Author Archive

Get Out the Blubber Glove

That’s right! Blubber glove.

This past Saturday was People for Puget Sound’s Kid’s Day and for my service project, I organized an activity fair that focused on marine mammals. Children and their parents came to the whale museum and learned to identify killer whales by looking at their saddle patches and dorsal fins. They also listened to Brett’s (Beam Reach class 051) Puget Soundscape to hear the noises of the local underwater world. Children had the chance to try their hand at being a “bubbler,” “skimmer,” or “gulper.” Or, said another way, children learned about the different eating techniques of baleen whales.

And then there was the blubber glove. I think that this activity was the hit of the day- it certainly was my favorite. I had a bucket of water with ice floating in it. I would ask a child to stick their fingers in the water and tell me how long they thought that they could swim in the cold water. Answers varied from 3 seconds to 1 hour. I then showed the child a bag filled with butter-flavored Crisco- the blubber glove. There were a number of “Eww, what is that?” responses, but most of the kids were willing to poke at the squishy yellow insides of the bag. After we talked about what was in the bag (butter which is a fat like blubber, but no… it’s not real whale blubber), I had the child stick their hand inside the blubber glove and then into to the cold water while also putting their bare hand in the water with the instruction to pull out each hand when it got cold. Very quickly, out came the bare hand while the blubber gloved hand remained comfortable. An insulating layer of fat- what an amazing adaptation for a warm blooded animal living in 50° water.

Overall, I think the day was quite successful. Approximately 25 children came to The Whale Museum with their parents, though much to Val’s chagrin, I don’t have any pictures of the happy tykes.

A big, huge, whale-sized thank you to Tim, Alex, Sam, and Ash for giving time out of their very busy schedule to volunteer on this day.

On an unrelated note, both Val and Jason have declared my research project “interesting” followed by exclamations of “This is science!” It is interesting, and it certainly is science of the “this is new research so the results don’t make immediate sense” variety. I am enjoying the puzzle as long I push away my desire to have neat statistically-analyzed results.

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A Quiet Night at the Labs


It is a Friday night. My big plans are to watch a movie and eat popcorn. It’s been a busy week, and I’m enjoying the quiet.

Our time on land has been productive. We did an exercise on energy and human dietary choices, did a statistics exercise, met with the sea group for an amazing curry dinner- thank you sea group for cooking delicious food so that I didn’t have to eat another turkey sandwich, and talked about sustainability and choices in our lives. And we turned in our final research proposals. I finally settled on a topic. I will be investigating the effects of depth on the killer whale’s production of echolocation clicks. To do this, we will have to stop the boat and deploy the hydrophone array vertically through the water column. Everyone else can collect their data from a horizontally towed array. I guess this is just one more example of me wanting to do something different and independent.

Like I said above, it’s been a busy week. Even our time off has been productive. Alex went to Lacrover Farm to wash onions in the cold wind. Sam went out to the Center for Whale Research to move rocks (there was no data to be entered, so why not move rocks?), and tomorrow she’s going to Seattle to “bounce sound off of fish.” Tim and Ash are in Victoria, Canada. Tim is talking to whale watching operators to arrange “drive-bys” so that he can make recordings of underwater boat noise. The two are probably enjoying big city life. And I went to the Whale Museum today to meet with their education director to talk about possible volunteer opportunities. I will be creating part of a presentation that will be given to school groups on the Southern Resident Killer Whales and their acoustic environment. I will also be part of (coordinating?) the Whale Museum’s event for the People for Puget Sound’s 2007 Kid’s Day. I’m not quite sure what this means, but the day is a month off, and it should be a lot of fun.

Tomorrow, Alex and I are going to tackle shopping for a week’s worth of food for nine people. We’re determined to have it all done in two hours or less. This means I can’t linger over all of the beautiful vegetables at the farmer’s market, but I will definitely have to buy some lemon cucumbers (like a regular cucumber, but yellow, lemon shaped, and especially delicious) and ana kiwis (grape-sized, fuzz free kiwis that grow on island).

Now, time for that popcorn…

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Back on Land, Back into the Library

So last night (or was it the night before) we were sent an e-mail asking (begging?) us to write some blogs. Well, I can’t claim to be super savvy when it comes to technology, but I can write a blog- especially when I have 30 minutes until class time, and I’m distracted enough to not be productive.

I’m currently sitting in the Friday Harbor Labs library. The window to my left overlooks Friday Harbor. Boats and ferries come and go in the flat, misty gray light of the morning. I have been searching for articles for my research project. I’m currently exploring fish, echolocation, killer whales, bathymetry, foraging… and the list continues. Most of my classmates are settled on a topic to investigate, though they may not have methods nailed down. I am struggling a bit to comfortably settle with a single topic. I have so many questions.

Team VaTo (for Val, our intstructor and Todd, our captain) finished our first week at sea, and we’re now back on land taking advantage of the library, fast intenet connection, and showers. I still have a slight case of “dock rock,” so now and again I find myself swaying and wondering why my world seems like it is rocking.

Yesterday, we went to Lacrover Farm to harvest strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, and carrots. Going to the farm and learning about local, organic farming is part of the sustainability component of the Beam Reach program. The berries were amazing, and playing in the dirt was fun. I have a picture of Ash and myself with some of the fruits of our labor which I will post in the BR gallery. Take note of the dirt on my forehead- I seem to have a hard time staying clean.

I will also try to get some photos of our first week at sea into the gallery. It was a truly amazing week. At this very moment (10:13am, PDT) you can go to the gallery and see two of my favorite photos- a breaching killer whale with Mt Baker in the background and a picture I took of two Harbor Seals in an intimate moment.

It’s now time to head to class. I hope that team JaMi (instructor Jason and captain Mike) is having a good time on the water. I wonder where the whales are right now…

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