Last Day

By: Ben, Sonja, Chloe

SPOILER ALERT: today was the last full day.

On the last full day, we were woken up early so that we could finish our posters. After we finished them, Megan Cook talked to us about how to present our posters. She helped us all relax and gave us some tips to make our presentations better.

Then we went into cleaning mode. We spent the next 3 hours packing and cleaning up.

Finally it was time to set up our posters. We all raced to claim the best spots to hang up our projects. Before our guests arrived, many of us decided to do some power posing to get us ready for the evening ahead. Then, the doors opened, people flooded in and they began to examine our work. Many family members  and scientists that we previously worked with showed up to listen to our presentations.

After the presentations, everyone feasted on a delicious meal of hamburgers and hot dogs. Some guests and students later played badminton and volleyball before everyone had to leave.

Roche Harbor

The students then traveled to Roche Harbor where we saw the changing of the colors and got ice cream for one last time!

In conclusion there isn’t enough words to sum up this amazing experience. Tomorrow morning we leave for the ferry to which we will leave not empty handed but full of many memories that will last a lifetime.

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Intertidal Mammal

By: Aaron, Peter, Rosie—

The majority of our day was devoted to working on our projects which meant our brains were going at full racing speed. Aaron noted, “You could see smoke coming out of our heads.”

Students working hard for SCIENCE!

Once we made some progress crunching numbers and writing up our methodology, we headed over to the Friday Harbor Labs to observe a scientific dive with our friend and marine life expert, Tim Dwyer, where we were able to watch the dive on a screen up on the dock and he was able to communicate with us what he was seeing. It was like we were having the underwater experience but still staying dry and warm.

On the way back to the dorm we saw a deer grazing along a beach at the FH Labs. We couldn’t tell if it was our fried brains hallucinating or not but that moment was declared our first intertidal mammal sighting!

After our exciting excursion, we all sat down and had a fun dinner with Dr. Matt Kolmann in which we talked over our chili bowls about funky fish and shark myths. Then shortly after dinner he gave his presentation on the unknown purpose of serrated Piranha keels, giving some theories supported by different skeletal scans of Piranhas. It was interesting to make observations and guess what the keel could possibly be used for and be able to go through the scientific process with him. Our scientific curiosity was flying today.

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Tim B Giving Life Advice

By: Ben, Sonja, and Parker

Did you know that store bought mac and cheese can contain a small amount of BPA in it? Luckily, according to Dr. Jack Bell, you would have to consume many boxes a day to feel any effects.

Dr. Jack Bell

Creating mussel extract

Early in the morning, Dr. Bell came to the Spring Street International School lab to help us create samples to run in the High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) machine at the Friday Harbor Labs. We were testing for BPA levels in mussels, who are known to be early warning organisms since they are filter feeders. To make the sample, we crushed mussel tissue and a variety of chemicals using a pestal and mortar. We then put the sample into a centrifuge and then pressed it through a filter. Later, at the labs we ran the samples through the HPLC machine which did not reveal any traces of BPA in the mussel tissue.

HPLC Machine

In the afternoon, Will King taught us how to use certain statistical tests for our final projects. We learned about T-tests, linear regressions, and Chi squared tests.

Stats with Will King

For dinner, the guest of honor was our own Tim Brogdon. He gave us a valuable and relevant presentation about life skills that can set us apart when looking for a job.

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Can your mac n cheese hurt you?

By: Gabi, Paradis, Daniel, and Chloe

“Tadalatadala” the alarm rang, making sure to wake us all up. It was as if it was angry at us for sleeping and wanted to take revenge. Yes, it fully succeeded and got us uttering our “ummmmmhhh, I want to go back to bed. Why does morning have to come.” But science answered our question, in order to be successful we have to work and never be lazy.  We have to give our efforts if harbor seals and snails are willing to give their lives for our learning. We had an amazing breakfast and then prepared ourselves to work on our projects.

