Monday, August 21, 2017

Sunning The Whale Day

Friday, September 1


Fort Worden Pier

Come visit the PTMSC when we "daylight" the gray whale bones on the Pier for a long dose of sun and warmth. For this one-day-only event, staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about gray whales, how this one came to be part of the PTMSC collection, and what we can learn from marine mammals in our midst. You can also learn more about the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at work right here in Port Townsend.

In May of 2016, a juvenile gray whale died in Elliott Bay in Seattle and was towed to a site on Indian Island provided by the US Navy. A team of volunteers, staff, and AmeriCorps members assisted with the necropsy and additional preparation of the body for preservation of her skeleton. The PTMSC has been storing the skeleton until it can be articulated for use in educational programs and exhibits. 

From Park to Pier: The Early Days of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Part 4 of 4

(This is the last of a four-part series about how Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer founded the Port Townsend Marine Science Center 35 years ago. Read Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 3 here.)

Although Libby Palmer returned to Port Townsend in 1990, for the next two years her job often took her out of the area. Still, she now had more time to devote to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center and the important work that co-founder Judy D’Amore, the part-time staff and the growing base of volunteers were sustaining.

2017 Water World, photo by David Conklin

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vehicular Recollections of a 2017 Marine Mammal Stranding Network Coordinator

As my time at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center (PTMSC) comes to a close, I cannot help but remember the adventures I’ve had in this new home in the Pacific Northwest. As far away as I am from my home state of Texas, there were countless experiences that comforted me adapting to this new and different place. The open arms of caring people, happily greeting an out-of-place and chilly southerner, bathed me in countless opportunities to widen my horizons with new stories to tell. I have spoken to a lot of the PTMSC staff and volunteers about my focus, marine mammals, but most of my adventures stemmed from cars or relationships with folks over cars.

Those of you who know me know of my obsession with cars, old and new. The nature of how things work, living or mechanical, is a fascination of mine and determines my two outlets: physiological ecology of marine mammals and car mechanics. While pursuing my marine mammal career here in Port Townsend, I met a man named Denis Keyes, a gentle, knowledgeable soul, who helped set aflame my infatuation with turning wrenches on cars. We met while Denis was volunteering in the Natural History Exhibit, and by visits to his property where former PTMSC intern Tim Weissman lives. Soon, we began to work on Denis’s 1974 SuperBeetle, moving over many months from a disassembled engine on the floor to nearly driving it from the garage.
Denis's Super Beetle gets an engine
When I met Tim Weissman, he was in need of a car. After weeks of pouring over ads, and about nine hours on the road, he came home with his new blue Subaru. The catch was I had pulled for Tim to purchase a type of car he had yet to learn to drive – one with a standard transmission. I taught him the ropes soon thereafter.
Tim and I sporting our off-road vehicles
Tim’s girlfriend at the time, Sarah, who was also an AmeriCorps at PTMSC, wanted to learn how to change the oil on her Ford, and we also replaced the tensioner pulley.
Sarah completing her first oil change
With encouraging mechanical outlets through Denis, Tim, and Sarah, and my desire to put my mind and hands to work, I decided to purchase my own project car.
The "Metrocity" in January after a wheel refurbish
I bought a 1990 Geo Metro Xfi for $100 in Edmonds in the dead of winter. The car had an open back due to surly modifications and no heater, providing a true test of commitment and wool socks. Over some months, I replaced the heater and restored the floors, and my plan was to replace the transmission, which had blown 5th gear. I had even gone to a junkyard and retrieved a new-to-me transmission and was gearing up to install it. I was moving towards this and other projects before I hit a dead stop.
The restored floors
Supporting the weight of the engine/transmission with a spare junkyard radio
In a playful moment, I decided to drive my unregistered, uninsured, and non-road legal project car six blocks to show fellow AmeriCorps, Juhi LaFuente. I was pulled over and given a ticket for $686 – one and a quarter my salary and a simple, youthful, foolish mistake which I successfully contested. I then sold it to a hopeful and excited teenager for $300.

Working at the  PTMSC has opened many doors for me professionally and made me many friends. I greatly enjoyed working with all the helpful and hard-working volunteers, teaching youth in marine science classes or running a fascinating exhibit open to the public. These experiences and others I will carry with me through my life, telling stories of the time spent in Washington and how I wish I could have stayed longer. To those which made this time spent so wonderful, I thank you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

From Park to Pier: The Early Days of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Part 3 of 4

(This is the third of a four-part series about how Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer founded the Port Townsend Marine Science Center 35 years ago. Read Part 1 herePart 2 here and Part 4 here.)

