Friday Harbor Labs welcomes the community to annual open house

The University of Washington’s Marine Laboratories has been a part of the Friday Harbor community for over 100 years. It has been stationed at Point Caution since 1923. This May, the labs will welcome the public to learn about their most recent discoveries.

“We love the San Juan Island community, and feel very fortunate to be part of this vibrant group,” said Billie Swalla, director of the labs. She explained that their open houses are both an opportunity for scientists to connect with the public and for islanders to have a hands-on look at the facility and learn about research happening right in their backyards. The open house lasts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 20. To get there leaving Friday Harbor, turn right on Tucker Road and take another right turn on University Road. There will be signs and greeters who will provide maps and parking directions. Families are welcomed, but please leave pets at home, as the property is a biological marine preserve.

For the last 12 years, the labs has held an annual open house. According to a website on the labs history — set up by longtime lab resident scientist Claudia Mills — the tradition of opening the facility to the public dates back to the 1920s.

This year, adults and children alike can participate in the usual favorite events like eating free popcorn aboard the R/V Centennial while learning about their remotely operated oceanographic tools and sonar systems, or listening to marimba music on the deck of the dining hall where hot dogs and beverages will be available for purchase. There will also be interactive, self-guided tours, like the touch tank filled with sea stars, sea cucumbers and other critters. Microscopes will be set up and there will be opportunities to speak with scientists about their work. Due to the popularity of dive demonstrations, there are three showings scheduled this year, according to Swalla, rather than the usual two. In the lecture hall, beginning at 11:30 a.m., Deborah Giles of the Center for Whale Research, will kick of presentations with “The Whales of the San Juans.”

The rest of the schedule is as follows:

• Noon, Adam Summers “The FHL Scan All Fishes”

• 12:30 p.m., Katie Dobkowske “Bull Kelp in the Salish Sea: It’s Hard Out There for a Kelp”

• 12:45 p.m., Shawn Lluttrell “Getting a Head with Ptychodera Flava Regeneration”

• 1 p.m. Matt Kolmann “From Friday Harbor to French Guiana — Cataloging Form and Function of Fishes”

A strong bond between the labs and islanders has always existed. Many Friday Harbor teenagers’ first job is in the dining hall, Swalla said, “working for the amazing Laurie Spaulding, dining hall manager.” Projects like the Friday Harbor Labs Outreach Program K-12, which works to bring hands-on science to the local schools, have also been invaluable to the community.

“I think that all children love science,” Swalla said, explaining…

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