Tamara Galvan, facilities director for the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, seated, talks about an interactive traveling bull kelp exhibit with Feiro volunteer Anni Lanigan on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Tamara Galvan, facilities director for the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, seated, talks about an interactive traveling bull kelp exhibit with Feiro volunteer Anni Lanigan on Thursday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Bull kelp exhibit visits Feiro Marine Life Center

Traveling display created at Port Townsend Marine Science Center

PORT ANGELES — More lies beneath the waves than meets the eye. And some of the least noticed things are often among the most important.

Feiro Marine Life Center at Port Angeles City Pier is hosting a traveling exhibit on bull kelp to help convey how a seemingly innocuous seaweed performs such a vital role in the marine environment.

The exhibit, “Bull Kelp: Our Remarkable Underwater Forests,” is open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday from now until Jan. 29. Access to the display is included with admission to the center.

The parking lot at City Pier will be closed for the duration of the exhibit for sidewalk and storm drain repairs, so visitors are encouraged to park in other city lots or along nearby public streets.

Tamara Galvin, facilities director for Feiro, said people tend to take kelp for granted.

“I really hope that visitors get to appreciate this kelp forest that’s off our coastline and how important of a species it is,” she said. “Algae is kind of easy to overlook, but it plays such an important part in our ecosystem.”

Designed as an interactive display, the traveling exhibit was created by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center with financial assistance from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound Restoration Fund.

Illustrations were created by artist Timbul Cahyono and three-dimensional creatures were assembled by visual artist and former PTMSC AmeriCorps marine educator Mariah Vane using mostly found and recycled materials.

The PTMSC exhibit has been seen at the center at 532 Battery Way and downtown Port Townsend as well as at the Sequim Lavender Festival and the Coupeville Library.

“I think most people will get to enjoy the immersive component — getting into the canopy and enjoying the view of the kelp being around them,” Galvin said.

Accompanying the exhibit are a series of banner displays, a video of real-life kelp forests with underwater sound and field guides to help identify creatures that inhabit bull kelp habitats.

Feiro education manager Rachele Brown said most people know bull kelp only by what they find on area beaches, but there is more to them than most people realize.

“We’re fairly used to seeing kelp, especially as it washes up on the beach and kids really like to play with it,” she said. “But a lot of people don’t spend a lot of time stopping and appreciating the kelp, the habitat it provides and the food it provides.

“The exhibit also focuses on how people interact with kelp from an aquaculture standpoint and the way kelp is used in our food and everyday items you might not realize kelp is in or part of.”

Bull kelp is one of the fastest-growing species on the planet, often growing as much a several feet in a day, Galvin said. Hopefully the exhibit will foster a greater appreciation for seaweed, she added.

“It really grows fast and forms nice shelters,” Galvin said. “It’s food — it’s really valuable and important to a lot of the other species that call the Northwest home.”

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Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at keith.thorpe@peninsuladailynews.com.

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