Tide Bites: A Unique Challenge: Marine Subtidal Ecology at UW Friday Harbor Labs

“Tide Bites” is the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. This month, two of the instructors of the Marine Subtidal Ecology course Dive Officer Pema Kitaeff and Dr. Alex Lowe write about what it takes to be a scientific diver at the University of Washington. This course is currently scheduled to be offered in the summer of even years (the next offering will be summer 2020) at Friday Harbor Labs, and interested students are encouraged to contact the Marine Biology Adviser for more information.

“This set up quite a challenge: train 12 students to accurately count and identify dozens of algae, invertebrate, and fish species in two weeks while simultaneously training in dive rescue techniques and scientific subtidal survey methods, developing an independent research project and figuring out how to write legibly on datasheets underwater while wearing ¼”-thick gloves.”

Despite windy weather and choppy water just the day before, the morning of Friday June 22nd 2018 dawned gloriously sunny and calm: a gift of optimal conditions bestowed on the patient planners of field work. Few have been as deserving of such a gift as the 12 students in the Marine Subtidal Ecology (MSE) course offered during Session A this past summer FHL. June 22nd was only their 13th day in the San Juan Islands but it marked the culmination of the Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network (KEEN) data collection, for which they had been preparing before they even arrived.

This year’s MSE was the first time a scientific diving course was administered to a full roster of students within an academic course at FHL. Led by Dr. Aaron Galloway (U. of Oregon), soon-to-be-Dr. Alex Lowe (UW), and Dive Officer Pema Kitaeff (FHL), the course is built around the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) standards and ultimately qualifies students as full scientific divers. Since 2010, scientific diver training has been offered at FHL as a non-credit workshop. Our goal for MSE was to train students in scientific diving methods and provide real research experiences in the Salish Sea for academic credit – a change we hoped would broaden access to scientific diving and underwater science. Divers prep on a boatPrevious iterations of this concept had incorporated scientific diving into the 2009 Marine Biology Quarter, and Ecology Between and Below Pacific Tides course in 2015. This year we invited students for a 5-week intensive scientific diving and marine ecology course. Like all FHL summer courses, the application process was competitive and the cohort of 12 MSE students all shared a strong desire and determination to become scientific divers. Their backgrounds and experience were diverse: a few already had logbooks confirming over a hundred dives, while others had worked hard to log the minimum 20 dives required at the start of the class. A few had been to FHL before and had experience recognizing local marine flora and fauna, but many had no prior familiarity with Salish Sea organisms. This set up quite a challenge: train 12 students to accurately count and identify dozens of algae, invertebrate, and fish species in two weeks while simultaneously training in dive rescue techniques and scientific subtidal survey methods, developing an independent research project and figuring out how to write legibly on datasheets underwater while wearing ¼”-thick gloves.

The Kelp Ecosystem Ecology Network uses a standardized method to compare studies of kelp ecosystems around the world. Kelp forests cover 25% of the world’s coastline, dominating many nearshore habitats in temperate climates. They are important sources of food and structure that support valuable nearshore ecosystems. We built the course around the KEEN protocol because it implements commonly used survey techniques, connects to international collaborators, and requires expert knowledge of local flora and fauna. In other words, it could be an ideal teaching tool. Incorporating this work into a summer course contributes to a better understanding of how the habitat around FHL fits into the global context of kelp forests, but also serves as a roadmap for other field stations hoping to incorporate networked research into scientific diving classes. We were able to build on research conducted by Dr. Katie Dobkowski and others who have studied kelp in the San Juan Islands. For the purposes of MSE 2018, we established our KEEN site at a Nereocystis (bull kelp) bed known to FHL researchers just off the Southwest tip of Shaw Island.

The students dove right into their training, taking advantage of the diversity of habitats accessible from the FHL dock. Challenge accepted! We walked through survey methods on the lawn in front of the dining hall, and practiced counting and identifying local organisms at low tide below the yoga platform between labs 5 and 11. Then, by the end of the first week the divers-in-training were ready to get underwater with slates, quadrats, and transect tapes to further develop research skills in the eelgrass and clump-weight reef habitats under and around the docks. We used the species-rich rocky reefs in the FHL preserve to teach organism identification and life history. Finally, we took these skills to the kelp bed at the South Shaw Island KEEN site for two practice dives before the big day when the students conducted the final survey to characterize the biological community before we removed the kelp from the experimental treatment plots. Mission accomplished: what seemed impossible had become reality.