9:00 am: the spirit and the mood changes. The crazy and fun actions that paint the walls of the dorm change to focused and serious scientific faces as we were trying to analyze our data. It was astonishing to see how something we had collected could be used to test our own hypotheses. It was like building a house from scratch and we were all excited to see how our own constructions would turn out. Some people say that it’s better to see a finished house, but we say that it is fun and cool to see a house under construction—we learn better and it helps us figure out the direction we want to take going forward. We know that it might be hard and will require a lot of thinking and efforts, but we are ready for it and we aren’t scared at all. There is no science noble prize that isn’t worth $100.000, so our eyes are wide open and we want to get our noble prizes on Thursday whatever it  takes. Our own noble prizes are knowing that we made it.

After a morning of working on our projects, we went to Friday Harbor Labs where we met Dr. Katie Dobkowski, a recent PhD from the University of Washington.  She is an expert on the plants of the Pacific Northwest to say the least, and she shared some of her wisdom with us.  She started by teaching us some important skills and terms about plant biodiversity, including terms like richness vs. evenness.  After our botanist briefing, we started down the FHL fire trail which leads into a portion of the UW biological preserve.

With guidebooks in hand, we identified every plant species our eyes could see; we were all clearly intrigued by the huge plant variety that we had overlooked this whole time.  After developing a list of 30+ plant species, we did some biodiversity / density samples using quadrats along the fire road trail to try and find out a little more about the prevalence of the plants in the San Juan Island forest.  Upon returning to the dorms after our enlightening walk under the beautiful trees of the Pacific Northwest, we collectively input our data into a spreadsheet to record all the information we had observed.

To wrap up our day, we had Dr. Jack Bell, an analytical chemist at the FH Labs join us for dinner.  Throughout the evening, he shared tons of new facts all about chemistry, a subject that wasn’t too familiar to us, especially in the environmental and marine science fields. We all enjoyed hearing about some of his research projects and interests, from the “so-called” harmful chemicals in our mac n cheese to the presence of BPA in mussels along the Washington coast.

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Hawaii in the San Juans

By: Aaron, Peter, Rosie—

For one of the first times in hundreds of years a traditional Hawaiian vessel shared the waterways of the San Juans with a traditional Coast Salish vessel.

Our day began with the lavender festival, an annual celebration hosted by Pelindaba Lavender Farm.  We ate and tried all things imaginable that were infused with lavender including coffee, ice cream, lotions and teas.  

Afterwards we raced back to the labs to collect our tethered snails before the tide could rise and hide our specimens. We got there just in time to get the data we needed. 

Lead by Matt Wickey, canoe builder and cultural expert, we set out in the two canoes at about six o’clock.  The Hawaiian canoe named Kaigani was made in Poulsbo Washington by an expert boat builder in a fusion of Tahitian and Hawaiian style.  The Coast Salish canoe was built in Friday harbor by youth and community members using cedar strip technique.

Hawaiian canoe: Kaigani


We ventured out of Mitchell Bay to Mosquito Pass and eventually Westcott Bay as the sun set to the West.  Many songs were sung and conversions had before the peaceful journey came to an end.

After, we cruised back to the Friday Harbor Labs for some nightlighting.  We took a powerful LED light and hung it off the dock into the water.  For many smaller organisms such as zooplankton and copepods, the light indicates to them the proximity to the surface, the desired feeding location. 

The water was soon teaming with life of all kinds.  The organisms arived nearly in order of their level on the food chain.  First the tiny plankton, then the larger copepods and worms, next came small fish.  Had we stayed out longer we likely would have seen this trend continue.  It was striking to see how such a light brought so many organisms into view. 

We ended the evening with a few glimpses of magical bioluminescence.

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Putting Leashes on Snails

Why don’t oysters give to charity?

Because they’re shellfish! Haha!

In the morning, we got an exclusive tour of the Wescott Bay Shellfish Farm. The farm buys larval shellfish from hatcheries and then raises them until they can be sold to local restaurants or from their storefront. Our tour guide, Sam, demonstrated how to use some of the machinery and let us eat some delicious oysters.

Oyster bags

Shucking oysters

After an early lunch, we drove to the Friday Harbor labs to use our previously collected whelks for an experiment. First, we sorted the whelks into their different species and then measured the length of their shells. Once we had graphed the size of the shells, we super glued pieces of string onto the shells as a tether. We then brought the snails down to the intertidal zone where we used epoxy to attach the other side of the string to the rocks. We will return tomorrow to see how many snails were eaten and to analyze the data to find patterns.

