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 staff engage and educate local residents 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. GSSC is funded through Whatcom Community Foundation and Alcoa Foundation grants.

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Students participating in the Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum get muddy on the tideflats digging for clams.


Since its inception in 2012 Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum (GSSC) has impacted 5 schools, 1600 students and teachers in 3 school districts, in four Whatcom County watersheds. PSI aims to expand the reach of this program in 2017 to South Puget Sound schools.

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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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 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 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.


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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Young visitors investigate phytoplankton they collected from Budd Inlet. Join PSI every Thursday during the summer months, 2-4pm at the Port Plaza Dock!


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

Sound Toxins - Volunteer Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

SoundToxins (, 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 data.

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Efforts by PSI and SoundToxins volunteers help resource managers make more informed decisions that protect both industry and human health.


PSI’s participation in SoundToxins has helped establish more sampling locations throughout Puget Sound. PSI trains new volunteer monitors to increase the number of “eyes on the water." Data collected for this long-term database improves our understanding of HABs and regional water quality conditions.

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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Are you a shoreline resident on Puget Sound? Interested in growing your own shellfish? Contact PSI for more information about shellfish gardening.


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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Oil Spill First Responders

Oil spill kits that PSI staff made available to shellfish growers as a result of this training included absorbent bilge pads, gloves, a brochure targeting fishermen and boaters, and another brochure detailing measures vessel owners can take to prevent large and small spills.


PSI staff member Andy Suhrbier completed HAZWOPER training, which consisted of classroom and hands on exercises with DOE, EPA, Coast Guard, Navy, and professional cleanup personnel. Mr. Suhrbier chaired an Oil Spill Session at PCSGA and NSA Annual Conferences in 2005, where 199 oil spill kits were handed out to shellfish growers and scientists.


scavenger hunt

Mason County students learn about beach ecosystems during a scavenger hunt at Twanoh State Park (above) and students from Roosevelt Elementary learn about shellfish gardening and ecosystem services(bottom) as part of the Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum. Just two examples of the many programs PSI had the opportunity to offer this spring. A special "Thank You" to our funders who made it possible for us to reach over 2,000 students in Mason, Lewis and Thurston Counties so far this year!

shellfish gardening
ECO network

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


City of Olympia Stream Team

Thurston County Shellfish Protection Districts

The Russell Family Foundation

WA Dept. of Ecology

Nisqually Tribe Charitable Funds

Squaxin Island Tribe

Thurston County Conservation District

Mountaineers Foundation

Community Foundation of South Puget Sound

PCSGA Slurp Funds

Lucky 7


Aimee Christy

Mary Middleton

Katie Houle


PSI Science Education Programs: Printable 1-pg Summary