Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pinto Abalone

Pinto Abalone, aka Northern Abalone, (Halitotis kamtschatkana) is a charismatic invertebrate that at one time thrived along the rocky shores and kelp beds of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. They are archaeogastropods, meaning they are a more ancient species of gastropods than neogastropods. Over time, due to over harvesting, we have seen a steady decline in our lovable mollusks. Over harvesting has made it difficult for the abalone to regenerate because they require densely populated areas to reproduce. (They cannot be more than a few feet apart during reproduction times or else the gametes will not meet.) Much research is being done by people like Jordan Watson, a friend of PTMSC, to discover what the specific mating requirements are for abalone. Pinto Abalone is the only known species found in Washington State and while there has never been a commercial fishery for it, recreational fishing for abalone has been illegal since 1994.

We are lucky to have abalone in our Marine Exhibit Tanks! Watch this video to see some of our abalone in action!

You can help our local abalone populations:
-Do not disturb or remove pinto abalone, even for a good picture!
-Anonymously report poachers to 1 (877) 933-9847.
-Share this information with friends, family and community members.
-Report abalone sightings at
-Learn more at

Friday, April 24, 2009

Courting Tubesnouts

One of my favorite things about working at PTMSC is my nightly ritual of checking the tanks before I leave. I am always looking for issues with flow to the tanks or other plumbing problems, but I am also observing the critters in each tank to see what everyone is up to. Quite regulary, my cell phone will ring during these nightly rounds and it is my husband, asking "When are you coming home?" Usually, I have lost track of time because I was watching something AMAZING!

Last night, I was engaged in this ritual when I noticed a tubesnout (a long skinny fish) in our eelgrass tank with a strange looking white nose. I immediately worried that it was sick and might be dying. As I watched, I realized that this fish was sick--love sick! Okay, I am anthropomorphizing some, but it was a male tubesnout showing off his nest and his flourescent orange pelvic fins to an obviously gravid female--so full of eggs that she was nearly bursting!

You can see in the video that he is showing off the nest, but she is not too interested yet and swims off. According to Andy Lamb and Phil Edgell's book Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest, a mature male, with his flourescent fins and red or blue spots on his body, stakes out a territory among the marine plants and binds the plants together with thread-like strands of sticky genital fluid. He then waits while sucessive mature females parade into his nest, each depositing up to 60 amber colored eggs. The male fertilizes each clutch as it is laid and then stands guard for three weeks until the 1 milimeter long, transparent larvae hatch and swim off in search of food.

When Sue came in for her volunteer docent shift, I started telling her about what I had seen last night. She was gazing at the tubesnouts, when all of the suddent I heard, "She just laid the eggs!" and sure enough, the female deposited her clutch right where the male was showing her. We are waiting like eager grandparents to see what happens over the next three weeks!

Come visit and check it out for yourself!

Chrissy--PTMSC Marine Program Coordinator

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Water World 2009 a Success!

Water World, a camp put on by both Centrum and PTMSC, ended Saturday. I was very sad to say good bye to all the 5th and 6th graders; it was such a joy to work with each and every one of them! Water World has been around since 1991 thanks to our very own Libby Palmer, who is the backbone of this camp. Over the years the camp has changed, teaching both art and science, but this year we feel we achieved our goal of melding the art and science curriculum nicely!

Students took classes in writing, movement, and visual art taught by artists through Centrum while Lucy and I taught classes on sound in the ocean, marine invertebrates, plastics in the marine environment and plankton. Although, at times, we were utterly exhausted from the long days, we were excited to spend a week of our AmeriCorps term working with such a great group of kids...I only wish the camp could have lasted longer! I can't wait for camps in the summer!

Photos courtesy of visual artist Darwin Nordin

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sailing on the Adventuress

Last month, Elizabeth Becker of Sound Experience contacted us to see if we would want to sail aboard the schooner Adventuress and talk to folks about marine mammals and the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network. Of course we said yes and, on March 21st, we joined the crew on the first public sail of the season. It was perfect weather and everyone was excited to be on the water. We had such a wonderful time that we decided to make a video, complete with interview by fellow blogger Allison.

Press play button to start.

If you get a chance to go out on the Adventuress this season, go for it. The staff and crew are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful; I can't imagine a better group of people running this ship!

Earth Day

Today is April 22nd, also known as the 39th annual Earth Day. The first Earth Day took place on April 22nd, 1970 and was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Now, not even 40 years later, communities worldwide celebrate Earth Day.

Here, in Port Townsend, we celebrate by hiking the beautiful trails, and weeding, among other things we can all do individually. It could be as simple as taking a walk on the beach and picking up any trash you see. Or researching how plastics in the environment are ending up in leatherback turtles. Or even reading The Lorax (or watching the video version) with your favorite youngster and talking about what we can do to help "speak for the trees."

Speaking of youngsters, PTMSC will be celebrating Earth Day on Sunday the 26th of this month from 1 - 4 pm at The Food Coop. Along with our famous fish printing activities, local organizations will be having a blast with "knot tying, worm bins, model airplanes, boats, live music, sea chanties..." Sounds like a grand ol' time and we hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring has Sprung

I'm happy to report that Spring has sprung in our Marine Exhibit (though unhappy in my personal life due to hay fever)!

