Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sea Slugs Galore!

The science center isn't a huge aquarium with many rooms and gigantic tanks, but what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in amazing marine life diversity. Since moving to the west coast from the east coast, I've been astounded at all the different types of marine life here. One of the animals that has awed me are nudibranchs, which I adoringly call nudies.
Monterey Sea Lemon
Many people refer to nudibranchs as sea slugs since that is what most of them look like, act like, and feel like. The Pacific NW has about 200 species, but worldwide there are around 6,000 species. Books I have read describe them as the most colorful animals in the world, some so beautiful that it is hard to believe they are real. There are some pretty creative names as well, such as the shaggy mouse, which we have several of here at the science center. Our nudie collection also includes the Monterey Sea Lemon, Hooded Nudibranch, Clown Dorid, Frosted Nudibranch, Red-Gilled Dorid, and there are potentially others that we don't even know about yet, who have traveled through our pipes.   
Hooded Nudibranch
Many nudibranchs have incredible defense mechanisms where they can eat their prey, such as a sponge or an anemone, and are able to retain the sponge's spicules or an anemone's stinging cells and use those cells or spicules to defend themselves from their predators.  
Frosted Nudibranch
Red-gilled Nudibranch
There are many other interesting facts as well, so stop by the Science Center before season's end to check out these wonderful animals in person!
P.S. The pronunciation of nudibranch is "new-duh-brank."

Claudia Padilla, Summer/Fall Intern

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seal pup season coming to a close

We all have our daily routine when arriving at the office, sometimes it's making the coffee, often times it's checking email, or tweeting. For PTMSC staff and volunteers, one of the first things on the "to do" list each morning for staff is checking the East Jefferson County Marine Mammal Stranding Network (EJCMMSN) hotline. The network's purpose is to collect data on dead, stranded, or abandoned marine mammals at selected Washington State beaches. While the network is active year round, an influx of calls occur in the month of August during peak harbor seal birthing season. 

Seal pups are often left alone on beaches for hours while their mothers forage for food. A common misconception is that the marine mammal is stranded. In fact it is not, this is normal activity for harbor seals and the mother will often leave the pup there for up to 48 hours before returning to retrieve the pup.

The stranding network takes calls for occurances such as these and sends volunteers to check on the pups to ensure that the pup is not injured or in distress. Volunteers will mark off space around the pup and often "pup sit," especially in heavily populated areas, in order to keep curious dogs and humans at a safe distance while the mother seal is absent. While the seal pups are adorable and the first instinct is to touch them, it is important to realize that it is indeed a wild animal and could actually do harm. Giving the animal plenty of space and calling the network to make it aware of this pup is important in the process of the pup safely returning to the water with its mother.

In addition to the above seal calls, the network also receives calls of stranded or dead marine mammals such as porpoise, whales, dolphins, sea lions, etc. The stranding network responds to these calls and collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a baseline of information on marine mammal communities and monitoring their health. For more information on the stranding network, visit NOAA's webstite:

Claudia Padilla, Summer/Fall Intern