Local habitats and research opportunities

The MESP brings together resources of the Biology Department, the Department of Environmental Sciences, the Shannon Point Marine Center and other University programs. The MESP faculty, whose interests span a wide range of topics normally associated with marine biology and oceanographic processes, comprise a key resource for the program.

The University's location provides extraordinary opportunities for coastal marine and estuarine research. The inland waters of Washington State harbor a rich diversity of marine habitats and biota. The mainland and islands of the San Juan Archipelago provide rocky shoreline, protected lagoons, and high-energy intertidal beaches. The nearby Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 11,000 acres of wetlands, seagrass beds, and mudflats. The State ferry system provides ready access to the San Juan Islands and the Olympic Peninsula, with its spectacular alpine, temperate rain forest, and open ocean beach environments. The wide variety of macroalgae,invertebrates and fish will be of special interest to marine biologists. Diverse avian and marine mammal fauna also characterize the region.

Research opportunities are equally attractive. Local estuaries provide rapid transitions from fresh to saline waters and are subject to impact by small urban areas, logging and other dramatic land use transformations, as well as aluminum and petroleum refining. These natural systems, combined with outstanding analytical facilities, permit study of nutrient cycling, productivity, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and water quality issues.

Equipment and resources

The Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC), located in Anacortes, WA about 40 miles south of the main campus, is an important facility supporting the Marine and Estuarine Science Program. The Marine Center occupies an 87-acre campus with 3,000 feet of beachfront. The facilities include research and teaching labs, wet laboratories supported by a running seawater system and dry laboratories equipped for analytical operations. A standard array of laboratory equipment is available at Shannon Point, including diode-array spectrophotometers, high performance liquid chromatographs, gas chromatographs, autoanalyzer, CHNS analyzer, spectroradiometer, an advanced image analysis system, and a radioisotope laboratory. The Marine Center's research vessel fleet includes the 19-ft. RV FLORA, the 26-ft. RV FAUNA and a 32-ft. inboard-powered RV ZOEA. All are specially designed for fast transport to study sites, accessing shallow habitats and supporting SCUBA activity. The lab has also recently acquired a small ROV. On-site housing provides space for 24 persons.

Both the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Biology Department are well equipped to support existing M.S. degree programs and these resources are fully available to support MESP students. Scientific Technical Services handles repair and maintenance of research electronic and optical equipment, supervises the use of instrumentation, and assures the availability of instruments whose costs or complexity prevents duplication. At present, Scientific Technical Services maintains an ion chromatograph, HPLC, total organic carbon analyzer, atomic absorption spectrometer, infrared spectrometer, NMR spectrometer, X-ray diffraction spectrometer, and a scanning electron microscope.

Page Updated 01.24.2012