Brenda wrote the following after working in the exhibit this past Saturday:

"Hi all! spring is here in the marine exhibit and this weekend (plus or minus a day or two) has been filled with exciting animal activity. In case you’re interested, here are some of the highlights:

-The hooded nudibranchs have been spending a lot of quality time together, resulting in at least three egg cases in the eel grass tank. Perhaps more to come soon!
-The green urchins have been spawning quite a bit. When Liza or I would start to siphon in the tank, they would start to go!
-A couple mottled sea stars were also spotted spawning.
-The shrimps have been molting, for better or worse…
-Sticklebacks made a little nest with some eggs in the eel grass tank.
-The painted greenling laid eggs in the piling tank on a cluster of tube worms. Unfortunately, for the greenling and its offspring, the effort was in vain. Very soon after, the opportunistic Pollock (I’m assuming it was them) had a tasty snack.

That’s it for now!

Hope to see many of you this Wednesday, 6pm, for the marine bio study group meeting all about plankton! We will be in the marine exhibit classroom."

Hooded Nudibranchs Mating

Painted Greenling

Photos Courtesy of Brenda Danner

Thank you for keeping us updated Brenda!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wolfle Elementary Students' Website

One of the most rewarding things about teaching is hearing how the kids have taken their newly absorbed knowledge and embraced it. The third graders at Wolfle Elementary School in Kingston, Washington have done just that. With the help of teacher Tamara Stone, the students created a website with descriptions and pictures of this year's activities so far, including some of their experiences with PTMSC. They have also had a variety of guest speakers in their classroom to talk about salmon restoration and native tribal stories and drumming.

The amount of information that the students of Wolfle Elementary are exposed to in a single year is amazing. Makes me wish I was in third grade all over again!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Programs for Your Consideration

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 - Frontline journalist Hedrick Smith will investigate the poisoned waters of Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay. The special, titled "Poisoned Waters," can be seen on PBS or online between 9 and 11 pm. “The environment has slipped off our radar screen because it’s not a hot crisis like the financial meltdown, war or terrorism,” Smith says. “But pollution is a ticking time bomb. It’s a chronic cancer that is slowly eating away the natural resources that are vital to our very lives.” To view a trailer, click here.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 - In Jean-Michel Cousteau's series, Ocean Adventures, he and his crew explore the lives of orcas. The crew will travel worldwide to find these apex predators, and discuss how the health of orcas intersects with that of humans. To view a trailer, click here. To view trailers of other episodes, including those featuring sharks, beluga whales, and gray whales, click here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Executive Director Anne Murphy Receives Award

Executive Directory Anne Murphy, who has dedicated the past 20 years of her life to building and promoting our home-grown non-profit Port Townsend Marine Science Center, received the prestigious Warren Magnuson Puget Sound Legacy Award presented by People for Puget Sound.

Read more about her in the article published by the Port Townsend Leader!

Thank you for your unrelenting service to this organization Anne!

Executive Director Anne Murphy

Photo Courtesy of the PT Leader

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I'd like to Introduce you to Ruby...our new Octopus!

I'm excited to report that Brian from the Department of Fish and Wildlife collected an Octopus for us! Libby thinks it may be a female, so until we learn otherwise we will assume that! She is a Red Octopus (Octopus rubescens) but I just call her Ruby! We have had her for a few weeks now and she is slowly getting used to her new home. Usually she hides behind the rocks so we rarely see her except when cleaning (Octopuses are nocturnal). Today she put on a quite a show for the few people in the exhibit by eating a shore crab right in front of us!

Adult Red Octopuses feed on crustaceans, mollusks and fish. Shore crabs seem to be a favorite for our Ruby. It was amazing to watch her eat! She sensed the movement of a little shore crab and her tentacles glided swiftly over to it. Then she scooped down killing it with secretions from her salivary glands. After eating the body, the Octopus then breaks the shell apart and pulls of each leg while eating it.

An Octopus has many defense mechanisms; not only can it change colors to blend in extremely well, it has a sharp beak that can cut skin. It can swim quickly and can squirt out a cloud of ink to reduce to visibility of the water. Ruby did an amazing job blending in with our sponge rocks...she seemed to take on the mossy texture and coloring of the rock.

You may have the chance to meet Ruby the next time your visit our Marine Exhibit!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Unusual Sounds on Hydrophones

Last night, on both Lime Kiln and Orcasound hydrophones, listeners were surprised to hear some peculiar sounds. Not the sounds of orcas, or the regular shipping traffic, but the sounds of human voices and mid-frequency sonar pings. I'm listening to the recordings made by Scott Veirs of Beam Reach now and it is very obvious that these sounds are not a part of the natural environment.

Jeanne Hyde of The Whale Museum contacted the Bellingham Coast Guard and confirmed that the Navy was doing exercises in Haro Strait. Scott Veirs recorded the sounds and created spectrograms.

To listen to the recordings, go to the Lime Kiln or Orcasound hydrophone sites, scroll down through the archived sounds, and click on one of the most recent recordings with the words "voice" and "sonar" in the title.

Also, the Port Townsend Peace Movement is holding a meeting on Thursday, April 9th at 7:30 pm to discuss the Navy's proposal to expand training exercises, which includes areas in Admiralty Inlet, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. For more information on this meeting, and how to send in your comments to the Navy by April 13th, click here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Carving a home out of rock

Don't you wish you could carve a home in a nice little rocky area burrowing down amongst chitons, crabs and nudibranchs...then again maybe Liza and I only dream about such things? One of our very dedicated volunteers sent us an article published by The New York times about Sea Urchin Teeth. Click on the article to read a synopisis of how Sea Urchins are able to grind down limestone without grinding down their teeth!

Our Marine Exhibit is now open for regular Spring Hours: Fri-Sun 12pm-4pm.
In our exhibit you will find Sea Urchins. Perhaps if you are lucky, or if you ask nicely, you will get to see a picture of kelp grazed upon by Sea Urchins. (They make star shapes while they eat since they have 5 teeth).