read the full article

Sea Dawgs club guest lecture: Southern Resident Killer Whales & Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea

SeaDawgs is putting on a guest lecture on Monday, February 26th at 4pm led by Dr. Deborah “Giles” Giles, a resident scientist at the UWFriday Harbor Labs. The talk will be taking place in the Fisheries Science Building in Room 107. Dr. Giles will be speaking about the Southern Resident Killer Whales, which are iconic to our region but threatened. Also, in Spring ’18 she will be teaching FHL 375: Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea, which is part of the Marine Biology Quarter on the San Juan Island. This class promises to be an immersive experience, for students will gain field research skills collecting data on marine mammals while learning directly from the environment of the Salish Sea. 
Who’s Invited: Anyone with an interest in our Southern Resident Killer Whales
What: Guest Lecture by Dr. Deborah Giles
When: February 26th at 4pm
Where: Fishery Sciences Building, Room 107
Link to Facebook Event: 
We hope to see you there!
SeaDawg Executive Board 2017-2018

Friday Harbor Labs’ Megan Dethier receives Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award

this article is from the College of the Environment News page (January 30, 2018)

Megan Dethier (right), George Willoughby (second from right) and Sylvia Earle (center) are recognized for their contributions by the Seattle Aquarium.

Each year, the Seattle Aquarium recognizes individuals who are leaders in marine research, especially in the Pacific Northwest. This year that honor goes to Megan Dethier, a longtime researcher at the College of the Environment’s Friday Harbor Laboratories. She was recognized alongside George Willoughby from Friday Habor Labs’ Advancement Board, who received the Scott S. Patrick Award for his volunteer service. Also honored for her commitment to ocean science and conservation was National Geographic explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle.

As associate director for academics and the environment at Friday Harbor Labs and a University of Washington professor of biology, Megan has spent her career studying the ecology of shorelines in the Pacific Northwest and around the globe. Her work focuses largely on the Salish Sea. She designed a classification system to help inventory and keep track of how marine habitats in Washington state may change, and has worked with the National Park Service and state agencies to design shoreline mapping and programs that help monitor the state’s shoreline health.

The Friday Harbor Laboratories is a world-class destination for research, teaching and learning. Megan’s Marine Zoology and Botany course is one of its longest-running, often co-taught with a visiting instructor. The class—affectionately known as ZooBots—allows students to work alongside Megan and other scientists exploring the unique biology and ecology of nearby marine environments. Her hands-on approach, accessibility to students and enthusiasm for the ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest make it one of the most popular classes offered at the labs.

Seattle Aquarium has a long history with the UW. College of the Environment dean Lisa Graumlich currently serves on the aquarium board of directors, and numerous other UW researchers have been previous award winners in conservation research. These include Jeff Cordell, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Terrie Klinger, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs; Richard Feely, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and School of Oceanography; Usha Varanasi, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; Jan Newton, Washington Ocean Acidification Center and Applied Physics Lab; Julia Parrish, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences; and Phil Levin, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

[Tide Bites]: A Summer Class Success Story

“Tide Bites” is the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. This month, Professor Adam Summers reflects on the 25 year legacy of the ‘Fish Biomechanics’ summer course. Read a short exerpt below, or read the full story at: https://fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/newsletters/. Graduate students and senior level undergrads are encouraged to apply now for summer courses at FHL.

“One class, five weeks, seven publications: that’s a Friday Harbor summer. The class did not just offer a one-time opportunity, it tied a group of young scientists together.”

– Professor Adam Summers, Friday Harbor Labs

As we take a break from FHL teaching for the winter quarter and retreat to warm labs full of good questions and better critters, it is a nice time to reflect on the impact of our educational mission.  This “Bite” is about a particular summer course but it could easily be about other courses from summer, fall, or spring.  In 1993 I came to Friday Harbor Labs to take the Fish Biomechanics course from Karel Liem and Bruce Miller.  Like many before and after me, the experience changed my life.  Karel, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology, was my earliest and clearest example of the sheer fun to be had in the world of biology.  As Bruce identified fishes on the gravel of Jackson Beach, Karel walked around the group pointing out unusual morphology, strange behaviors, and interesting associations.  His wide grin and easy laugh made the waterside quizzes shine as opportunities to reveal preparation or show a currently-empty head ready to be filled.  Karel asked questions he did not know the answer to, some he should have (like the identity of tidepool sculpin number 3042) and many for which no one had an answer.  It was illuminating to see someone take joy in not knowing things; he viewed not knowing as an opportunity to learn.  I have never shaken that course.  I was the teaching assistant and eventually the instructor, and have continued teaching it with a distinguished cast of co-instructors.  In that time I have met so many wonderful students through teaching the Fish Biomechanics course. Some have in turn sent their own students who are now moving onward and interviewing for jobs.

