The Three Seas Program, based at Northeastern University, offers undergraduate and graduate students in marine biology the opportunity to study, conduct research, and get wet in three different marine ecosystems: the northwest Atlantic Ocean (Nahant, Massachusetts), the Caribbean Sea (Bocas del Toro, Panama), and the northeastern Pacific (Friday Harbor, Washington).
The final Marine Ecology lab of the semester was an evaluation of ammonium excretion by snails and uptake by seaweeds. One of the students made a movie of the lab, highlighting the fun that can be had while doing science:
This year's Three Seas Program students arrived in Nahant just over two weeks ago. This morning, we were up early to survey seaweeds and invertebrates on the rocky shore at Canoe Beach Cove adjacent to the Marine Science Center.
Just for fun, courtesy of East West XXVI alum Natalie Low, who has just returned from working with Jon Witman in the Galapagos, here's video proof of behavioral similarities between fish and cats. The damselfish are particularly entertaining.
The time has come for us to say goodbye to the last location of our Three Seas adventure. These last 6 weeks have been full of excitement and hard work, leaving us with very little time to write blog posts! So we would like to leave you all with recap of our time in Friday Harbor.
The facilities at Friday Harbor Labs are fantastic and the whole area is very reminiscent of the Northeast, an area that most of us call home. The weather was great and even when it was cloudy and drizzling it added to the overall atmosphere. The labs and dorms were all really well maintained and help make FHL a spectacular place to study.
Peering down at the intertidal from the FHL dock ramp
The water at FHL is cold and well-mixed and that accurately sums up the diving conditions. Transitioning back to wearing a full 7mm wetsuit with hood and gloves was a challenge but we all managed to re-adapt. We had a handful of opportunities to dive off the FHL dock, a nearby shore, and a few boat dives as well.
Geared up and riding the elevator down into the water
Assembling on the dock post dive
Our first class was Marine Conservation Biology with Kathy Ann Miller and Tim Reed. For MCB we used GPS units to map out the Biological Preserve “Fire Trail,” conducted underwater substrate and benthic fauna surveys at a local long-term monitoring site, and put together a group presentation on a conservation topic. One of the unique aspects of this class was that we were responsible for researching a topic that interested us and then presenting that topic to the class and leading a thoughtful discussion instead of a traditional lecture format. This was an interesting way to get us to look at the topics from a different angle.
Preparing for underwater surveys
Taking a break on the FHL trails
After MCB we started Marine Birds and Mammals with Breck Tyler. This was an exciting class for those of us in love with sea birds and harbor seals. We all had another opportunity to put together a presentation on a local conservation topic as well as conduct lots of field work. We had to really focus on learning our IDs because we conducted surveys on the Centennial, the FHL research vessel, as part of another long-term survey. We also enjoyed a trip to the local Whale Museum, a whale watch (where we saw many individuals from the local Orca pods!), and a few birding trips as well. Overall Marine Birds and Mammals was a ton of fun and a class that took advantage of the outdoor environment here in Friday Harbor.
Walking along the beach during a birding trip
One of the many Orcas seen on our whale watch!
Our last class was Physiological Molecular Marine Ecology with Sean Place. As our final undergraduate class we got to have more practice using techniques learned earlier in the program. We conducted RNA and protein extractions from Mytilus galloprovincialis (Mediterranean blue mussel) and Mytilus edulis (blue mussel), transcribed our RNA into cDNA, and then observed how stress related gene expression changed due to hypoxia or thermal stress. It was a great way to synthesize a lot that we had learned and also provided us the freedom to explore a direction that interested us.
As the graduate students finish up their last class, a communications seminar with Matt Bracken, it is hard to imagine that Three Seas for us has finished. From the late nights spent at the MSC, to dancing at La Iguana in Panama, and the mad dash to finish our presentations at FHL, Three Seas has been a life changing experience. We want to thank all of the faculty, TAs, staff, and other individuals that keep this program running and make it so rewarding. We look forward to taking the lessons we’ve learned with us on our next adventures.