious to see it in a captive setting. It’s a pretty depressing progression, that’s for sure. I watched four sunflower stars (Pycnopodia helianthiodes) progress from behaving unnaturally to losing limbs in a matter of a few days. 

However upsetting the disease is, it is fascinating and heartening to see the work the PTMSC is putting in to tracking and understanding it. Along with other aquaria, the PTMSC observers noted that the first stage of the disease is a behavioral one. Stars act lethargic and twist their arms across one another. This observation has allowed the Science Center volunteers and staff to detect the presence of the disease before any animals show more classic physical symptoms. 

The PTMSC runs a citizen science monitoring program of its tanks and of nearby subtidal and intertidal plots. Volunteers and staff gather data on the health of many different species and populations of stars in Strait of Jaun de Fuca water. These data are shared with the University of California Santa Cruz and other organizations monitoring the disease. 

Hopefully we are contributing to a better understanding of the disease, its symptoms, and its spread in our ecosystem.

A sunflower star with wasting that has started to lose limbs. 

A sunflower star with wasting. Note the white lesions and deflated appearance.

Zofia and me removing a sick sea star from the cluster tanks. I was very close to trading places with the sea star that day! 

REBECCA MOSTOW is the Marine Exhibit Educator and an AmeriCorps member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Citizen Scientists Deploy Mussels for WDFW Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program

Guided by the light of the full moon (and headlamps) on October 27, 2015, three groups of PTMSC volunteers patiently awaited the arrival of the zero tide. They, along with 70 other teams, are part of a collaborative project taking place this week, led by the Washington State Department of Ecology with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies. PTMSC teams placed cages full of mussels at specific shoreline locations in Port Townsend, Port Hadlock, and Irondale.

Mussels filter water to feed and in doing so, can accumulate toxins found in the water. In February the mussels will be collected, delivered to WDFW labs and tested for toxins.

Our mussel deployers were: Liz Hoenig, Aaron Walter, Charley Kanieski, Dave Sachi, Darryl Hrenko, Rebecca Mostow, Carolyn Woods, Katie Conroy, and Zofia Knorek.

Our mussel rustlers were Merce Dostale and Michael Tarachow, who journeyed to Penn Cove Shellfish on Whidbey Island to get our supplies.

Above: Jennifer Lanksbury, Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at Penn Cove Shellfish with our supplies ready for pick-up.
Below: The mussels were kept on ice in cooler bags until deployment.
Photo Credit: Michael Tarachow and Merce Dostale

Above: Carolyn (L) and Zofia (R) assembling the mussel cage at Port Hadlock
Below: Carolyn Thor, deploying her mussels muscles!
Photo Credit: Katie Conroy

Above: Team Irondale (L to R: Rebecca, Darryl, and Dave), rebar pounding champions
Below: Cage in place--see you in February!
Photo Credit: Darryl Hrenko and Katie Conroy

ZOFIA KNOREK is the Citizen Science Educator and an AmeriCorps Member at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award Winner Announced!

We are excited to announce that Jude Rubin has won the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award. Eleanor Stopps was a powerful advocate for lasting protection of the North Olympic Peninsula environment. In the 1960s and 1970s she recognized the need to protect the uniquely important marine environment of the Salish Sea. With no special political base or powerful financial backers she testified before the Washington State Legislature and the United States Congress, an act which was instrumental in getting legislation and public support for protection of the area. She was responsible for the establishment of the Protection Island Wildlife Refuge in 1982. Today, it is a critical link in the preservation of the whole Salish Sea region.

Previous winners include: 2005: Katherine Baril; 2006: Anne Murphy; 2007: Tom Jay and Sara Mall Johani; 2008: Al Latham; 2009: Peter Bahls; 2010: Sarah Spaeth; 2011: Dick and Marie Goin; 2012: Judith Alexander; 2013: Rebecca Benjamin; 2014: Ray Lowrie.

Stay tuned for blog posts about the 2015 Eleanor Stopps Award nominees: John Fabian, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Cindy Jayne, Port of Port Townsend, Peter Rhines, and Steve Tucker

The following blog post is excerpted from Jude’s nomination:

Over the past two decades, Jude has been an instrumental force in environmental conservation in Jefferson County. Jude initiated and lead environmental programs for children and young adults, most notably the “Plant-a-Thon”, the largest annual environmental service project in Jefferson County, played a critical role in passing the Port Townsend bag ban, and helped preserve over 4,000 acres in the Tarboo Dabob Watershed while serving both as the Stewardship Director and as a founding board member of Northwest Watershed Institute.


Over a decade ago, Jude Rubin was listening to school fundraising ideas at a parent’s meeting and thought, “If children can wash cars and sell magazine subscriptions, why not sell honorary tree cards and plant trees to raise money?” Nearly every winter since, over 150 students, teachers and parents from five local schools plant about 3,000 native trees and shrubs at salmon restoration sites prepared by Northwest Watershed Institute along Tarboo Creek.