[read the full article]

FHL Tide Bites: Bacterial Responses to Ocean Acidification

Think ‘small’ when reading the latest “Tide Bite” from Friday Harbor Labs: Professor Lisa Crummet writes about her research in the summer of 2016 at FHL on ocean acidification on marine bacteria. Note that she worked with a summer REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) intern. These are fully-funded internships at FHL which include a stipend as well as room and board. The application period for REU positions is fast approaching, and will start in winter 2017.

Ocean acidification, resulting from an increase in atmospheric CO2, is a growing concern as it is projected to impact all ocean regions and affect a wide variety of marine life.  Although a significant amount of research has focused on studying the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on marine animal phyla and even eukaryotic phytoplankton, less attention has been focused on how OA affects marine bacteria.  Both autotrophic (“producer”) and heterotrophic (“consumer”) bacteria play important roles in the marine food web; Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus (picocyanobacteria) alone contribute up to 50% of fixed carbon in the marine environment.  The response of bacterioplankton to ocean acidification has been inconsistent across studies and more research is needed at multi-species and community scales as opposed to laboratory experiments on a single species of cultured bacteria.

read the full story at: FHL Tide Bite #52: “Bacterial Responses to Ocean Acidification”, December 2017

Marine Bio Student Profile: Abby von Hagel

Abby von Hagel is a student from Seattle in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program pursuing a Major in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and a Minor in Marine Biology with plans to graduate in 2019. We talked with Abby to find out what inspires her to study marine biology and to learn how an introductory course led to her researching at the UW’s marine field station at Friday Harbor Labs.

If you are interested in making marine biology part of your studies, fieldwork or research, contact the Marine Biology Academic Adviser Joe Kobayashi at marbiol@uw.edu.

Sara Galer
Doing fieldwork at Eagle Cove, San Juan Island as a part of the spring ZOO-BOT quarter
  1. How and why did you come to minor in Marine Biology?

    • During my first quarter at the University of Washington, I was part of a FIG that included the Marine Biology 250 course. It was then that I learned about things such as Coriolis forces, shark reproduction, and bioluminescence, incorporating a broad range of disciplines and piquing my interest in the Marine Biology minor. The addition of the minor has allowed me to thrive in small hands-on courses, presented research opportunities, and allowed me to develop close professional connections to professors and other marine scientists.
  2. Why do you think marine biology is an important field?

    • In my opinion, most teaching examples used in biology classes at the University of Washington are based on terrestrial organisms. Given that the oceans compose 99% of the earth’s biosphere, I think marine biology research makes an important contribution to our understanding of life on earth. Whether discovering green fluorescent protein biomarkers in jellyfish, investigating the biomimetic potential of clingfish discs, or evaluating the effect of ocean acidification on marine invertebrates, scientists have learned much from studying marine organisms.  I am constantly amazed by how much there is still left to learn about life in the oceans.
  3. How does the minor in Marine Biology relate to, or inform your major?

    • By minoring in Marine Biology I am able to apply the broad conceptual ideas of chemistry, physics, or physiology to a specific study system. For example, I was able to use my knowledge of osmoregulation in marine and freshwater fish to conceptualize the effect of excessive sodium on the human renal system.
  4. What has been the most interesting course you have taken so far for the marine biology minor?

    • My favorite classes that I have taken so far for the marine biology minor were the courses that I took while at Friday Harbor Laboratories, particularly Biology of Fishes with Dr. Matthew Kolmann and Marine Invertebrate Zoology with Dr. Megan Dethier. Both these courses took full advantage of the opportunities offered at the labs, with small interactive lectures, multiple trips into the field, and access to lab sea tables filled with organisms.

      Hyejoo Ro
      Abby attending to outdoor mesocosm experiments at Friday Harbor Labs.
  5. How have you been involved with research in Marine Biology?

