By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Judith Alexander of Port Townsend, an advocate of environmental sustainability with an emphasis on the development of local food resources who has participated in a variety of local advocacy groups, was given the award in the name of Stopps.
Stopps, who died of cancer in April at the age of 92, was responsible for the 1982 establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge created during the Reagan administration.
The award was first given in 2005. This is the first year that Stopps did not attend the ceremony.
“This award is really about the community and the way we live,” an emotional Alexander said. “We need to change the way we live so our life on Earth can be sustainable.”
“We need leaders,” said Ann Murphy, executive director of the Port Townsend Marine Life Center. “We need people to step out and take a leadership role, and everyone can lead something — whether it’s gardening with your neighbors or helping with emergency preparedness. We need people to step up.”
About 144 people attended the event, a fundraiser for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, which is on the beach at Fort Worden State Park.
It raised $51,000 for the center: $26,000 in donations and a $25,000 match from an anonymous donor.
“Judith promotes environmental sustainability with a grass-roots community-building focus,” said Al Bergstein in his introduction of Alexander.
“She is a systems thinker who realized that meaningful change happens when individuals, neighborhoods, networks of people and whole communities are engaged in active learning and direct involvement.”
Center programs include youth education on marine biology, and young people were represented at the breakfast.
A group of nine Swan School students presented Alexander with a large bouquet as she received her award.
Jamie Landry, a former volunteer docent who is now the center’s citizen science coordinator, echoed what many students have said about their participation: that it changed their lives.
“Most people can say one of two things about a positive or powerful experience they have had: that they were changed for the better or that they made a change for the better,” Landry said. “I’m standing before you as just one example of how the marine science center does both, being changed for the better and being able to change for the better.”
Ellen Ferguson, community relations director at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle, was the keynote speaker.
Ferguson said the marine science center provides an encouragement for youths who are interested in science, citing Port Townsend resident Joss Whittaker as an example.
Whittaker, who is now working on a doctorate in archeology at UW, told Ferguson that the center “changed his life.”
“Joss told me that the marine science center allowed him to do more in science than he had done before,” Ferguson said.
“He said that he was listened to and treated with respect, and they respected his intelligence, which was important to him, and now he is going to go on to do great things in the world of science.”
The marine science center celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and recently opened “Learning from Orcas: The Story of Hope,” which has been in the works since 2010.
The display, the centerpiece of the marine science center’s natural history exhibit, features the skeleton of a 22-foot orca, posthumously named Hope, that was found dead in 2002, beached at Dungeness Spit north of Sequim.
Because of the high levels of PCBs and DDT found in the carcass, the exhibit explores how toxins affect the marine environment.
“We couldn’t borrow from successes of other exhibits because to the best of our knowledge, an exhibit on toxics in the marine environment does not exist,” Murphy said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.ptmsc.org.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.