Takin’ Care of Business

It’s awesome to have data already, but now it’s time to start interpretation. Deciding how to present the data and analyze it can be challenging. My data from after one week did not really show too many patterns, but after two weeks there’s a little more to go off of. This is really exciting because now we can use that information to decide if we want to keep going with this experiment or shift it in a new direction.

This morning we actually went through and did some analysis in the JMP Pro 9 statistics program. Although my original question was how origin affected survival and zooid number, there seems to be no indication of acclimation of the Botrylloides violaceus to site of origin; at least not yet. But that is completely fine. We did find evidence of an effect of genotype on survival and growth (zooid number) which is pretty exciting on its own. Now we get to investigate more into the effects of genotype which is just as cool. Genotypes will be defined as individual adult colonies for this part of the experiment and each one will get its own container to make sure we’re keeping them separate.

To get to Fisherman’s Bay, one of our field sites, we take a motor boat out since it’s on Lopez Island. Summer seems to start after the Fourth of July, and it was clear to us when we went out that Friday and the water was calm and the sun was shining.

We’ll be out collecting tomorrow, and then it’s catching larvae back in the lab for the rest of the week until we take our new juveniles out and swap them with the current colonies. So there’s a busy week ahead of me and my lab mates as we each work on our experiments. We’ll be fighting for sea table space since both Steve and Joe are working on their trials as well. Just kidding, we’ve already worked it out since I’ll only need it for a couple of days it’s not too much of a hassle, at least I hope not.

Leaning over the docks is how you find and collect these guys. You have to watch out because if you let them slip through your fingers they sink faster than you would think.

So on top of this prep and collection week, we’re also going out whale watching this Wednesday. Last time we went to a place called Lime Kiln to watch from the shore, but we didn’t see any since the pod decided to head north on us. This time we’re going out on a boat which is pretty exciting because we can go to the whales instead of waiting for them to chance by. I’ve personally never seen whales before so I’m really looking forward to this!

That’s all for now, hope your need for science has been at least momentarily satisfied.

Gon’ Crabbin’

Three weeks in Friday Harbor, and the time has flown by. As you may have already known both Steve and I are working on the organism Oregonia gracilis, a decorator crab. Steve is working with the larval and beginning juvenile stages. These early stages are teeny tiny little guys. About two weeks ago he needed to start collecting some of the larvae and we both just wanted to have some fun, so we decided to start the collection process. Now I don’t know about you, but from growing up just outside of Annapolis, MD when I think about catching crabs what comes to mind is tying some chicken necks to a string, throwing them in the water and waiting for a crab to grab on. Contrary to popular belief this isn’t how you catch larvae.


There are a couple different methods you can choose from to catch these larvae, but basically all of them involve seeing these tiny specks swimming around in the water and scooping them up into a plankton tow or small mesh net. However, in order to see and scoop these crabs you first have to find them. This part can be pretty tricky when you’re dealing with something that is only about a millimeter or so long in a great big sea. Luckily Biologists have a trick up their sleeve, Nightlighting.


Nightlighting is exactly what it sounds like. Once it gets dark (about 10:30 here) you take a nice big waterproof lamp and dip in just below the surface of the water. In a matter of minutes you’ll have larvae swarming the light, give it another minute or so, you’ll have shrimp, jellyfish, small fish, and every-once-in-awhile 1 ½ ft polychaetes swim by. The larvae are attracted to the light, and a lot of the other organisms are just there for some easy dinner.

With enough luck nightlighting is a very effective method for catching larvae. We have been out about 4 times since we’ve been here, and every time we manage to see something cool and new. Also after some very cold time dipping our hands in the water we took a few nice pictures.


Gotta go check on the crabs! Until next time from the West Side.

Plaid, Flannel, or Argyle? Decisions, decisions…

Hey guys, I’m Joe Odierno, here at Friday Harbor Labs with Dr. Jacobs, Deanna, and Steve. This is our 3rd week here in the San Juan Islands and each day is filled with new and different surprises. From getting to go out dredging, to starting experiments we have all been anticipating for months, to seeing all the awesome organisms this place has to offer, it’s really a sight to see.


Between the whale watching, seal sightings, and adventure hikes, we all work hard and long on our research in the labs and field. I’m here studying Oregonia gracilis, The Graceful Decorator. These crabs are apart of the Spider Crab family and will take anything they can get their claws on and use it to decorate they carapace and legs. They mostly utilize varieties of algae, bryozoans, and sponges. It has been seen that other crabs in their order will prefer to decorate with one material more than another. I’m looking at the question, do these crabs prefer one material to another, or do they just take whatever is within claw length? I want to see if these guys go to their favorite department store and pick out their favorite shirt, or if they just go for the first one they see.


So the general process of my experiment is go out to the docks, swoop 30 to 40 of these guys into my net, bring them back to the lab, strip them down (un-decorate them)-which I must say is a pretty arduous process that usually goes long into the night- using my arsenal of watchmaker’s forceps, paintbrushes, forceps, and a handy dandy dissecting microscope, give them sometime to recover, and the next day unleash a fury of red algae, sponges, and bugula on them.  After about three days of decorating I re-strip the crabs, dry the used materials, and weigh them. I actually began my first real round the beginning of this week, so I’m stuck in this excited, edge-of-my-seat, come on guys decorate decorate decorate, type of state. Which I must say isn’t a bad thing.


Well we gotta go catch a boat, so that’s all for now from the West Side.  Until next time.


Joe Odierno


Late Nights in the Lab

Eat breakfast, go to lab; eat lunch, go to lab, eat dinner, go back to lab. You see the pattern? Going out to the field, late hours in the lab, getting my experiment ready, getting pumped for whale watching or going out on the Centennial is all just another week in the Friday Harbor Labs (FHL). When this is the same schedule twenty others share with you it doesn’t seem as hard of a schedule. Especially when the sun doesn’t go down until ten at night, you get used to the work hard and play hard cycle that everyone seems to adopt when they come here.

My name is Deanna and I’m one of three students working with Molly this summer. My project is on Botrylloides violaceus which is an invasive here in the United States on both coasts. It originally came over from Japan and was first spotted in the 70’s here in the San Juan Islands. These sea squirts are a member of the fouling community and are pretty abundant at several harbors here in Washington. We went collecting on Tuesday last week and we found a lot at Roche Harbor (RH) and Fisherman’s Bay (FB) which are two of my field sites. We also saw a small colony of them at Cattle Point in the tide pools when we went one weekend. What I’m looking at with these guys is to see if they have any acclimation to local environmental conditions. This is important to look at because this invader is not found in some harbors (like the FHL docks) but is very abundant at others (FB). It would be interesting to find out which conditions they favor in order to see which harbors might be at greater risk of getting invaded.

This last week was really exciting as we prepped petri dishes containing juvenile Botrylloides violaceus for the field. After all the little guys were settled on the dishes we attached them to pvc trays submerged in 12°C seawater . . . while the plates were upside down. That was challenging and Molly and I worked late into the night/morning getting everything ready for deployment the next day.

With six hours or so of sleep we started up again later in the morning. We took the Coot (one of the four motor boats available for research) out to Fisherman’s Bay and hung the first of three of my contraptions. It was actually really good conditions for deployment because it was overcast. You would think that having a sunny day would make it better, but with the clouds it kept the trays cool while we assembled them in the field.

After hanging the one out at FB we headed back to the labs for lunch. In the afternoon we hung one off of the FHL docks and then took our sweet Ford Truck out to RH to hang the third and final tray. So now, my experiment has officially begun and we’ll be checking on it this Friday!

That’s all for now guys. We’ll be sure to keep you updated!

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.