Invertebrate Ball!

At Friday Harbor Labs, the biggest party of the year is the Invertebrate Ball.  Everyone dresses up as their favorite invertebrate or invertebrate-related pun, there are judges and prizes and invert-themed snacks, and the dancing goes late into the night.  McDaniel was well represented!

From left to right: Joe "Noctiluca" Odierno, Steve "Ophlitaspongia" Hein, Deanna "Assassin Snail" Campell, Molly "Internal Wave" Jacobs

An explanation of the costumes:

Joe: Noctiluca is a free-living marine dinoflagellate famous for bioluminescence – these tiny single-celled organisms release brilliant green flashes of light when they are disturbed.  During a bloom at night, boats leave green glowing wakes and swimmers are surrounded by sparkles.  The outside of Joe’s cape was a nondescript gray, allowing him to flash the luminescent interior at appropriate moments.  He won a “people’s choice” award for this costume!

Steve: Ophlitaspongia is a genus of marine sponges, often found in the local intertidal.  They are bright orange in color.  Most predators and grazers leave them alone due to their chemical defenses, but if you look closely you can often see a small specialist nudibranch predator (Rostanga sp.)

Deanna: The assassin snail Clea helena is a small tropical freshwater snail, known as a deadly predator of other snails.  You can’t see the back of her costume in this photo, but she had a shell displaying the typical black and yellow stripes.

Molly: An internal wave is an oceanographic phenomenon – we’re all used to waves that propagate on the surface, but waves can also propagate under the surface, usually along interfaces between upper and lower bodies of water (for example, along a thermocline or halocline).  Small planktonic organisms (shown in the pictures on the box and my shirt) often collect at these interfaces.  My costume showed these organisms along an interface, and I also waved internally (from inside the box).

Field Notes from Madagascar

Here’s a note from Dr. Morrison, currently doing field work in Madagascar.  His location is extremely remote with no internet access, but he was able to send us this note & photo during a brief trip to town! “I am back for the night to Majunga from our field site in Madagascar. I am having a fantastic time and finding lots of chameleons and leaf-tail geckos. Last night I saw in the field and caught my first Uroplatus henklei, just the third of the season this year. These are truly stunning animals. Student projects and survey routes are going well. Back to the field in the morning”

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.


Gearing up for Summer Research 2012!

Welcome to the inaugural McDaniel Biology summer research blog!  Students and faculty working together on collaborative research will be blogging about their experiences here.  The Jacobs lab will be studying the ecology and larval biology of sea squirts and decorator crabs at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Friday Harbor, Washington, while the Parrish lab will be studying the molecular biology of the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum right here on the McDaniel College campus!  We’re also hoping for guest blog posts from Dr. Morrison (on sabbatical, studying reptiles in Madagascar), Dr. Mitschler (on sabbatical, working with heritage breeds of sheep), Dr. McMillan (conducting botanical research in Maryland), and possibly several former research students.  Stay tuned!

– Dr. Jacobs