Dr. Megan Dethier, FHL Interim Director

It is an honor and a pleasure to serve as the Interim Director of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories. In 42 years here at the Labs I have served in many roles – educator, researcher, and mentor to generations of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as Associate Director in recent years. It is a real pleasure to succeed Dr. Billie Swalla who served as Director for nearly seven years. I look forward to building on her successes, and taking the Labs in some new directions.

In this interim period, while we search for a new director, we are examining our structure and processes with an eye toward greater efficiencies, while recognizing the importance of holding to the essential tenets of our culture:

  • FHL is an egalitarian and inclusive place to work, where scientists of all ages and backgrounds can learn and discover, and where the interactive atmosphere fosters new collaborations that spring up organically.
  • We have a staff whose attitudes are consistently ‘what can I do to make your teaching and research go well?’
  • We are welcoming to student scholars and researchers, whose time here is greatly facilitated by funds raised by our exceptional Advancement Board.

Some exciting initiatives we will continue to promote:

  • We are supporting the new UW Marine Biology major in the College of the Environment by offering a variety of classes and a venue for the required “integrative field experience”.
  • We are increasing our local faculty pool with fellowships provided by the Provost and by endowed gifts from donors.
  • We are hosting a new postdoc supported by the Smithsonian’s MarineGEO program and a private donor.
  • We collaborate with a network of other field stations for projects like Biocode, which documents marine invertebrate diversity along the west coast.
  • We are bringing online a sensor network, the FHL Ocean Observing system (FHLOO) that can log data on temperature, salinity, O2, pH, CO2, chlorophyll, currents/flow, and plankton in our nearshore waters.

A high priority fund-raising aim is to increase the number and variety of Seattle-campus-based faculty who spend time teaching and doing research here, bringing their graduate students with them and building intellectual momentum at FHL.

As with every field station in the world, we face challenges with funding, especially at a time when universities operate on a business model — where it’s all about the numbers of students and credit-hours being taught. Meanwhile, anyone who has spent time at FHL, who has experienced the creative passion and energy generated here and witnessed the transformative effects of our courses on students, knows that it’s about quality, not quantity. As we rise to meet our financial challenges, we welcome input and ‘out of the box’ ideas. New funding sources? New scientific initiatives? Novel sources of grants?

This is an exciting time at Friday Harbor Labs, and the summer season is a time of growth and scientific progress. We are looking forward to a bright future with increased, year-round research activity, greater numbers of students, and new courses and areas of investigation — continuing a tradition of excellence in marine research and education.

Feel free to contact me at any time with thoughts or concerns: mdethier@uw.edu.

Dr. Megan N. Dethier
July 3, 2019


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