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


Our Work

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Where We Work
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Research
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Outreach & Education
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Publications
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STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES

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Internships with PSI

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


FEATURED

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The man with a plan

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



Outreach & Education

PSI staff work to engage and educate the general public on water quality issues facing Puget Sound

Presentations, trainings, and hands-on activities for students, teachers, and interested citizens.

Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum

Garden of the Salis 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.

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

Since its inception in 2012 Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum (GSSC) has impacted 5 schools, 1600 students and teachers in 3 school districts, and four communities in four Whatcom County watersheds. Sixteen hundred students and teachers have taken the Salish Sea Challenge to practice watershed healthy habits. GSSC is funded through Whatcom Community Foundation and Alcoa Foundation grants.

 

Pet Waste Education

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. PSI is also currently evaluating the feasibility of installing a methane digester for dog waste at a South Puget Sound park.

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

In the past, cleaning up after pets has been about "being a good neighbor" and avoiding stinky shoes. After a decade of outreach related to this topic, Thurston County residents understand that picking up after dogs is critical for protecting water quality and human health, too. "Scoop It, Bag it, and Place it in the Trash" has become a social norm in an increasing number of urbanized cities along Puget Sound.

What's Blooming in Budd - Phytoplankton Monitoring

Thanks to a partnership with Stream Team, PSI biologists help citizen scientists get up close and personal with some of the smallest organisms in the sea: phytoplankton! Drop a net into the rich waters of Puget Sound to collect a jar of nutritious plankton soup. Prepare to be amazed as a drop of water comes to life under the microscope. Grab a clipboard and record water temperatures, salinity, water clarity and weather conditions. See how many other creatures you can find living among the pilings – barnacles, jellies, sticklebacks, mussels, and more!

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

PSI’s leadership of this Budd Inlet plankton monitoring and citizen engagement has touched hundreds of citizens in 2013 and 2014. Data is utilized by Sound Toxins and PSI's efforts have been featured in the Washington Department of Ecology's Eyes Over Puget Sound.

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. Classes may arrange to visit one of Pacific Shellfish Institute’s nutrient bioextraction sites along the Olympia waterfront during spring of 2016.

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

 

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

PSI conducted more than 20 hands-on learning workshops in Thurston County schools, reaching more than 500 students. Approximately 5 field trips have also been conducted at the study site. Students were able to gather growth rate data, as well as water quality and biodiversity information.

At left are volunteers collecting data at one of PSI's community sampling events during the fall of 2014.

 

Marine Debris Education

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 psi@pacshell.org to borrow our kit.

Beachsweeper Curriculum

Field Investigation Guidelines and Notebook

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

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

At left are middle school students sketching the contents from a North Pacific Gyre water sample (far left) and a Komachin Middle School student calculating percent plastic in an albatross bolus.

 

Sound Toxins - Volunteer Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

SoundToxins (www.soundtoxins.org), a partnership among shellfish growers, learning centers, tribes, and volunteers, is a monitoring program designed to provide early warning of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in order to minimize both human health risks and economic losses to Puget Sound fisheries. The program is administered by Washington Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries. PSI has participated in monitoring programs such as the Olympic Region Harmful Algal Bloom partnership (ORHAB) (2001-2008) and SoundToxins because of the valuable role these programs play in better understanding and predicting HAB events.

PSI continues to participate in the SoundToxins rapid-response program by assisting with volunteer on-site training and support; data entry and quality assurance; and HAB monitoring. Our staff attends annual phytoplankton identification refresher courses and collects seasonal weekly phytoplankton samples and water quality data at several south Puget Sound locations. Staff is also responsible for providing Washington Sea Grant with periodic Sound-wide.

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

PSI’s participation in SoundToxins helped establish more sampling locations throughout Puget Sound, increasing the number of “eyes on the water.” More than 20 new monitors were trained in 2012. As a whole, the program creates a long-term database of HAB and water quality conditions throughout the region, which is used to improve our understanding of factors that trigger HAB events and better forecast their occurrence. This information helps resource managers make more informed decisions and protects both industry and human health.

Shellfish Gardening

As filter feeders, bivalve mollusks such as oysters cleanse local waters and provide a complex structure that supports juvenile fish, crab and shrimp species. These filtration and nutrient cycling services are particularly helpful in combating increased nutrient pollution associated with a growing human population. Oyster gardening (hobby shellfish farming by private tideland owners) enhances water quality and raises awareness of water quality issues and the role of bivalve shellfish in Puget Sound in an enjoyable, hands-on way. PSI provides training and information on developing private shellfish gardens, which include species selection, methods and materials, environmental conditions, and human health considerations.

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

PSI has provided training, information, and materials to more than 40 shoreline residents interested in growing their own clams and oysters. Participants not only learned how to grow their own shellfish, they also learned more about water quality conditions in their area and measures they can take to reduce pollution.

Shellfish Farmers as First Responders to Spills

Oil spills occur with disturbing regularity in our coastal waters. Spills originating from vessel groundings or minor oil spills in adjacent uplands can adversely impact shellfish growers, and tribal, commercial and recreational harvesters. Unless they are properly trained and certified, growers cannot participate directly in spill containment and cleanup. PSI has provided oil spill response services ranging from preventative training and initial assessment to spill containment, cleanup, and loss claims for growers in Puget Sound, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

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OUTCOMES AND IMPACTS

PSI staff member Andy Suhrbier completed HAZWOPER training, which consisted of classroom and hands one exercises with DOE, EPA, Coast Guard, Navy, and professional cleanup personnel. With this knowledge Mr. Suhrbier chaired a Oil Spill Session at the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers and National Shellfisheries Association Conference in 2005, where 199 oil spill kits were handed out to shellfish growers and scientists. Included in the kits are small absorbent bilge pad, gloves, a brochure targeting fishermen and boaters, and another brochure detailing preventative measures vessel owners can take to prevent large and small spills.