Tethering snails

Tethering snails pt. 2

Since it was a relatively hot day, when we returned to the dorms, some people set up a Slip and Slide in the backyard.

For dinner, we hosted Matt Wickey, the leader of a non-profit organization, Kaigani Canoe Voyaging Society. He spoke to us about his previous environmental work in Hawaii and the San Juan Islands.

Tomorrow we are excited to have the chance to paddle in a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe with Matt.

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Hunting Wabbits

Throughout the past couple of weeks, we (and maybe you) have been asking why are we doing this?  Why are we measuring the aperture size on barnacles? Why are we counting the number of lugworm holes we see in the sand?  Why are we collecting 200 whelks from the intertidal zone? What is all of this data collection for?  What does it mean?

Today, we started our day with an explanatory lecture from Tim D introducing us to the structure and methods for our final project.  Throughout our discussion of the project and the scientific method we will display through writing, graphs, and photos, we got the answer to our questions.  Tim(s) explained that with this final project, we are given the freedom to analyze any of the data we have collected or will collect.  It is our job to ask and answer questions about the observations or data we have collected and create a symposium-worthy poster to display our work.  We all felt the gears in our minds start to turn as we thought about the possibilities of questions and hypotheses we could test using the various data we had collected.

Next on the agenda was something we were definitely all looking forward to: a live chat with some of the workers on the E/V Nautilus.  Megan Cook returned to help connect us to two of the communications officers. The Nautilus is currently exploring the backyard of a couple of our students—the Channel Islands—which are located off the coast of Southern California.  We were astounded by the technology as we asked questions and they responded with insightful answers about the work they are doing.  We learned that many of the Channel Islands used to be one large island during the last glaciation due to a large decrease in sea level, so the Nautilus is currently looking for old shorelines and marine biodiversity around the current Channel Islands.

Megan helping us connect with the Nautilus

Two Nautilus workers answering our questions through a live video chat

After our live chat  with the Nautilus, we had lunch as we prepared to leave for the rabbit survey with Beatrice Grauman-Boss. We had to stand 5m from each other, then count how many warrens there were in a certain location and the number of holes in one warren. This helped us to estimate the population of rabbits. We were all pleased to be part of this survey since rabbits have negatively impacted the ecosystem for a long time.

After we finished up the rabbit surveys, we had the pleasure of having our one and only Timothy Dwyer as our dinner guest, even though he is one of the camp directors. We used our dinner together as an opportunity to ask him all kinds of questions about his life and career and ask for his advice for us.  After dinner, Tim gave a fascinating presentation on his two month trip to Antarctica to study Polar Gigantism, more specifically giant sea spiders.  He showed us lots of great pictures he took on his expedition, some of which are currently featured in National Geographic, the New York Times, and several other big name newsletters.

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Spines for a change

By: Peter, Rosie, Aaron—

Harbor seal pups gain 11 kilograms (24 lbs) in the first 5 weeks of their life, if everything goes according to plan.  However harbor seals in the Salish Sea are at their environmental carrying capacity, meaning that the population is the maximum that can be supported by the ecosystem.  This is, unfortunately, indicated by the number of seal pups that are found stranded or dead each year due to food shortages.

We began our morning at Friday Harbor Laboratories, where the necropsy of a seal pup was being conducted.  Lead by Dr. Joe Gaydos, author of our Salish Sea guidebook, Salish Sea: Jewel of the Pacific Northwest, and director of the SeaDoc Society. We observed the operation outdoors on the dock.  

The pup had been found a few days previous stranded on the beach and they had been forced to euthanize it because its mother was nowhere to be found at it was clearly in poor condition.  In the necropsy, the specialists examined the organs of the pup to determine what had caused its mother to separate from it and why it was so underweight.  They learned, by the inflammation and depressions in its lungs, the presence of pink foam in the trachea and the partial circumvention of the lungs in the circulatory tract that the pup was having difficulty receiving the oxygen that it needed.  They concluded that this was likely caused by a combination of factors stemming from the lack of sufficient food.

