Turning tide pools

By: Peter, Rosie, Aaron—

How does the intertidal life differ between areas with more and less sun?  

This is the question that we set out to answer with Dr. Hilary Hayford, another specialist from Friday Harbor Laboratories.  Out in Andrews Bay, on the northwestern portion of the island we gathered data in an observational study; a study where we surveyed a the amount of preexisting life along different levels in the intertidal zone.  We calculated the percentage of the surface rock that attached animals and algae covered on two separate sites and then returned to Spring Street to input and analyze our findings.

Here are students getting a lesson on tide pool surveying with Tim D and Dr. Hillary Hayford.

Sharon Massey let us study her property’s tide pools as our second survey site.

After a well deserved lunch siesta we drove over to the soccer fields for a rematch of the previous week’s game.  Tim B.’s team, the former champions and favorites for the win suffered a glorious upset aided by a few local players who joined in.  

We returned and packed our dinner sandwiches for an evening picnic and show at with the Island Stage Left theater.  The play was Humble Boy, a modern take on the Shakespearian Hamlet.  There was not a dry eye in the audience, both happy and sad tears. The play surely received the Salish Sea Sciences students’ seal of approval.

Picnic dinner in the garden.

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Invertebrate Ballerz

By: Ben, Sonja, and Parker

High school kids enjoy an exclusive college party- for invertebrates.

The Invertebrate Ball was hosted at the Friday Harbor Labs dining hall. It is an exclusive party for scientists and graduate students who love invertebrates. We each dressed up as an invertebrate, or a related pun, and put our costumes up for judging and our dancing skills to the test. Aaron took home the title of best cosmopolitan costume as a shrimp cocktail.

Earlier in the day, we journeyed to a “mistical” land called False Bay. We walked out onto an expansive sand flat, where mist rose from the ground. Some students sieved the sand, while others counted lugworm holes or dug them up. Our goal was to determine the population density of lugworms in various locations in the bay. We found out that the area closer to the ocean had larger grains of sand and less lugworm holes. Conversely, the near portion of the sand flat had finer grains of sand and more lugworm holes.

For lunch, we traveled to the San Juan farmer’s market and enjoyed a variety of foods, music, and art. Next time you visit, try the focaccia bread with tomatoes and pesto.

Jim Murray then gave us a tour of his lab, which is home to a baby giant red octopus and a plethora of invertebrates such as sea slugs, nudibranchs, sea stars, crabs, and sea pens.

When we returned to the dorms, we used our creative skills to perfect our costumes for the Invertebrate Ball.

Getting ready for the ball

Before the Ball

Dancing at the Ball

Tomorrow we are looking forward to another exciting day!

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Testing tides and Creating Life

Loading into the van, one by one, we stomped around with our mud boots on as we headed out for a day of field work and observation at the UW Friday Harbor Labs.  We began our day with Dr. Rebecca Guenther, from whom we had learned all about algae about a week and a half ago.  Dr.  Guenther is the manager at the FHL (Friday Harbor Laboratories) Ocean Acidification and Environmental Lab.

We had the privilege to test the alteration in tidepool temperature, salinity, and pH amongst tidepools at different elevations in the intertidal zone that all held different abundances of plants, animals, and rocks.  All 10 of us chose a tidepool from which we recorded the salinity and temperature and also took a water sample.

With water samples in hand, we walked over to Dr. Guenther’s overwhelmingly elaborate Ocean Acidification Lab to tour the lab and learn all about what kind of experiments that are run in the lab by students and faculty.

The lab was full of different types of water tanks, coolers, and valuable chemical equipment- some reaching a value of over $80,000! With some of the equipment, we tested the pH, also known as the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.  We repeated the collection and recording of data two more times to gather more data that we could later analyze.

Sand dollars. Have you ever seen something that looks like a rock but actually is a living organism? That is how sand dollars look like, and we were all surprised at how life on this planet is broad and diverse. We had our sand dollar spawning experience with Beatrice Grauman-Boss, a recent high school graduate who has worked at the FH Labs for two years on several experiments, including her own.

