A homecoming

We’ll be blogging about all the research and the cool organisms we’re working with in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that, but first I (Molly, a.k.a. Dr. Jacobs) wanted to give you some background: Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) is a field station run by the University of Washington, and it is located in the San Juan Islands, which are a couple hour drive and a 1.5 hr ferry ride northwest of Seattle.  The Canadian border runs along Haro Strait, which separates San Juan Island (our home) from Vancouver Island.  The water is cold, the weather is cool, and the shores are rocky and steep!  Here’s a photo of the FHL dock – this is the view from right outside our lab space.

FHL is a special place for me.  I first came here as an undergraduate doing a summer research project, and this is where I really got hooked on marine science.  I came back as a graduate student, and lived and worked here for almost seven years while doing my dissertation research.  I think of this as paradise on earth, and not just because of the scenery – what really makes this place special is the scientific community.

In the summer, researchers come from all over the world to work here, and even though some of the people are very famous, the atmosphere is egalitarian: everyone from the lab director to the most junior undergraduate goes by his or her first name, and is treated as a scientific peer.  The level of science is high, and people work hard into the night, but it feels like we’re all at summer camp together.

I’m thrilled to be here with three McDaniel students!  We’ve been working hard, but on Saturday we took a break to go tidepooling in one of my favorite places on the island, Cattle Point (on the southern tip).  In this picture, rising junior Joe Odierno is standing in the low intertidal – behind him is the strait of Juan de Fuca, and behind that are the Olympic mountains!

Here’s another view of Cattle Point, this one looking a little more to the east.  The land mass in the background is another of the San Juan Islands (Lopez).  Rising senior Deanna Campbell is in the foreground; if you squint, you can see Joe and another student down on the shore:

Finally, here’s one of my favorite critters: the starfish Pycnopodia helianthoides.  These voracious predators can be more than 3 feet in diameter (!), making them the largest known starfish.  The really big ones are subtidal, though – this low intertidal specimen was much smaller.


First week at Friday Harbor Labs

It has been a full week already and it flew by. Everything about Friday Harbor Labs is awesome. The ferry ride to the island is one of the most scenic things I have ever experienced. There are big rocky cliffs everywhere dropping off into the cold blue waters of the Puget Sound. In the distance you can see Mount Baker in one direction and the Olympic Mountains to the other. Both are huge snowy peaks poking up through the clouds. Giant pine trees tower above the entire lab campus. The wildlife is also spectacular. There are so many birds everywhere, a true bird watchers dream. My favorites are the quails, which are a common and very charismatic ground bird. There is actually a Rufus hummingbird buzzing around me right now. The deer here are like squirrels they are everywhere and don’t care. You walk right by them and they pay you no real attention. However, by far the most amazing thing about this place is the marine ecosystems. A quick stroll on the shore about you will see giant bull kelp, starfish, polychaetes, crabs, isopods, seals, fish, and the list goes on and on.

The people here with me are also great. It’s only been a week but we are already like a family. There are 19 or so of us I think. Basically we all work very hard from after breakfast to dinner in our labs and then we all kick back together at night. It has been a great time every night so far. I am pretty sure I have made some friends for life and future colleagues. It is so nice to be in the company of other aspiring scientists like myself. All of actual scientists here are great too. They have all been very friendly. Everyone is on a first name basis. We are all working on our own projects and at the end of the summer we will be giving a presentation about our work. Hopefully at least some of us will be able to publish; I know I would be very siked if I could.

My research is investigating the decorating behavior in the last larval stage and very young graceful decorating crabs, Oregonia gracilis. I will also be characterizing their early ontogeny as it has not been done before. One of the most exciting things to me is I have managed to incorporate the electron microscope into my work. I have always wanted to use one. Well that is all for now enjoy the pictures.