Friday, May 29, 2009

Get your passport stamped at PTMSC this summer!

photo taken by Allison Gravis

Today marks the debut of our PTMSC passport, an interactive pamphlet that guides visitors through our exhibits by posing questions and asking patrons to draw their favorite animals while interacting with our volunteer docents! Make sure you get your hands on this precious little keep sake...they are hot off the press and are going quickly. Completed passports get special stamps to show you visited each exhibit!

All ages are welcome to take home their own PTMSC passport!
(just remember to drop a modest donation into our jar to help defray our printing costs)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fireworks in the tanks!

Murky Round Tank

Sunday was an exciting day for staff and visitors as the Spiny Pink Scallops (Chlamys hastata) began spawning around 3:30pm! While we may not need any more Scallops in our was still exciting to see the Scallops in action. What was most incredible was to see how they sensed the chemical change in the water and all began going at once! It is possible that we may see an abundance of scallops in that tank in a few weeks.

Spiny Pink Scallops, also known as the Pacific pink scallop or the swimming scallop, are found from the Gulf of Alaska to San Diego, California. Generally these brightly colored mollusks are found on rocky reefs encrusted with sponges. Scallops seem to have a symbiotic relationship with the sponge growing on them. The sponge helps discourage predators of the scallop, such as the sunflower star and other sea stars, from getting too close due to spicules from the sponge (if the scallop doesn't swim away first). The sponge benefits from living on an animal that can move. Scallops swim away from predators of sponge and usually swim into areas with good currents keeping the sponge from rotting.

Scallops come in a variety of sexes: dioecious (males and females are separate), while other are simultaneous hermaphrodites (both sexes in the same individual) and a few are protoandrous hermaphrodites (males when young then switching to female). The reddish tinge to the eggs is attributed to females while the males release white sperm. Eggs and sperm are released into the water and fertilized outside of the bodies. The fate of their young is left up to the tides, predators and weather conditions...which is why so many potential offspring are produced. If an egg is fertilized it will sink to the bottom of the ocean floor. After several weeks the juvenile scallop is born and drifts as plankton until settling to the bottom again by means of byssal threads. While we are unsure as to how old the scallops in our tanks are, age can be measured by examining the concentric rings of their shells.

View the video below to see the fireworks we saw in our tanks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Happy AmeriCorps Week!

Who are those young AmeriCorps members that help staff and run the educational programs/exhibits at the PTMSC year after year? We’re glad you asked! Those young whippersnappers are part of a group lovingly dubbed “The AmeriCorps generation.”

Corps members benefit from individual placements by gaining helpful job experiences and useful trade skills. During a normal stint of service (usually about 10 and 1/2 months) AmeriCorps Members receive health insurance, a modest living stipend, qualify for public assistance (such as food stamps and energy assistance), and receive an education award of $4,725.00 to help pay for college or student loans.

May 9th-12th is AmeriCorps week! Hence, we are celebrating by recognizing the great impact AmeriCorps has had on our own non-profit, the PTMSC.

Want to see more of what the PTMSC AmeriCorps do? Click play on the video below.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Amazonian Inia geoffrensis

Photo Courtesy of Augusto Motta,

After attending the lecture on the Pink River Dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) presented by David Bonnett, lovingly dubbed as the fairy godmother of PTMSC, I left feeling inspired to head south to live with the riberenos in an effort to further study the elusive dolphin! Bonnett has been traveling down to the Amazon since 2000 with his wife. Once they arrived they connected with the riberenos, native mestizo peoples, and felt compelled to stay awhile supporting local schools. Bonnett learned about the mysterious pink river dolphin, a sacred animal of the riberenos . These river dolphins are a special breed, fresh water dolphins, that became isolated in an inland lake when geological changes caused the Andes to rise. While we are uncertain as to why they have a pink fleshy tone to their skin, Bonnett says their skin changes hues while interacting with each other...especially during mating! It is difficult for anyone to know exactly how many Inia geoffrensis exist; while they are considered a threatened species in Peru, they are not carefully protected outside of wildlife reserves.

The Inia geoffrensis is an amazing animal that is quite different from its cousin, the bottle nosed dolphin. It is classified as a Platanistoidea, but falls in the same superfamily as other cetateans. It has a narrow snout and it's neck vertebrae are not fused together enabling it to bend its neck at 90 degree angles from it's body! The Inia have almost malleable spines, that allow them to swim around trees of the flooded forests. They prey upon catfish, other fish, crustaceans, crabs and turtles.

While the land and people are beautiful, there is much to be done in the way of helping the riberenos and the Inia geoffrensis. Many of the communities are isolated and lack access to education and family planning. Some, like the Bonnetts, feel the draw to head South to do their part setting up schools, medical clinics and educating communities about over harvesting wood from the rainforest.

The Bonnetts have decided to devote much of their life to studying the population numbers and perhaps in turn, the health of the pink river dolphin, a keystone species. Bonnett has determined that the best way to estimate population numbers will be to use a hydrophone to record individual voices of the Inia geoffrensis. While the research is still in its preliminary steps, Bonnett feels he has enough data to support his theory that each dolphin has a distinct "voice" and while the current technology and physical location of the research sites make it difficult to sample, Bonnet is hopeful that further recordings will enable researchers to count the population size(s) of the Inia geoffrensis.

Now...don't you feel inspired to go to South America?? Well, you can help even from the comfort of you own home! If you have an old digital camera gathering dust in one of your closets, Dave Bonnett and his wife are taking a load of digital cameras down in June to aid in a project that teaches art. If you are interested in donating a camera please email me and I will put you in touch with Dave!

A piece of advice: Legend states that making eye contact with an Inia geoffrensis will give nightmares for the rest of ones life.

Want to learn more about what is being done? Read about Projeto Boto!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Homecrew Featured in PDN Article

Jennifer Jackson, a reporter from Peninsula Daily News, recently visited our Marine Exhibit to interview our Thursday Home Crew Volunteers. She watched each volunteer meticulously clean and took notes about the interesting animals we must clean around! During her visit, a kindergarten class from Grant Street Elementary School came through the exhibit for a tour. Homecrew volunteers kept chugging along though they stopped to interact with many of the children. In her article, Jackson quotes Bill Dengler answer a question posed by one of the kindergartners. The child asked, "Why do you have to clean?" He said, "If we didn't do this, you wouldn't be able to look into the tank and see the fish and the fish wouldn't be able to look out and see you."

Click here to read the whole article! We love all of our volunteers, especially the ones willing to put on our stinky gloves!

We can always use more help! We have a variety of volunteer opportunities. To learn more please email Jean Walat our volunteer coordinator at