Sailing in the name of science with Dr. Ryan Kelly

Graduate student research assistant Natalie Lowell taking water samples in the ship canal.

Now here is a nice way to spend a sunny fall afternoon in the name of science: sailing on Lake Washington and Puget Sound taking water samples!

That’s just how Assistant Professor Ryan Kelly and research assistant Natalie Lowell, along with fellow SMEA students Raz Barnea and Katie Graziano, spent Tuesday, October 29, 2013. They headed out on a sailboat skippered by Barnea to take water samples in the ship canal between Lake Washington and Puget Sound to look at the changes in genetic signatures left in the water by the species that live in freshwater versus saltwater environments.

Dr. Kelly commented that this sampling was “a great test of our nascent genetic monitoring techniques, because the freshwater-saltwater gradient set out a testable hypothesis, namely that we would see DNA from predictably different species along a gradient of salinity.” Dr. Kelly is actively researching the use of DNA in environmental monitoring, and has submitted a paper with co-authors to PLoS One (Kelly, R.P., J.A. Port, K.M. Yamahara, and L. Crowder.  2013.  Using Environmental DNA to Census Marine Fishes in a Large Mesocosm.).

"Only in SMEA could a trip like this go through its entire life cycle in less than 24 hours," said Barnea, the skipper. "Dr. Kelly happened to catch me outside on Monday afternoon, and said he needed to talk to me about a boat. In my world, when somebody proposes a situation in which skippering a boat on a beautiful October day contributes to a research project, you accept the offer immediately." The next day, Barnea had the team on a sail boat, out on the water, conducting their research."It was a a thrill and rare pleasure to be able to sail on a nice day and help people do research, not to mention introducing new Seattle residents to the Locks for the first time. It was a great day."