PORT TOWNSEND — When biologist Bee Redfield was doing her field work in Hawaii, she learned lessons beyond the marine conservation research that had brought her to the islands.
As she watched, up close, the efforts to construct a giant telescope on Mauna Kea, Redfield also witnessed the indigenous Hawaiian people’s protests of that installation on their sacred mountain.
“I realized the importance of including all people,” in all such projects, said Redfield, who on Friday greeted the public as the new executive director of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.
As she finishes a doctorate in quantitative ecology at Purdue University in Indiana, Redfield already holds two master’s degrees: in conservation biology and in human resources management. She emphasized too that the people she’s worked with along the way have opened her horizons.
“I’ve been really lucky to work with some amazing conservation organizations all around the world,” she said, including in Hawaii and California’s Channel Islands. At Purdue, she’s taught undergraduate ecology and ornithology classes — something she has loved — and done hands-on work at zoos and aquariums.
Redfield, 40, said it was her excitement about working with local communities that propelled her to apply for the PTMSC post.
“Bee stood out from everyone else we talked with,” showing an unbridled enthusiasm for conservation work, added Ellen Hargis, president of the center’s board.
Redfield starts officially this coming Friday, succeeding Janine Boire, who is retiring after eight years at the helm. The new director’s annual salary is $80,000 plus benefits, Hargis said.
A self-described “bird nerd” and friendly midwesterner, Redfield answered a variety of questions during a Zoom introduction Friday afternoon. When asked which local habitats she wants to explore first, she quickly said she’ll head to the seashore and wetlands, “birding it up” and learning the avian species of the Pacific Northwest.
“When you move around a lot, it’s exciting” to see various locales’ birdlife. But “the biggest thing is getting your forever home,” she said, and knowing the animals of that place more deeply.
“I want to be a sponge,” Redfield added, absorbing what the PTMSC does, with its 12-member staff, hundreds of volunteers — and its new home, the Flagship Landing building at 1001 Water St. in downtown Port Townsend. The center is in the process of moving into the 14,640-square-foot space, adjacent to Tyler Street Plaza, after purchasing it last year for $2.2 million.
Redfield said during Friday’s question-and-answer session that she has experience running capital campaigns, renovating buildings and working in human resources. It was the PTMSC’s connections with local people, she added, that made the job opening jump out at her.
“I was just really floored by the impact you and the marine science center have,” she told the staff and board members.
When Redfield came to Port Townsend for her in-person interview, “the staff blew me out of the water” in their interactions with the public, and so did the way the community supports the center in return, she said.
In the face of climate change, she added, it’s critical to turn scientific research into information people can relate to and act on. Redfield believes in a “feet on the ground” mind set.
She also said she looks forward to holding listening sessions with community members, and meeting people at the PTMSC’s annual auction April 16.
The event at the Fort Worden Commons, titled “You, Me & The Salish Sea,” combines live and silent auctions along with the center’s 40th anniversary celebration. Online registration is available at https://ptmsc.schoolauction.net/ptmscauction2022/register/ticket_sales.
The PTMSC’s center facing the beach at Fort Worden is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, while its Flagship Landing visitor center and store downtown are open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. The “We Are Puget Sound” photo exhibit in the gallery there closes today at 3 p.m. For information about these and other public programs, see PTMSC.org or phone 360-385-5582.
“To have been chosen to help lead this organization into the future is such an honor,” Redfield said in the announcement of her hiring.
“I will put my heart and soul into providing support and leadership towards the conservation efforts for the Salish Sea that we’re working so hard to achieve.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@ peninsuladailynews.com.