    • I have been involved with a variety of research projects that work with marine organisms. I was part of a student research team that designed and carried out an experiment dealing with trophic interactions in eelgrass meadows. I had the opportunity to present this research at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium and to the Samish Department of Natural Resources. Currently, I am using micro-CT scanning to analyze how snailfish (Liparidae) bone structure varies along a depth gradient, which I plan to present at the upcoming Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) conference. This summer, I have been working on fieldwork experiments with Dr. Megan Dethier examining Manilla clam recruitment and survival as well as working in the lab of Dr. Adam Summers generating CT images of fishes and creating a publicly accessible database of all CT scan data as part of the NSF-funded oVert project.

      A. von Hagel
      Micro-CT scan of the snailfish Allocareproctus tanix (lateral view).
  6. Do you have any recommendations for UW students interested in Marine Biology?

    • My first recommendation to other UW students interested in Marine Biology would be to find a way to become actively involved with a lab or organization focused on marine organisms. Gaining experience with fieldwork, outreach, or work in a lab setting provides useful connections and an idea of the type of work conducted by marine scientists. Don’t be afraid to talk to advisors, researchers, and professors about your specific research interests, the University of Washington has a many great of resources for those interested in marine science.
  7. What are your future goals after graduating from the UW?

    • My experience working in a research environment as an undergraduate has encouraged me to pursue a graduate program that would allow me to continue conducting research both in the lab and the field. Eventually, I hope to obtain a doctorate degree and explore questions related to functional mechanisms in marine organisms.

[Tide Bites] Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. Seroy, S. (2017, July). Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions. Retrieved from https://fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/newsletters/. [link to original article]. Applications for undergrads wishing to study and research at Friday Harbor Labs this autumn are still being accepted.

Understanding the Effects of Ocean Acidification on Predator-Prey Interactions

by Sasha Seroy

Sasha Seroy is a graduate student in the Oceanography Department at the University of Washington, advised by Dr. Daniel Grünbaum.

Marine organisms are experiencing dramatic environmental changes due to global climate change. As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise, the oceans absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide, which results in acidification. While ocean acidification affects several different types of organisms, calcifiers — those that make their shells or skeletons from calcium carbonate like shellfish or corals — have been identified as particularly vulnerable. Acidification not only increases the likelihood of shell or skeleton dissolution, it can also make it more difficult for organisms to create calcium carbonate in the first place. Several studies have investigated the effects of ocean acidification on calcifiers in isolation; however, in nature, organisms interact with a wide variety of other organisms, from predators to prey to competitors. These interactions have the potential to amplify or reduce the effects of acidification with consequences that could propagate up to population and community levels. I am particularly interested in how interactions between predators and prey are influenced by changing ocean chemistry.

bryozoan colonies
Fig. 1: Individual feeding zooids within a bryozoan colony (left), an entire single bryozoan colony (center), and multiple bryozoan colonies growing on kelp (right).

The encrusting bryozoan Membranipora membranacea is commonly found in the waters around San Juan Island and presents a good model system to investigate the effects of acidification on predator-prey interactions. Membranipora forms large circular colonies composed of zooids — the individual units within a colony (Figure 1) — on kelp blades. As they grow, colonies add subsequent rings of zooids to their outer edge. This structure makes it simple to divide colonies like cutting a pizza, and then expose genetically identical slices of the same colony to different environmental conditions via laboratory manipulations. Membranipora exhibits an inducible defense — a defense that is only formed in the presence of predators — which helps protect them from being eaten. Upon receiving chemical cues that the predatory sea slug Corambe steinbergae is close by, Membranipora produces spines on skeletons of newly-formed zooids along the outer growing edge of the colony (Figure 2). While these inducible spines are beneficial, they present a trade-off because they require energy to make, and leave less energy to put toward colony growth. Therefore, the cost associated with increased protection is a reduction in overall colony growth. Thus, similar to tree rings, we can see which rings of zooids were formed at a time of high predation by looking for defensive spines. Since these interactions are easy to quantify and Membranipora forms its skeleton from calcium carbonate, this system is a good model to understand how ocean acidification might affect predator-prey dynamics.

[read the full post at FHL Tide Bites]

[UW Today] Study shows high pregnancy failure in southern resident killer whales; links to nutritional stress and low salmon abundance

from UW Today, June 29, 2017. Note: Deborah Giles from the Center for Whale Research teaches the FHL 375: Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea course at Friday Harbor Labs in spring quarter.

orca breaching
A southern resident killer whale in 2010.