Before each planting event, Jude, as Stewardship Director with Northwest Watershed Institute, meets with the children in classrooms throughout Jefferson County to help them understand the critical role that temperate rainforests play in sustaining salmon habitat.

Prior to the big planting event, families sell honorary tree cards. Each card represents a tree to be planted in someone’s honor or memory. 100% of the money from the card sales goes to the schools because Jude and NWI work all year to raise grant funds and in-kind contributions to cover the cost of the project. For many students, the Plant-a-Thon has served as a strong influence in their growth as environmental stewards and leaders. Thanks to the remarkable collaborative efforts over the years led by Jude, 2015 marked the 10th annual Plant-a-Thon, with a total of more than 33,000 trees planted to date, well over $150,000 raised for schools, and hundreds of children and parents gaining greater appreciation for watershed ecology and environmental service.

Bag Monster

Jude is also well known as the "Bag Monster." In 2012, she took Port Townsend City Hall by storm with her humor and ensured a swift approval of the groundbreaking Port Townsend plastic bag ban.
In the Bag Ban effort, Jude coordinated the efforts of five partnering organizations, and stepped into the public limelight to represent the campaign as "The Bag Monster," addressing the City Council three times in a costume made of 500 disposable bags. Partly due to Jude’s persistent approach, the plastic bag ban was implemented in just seven months —one of the fastest adoptions of a bag ban proposal by any city in the country. In costume at City Council meetings, Jude was a force to be reckoned with. While most people would be deathly afraid to make a fool of him or herself —even for the most worthy cause —Jude courageously triumphed!

Northwest Watershed Institute

In 2001, Jude co-founded the Northwest Watershed Institute and has served as the Stewardship Director since 2004. Over the past eleven years, she has worked effectively as a scientific researcher, project manager, visiting classroom teacher, and fundraiser, and has been instrumental in NWI’s nationally recognized conservation achievements.

Jude’s grant writing skills, environmental and community outreach abilities, and her knowledge as a botanist and ecologist have helped NWI and many project partners to protect and restore over 4,000 acres in the Tarboo watershed, including critical stream and wetland habitat along Tarboo Creek and in Dabob Bay.

Jude’s environmental achievements are a continuation of a lifelong commitment to the environment. She graduated from Brown University in 1988 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, and earned an M.S. in 1995 as both a Switzer Fellow and an R.K Mellon Fellow through the Field Naturalist Program at the University of Vermont. In the early 1990’s Jude helped launch a highly successful organic gardening education campaign in Seattle, and later worked for the Nature Conservancy in Oregon on native plant seed banking, and then at River Network as a project manager and Senior Grant Writer. In 1996, she co-authored, with Peter Bahls, the Chimacum Watershed Coho Salmon Restoration Assessment as her graduate thesis, and this work provided the scientific justification for the initial two-million dollars raised for Chimacum salmon habitat protection and restoration.

Whether she is known as "The Tree Lady," "The Bag Monster," or "Stewardship Director of Northwest Watershed Institute," Jude exudes the spirit of community-based environmental stewardship Eleanor Stopps sought to instill in everyone around her. We are grateful for the privilege of naming Jude Rubin our 2015 Eleanor Stopps Environmental Service Award recipient.

We also want to honor the 2015 Eleanor Stopps Award nominees: John Fabian, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Cindy Jayne, Port of Port Townsend, Peter Rhines, and Steve Tucker.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A New Logo for The Port Townsend Marine Science Center

When you look at natural ecosystems, they are built on a web of interactions and relationships between multiple species.

When the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) started to look at how we were presenting ourselves through our programs, our logo, and our website, we wanted to honor these relationships. We took a deeper look at what we are, what we aspire to be, and how to visually represent the PTMSC vision to the world.

As we set out to design a new logo for PTMSC, one word in particular came through strongest to represent who we are: Ecosystem.

Above all, the design needed to convey the interdependence of the marine ecosystem, as that interdependence is something that inspires us, and something we work to conserve every single day.

So, we are thrilled this morning to reveal the Port Townsend Marine Science Center's new logo!

Thank you all for being a part of the web of community, volunteers, members, donors, and environmental advocates who help us in our mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Meet our new 2015-2016 AmeriCorps Educator Team!

From left to right: Zofia Knorek, Citizen Science Educator; Rebecca Mostow, Marine Exhibit Educator; Carolyn Woods, Natural History Exhibit and Volunteer Educator; and Katie Conroy, Marine Mammal Stranding Educator. 