Beatrice is on the left.

Beatrice is currently researching whether sand dollar larvae will feed on kelp detritus. We got to inject potassium chloride into the sand dollars to stress them enough to spawn. Then, we got to see with our own eyes the eggs and sperm of different sand dollars.

Later, we used a microscope to see the eggs clearly. What we saw under the microscope was astonishing.

We saw larvae start to form, and we left the room feeling like real geniuses and scientists. We created baby sand dollars and now we are rich. After we finished researching sand dollars we went to check on our invertebrates that we keep in the tanks at the labs.

When we returned to the dorm, we input our pH data collected earlier that day. This meant getting out our laptops and working on the excel spreadsheet. We input the data we had collected fairly quickly. After that we had free/exploration time. Some chose to get some rest but others chose to work on their costumes for the Invertebrate Ball that will be taking place tomorrow. At around 6:30 our guests showed up—it was Dr. Jim Murray and his family. Dr. Murray is an expert in neuroethology and is a professor at California State University East Bay. Once we finished up dinner, Dr. Murray gave a presentation on the sea slug Tritonia diomedea.

We will visit Dr. Murray’s lab tomorrow!

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How do barnacles like their lemonade?

By: Peter, Aaron, Rosie–

On the rocks!

Today we got to do actual scientific research with the help of Will King, a grad student at University of Washington. We conducted an observational study of how barnacle size correlates to its position in the intertidal zone. We learned that the optimal position for barnacles is to be high enough away from predators but also close enough to the water to obtain food. We observed that the larger barnacles were located at a middle point and they got smaller as elevation increased and decreased.


photo by Gabi

After lunch, we had the pleasure of rummaging through old treasures at the local thrift store to find pieces for the Invertebrate Ball coming up this weekend. Everyone was attempting to channel their inner invertebrate as people were looking through old sweaters, garden supplies, and sports gear. We are all excited to debut our final product on Saturday.

We got to top off the day with a lovely Mediterranean inspired dinner and an interesting talk about terrestrial (WHAT?) organisms with scientific duo Dr. Erika (Muhlenberg College) and Dr. Vik Iyegar (Villanova University), both ecologists doing summer work at the Friday Harbor labs. We learned some interesting facts about earwig sexual behavior as well as slug populations and interactions on San Juan Island.

From slimy slugs to brittle barnacles, the day was packed with learning about important small beings.

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Domino Sample Size

By: Ben, Sonja, and Parker

What does science mean to you?

Tim asked us this during our field work at the San Juan Island Land Bank today. We came up with many different responses to this question, and we settled on our definition as ‘the study of the natural world through evidence and the scientific method.’ However, there are many other possibilities to answer this question.

At the Land Bank, we also had the opportunity to learn about random sampling and how to find population density. Tim B. set up an exercise for us to practice this skill by placing dominoes in a field for us to find the size and density of the population using sampling. While we were doing this, we were lucky enough to spot some minke whales swimming in the foreground of Vancouver Island.

On the bus to Land Bank

Land Bank

Earlier in the day, we sat in on a Marine Resource Committee meeting where they discussed various issues, including salmon preservation and limiting noise pollution to help save the orcas.

In the evening, we hosted the manager of the Ocean Acidification Environmental Lab, Dr. Rebecca Guenther for dinner. After dinner, she gave a presentation about the dangers of ocean acidification and how it can impact us.

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The sixth best small town 4th of July Celebration in the US: Friday Harbor!

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…”

These patriotic words started our morning on the Fourth of July as Tim Dwyer recited the Declaration of Independence to help remind us of the true meaning of Independence and what kind of emotions the American colonists felt more than 200 years ago.  After a quick yet inspiring review discussion on the American Revolution, we all put on our red, white, and blue to show off our patriotic pride.  The Salish Sea Sciences students sat along the curb in front of the Spring Street school alongside hundreds of other people to watch the highly anticipated town parade.  We all waved our flags and cheered on the countless floats and organizations found in Friday Harbor. 

