Friday Harbor Laboratories Science Outreach Program

Jenny Roberts

FHLSOP staff, Jenny Roberts and Kari Koski, are kicking off their very busy spring season engaging students in the process of science. This week we are preparing the 4th Grade students from Friday Harbor Elementary School for their Chinook Salmon release into False Bay Creek. To get ready for this event, we introduce them to the importance and functions of watersheds. We follow this with a lab showing the relationship between temperature, dissolved oxygen and metabolism using goldfish. This is a very fun lab for the students using the scientific method and really drives home the concepts of temperature influencing dissolved oxygen levels and fish metabolic rate. Later in the spring we will introduce the 4th graders to the importance of eelgrass beds and the diversity of fish species in this critical habitat. This unit is culminated with a beach seine where the students will count and identify all fish captured before returning them to the sea.

4th Grade student checks on the temperature of the water of her goldfish. Photo credit: Jenny Roberts

Our projects for this 2013-2014 school year

FHES = Friday Harbor Elementary School
FHMS = Friday Harbor Middle School
FHHS = Friday Harbor High School
SSIS = Spring Street International School
NEW 2013! How are we alike? Sea stars, scallops, and me!
1st grade
The Scientific Inquiry/Investigation Loupe project (magnify your world 5X)
2nd grade
Is it a Plant or an Animal? Inquiry lab
3rd grade
Meet the Marine Invertebrates
Invasive clam dig
Diver for a Day activity on the R/V Centennial
4th grade
Watersheds and Salmon release
Eelgrass beds, fish life cycles, and beach seine
6th grade
Marine Invertebrate Expert Day
Soft sediment & Rocky shore intertidal ecosystem surveys
5th & 6th grades
Fall and Spring water quality sampling in Friday Harbor Marina
7th grade
Gray Whale skeleton project
Whale watch adventure day
Cheek cell DNA extraction lab
8th grade
Student-designed Marine Biology Inquiry labs & Field experience projects
7th grade
Watershed stream surveys
False Bay & Beaverton Valley Watershed water quality sampling
Benthic macroinvertebrate stream sampling, sorting, and identifying
8th grade
Student-designed Marine Biology inquiry labs
NEW 2013! Know the Kelps and alga survey
The Invasive Mussel Project - DNA fingerprinting labs (9 days)
Electrophoresis explorations labs

To learn more about the details of the above list of projects that involve students in the process of science while fostering good stewardship of our marine and freshwater environments please see the FHLSOP website.

To help support Friday Harbor Labs Science Outreach Program it’s easy to donate online (keyword: FHLSOP.) Or contact Rachel Anderson at 206-616-0706 or

Schools interested in visiting Friday Harbor Labs for activities and/or a tour should visit the FHL programs page and contact Program Director, Jenny Roberts at


The Invasive Mussel Project – Is a nine day monitoring lab conducted by Friday Harbor High School Biology classes. Students participating in this lab are assessing the spread of an invasive, non-native farmed mussel into the wild population of mussels in Westcott Bay. They use sophisticated biotechnology techniques to identify the wild caught mussels by their DNA fingerprint, which is the only way of identifying the native mussel of the San Juan Islands from the non-native farm mussel. During this lab students learn how to use micropipettes and electrophoresis chambers, prepare a PCR cycler solution, make agarose gels and read stained DNA gels. Students extract, purify, isolate, amplify, separate by electrophoresis, and stain mussel DNA. Using these procedures enables students to identify wild caught mussels to species by looking at the resulting DNA fingerprint.

Photo credit: Jenny Roberts

Student Comments for the Invasive Mussel Project Lab
with FHHS Biology Class 11/2013

“It was a fun and very interactive experience. It also was very beneficial to my knowledge of DNA and the products and reactant of its decomposition and composition. I very much enjoyed this lab.”

“I really enjoyed this lab! It was very individual and gave us a lot of responsibility. I appreciated that.”

“I had a great time as I love science labs. I feel that I’ve learned a lot about DNA Extraction and Isolation as well as PCR and Electrophoresis.”

“I liked actually getting to use what I know of science instead of just reading about it. “

“I enjoyed it and I thought it was really interesting. It was definitely a challenge to understand, but I liked learning about it.”

“I liked using the micropipettes. I enjoyed this very much.”

“It was really cool to get to use the different lab tools and know that our results will be used.”

“I’m really grateful that I got to take part in this lab because not only was it very fascinating and elaborate, but we got to use tools that I may never again use in my life. And important information about the health of our local species came out of it.”

“I thought this lab was really fun, and it was very interesting. I learned a lot.”

“I liked this lab and actually learned something about DNA. Jenny made it easy for us to learn.”

“This lab was very hard and a lot of work but it was worth it and I learned a lot.”

“The lab was very fun. I think we could of have used one extra day but otherwise it was wonderful.”

Photo credit: Jenny Roberts