Archive for April 3rd, 2008


Well, Friday Harbor is gorgeous-similar to Bar Harbor, though, as many people have eluded to, the mountains here are truly impressive and rather dwarf the entire northeast. Being so close to the water here on campus is also a huge perk-certainly one that I could never take for granted. The campus is apparently home to lots of different creatures which unabashedly wander past Laura, Lindsay, and my duplex-like river otters! Despite their local reputation, I find them adorable.

The program itself has proven to be well worth the loans and the scrambling for extra money so far. First of all because we saw orcas from J-pod on the second day here!!! That event pretty much cleared up any qualms I may have had-ever. Second, the opportunity to examine orcas from a new perspective-acoustics-is very exciting. Thus far I have observed whales and their behaviors at the surface, and as exciting as that has been, I’ve only been privy to an extremely small percent of their lives; a weighty “but what happens now” questioning has always persisted in the back of my mind as the whales dove out of sight. This experience allows for the opportunity to scratch the surface of that question via acoustics…which are more complicated than I had hoped by the way. My complete lack of prior experience in this area of marine science has left me slightly intimidated to be perfectly honest, but also excited to gain a new perspective and hopefully acquire new as well as improved skills.
The next step is to establish my research question. While I have many, feasibility has become quite the issue. I am most motivated to examine a topic whose results can have management implications, as southern residents are endangered, or at least serve as a starting point for others more invested in killer whale conservation. Essentially…I want to shed some light on an aspect of killer whale life history which can be used, ideally to establish management regulations somewhere in the near future. While this may be naive and too far-reaching for a 10-week study by a beginner acoustician, I can’t see my motivations straying much.
Finally, I’m excited for this program as it has great potential to answer many “life questions”, you know, provide some of that clarity stuff-if anything prove where my expertise lie, or not as the case may be, as well as let me check off a bunch of things on my list of “things to do before I die.”

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island hopping

I have finally made it to the third corner of the country, to another island. I have bounced from Mount Desert Island to Lido Key and now to San Juan Island, so I now consider myself an official island hopper. I like it.

It’s been only a week since I’ve been here, but I already love it. I can’t wait to explore more of the island and what the lab has to offer- rocky coasts are for me. It’s also quite odd how this place reminds me so much of Maine yets fascinates me with its new things at the very same time. The town is laid back, friendly, and kept unlocked just like bar harbor, there are small mountain “hills”, farms, and the lighthouse, and the labs are very much like the COA campus, from the dining hall, the trails, the dock, the library porch, the rope swing and hidden benches, the random labs you can get lost in looking at all the cool things, to the overall “camp” like feeling – and everyone seems to love being here.

But I even love the differences more- the Olympic mountains off in the horizon, the giant bull kelp along shore, the row boats (I LOVE the roat boats), the blooming cherry trees, the river otters and blacked tailed deer roaming all over the lab campus, and the fact that everyone runs to the west side when they hear the orca calls on the radio- something I already got to experience. I also know this is a place I’ll love when I see all the marine biology dorks get together and get excited about seaweed and marine slugs – I want to know all the species of everything on this island!!

It’s also refreshing to get back into class mode since last fall- even though I am scratching my head over all the math and physics of acoustics – I feel I really am going to learn something out of all this, and be able to use it in the future- at the moment now it comes down to deciding on what question to research for my project- I’ve got it narrowed down pretty well at the moment, but more reading to do first.

And thinking that it would be at least a month until I saw orcas, lo and behold we saw J pod on April Fool’s day! (no joke). We just happened to check out the streamlining hydrophones on the website due to Dominique’s insistence 🙂 and after hearing them we went as quick as we could to the West side and Lime Kiln- Val told me, why don’t you check out by that boat in your binoculars- and sure enough I spotted my first Orca! we saw a good number of J pod individuals about 1/2 a mile away- this is only the beginning too!

here’s a picture of our first sighting- kind of far away but I was just excited!! and we could listen to them too while we heard them

Our first sighting

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April 3- National Tweed Day

Up to this point we have learned about acoustics and non-salmon fish. Val helped me install a program on my computer to practice orca calls so I can distinguish them. We saw orcas on only the second day here, but there are a lot of other animals too.

I rowed into town today to get groceries. They had some post cards, but I’m holding out for another card store I saw downtown. Dominique and Laura and I are all improving on rowing, and Laura is the best so far. Actually, I guess Ryan and Juan are better but I wasn’t counting them because they took bikes instead today. The food is really good in the cafeteria and they have a lot of variety. I have already met other people from UW that are doing studies of the nervous systems of sea slugs and some other stuff, but ours is the best. Of course I knew that, but when we say we’re from Beam Reach, it is re-inforced because they all say “OH Man! Yours is the best!” Then they say “Aren’t you supposed to be on a boat?, Where’s your boat?” so we explain about that and it’s a good conversation starter.

I picked my topic today. It’s “Jumping for Joy”: Studying the Meaning Behind Breaching and other Percussives (tail slapping, splashing) In San Juan Island Southern Resident Orcas .

I want to do some PR for the program, so I will say that I have already learned a lot more than in a typical classroom. Val and Jason let us use some musical instruments so we could understand some of the acoustic equipment and we did an experiment with clapping outside to measure the speed of sound.

One of the most wonderful things about Friday Harbor is that they seem to love the orcas as much as we do. On the first day they were spotted it seemed like the whole town dropped what they were doing to see them.

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