Feeling hungry for some classic barbecue, we followed the crowds of people to the town’s historical society’s picnic to get some good food and listen to the story of the Pig War: a battle over land that occurred right here in the San Juan Islands in 1859 between the United States and Great Britain!  Following lunch, we got to explore the streets of Friday Harbor and experience the comforting feelings of a good ole small town Fourth of July.  To finish up the fun afternoon activities, we all drove down to the local fields to battle it out with a game of soccer.  Even with the many different levels of soccer skills, we all had a great time playing together.

The small town of Friday Harbor provided us with the  wonderful experience of touring Friday Harbor labs. The lab’s inside held a beautiful array of libraries and rooms filled with knowledge on marine biology. More than just book education, the labs also stored an interesting touch tank where we all dipped our hands in to feel sea cucumbers, urchins and sea stars. After our tour on the inside of the Labs, Tim lead us to the living quarters of the labs where graduate students lived comfortably and the undergraduates lived in shacks. Nevertheless, all of the scientist there seemed enthused as they talked to us about their studies and teachings that they participated in at the labs.

To cap off our perfect day, we all watched the stunning fireworks on the shores of the labs. The show this year was many things but unmemorable wasn’t of them. The long and colorful explosions of colors lit up the sky for all to see. For one of us, this was the first time experiencing the beauty we call fireworks. This girl described the show as ‘real’ which to me, seemed like the most perfect explanation —even as someone who has observed fireworks for many years before.

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No Backbone, No Problem: I’m an Invertebrate

By: Rosie, Aaron, Peter —

Meeting with renowned photographer Susan Middleton, invertebrate specialist Dr. Bernadette Holthius, and scientific illustrator Sharon Massey brought us with a flurry of colors and textures into the world of the spineless.

After the first full night of sleep in a week, we ventured over to Friday Harbor Laboratories, and met with Spring Street International School science teacher and local naturalist, Sharon Massey who tutored us in scientific illustration.  When trying to draw the invertebrates that we captured on The Centennial on Monday, many of us struggled with our limited artistic abilities.  However, our scientific drive motivated us to continue.  Many students were surprised by how much detail they observed about the organisms by attempting to draw them.

Upon returning to the campus, we received a hearty lesson in scientific communication from Megan Cook, the Community STEM Program Coordinator at the Ocean Exploration Trust.  We took an hour to explore Friday Harbor before enjoying a scrumptious meal prepared by local cook Tom Grauman and the dinner prep squad.  Our evening guests were Susan Middleton, author/photographer of Spineless and her friend Robin along with Megan whom we had met earlier in the day. We had an inspiring presentation of some of the images included in the book. The whole room had their jaws hanging.

Today was a great day to be an invertebrate!

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Longboat Day 5: Bringing it Home

By: Sonja, Ben, Parker—

At the disagreeable hour of 5:30 in the morning, our alarms went off and we reluctantly opened our groggy eyes. The day had finally arrived. It was time to begin our journey back to the marina, where our adventure had begun five days before.

After packing the rest of our supplies, we were on our way for the last time. Before we got going, Captain Sonia and Chrissy gave up a list of challenges to complete before reaching the marina. These challenges included: compiling a comprehensive list of all the marine life we had seen, doing a 360 degree turn in the boat, setting and furling the mizzen sail, singing a sea shanty, doing 20 power strokes, performing a man overboard drill, a moment of silence, and tying a round turn and two half hitches, all with little help from our captains.

The first leg of our journey took us from Saddlebag Island to Southeast Point, right before Guemes Channel. We knew that we would not be able to take any breaks once we were into the channel, so we had some snack breaks to gather our energy and prepare us for the hardest part of the day.

As we continued to Anacortes, the wind and the current pushed against us, but our rowers worked hard to keep us moving steadily towards our destination. Throughout the trip, moral was maintained by singing upbeat sea shanties.

Right before entering the marina, we took a moment to gather our thoughts and appreciate the events of the last four days. When we pulled into the marina dock, we all sat together to reminisce over our favorite memories of the trip and what we wanted to take away from this experience.