We're so happy to have our new AmeriCorps team on board to help us inspire conservation of the Salish Sea. Stop by to say "hi" to them in our exhibits! We're open Friday - Sunday, 12-5pm.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

2015/16 Lecture Series Kicks off October 11

Future of Oceans Lecture Series presents:

Using Unmanned Hexacopters to Measure Orcas in the Wild

presented by Dr. John Durban of NOAA

Sunday, October 11 at 3 pm

Fort Worden Commons
$10 General Admission | $5 PTMSC Members | FREE Teachers & Students

Dr. John Durban is a population ecologist with a primary focus on killer whales, which he has studied for more than 20 years. He now works with the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California.

The focus of Dr. Durban's lecture will be the use of small unmanned aircraft as a photogrammetry tool. To-date, Dr. Durban has flown 60 flight missions with a small hexacopter above killer whales collecting images to conduct research on killer whale abundance and demographics, studies of individual size, growth and body condition, and analysis of movement patterns using photo-identification and satellite telemetry.

Dr. Durban currently works on the population assessment of eastern North Pacific gray whales, the ecosystem role of killer whales in the North Pacific and Antarctic, and the response of beaked whales to Navy sonar exposure.

THE 2015/16 FUTURE OF OCEANS LECTURE SERIES explores the frontiers of ocean research and emerging technologies as they confront the human capacity to know and sustain oceans.

Marine Science Center Finds 5.8 Tons of Plastic on Salish Sea Beaches

The following is a guest post by former Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director, Anne Murphy. She tells the story of the Plastics Project from its earliest days and emphasizes that without dedication and hard work of our volunteers, this timely study of plastics pollution in the Salish Sea would not have been possible:

It was around 2006 when I first I heard about the “garbage patch” in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It brought up the question that would fuel our research:

If that much plastic is floating out in the Pacific Ocean, how much is here in our local marine waters and on our beaches? 

With the help of Marcus Eriksen* of Algalita Marine Research Foundation, PTMSC conducted some exploratory beach sampling trials at home in rural Jefferson County and in urbanized King County. Our trials focused on sampling sandy beaches for small bits of plastic called microplastic, a size that beach clean up efforts generally miss and a size that commonly enters the food web through ingestion by birds and fish. (*Marcus Eriksen is now with 5 Gyres Institute.)

We found microplastic in our trials. We conducted more trials on new beaches, this time looking for a pattern in microplastic distribution along the length of drift cells. Again we found microplastics, but no pattern emerged within drift cells. Sampling by drift cell proved to be more complicated than our original approach. By this time, I was convinced that we wanted to develop a sampling plan that could be easily learned and replicated by volunteers throughout the region.

We secured funding to conduct a three-year study that we hoped would provide a baseline estimate of how much microplastic was on WA Salish Sea beaches. (Thanks to our major funders: WA DOE’s PPG Program and Foss Maritime.) In Year 1 we recruited and trained volunteer groups in 7 counties. In Year 2 we expanded to include volunteer groups and partnering institutions in all 12 Washington Salish Sea counties.

Enthusiasm, support, and interest remained high throughout the three-year project duration. When the project ended, many volunteers were motivated to share what they’d learned about plastic debris accumulating on their beaches and the associated impacts to marine ecosystem health. In many cases, volunteers chose to engage at a deeper level as partners in conservation. Examples of their actions included creating a plastic bottle reduction campaign, working with local municipalities to ban the distribution of plastic bags, offering awareness-building programs in schools to help youth think about their choices and alternatives to single-use plastics, leading beach clean-ups, and more.

After the project ended, PTMSC received repeated queries about starting up again. It was a very popular citizen science project. Public awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean had grown so much by 2011 that people wanted to be part of a solution.

After three years of sampling, PTMSC’s next hurdle was to find a statistician to analyze and interpret the data so that we could share our findings. We dreamed of writing an article for submission to Marine Pollution Bulletin about this research, but who had the time while working full time? It was after I retired from my position as executive director that a window of opportunity opened.

I met Wally Davis, a retired biologist/statistician from Snohomish County who was conducting his own research on plastics in surface water. We conversed about our research and stayed in touch. It was Davis’s idea to jointly write an article on the two studies. He pointed out that they overlapped in time and space and provided complimentary views of plastics in the environment. And, Davis loved crunching data. Murphy readily agreed. The PTMSC is eternally grateful to Davis for stepping in and running with this joint project.

It is important to note that a project of this regional scale could not have happened without partners in the 12 counties where sampling occurred. Each partner group helped PTMSC recruit and train volunteer citizen scientists. Many volunteers stuck with the project from start to finish while others joined or left at various points in the project. We conservatively estimate that over 600 citizen scientists contributed over 4313 hours to acquire our data. PTMSC again thanks our partners in this project and is pleased to share our article with them. We simply could not have done this work without their assistance.

ANNE MURPHY is the retired executive director of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and co-author of the article, “Plastic in surface waters of the Inside Passage and beaches of the Salish Sea in Washington State.”  The article, as published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, is accessible for free until September 30, 2015. After that time, you may contact the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for access to the paper.

Live link until September 30, 2015: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X15003860