Science takes center stage, Saturday, at Friday Harbor Labs

The elaborate underbelly of a Sunflower seastar captures the imagination of visitors of all ages at the 2013 FH Labs Open House.   - Journal file photo
The elaborate underbelly of a Sunflower seastar captures the imagination of visitors of all ages at the 2013 FH Labs Open House.
— image credit: Journal file photo

Not every community has a world-class marine research center in its own backyard. San Juan Island is lucky that way.

If you’d like to find out more about what goes on at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories, here’s your chance.

The annual Open House hosted by Friday Harbor Labs is Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. While squishy creatures and underwater diving demonstrations will no doubt attract the attention of many, there’s a lot more in store for the day. Here’s just some of what you’ll find:

Self-guided tours of the Labs facilities, grounds and docks offer opportunities to touch a variety of exotic marine creatures, scoop up plankton, wield a high-powered microscope and catch a behind-the-scenes look at cutting-edge research facilities, with scientists and students on-hand to showcase an array of scientific equipment and explain what they do with it.

Research at the Labs ranges in scale from molecular to global, from cellular to ecosystem, and the subjects of much of that research—marine creatures—range in complexity from the simplest sponges to the much more elaborate, like mollusks, other invertebrates and fish.

Research at the Labs is in no way confined to the laboratories, of which there are no fewer than eight; often it begins in the field, so to speak.

Explore the 58-foot research vessel, the Centennial, and check out remotely operated oceanographic tools and sonar systems. There are talks, too: the history of the Labs, 1 p.m., by Dr. Claudia Mills; effects of ocean acidification on mussels, 2 p.m., by Dr. Emily Carrington; and the power of the Labs transmission electron microscope, 3 p.m., by Dr. Victoria Foe. Founded in the late 19th century and situated since 1923 on its present 484 acres on Point Caution, the laboratory complex and living areas consist of more than 50 buildings, including three large research centers, the Whiteley Center for retreats and conferences, and numerous support and living buildings. It hosts two dozen resident scientists, 25 support staff, 17 graduate students and about 100 guest researchers from all over the world.

The Labs  are at 620 University Road. Parking is limited, carpools are encouraged. Free popcorn is provided. Hot dogs and other snacks are available for purchase. Info: 360-0378-2165 or


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