Although we had arrived at the dock, our work was not yet finished. We still had to clean up all of our supplies, as well as our beloved boat, the Townshend. Everyone split into three groups to take on our tasks. The boat crew completely emptied the boat and gave her a thorough wash. The “dip and dry” crew rinsed our gear with water and bleach and hung it on a clothesline to dry. The galley crew washed all our dishes with warm water and soap. After completing our individual chores, we all worked together to repack the boat in order to get it ready for the next voyage. Once all of this was done, we could finally rest and eat lunch of all the leftovers from the trip, our “roadkill” as Captain Soso said. Finally, Tim showed up with the van to take us back to the ferry and bring our adventure to an end.

It was a long journey with many different challenges we had to overcome, and through it all, we learned a lot about ourselves and how well we worked together. On this trip, we shared a lot of memories and experiences that we will remember for many years.

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Longboat Day 4: A Windy Sail to Saddlebag

By: Peter, Aaron, Rosie—

In the morning of the fourth day, the boys awoke from a long and troubled night of wind and boat rocking.  The flapping boat cover had prevented sleep for all but the most drowsy of them.  Upon removal of the boat cover it was revealed to be a cloudy and windy day.  As the girls arrived from the tent site it was apparent that they had slept much better.

We all got together on the beach at 6:00.  It was soon apparent that everyone was freezing.  After slowly loading the longboat it was suggested that we get on our bright neon orange exposure suits. We looked like a small army of orange marshmallows.


Preparing the sails beforehand, we lifted the anchor and rowed out into Bellingham Channel where we were greeted by a hair raising site, a giant oil tanker heading in our direction.  Captain Chrissy got on the walkie-talkie and called up Seattle Traffic to tell them to connect us to the tanker’s captain.  We informed him of our location and type of boat, preventing a collision.

After the tanker passed safely in front of us we raised our sails and steered towards the northern tip of Guemes.  From there we handed out breakfast: bagels with cream cheese, peanut butter, and/or jelly.

While heading for our next destination, Saddlebag Island, we had to circumnavigate around Jack Island.  We then sailed back and forth across Padilla Bay slowly making our way towards Saddlebag.  After a brief encounter with a barge towing tugboat, some of the crew took the time to cozy up in their exposure suits for a nap.

Finally we arrived at our destination at around 12:45 PM.  We quickly set up camp and took a few hours of free time before dinner.

Dinner that night was lentil curry soup which we enjoyed with a side of sailor boy crackers.  We then played a friendly round of The Malorie Family Fun game, a combination of charades and a talking guessing game and went to bed for our final night of the voyage.

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Longboat Day 3: Adventure at Cypress Head

By:Peter, Aaron, Rosie—

The third day of our longboat voyage awoke at the luxuriously late hour of 8:00.  The day had been set aside with the initial plan to explore the beautiful Cypress Island, a much needed rest day.  Breakfast was similarly extravagant with fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and apple juice.

We set out from our camp at Cypress Head, a peninsula shaped campground that nearly becomes an island during high tide, on the Cypress Head Trail.  A small group split off to return with Captain Soso to watch over the boat.  The remainder of us continued to the Old Airfield Trail which wandered through a former airstrip that is now part of a forest reclamation project.  From there we continued to the Bradberry Lake Trail and arrive at Bradberry Lake.

Parker (aka Agatha) hijacking an old abandoned truck we found

Our arduous climb was compensated with a gorgeous view of the inland lake.  After taking water samples and temperature recordings we sat down for a snack.  Many of us were struck by the dryness of the ecosystem surrounding the lake, the soil appeared dry and cracking in places.

The hikers who made it to the lake (minus the cross country superstar, Peter)

Upon returning we were greeted by a lunch of hummus and pita bread. Some of us took the time to swim and explore the tide pools while others settled in for a nap.

skip and dip!

We ended the day with bean and rice burritos, AGAIN, and turned in for an early evening.

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