A multi-year survey of the nutritional, physiological and reproductive health of endangered southern resident killer whales suggests that up to two-thirds of pregnancies failed in this population from 2007 to 2014. The study links this orca population’s low reproductive success to stress brought on by low or variable abundance of their most nutrient-rich prey, Chinook salmon.

The study, published June 29 in the journal PLOS ONE, was conducted by researchers from the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, along with partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Center for Whale Research. The team’s findings help resolve debate about which environmental stressors — food supply, pollutants or boat traffic — are most responsible for this struggling population’s ongoing decline.

“Based on our analysis of whale health and pregnancy over this seven-year period, we believe that a low abundance of salmon is the primary factor for low reproductive success among southern resident killer whales,” said lead author Sam Wasser, a UW professor of biology and director of the Center for Conservation Biology. “During years of low salmon abundance, we see hormonal signs that nutritional stress is setting in and more pregnancies fail, and this trend has become increasingly common in recent years.”

Southern resident killer whales typically feed from May to October in the Salish Sea, and spend winters in the open Pacific Ocean along the West Coast. Unlike transient orca populations that feed on marine mammals, more than 95 percent of the diet of southern resident orcas consists of salmon, with Chinook salmon alone making up about three-quarters of their total diet.

read the full article on UW Today

[Tide Bites] NOAA Tide and Weather at FHL

This article comes from “Tide Bites”, the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. “NOAA Tide and Weather at FHL” by Erin Dodge: read the full article on the FHL website.

The NOAA meteorological station near FHL’s pumphouse.

I work for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) as a Physical Scientist for the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS). We are part of the Pacific Operations Branch team based in Seattle, WA. We collect data from as far north as the Arctic Ocean, as far west as Guam and as far south as American Samoa, including coastal Alaska, the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii, and the Pacific Trust Territories. Products and services derived from CO-OPS data are used to: produce tide and current predictions and forecasts, support nautical charting and shoreline mapping, improve GPS accuracy, support coastal and emergency managers with storm surge warnings in hurricane and storm-prone coastal areas, support tsunami warnings, help scientists, coastal managers, and engineers understand sea level trends, forecast harmful algal blooms, provide critical decision making information to commercial shipping ports and pilots, provide useful information to coastal recreation users, and many other uses. Our Seattle team focuses on installing, maintaining, and repairing our oceanographic and meteorological observing systems within these areas. I am personally in charge of monitoring and maintaining the Washington and Oregon observing systems and stations.

The UW Friday Harbor Labs hosts a National Water Level Observation Network (NWLON) Station as well as a remote, stand-alone meteorological station. Established in 1932, this station continues to operate as part of a nationwide network of 210 long-term, continuously-operating water level stations throughout the U.S. and its territories that provide crucial data for government and commercial sector navigation, recreation, and coastal ecosystem management. The station has existed in its current location since 1989, on the pier at the FHL. The remote meteorological station was added on nearby Cantilever Point in 2008.

[read the full article]

FHL Research Apprenticeship Info Session (5/16, 11:30 am, OSB 425)

Friday Harbor Labs Autumn Course Information Session

Pelagic Ecosystem Function in the San Juan Archipelago (PEF) Research Apprenticeship

When: Tuesday, May 16 11:30-12:20
Where: Ocean Sciences Building (OSB) Rm. 425

Explore the ‘PEF’ research apprenticeship with this 50 minute info-session on campus. Meet one of the three faculty Dr. Jan Newton of the UW Applied Physics Laboratory to learn more about what you will learn through a full quarter of undergraduate research, and find out how to apply.

What is the PEF Research Apprenticeship?

Now in its 14th year, this very successful apprenticeship, Pelagic Ecosystem Function (PEF), uses the natural laboratory of the waters in the San Juan Archipelago to investigate the workings of a unique pelagic (open water) ecosystem. Friday Harbor is an ideal place for pelagic ecosystem studies because here, inputs from oceanic realms and major river systems are mixed by powerful tidal currents, creating an oceanographically complex habitat that supports a diverse community of plankton, fishes, seabirds, and marine mammals.

  • Spend autumn quarter at Friday Harbor Labs immersed in a single, fifteen-credit research apprenticeship with a cohort of up to 12 other students.
  • Be mentored by three faculty with expertise in oceanography, aquatic and fishery sciences, and marine birds and mammals.
  • Apply for a Mary Gates Research Scholarship and earn up to $3,000 to support your tuition.

Read more about the PEF apprenticeship, and see examples of student work here