Author Archive

Beginning of Week 7

Where does one begin? My days are starting to blend together, so I will just share some of my favorite moments from these past few weeks. Well, we safely returned to Friday Harbor yesterday to provision the boat, shower, and get ready to go out to sea again for two weeks. Being on land, freshly showered, in dry clean clothes may sound quite ordinary, but yesterday I was enjoying all those things and more. The Gato Verde has been our home for about three weeks, taking us to places around the San Juans in search for whales. The weather has been heavenly and for the last nine days Colleen and I have been commenting on the fact that “October is the BEST month of the year!” Our birthdays are only two days apart so it has been fun enjoying every sunset, gawking at the Harvest moon, and noticing all the colors of fall. We are planning a Bowling Night to celebrate our birthdays and I can’t wait to show off my moves. Ha Ha! I do have to admit that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all of the students, instructors, and captains over this whole experience. We belly laugh at least a hundred times a day and for some reason I get the giggles sometime between 1 and 2 DAILY. It’s often a restless, stir crazy kind of madness that often catches me by surprise. Smile! We have all enjoyed mooring in different locations around the San Juans, but Stuart has to be one of my favorites so far. Colleen, Erin and I explored and got some major energy out there. We ran some stairs, scrambled up a steep hill, and like clockwork we had lotttts and lottttts of laughs. We have only had one whale encounter this week and it was with J’s and part of L’s off the west side of San Juan Island. We collected lotttts and lotttts of data which I still need to spend more time analyzing in the upcoming week. I was able to use my PDA to collect data, which felt great being my first time entering the data right into the palm pilot. I felt like it was a more accurate representation of where the whales were and kept a time stamp for every entry which was a little piece of heaven. When I was using my data sheets in the first two weeks, I felt very distracted and honestly not the most efficient. Using the PDA allowed me to stay focused by prompting me of what to collect. I’m excited to use it again this week; Dr. James Ha from the University of Washington wrote the software for the palm and was out again with us on Friday. Well, I realize that I haven’t shared my Dall’s porpoise bow riding stories, yogas every morning on the bow, or about being mugged by porpoise when we were just floating. But I can’t wait to tell you in person…hopefully soon. I need to do a few more things and then we are off again.


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End of Week 3

Mon 9/4 Rena and I came back up from a lovely weekend in Seattle. We stopped at Deception Pass first, even though it looked like it was socked in. However, it was absolutley lovely and kind of a little taste of what it will be like on the water. On the Ferry we ran into Scott and Liam; we were still working on our proposals (materials and methods) and they were off exploring.
Tue 9/5:
Scott gave a talk on Physical Oceanography and introduced us to the CT device that we will use on one of our service projects. Then Dr. David Bain shared a powerpoint about his cooperative research project called “Landbase Study: Effects of vessel traffic on behaviors of N. and S. resident killer whales. He was also very helpful in explaining hydrophone arrays and different configurations.

After lunch, we went down to the dock to see how David and Val calibrated their hydrophones. We also redid an experiment where a common J-pod call (Call S-1)was played in the water. Then we recorded the call at four different distances to measure the attenuation.

We all went into town for dinner and met a friend of mine who works for Save our Wild Salmon. We all had the opportunity to share our research projects and learn more about Columbia and Snake River salmon. Quite fun!

Wed 9/6

Jeff Nystuen, applied physics professor form U.W. came up to give on a talk on PALS, passive aquatic listening devices. It was pretty cool to see him get so excited about what he does. He deploys these hydrophone/computers around the world, some attached to buoys, and others sunk below the surface of the water. It randomly records sound bites and he is able to detect wind, rain, anthropogenic sounds like vessel traffic, and biological sounds possibly whales or dolphins.

Peer Review from 2:00-5:30
It was good to hear everyone’s projects and list the different types of equipment that we will need on the boat. We are preparing for our group science plan that will come later this week. I’m glad to know that many of our observations and data collection procedures are very similar. I am getting excited to be on the water with them.

