Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dungeness Crab vs. Leather Star

After feeding all of the animals during Home Crew yesterday, I observed this rather feisty Dungeness Crab lifting up a Leather Star to get to the clams that had just been fed to the star. Another crab and a flatfish also came over to see what the Dungeness was up to. Check out these videos to see how it all played out!

Snow doesn't keep vounteers away!

Marine Exhibit on December 18th, 2008

View from the beach in Fort Worden State Park.

With a high predicted of 29 degrees Fahrenheit today, our dedicated "home crew" volunteers showed up despite the plethora of snow and below freezing temperatures to clean the tanks and feed the animals in the Marine Exhibit. Liza had to spend 20 minutes this morning unfreezing the lock on the outside of our building! Thursday volunteers consist of 4-5 regulars and are sometimes joined by others who choose to volunteer for the day. Week after week our "home crew" volunteers show up to roll their sleeves up, get dirty and find satisfaction in cleaning and caring for the animals in our tanks. Once you get the tricks of the trade down, cleaning can become fun and even satisfying as the monotony and meticulous nature of the work engulfs your thoughts and lets you "escape" for two hours. We would never be able to function, yet alone facilitate everything we do, without the generous support from our volunteers who are more than willing to help in any way possible. Thank you for your hard work and dedication. We love you for it!

Bill cleaning the round tank like a trooper.

Bill happily working away!

Betty cleaning shells out of Touch Tank Two.

Betty can tell you how to keep your gloves looking nice and new!

Sandy siphoning Touch Tank 3.

I can't imagine how Sandy managed to do this without gloves on in this cold weather!

Joe doing what he does best.

Liza prepping the food to feed to the animals.

All photos in this post taken by Allison Gravis

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Winter has officially set in now that the piling tank has been taken down. I spent the later part of this week removing all sorts of critters from the tank, cleaning the pilings and scrubbing the acrylic tank. The kelp crabs in the piling tank were released off our lower dock back into the kelp beds. All of the fish found temporary homes in other tanks.

Some of you may remember the 1 legged kelp crab in our hospital tank. I'm sorry to report that he died while trying to molt last week. After months and months of being hand fed, the small crab began molting. At first I was ecstatic to see his new appendages and hopeful that we would be able to put him back in one of the exhibit tanks. Sadly, the juvenile crab must have had trouble backing out of his carapace. Cheqa, our high school intern, and I gave him a truly heroic burial as we threw him down the hatch to return to the sea.

Photos courtesy of L. Jacobson:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Orcas on the News

Local news coverage on KOMO mentioned the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network I wrote about in the last post. They compare two of the hydrophones and acknowledge that boat noise in our waters can have a detrimental effect on the endangered Southern Resident orca population. Click here to view the short video on KOMO's website or here for a text version.

Speaking of last post, we weren't the only ones watching the orcas pass through. Howard Garrett of Orca Network on Whidbey Island was on the water identifying the orcas. He took this great picture of J1 (right), known as Ruffles, and K12 (left), known as Sequim.

Photo by Howard Garrett.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Orcas are Here!

What a sight! I've just gotten back inside after hearing and seeing orcas out in Admiralty Inlet, just off our Marine Exhibit building towards Whidbey Island. As we watched, amazed by the number of orcas, Chrissy McLean, Marine Program Coordinator here at PTMSC noted that they seemed to be feeding. We watched their spouts while waiting for a large ship to pass by so we could listen to vocalizations on our hydrophone.

Did you know we're part of a hydrophone network? It's called the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and includes five different stations around the Salish Sea. To hear our hydrophone, click this link: Listen to Port Townsend Marine Science Center. (It will open in iTunes or Winamp.) Check out our hydrophone site profile for more information and to see photos of the installation of our hydrophone here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Taking tanks down for the winter...

Last week we began releasing some of our animals for the winter. We released nearly all of the animals from the eel grass tank, the rocky cluster and the kelp cluster tanks. It was quite an adventure! The poor eel grass tank had been in disarray for nearly a week with the lack of available eel grass washing ashore. I was happy to release all of the fish back to the eel grass meadows off our lower dock. As I watched them swim to freedom I hoped their last catered and nearly spoon fed meal of brine shrimp and krill would provide adequate nutrition while adapting back to life in the ocean.

The real fun however began once the animals had been cleared out of our cluster tanks. I put on a full rain gear suit, rubber boots and all, and climbed into the tanks to scrub away with fresh water. This task proved to be quite difficult as my body seemed to take up nearly half of the tank, but I managed well and worked quickly. It's amazing what you can clean with an old tooth brush and a dust pan! I will miss my cluster tank friends who have been released back into the ocean and now eagerly await for Spring when our tanks will be filled to the brim with new life.
I'll be sure to keep you updated!

Allison posing in the rocky cluster tank. All pictures taken by Chrissy McLean.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Welcome to the Blog

Welcome to the Port Townsend Marine Science Center blog! We plan to use this to reach out to visitors all year-round -- not just in the busy summer months -- and let you in on some of our behind-the-scenes activities like taking down tanks and special events. Sure, we have our website at, but we wanted to write more about experiences of staff and volunteers at the PTMSC. Unlike our Marine and Natural History Exhibits, which close during the winter months, you can keep up with us in the comfort of your own home, preferably with a cup of hot cocoa, and see what we're up to all year long.

There will be several people updating the blog, but most posts will be by AmeriCorps members Allison Gravis and Liza Jacobson. We started this blog as a Community Action Project through the AmeriCorps/Washington Service Corps programs and will be running it throughout our service year.

08-09 AmeriCorps Members (left to right): Liza Jacobson, Lucy Carpenter, Brenda Danner, Allison Gravis. Photo by Christina Pivarnik.