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Citizen Science Teams at the MaST Center

Citizen science is a way for members of a community to collect or analyze data on projects related to their interests or community needs. The MaST Center runs three citizen science teams including the Jelly Team, the Marine Mammal Stranding Team, and the Nudibranch Team. Each of our citizen science teams is fully run by volunteers (assisted by our AmeriCorps Volunteers) and help to educate our community on local Puget Sound animal populations and threats. To learn more information or to get involved with one of our teams contact:

Marine Mammal Stranding Team

Report distressed marine mammals



The MaST Center Marine Mammal Stranding Team, working closely with NOAA Fisheries and Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, aims to increase response to stranded marine mammals. This team is completely run by dedicated volunteers, and oversees more than 40 miles of Puget Sound shoreline from Titlow Park in Tacoma, up to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West  Seattle.These volunteers ensure coverage of our territory, and further the knowledge of local community members by providing on-site assistance and education.


This program is entirely made up of volunteers who provide first response to marine mammals on our shores. In order to make this team available to all community members, our volunteers are able to decide their own level of commitment. They choose preferred response sections in our team's area, what types of calls they would like to be considered for, and if they would like to be notified of or assist in additional public education opportunities. All volunteers participate on an "as available" basis. Training is provided to all applicants. There are no age limitations to join the Marine Mammal Stranding Team but you do need transportation.

The MaST Center Stranding Team not only responds to distressed marine mammals on-site, but also provides educational opportunities to the public at our facility. Volunteers have the opportunity to assist in animal necropsies, animal flensings, and skeleton articulation for display in our marine mammal skeleton gallery.


                                                                                                                                                          "Click for stranding map notes*


Jelly Team

The program started in the interest of raising Moon Jellies (Aurelia labiata) in our aquarium instead of catching new individuals every couple of months. Dedicated volunteers have developed the program from a one tank, live catch system, to a multi-tank and full life stage operation maintaining 3,000-10,000 Moon Jellies at any given time. Jellyfish populations and jellyfish health are considered indicators of ocean and ecosystem health making them a vital research tool in our local Puget Sound waters. The Jelly Team provides baseline data on the lifecycle associated with jellyfish and best practices on how to raise each life stage.


Adults are called medusa and are what we recognize as the swimming animals called jellyfish. These adults release their gametes into the water where they develop into Planula larvae. These larvae settle on the bottom of our jelly tank to form polyps. The polyps are taken into our wet lab and cared for until the process of strobilation occurs (asexual reproduction of the polyps). This process allows polyps to bud new, young jellies called ephyra. While the ephyra are developing into their adult medusa stage they are cared for in our lab until large enough to go on display in our aquarium where the process starts again!

The program has recently evolved to experiment with in vitro fertilization and other spawning techniques using gametes of the Egg Yolk Jellyfish (Phacellophora camtschatica) to produce polyps artificially. Our dedicated volunteers are also developing new protocols to hold and breed ctenophores which are a different type of gelatinous zooplankton like the jellyfish. In addition, they are planning and implementing a middle school education program where Moon Jellies will be placed in local classrooms so students can observe the early life stages and learn about the health of Puget Sound through the jellyfish.


 College Students find our Jelly Team Internship here. 

We recently displayed a poster at the National Marine Educator's Association Annual Conference in Charleston, North Carolina. Check it out below!


*Click on the image to enlarge*


Nudibranch (NOOPS) Team

Over the years MaST Center team members and aquarium visitors have observed various types of colorful sea slugs, called nudibranchs, throughout the tanks in the aquarium. However, these species were never documented until dedicated volunteers started the Nudibranch Team. Now termed the Nudibranch Observation of Populations Squad, NOOPS is a volunteer program that is responsible for recording data concerning the temporal and seasonal variations of the populations of nudibranchs in our tanks. Volunteers record which species of nudibranchs they observe in the aquarium, in which tank they are found, and how many of each species are found.



*Download our Nudibranch Coloring Book!*

Nudibranchs fill a specialized role in their environments based on their diet and are possible indicators of ocean and ecosystem health. Few other studies have been done to document nudibranch populations in South Puget Sound as these animals are small and hard to see when scuba diving. Our team was able to utilize our open flow aquaria as a proxy for Puget Sound waters because planktonic nudibranchs are able to come into the aquarium and settle naturally as they would in the habits surrounding the MaST Center.


Our data is available free to the public.

Our volunteers have been collecting data on nudibranch populations in our aquarium since 2013. We offer it free to the public, with the understanding that users will give credit to Highline College, the MaST Center, and the NOOPS Team founder, Eugene Disney. Email this DATA ACQUISITION FORM to Rus Higley to request access.



All of our Citizen Science Teams are run by volunteers. If you do not have time to volunteer, you can still help out! Donate to the Citizen Science Programs!