Shellfish Research and Information
Services for the U.S. West Coast

Our Work

Where We Work


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Internships with PSI

Intern or volunteer on one of PSI's research projects or outreach campaigns.


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The man with a plan

PSI researcher, Andy Suhrbier helps shellfish growers adapt to changing ocean conditions.


PSI Biologists engage local students about water quality issues facing Puget Sound

Classroom presentations, hands-on activities, curriculum guides, and field trips in the nearshore environment


Our mission is to provide the community with science-based, hands on learning opportunities related to shellfish, water quality and Puget Sound stewardship.


A community that is knowledgeable about local water quality issues and inspired to take every day actions to protect the health of Puget Sound


Pacific Shellfish Institute (PSI) has performed environmental outreach and education to adults and K-12 students for over a decade. PSI’s programs are unique in that they are offered by research scientists working on locally relevant projects. Over the past few years, PSI’s environmental education program has grown considerably!  What began as an occasional guest lecture has “bloomed” into a busy schedule of classroom presentations and field trips to K-12 students throughout Lewis, Mason, Thurston, and Pierce Counties. PSI currently offers 5 programs that teach students about nutrient and bacterial pollution, ocean acidification, and marine debris in a positive, inspiring manner that increases scientific literacy through hands-on classroom presentations, outdoor experiential investigations, engineering solutions, and action projects. PSI partnered with Pacific Education Institute (PEI) to create outdoor Investigative Field Notebooks for each of our programs and to ensure that each supports Next Generation Science Standards. Thanks to the generous support of local Foundations and people like you (!), we can offer these programs at no cost to teachers and students.  


Garden of the Salish Sea

Ocean Acidification - Acids, Bases and Shell Building Races

Fecal Bacteria in Puget Sound

Marine Debris - Puget Sound Beachsweepers

Shellfish At Work! Nutrient Bioextraction in Budd Inlet


Garden of the Salish Sea

Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum (GSSC) is an interdisciplinary K-12 environmental science pilot program that was created in 2012 in north Puget Sound. Using shellfish as a vehicle to teach pollution prevention and science, students are inspired to practice watershed healthy habits engaging the participation of their families and communities with the Salish Sea Challenge. Learning through field inquiry, experiments, hands-on activities, games and artwork, students are motivated to pursue conservation and science. GSSC is focused on local tidelands and the marine environment with a concentration on ocean acidification. GSSC is funded through Whatcom Community Foundation and Alcoa Foundation grants.

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Middle school students perform intertidal transects during the 4-week long Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum.


This program was initiated in 2012 by Julie Hirsch to students in Whatcom County. In 2017, PSI expanded the reach of this program to South Puget Sound schools, offering the 4-wk curriculum to students at Roosevelt Elementary and Jefferson Middle School.

Acids, Bases and Shell Building Races

Since the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has dramatically increased. Approximately 25% of this carbon dioxide is absorbed into the world’s oceans changing its chemistry in a process called ocean acidification. Join PSI biologists as they break down the complexities of ocean acidification. Act out changes in ocean chemistry that can leave oysters racing to snatch up valuable shell building components. Watch a short video, play the pH guessing game, change water pH with dry ice, and test what happens to shells in an acidic environment. Become empowered as we brainstorm ways to address this important issue and then commit to taking positive actions to do so.

Designed for grades 6-12, 60 minutes in length.

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Outreach and Education Image

Students grasp the chemistry behind ocean acidification by morphing into molecules in this interactive skit!


PSI's newest education offering as of 2016. This program was developed to break down the complexities of ocean acidification in a fun, interactive way for Thurston County students. PSI has been invited to give OA workshops for teachers and students alike.

Fecal Bacteria in Puget Sound

PSI has conducted outreach and education related to reducing bacterial contamination within Washington's Henderson and Nisqually Inlets since 2005 using Thurston County Shellfish Protection District funds. Activities have included initiating a pet waste education campaign, printing and distributing brochures (Pet Waste: What's the problem?), installing banners, running Intercity Transit bus signs, performing outreach at community events using Scoopy Doo (a dog mascot), and providing hands-on presentations to community and/or school groups. PSI is also working with South Sound GREEN to deliver presentations to school groups at the Henderson Inlet Community Shellfish Farm and Zittel's Marina in Olympia.

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Outreach and Education Image

Middle school students monitor storm water samples for fecal coliform bacteria with PSI biologist, Aimee Christy.


After a decade of outreach related to pet waste and bacterial contamination, Thurston County residents understand that picking up after dogs is critical for protecting water quality and human health, too. "Scoop It, Bag it, Trash it!" has become a social norm along Puget Sound.

Marine Debris - Puget Sound Beachsweepers

Through generous support from the Russell Family Foundation, during the 2014-2015 school year, PSI provided outreach and education to the community and students about the harmful impacts of marine debris, particularly plastics, on the marine environment. PSI hosted several beach cleanup events in addition to offering Puget Sound Beachsweepers classroom presentations designed for grades 5-12. PSI partnered with Pacific Education Institute to align the curriculum with Next Generation Science Standards and also to create Beachsweepers Field Investigation Notebooks that provide students with place based outdoor experiential learning opportunities. Loanable kits are now available, containing all the supplies to incorporate the Beachsweeper curriculum into your classroom. Download the Curriculum and field investigation notebooks using the following links, and contact to borrow our kit.

Beachsweeper Curriculum

Field Investigation Guidelines and Notebook

Outreach and Education Image

Middle school students sketching the contents from a North Pacific Gyre water sample (left) and calculating percent plastic in an albatross bolus (right).


PSI conducted 36 hands-on learning workshops at 10 schools, reaching a total of 712 students in Thurston County. The 3 cleanup events collected 5,050 items. The top items collected were cigarette butts, food wrappers, beverage cans, plastic bottles, and glass bottles.

Shellfish At Work! A Nutrient Bioextraction Project in Budd Inlet

Eutrophication has been identified as one of the most serious threats to coastal environments worldwide. Learn how this process impacts Budd Inlet and what steps you can take to reduce nutrient inputs into lakes and Puget Sound. Activities include viewing live plankton under a microscope, performing a mussel filtration demonstration, collecting mussel growth measurements, handling water quality monitoring equipment, and learning about local efforts to address this issue.

Program can be adapted for grades 4-12 and is 50-60 minutes in length.

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Outreach and Education Image

Volunteers collect mussel growth data at one of PSI's community sampling events on Budd Inlet.


PSI conducted more than 20 hands-on learning workshops and 5 field trips for Thurston County schools, reaching more than 500 students. Students measured growth rates, collected water quality data and biodiversity information.


shellfish gardening

Students from Roosevelt Elementary learn about shellfish gardening and ecosystem services (top) as part of the Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum and Mason County students learn about beach ecosystems during a scavenger hunt at Twanoh State Park (below).

scavenger hunt


ECO network

Find PSI and other great environmental educators and organizations at the Thurston Eco Network!


The Russell Family Foundation

Community Foundation of South Puget Sound

Dawkin's Charitable Trust


Aimee Christy , Biologist, Education & Outreach Coordinator

Rachel Hardin, Educator & Research Assistant

Katie Houle, Research Biologist & Educator

PSI Science Education Programs: Printable 1-pg Summary