People explore the seaweed on the beach for organisms last year. (Port Townsend Marine Science Center)

People explore the seaweed on the beach for organisms last year. (Port Townsend Marine Science Center)

Port Townsend Marine Science Center prepares for BioBlitz in May

Science project asks citizens to document species through app

PORT TOWNSEND — Port Townsend Marine Science Center and Fort Worden State Park invite people to come out for the third annual BioBlitz.

The goal is to document as many living species as possible in a 24-hour period.

From 10 a.m. May 9 to 10 a.m. May 10, folks using the iNatrualist app on their smartphones can explore Fort Worden, photograph the plants and animals they find and upload them to the app.

Later on, naturalists will look at the photos, identify the subjects and send them to the marine science center’s BioBlitz page.

“It provides a sort of snapshot in time of all the natural organisms in the area,” said Betsy Carlson, Citizen Science coordinator.

“It’s a really cool thing to do; you could really do it anywhere. We just set up the parameter at Fort Worden just so we can collect what’s there.”

The app also provides a learning tool for identifying different species for those who don’t have those skill sets or would like to learn more about local flora and fauna.

This will be the third year of the Bioblitz at Fort Worden, barring any further extension of the state stay-at-home order, put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The order prohibits residents from driving into Fort Worden.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday extended the order to May 4.

Officials at both Fort Worden and the marine science center are asking participants to be mindful of social distancing guidelines.

“The great part is that people can participate in this all by themselves and maintain social distance,” Carlson said. “The challenge is that it is in a state park. So if the state park is closed until May 4, we should be good to go; if that gets extended, we will reschedule.”

As of today, access to Fort Worden is open to people walking through the park, but the gates are closed to vehicles.

Like many other museums, aquariums, zoos and science centers across the state, the marine science center is closed to the public and is working with a minimum number of staff members to care for its facilities, including care for the animals in the aquarium.

At the same time, staff members are working on programs to help educate and entertain folks who are feeling cooped up at home.

Director Janine Boire and staff are working on some projects on the marine science center’s website to engage people interested in learning about marine science.

“We’re scrambling to figure out what we get to do next because our aquarium is closed, the museum is closed, we’ve had to cancel all our school programs, etc.,” Carlson said.

“But (Boire) has some great ideas about things that people can access about marine science through our website.

“She’s also working on planning some other things.

“So we have things in the works at this point, but we don’t have a definitive plan.”

________

Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

Community members can download the iNaturalist app on their smartphone and look for Port Townsend Marine Science Center BioBlitz 2020 to upload their photos. (Wendy Feltham)

Community members can download the iNaturalist app on their smartphone and look for Port Townsend Marine Science Center BioBlitz 2020 to upload their photos. (Wendy Feltham)

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