Thur 9/7
Our two guest speakers today were Lynne Barre and Brad Hanson. It was great to see both of them and hear more about the ESA listing process, conservation plan, and next steps. Brad walked in with a pool net and shared that they are going to attempt to collect whale scat. Great stories of whale poo though which was a nice change of pace. Our afternoon went by so fast; advisor meetings and then we started the conversation about sustainability on the boat (fuel, water, waste, etc.) We realized that we only have 54hr before we go on the boat. Yippee!
Fri 9/8
It was a delight to have Peter Westley, UW grad student, share with us some general salmon life histories and the work he has been doing up in Alaska. His enthusiasm was quite contagious and you could definitely tell he loves what he does. That was followed by Robyn Baird and his work with TDR’s (time depth recorders) with transients and residents. I was totally fascinated with the dive information and day/night patterns. I think I’m going to his article for my journal club next week. Lastly, we ended tonight with a lovely potluck over at Jason’s new house. We learned more about sustainable living on an island, but it was quite cool to get the tour. He and his family have built this house from the ground up and it is gorgeous! We took our goodies down to the beach and met both Jason and Scott’s families.


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End of Week 2

This last week was our second week on land where we were introduced to a plethora of topics and a great wealth of information about bioaccoustics and the statistical analysis of scientific methods. We had a journal club on Sustainability with Bob Francis, a retired UW professor. I really enjoyed his way of engaging us in conversation and provoking our thoughts about the subject. We started out with a quick write on what we thought sustainability was. He then related ecosystems, economy, and management as three circles (great visual) that need to be addressed in order to attain sustainability on a larger scale. We also had a U.W. grad student, Shannon McCluskey, give a talk on prey in relation to the southern resident killer whales. Finally, we had the opportunity to test/play with the hydrophones and different programs that will help us decipher some parameters of killer whale calls. We ended the week with a quick sail in a 20′ sailboat with Commander Lloyd. The wind nearly thrashed up on the dock while we were taking off and Lloyd was a pro at bringing us safely back to the dock too. I have to admit that I was a little freaked out at the speed in which we came into the dock, but we made it safe and sound! After that we kayaked for about an hour in Griffin Bay. We hit the 5:00 ferry, Seattle bound for the weekend.

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First Day of School

My first day of school normally starts with 150 nervous 7th graders inquiring what middle school math will look like and what they will be covering this year. I have taken a sabatical this year and I have to say that it has been very weird to not go through the steps of buying new school/teacher clothes, setting up my classroom, and mentally preparing myself for a brand new year. I am actually in the reverse roll, because I’m currently enrolled in Beam Reach: Marine Science and Sustainability School. I’m currently on beautiful San Juan Island and on the waters of the Salish Sea for the next 10 weeks. I’m so looking forward to new experiences and hope to explore the idea of a masters in Marine Biology. We were at Lime Kiln today doing an introductory activity and J,K,and L were just south of us. I will have to admit that I was not a very focused student, because my eyes were more in my binoculars than in my notebook. Smile! Please ask me questions about the classes I am taking and I would love to share in more detail. I’ll give you a quick overview of my schedule so you know when I’m here at the Friday Harbor Marine Labs. Call me or email me, I’m not that far away. So, for the next three weeks we will be here on land; formulating our research question and laying out the proposal for our project. Then we will go to sea for two weeks and try out our methodology, sampling protocols, and get familiar with our sustainable life at sea. We’ll follow this with one week back at the labs, analyzing our preliminary data and verifying that we are on track with our research project. Then we head out for three weeks at sea (eeee…I can’t tell you how excited I am for that). Finally, our last week will be on land. Looking over our data, analyzing it, and writing up our findings. Our presentations will be to a high stakes audience to reveal all that we had studied and learned. Well, I’m off to class for now. Enjoy the sunshine!

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