July 30, 2013
University of Washington, Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island, WA
Autumn Quarter: Sept. 24 to Dec. 7, 2012 (10 weeks)
Ocean 492 (15 credits)
This research apprenticeship explores the habitats and organisms of the pelagic (open water) ecosystem of the San Juan Archipelago, based at the Friday Harbor Laboratories (FHL) on San Juan Island. Our goal is to understand how the various oceanographic processes shape marine waters and biological communities in this system.
Research apprentices investigate the patterns, interactions, and links among the many and varied components of this complex system. We use a broad-based approach that combines formal instruction with independent fieldwork. Lectures are provided by three instructors on oceanography, fisheries ecology, and bird and marine mammals. Seminars by visiting experts provide additional overview and context. The core of the program is the opportunity to design and implement a research project, integrated with research projects developed by fellow research apprentices.
Practical, hands-on instruction in field and laboratory research techniques are provided. At-sea research is conducted on the UW-FHL research vessel and at FHL laboratory facilities. Apprentices work with faculty to choose a particular focus for their own research. Previous apprentices have successfully studied a wide range of topics, including oceanographic studies related to climate variation, seasonal progression, the effects of river and oceanic inputs on local water masses, phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity, fish diet and ecology, fish-habitat associations, and the effects of tides on seabird and marine mammal distribution. Each apprentice’s independent research project culminates in a scientific research paper and oral presentation made to the FHL research community. Teaching staff (three instructors, one TA) assist the apprentices in all facets of the research, including providing practice and feedback on oral presentations and assistance with writing a scientific paper.
I have such fond memories of my time at FHL. In fact, that's where I decided a wanted to become an oceanographer! It was my first real opportunity to do field research and work on a small ship. By the end of the quarter when we all stood up and presented our findings, I realized how amazing it was that a small group of students could piece together an understanding of such a complicated ecosystem. Plus, it was just so awesome living and working around students and getting to do cool science every day. You just can't beat that!!! The community at FHL was one I'd never experienced before and all of the scientists and students living there always seemed so eager to share their stories. So that quarter I decided to be a field scientist and haven't looked back!
Alexis Pasulka, Pelagic Ecosystems Function 2006
The PEF course really set me up for a career in marine research. I learned field and lab techniques that I still use (CTD operation, oxygen analysis, spectrophotometry). The opportunity to work with my peers and to present my independent research to the scientific and local community was incredibly valuable for my future work. My professors were foremost in their fields, and the curriculum of PEF allowed me to work closely with all of them and build lasting connections. I am currently in a PhD program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, and was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship last year. Writing about PEF reminds me how instrumental it was in shaping my career in research. I'm very grateful for that.
Megsie Siple, Pelagic Ecosystems Function
One of the best parts of the class was that the teachers were willing to give one-on-one training and guidance. This was especially helpful when trying to make my PowerPoint presentation or write my research paper. Every week we would go out in a research vessel to collect data for our projects. Other days were spent entering and analyzing data and working on a presentation and written paper. For a marine biologist, FHL is the perfect location to study. I was surrounded by people with similar interests and experts in different marine research areas. They also have coffee available all day in the cafeteria, which was much appreciated when deadlines were coming up. Apart from being a dream study location, the whole place is incredibly beautiful. There are also trails that are great for hiking and most importantly finding birds.
Jasmine Palmer, Pelagic Ecosystems Function 2010
The Pelagic Ecosystems Function (PEF) was the first marine course I had ever taken, even though I had already received my BS in Biophysics. The only knowledge I had coming in the class was what I had learned from David Attenborough on the Discovery channel. One of the crowning aspects of the PEF is that even if you have no prior experience you can make a meaningful contribution and learn a great deal. PEF worked much differently than any other class I had ever taken. There was very little lecture work other than an introduction to the materials and our classmates, there after our research associates. During the quarter we worked together to collect field data and come up with interested topics for our individual projects. Even though we had to present our own work, everything was collaborative. From start to finish I learned everything there is to a complete research project. I learned to organize my ideas and present them to the intellectual community. I learned to work with others, to gain better appreciation of how real research works. The PEF was a life changing class sending me in a new direction towards a future in the research and academic community.
Ryan J. McLaughlin, Pelagic Ecosystems Function 2009