During Libby Palmer’s five-year absence from Port Townsend, Judy D’Amore completed her teaching degree. She’d hoped to get a teaching job in Port Townsend but that year there were hundreds of applicants for only a handful of teaching positions. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Seal Pup 007: A Mission to Move a Seal

Harbor Seal Pup #007 stranded. Photo courtesy of Michael Tarachow
Early on the morning of Monday, July 24th, I walked over to the area near the Fort Worden boat launch by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, blocked off with “caution” tape wrapped around the curly ends of driftwood to form a jagged semi-circle. It was my third morning checking the spot. The harbor seal pup was still there, lounging in the sunshine, but noticeably thinner and lethargic.

Citizen science volunteers and staff members had helped “pup sit” while the young seal moved around the beach (too close for comfort to the incoming boat traffic), hoping to see a mother seal poking her head out of the water, looking to nurse her baby. Unfortunately, we had low expectations that the mother would return after so many days away. (Learn why moms might not come back HERE.)

Volunteer Merce Dostale guarding the seal pup. Photo by Michael Tarachow
Although harbor seals used to be hunted, following the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, seal populations in Puget  Sound rebounded. Populations are now at a healthy level, but seals are still protected by NOAA. That’s because a seal that is beached on shore is considered “stranded,” and needs protection from human disturbance.

Environmental stewards who find a seal will call our Marine Mammal Stranding Line. And that’s where we come in. (Read more about our stranding network adventures HERE.)

Because the seal was becoming emaciated, a NOAA-certified veterinarian from Center Valley Animal Rescue was called to come out and make an assessment. As I sat on the beach watching the pup that afternoon, I was preparing for the likelihood that the seal would need to be humanely euthanized. The reality is that only 50 percent of seal pups make it in the wild, and very young pups are hard to rehabilitate.
Sara the vet (left) and Brooke (right) measuring the 3 foot long pup during the health assessment.
Photo by Betsy Carlson
Happily, it was determined that the one-week-old-pup could be transferred to a rehabilitation center, if we acted fast. It was feisty and trying to nurse on everything while the vet was assessing it and giving it fluids. We got the go-ahead from NOAA to remove the pup from the stressful environment near the boat ramp and take it to the PAWS rehabilitation center in Lynwood that same afternoon.

Photos by Brooke Askey

We keep a record of every stranded marine mammal by assigning them a number. This pup was #007. 007 was transported sleuth-like in a well-ventilated dog crate in PTMSC Citizen Science Coordinator Betsy Carlson’s van, as she and PTMSC Aquarist Ali Redman transported our agent -- I mean, pup -- across the ferry and to PAWS.

Sadly, we received news through NOAA that 007 passed away a few weeks after arrival. Although we are grieving, we also know that 007 lived its remaining days in a much better environment, with other pups to play with and receiving excellent care until the end.

We also take comfort knowing that without the MMSN, 007 would have remained in a much more stressful environment, and without the protections of passionate volunteers. The PTMSC is grateful to seal pup 007 for allowing us the opportunity to educate the public about marine mammals and filling us with hope after seeing the amount of compassion people can have for a tiny stranded seal on the beach.


PTMSC extends a huge thank you to the people who helped protect 007: The many volunteers and staff members who pup-sat and provided an educational experience for the public; the Fort Worden State Park Rangers who helped block off the area; Center Valley Animal Rescue and PAWS for their heroic work in rescuing animals; NOAA for making protections possible; and the many members of the public who decided to be respectful of the pup’s space by keeping their distance, keeping their dogs on leash, and choosing to learn about marine mammal strandings. Because of you, our story with 007 was a positive experience, and one that we can continue to learn from.


What should you do if you think you’ve found a stranded marine mammal near Port Townsend? Call our stranding network! (360) 365-5582 ext. 103, or call 1-866-767-8114 for the Hotline for the entire west coast. Read HERE and HERE for more info.

Interested in becoming a citizen science volunteer for our Marine Mammal Stranding Network? Contact  

BROOKE ASKEY is the Citizen Science Educator and AmeriCorps member serving at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Monday, August 7, 2017

From Park to Pier: The Early Days of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Part 2 of 4

This year, in honor of our 35th anniversary, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is asking our supporters to match a generous $10,000 bequest from Mirriel Bedell, the mother of co-founder Judy D’Amore, to underwrite our commitment to place-based, people-powered, hands-on learning. Donate today to help us reach our goal and fulfill our mission to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea!

(This is the second of a four-part series about how Judy D’Amore and Libby Palmer founded the Port Townsend Marine Science Center. Read Part 1 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.)

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission acquired most of Fort Worden in the early 1970s and Fort Worden State Park officially opened on August 18, 1973.

Although neither Judy D’Amore nor Libby Palmer had ever been inside the wooden building on the Fort Worden pier, they knew that it had been used to off-load equipment from ships to supply the fort’s bunkers during the Korean War.