Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island

Friday Harbor Laboratories, San Juan Island

by | Oct 11, 2022

Friday Harbor Laboratories is a marine biology field station of the University of Washington situated on the northern shore of Friday Harbor, an embayment on the eastern coast of San Juan Island, about 72 miles (116 km) northwest of Seattle and 18 miles (29 km) west of Anacortes, Washington. Friday Harbor was named after Joseph Poalie Friday, a Pacific Islander who tended sheep for the Hudson’s Bay Company around 1861. The harbor and most of the eastern part of San Juan Island comprise rocks of the Constitution Formation that represents a sequence from bottom to top of Late Mesozoic sandstone composed of broken bits of volcanic rock, black mudstone, ribbon chert, green tuff, and minor pillow lava. The waters around San Juan Island are relatively clear, cold, and free from pollution. A tidal range is nearly 10 feet (3 m) and exposes biologically diverse intertidal areas of rock, sand, and mud, and creates areas with swift currents as well as quiet bays and lagoons. Representatives of nearly all major groups of marine algae, invertebrates, and fishes can be collected between the shoreline and depths of 980 feet (300 m) creating an attractive location for scientific studies.

San Juan Island was historically important for the Coast Salish people who fished for Pacific salmon and gathered medicinal plants. In 1791, the island was explored by Gonzalo López de Haro who was on the Spanish expedition led by Francisco de Eliza. The island was named for the expedition sponsor Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, the 2nd Count of Revillagigedo.  In 1853, the Hudson’s Bay Company established the first permanent, non-native settlement on the island. Friday Harbor Laboratories was founded in 1904 by the University of Washington Zoology Professor Trevor Kincaid, who later petitioned Washington State federal congress members and senators to obtain the Point Caution military reserve as the ideal future location of a biological marine station. In 1921, President Warren G. Harding signed a House Resolution that transferred the Point Caution property to the University of Washington for ‘a biological station and general university research purposes’. In 1924, construction was completed on the new Puget Sound Biological Station, and the first summer courses were taught there. In 1930, the Biological Station became part of the University of Washington Oceanographic Laboratories, and in 1958, the facility was renamed the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories.

The university facility is located on a tract of 490 acres (198 ha) and additionally, it manages biological preserves at False Bay and Argyle Lagoon on San Juan Island, and at Point George and Cedar Rock on neighboring Shaw Island. These preserves provide a wide range of protected terrestrial and marine environments for short-term and long-term research projects. Over twenty resident scientists conduct research at the labs year-round and approximately a hundred visiting researchers use the facility each year. Friday Harbor Laboratories is also known for its intensive summer classes offered to graduate students from around the world in marine biology, oceanography, and fisheries. In 2013, President Barack Obama invoked the Antiquities Act to create the San Juan Islands National Monument from existing federal lands. The national monument includes about 1,000 acres (405 ha) on San Juan Island and approximately 75 other sites located in the Salish Sea. The monument protects archaeological sites of the Coast Salish peoples, historical lighthouses, relics of early European American settlers in the Pacific Northwest, and the regional biodiversity of island plants and animals. Read more here and here. Explore more of Friday Harbor Laboratories and San Juan Island here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2022 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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