2023 Citizen Science report

For over 40 years the Port Townsend Marine Science Center has actively participated in citizen science, providing volunteers, staff, AmeriCorps and visitors an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to science.  

What is citizen science? It’s “the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. Through citizen science, people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programs”. (National Geographic)

In 2023 our citizen science efforts ranged from monitoring for microscopic phytoplankton to responding to and reporting on stranded marine mammals. 

Here we share what our volunteers, AmeriCorps, staff and partner organizations have accomplished in support of the conservation of the Salish Sea in 2023! (Click the report titles to read further.)

Quadrat used to collect data for intertidal monitoring.

2023 Intertidal Monitoring Report

PTMSC’s Intertidal Monitoring started as part of a Citizen Stewardship project with the WA Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Reserves Program in Protection Island Aquatic Reserve. The goal is to collect baseline data on beach characteristics and species composition.

Staff and volunteers surveying sea stars in July 2023.

2023 Sea Star Monitoring Report

In 2013, a sea star wasting syndrome, of unprecedented proportions, hit the majority of the west coast. Starting in 2014, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center has monitored sea stars at a few separate sites including two fixed 10 meter x 10 meter plots on Indian Island. The purpose of the monitoring is to gauge the health and number of sea stars over time. PTMSC partners with the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), a project based out of University of California Santa Cruz, that collects data across the west coast to understand the health and populations of sea stars. 

Summer campers participating in larval crab monitoring.

2023 Larval Crab Monitoring Report

Dungeness crab are important to the animals and people of the Salish Sea. As a member of the Pacific Northwest Crab Research Group, we are part of the network that monitors larval Dungeness crab populations to better understand the population dynamics of this important species. By filling data gaps and supporting fisheries managers this research supports sustainability in the face of a changing world.

Volunteer collecting water samples at the Fort Worden State Park beach.

2023 BEACH Report

PTMSC has been participating in the Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication & Health (BEACH) program since 2004. It is part of a national program, funded by an EPA grant through the WA Dept of Ecology. BEACH water sampling ensures that the water at public beaches is safe for recreation. In Washington, 59 high-use beaches are sampled each week between Memorial Day and Labor Day. PTMSC samples at Fort Worden and works with the Jefferson County Dept of Public Health who oversees the water quality sampling in our area and their staff take samples at other popular beaches.

SoundToxins volunteer examining water sample for toxic phytoplankton.

2023 SoundToxins Report

The SoundToxins project monitors phytoplankton in Puget Sound as an early warning step to protect shellfish consumers from biotoxins harmful to human health. Started by NOAA and managed by Sea Grant, we are one of almost 30 partner organizations who collect plankton samples and look for specific harmful algae.

Harbor seal behind ‘share the shore’ tape, keeping beach visitors away.

2023 MMSN Report

All marine mammals are federally protected. As the local stranding coordinator for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (MMSN), PTMSC staff and volunteers respond to calls about stranded marine mammals in our area. Our role is to keep shoreline visitors and their pets at a safe distance from marine mammals, and collect data on live and dead animals. We cover the coastline of east Jefferson County, WA, from Brinnon to Dungeness Spit.

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