Students looking over the necropsy from the FHL pier.

Joe Gaydos answering our questions on marine mammal anatomy.

Next we arrived at Jacksons Beach on Griffin Bay to assist in the netting of fish for upcoming lab research at the Friday Harbor Labs.  We helped by loading the nets on the boat and pulling them in from shore after they were towed out.  Then we sourted through fish to find sand lance, flatfish and sculpin.

Looking through the nets for fish used for research at FHL.

After lunch we received an introduction to SONAR technology from our very own Tim Brogden, a former Navy SONAR technician.  We then followed this up with dinner with Megan Cook, a Community STEM Program Coordinator for the Nautilus, a unique research vessel that travels around the world doing deep sea exploration.  After dinner she presented about the Nautilus and its mission. Here is their website where you can see live footage of deep underwater exploring: Our eyes were wide as we watched videos of thousand year old ship wrecks and organisms that seemed to be from another planet. Megan reminded us that humans are natural born explorers and that we are made to discover parts of our unknown world.

Signing off from new found Nautilus enthusiast and future leaders in ocean exploration!

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Slimy Slugs and Slippery Snails

By: Ben, Sonja, and Parker

Did you know that slugs can posses both male and female sex characteristics at the same time?

We learned this today, when we woke up at a painfully early, 4:30 A.M. to hunt for snails with Dr. Erika Iyengar. We helped her document the number of invasive slugs, compared to native banana slugs in the Friday Harbor Lab area. There were many more invasive slugs than banana slugs in the area, which is not a good sign for the native population.

Looking for slugs

Dr. Erika Iyengar showing us slugs

After a quick breakfast back at the dorm, we went back out into the field, this time to Cattle Point. Here, we collected two species of whelks for a later experiment. Tim D. also gave us a fascinating lecture on the geology of the surrounding area.

Cattle Point

Since we got up so early, we had a very relaxing afternoon. Some people took naps, while others watched a movie and went to get frozen yogurt.

For dinner, we had Hilary Hayford, an intertidal ecologist from the University of Washington, and Jen Olson, the stranding network coordinator of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, as guests. Both of them gave presentations on their respective research and work.

Dinner with our guests

Tomorrow, we are looking forward to observing a marine necropsy of harbor seal pups with Jen Olson.

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Forest Yielding the Best Fruits

By Gabi, Paradis, Chloe, and Daniel

Another day of finding ourselves in the forest of science began with the Eelgrass Wasting Disease survey. With Morgan Eisenlord, a Cornell University marine ecologist studying infectious diseases, biodiversity and trophic ecology at the Friday Harbor Labs. We went to 4th of July beach to get some samples of eelgrass, with which we would later scan to examine for the prevalence and severity of a pathogen causing a wasting disease in the leaves of the plant. At first we were worried about putting our hands in the stinky, gross water and worried about our feet getting soaked since the tide was really high when we arrived at the beach. But little did we know that being exposed to weird, rare experiences would make us feel like real scientists who are ready to step up and walk through the challenges of everyday science life. It was a fun moment of knowing that science doesn’t come only with glory, but also with hard work, commitment, perseverance and collaboration. After collecting our samples we headed back to the dorm to grab lunch and get ready for an afternoon of analyzing our samples.

With full stomachs, we headed to the lab. Morgan and her team (Miranda and Clio) welcomed us in the lab with many plastic sheets and scrapers to make pressings of our data in order to scan it. It took us a while, but by the time we were done our numerous amount of eel grass data was more than encouraging. Looking at our data we were able to pin point how much area on a plant was infected as well as how many plants on average were affected. With the application of J image we were also able to observe the amount of already dead chloroplasts among our data. Having this much information at our fingertips made for a much more involved understanding of Morgan’s work with infections diseases as well as what she would be presenting that evening at our dorm.

After we finished up with the eelgrass we have some exploration time, so some people went into town while others tried to catch up on some sleep.When it was time for dinner with our guests Morgan, Miranda and Clio. Morgan gave a presentation on eelgrass wasting. That was our day.

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