NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 13, 2009

Introducing the giant Humboldt squid; Marine biology teacher is taking students to new depths with predatory sea creature

Marine biology teacher is taking students to new depths with predatory sea creature

Marine biology teacher Rob Yeomans has been teaching his students at Newburyport High School about the aggressive, predatory sea creature of the Pacific known as the giant Humboldt squid for some time. But situated here on the Northeast coast, he never imagined he'd get to show them one up close.

Thanks to the generosity of professor Bill Gilly of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif., Yeomans won't have to depend on the Discovery Channel to introduce his students to the squid this year.

Gilly, whose life's work is studying the cannibalistic West Coast creature, recently sent Yeomans a 6-foot long Humboldt squid. It arrived packed in dry ice and has been sitting in Yeomans' freezer at home ever since, awaiting dissection by his marine biology class.

"It's on top of the shark," said Yeomans' wife, Kate, who shares her husband's enthusiasm for ocean creatures and helps run the couple's nonprofit waterfront education program, Boat Camp in Newburyport.

The squid will keep the shark company until Rob Yeomans is ready to cover cephalopods (marine mollusks) with his students sometime next month.

"My freezer's a disturbing place," Yeomans admitted.

Any other given year, dissecting the blue shark in Yeomans' freezer would be the highlight for the high school marine biology students. But this year, Yeomans had a hunch he could do better.

Professor Gilly's Discovery Channel film, "Killer Squid," has been a regular part of Yeomans' marine biology curriculum. When Gilly came out with a second film last year titled "Squid Invasion," about an influx of the aggressive squid assaulting fish populations in California, Yeomans took a chance and tried to contact the professor.

"I Googled (Gilly's) name and found his e-mail address and introduced myself," Yeomans said, "and he wrote back within two to three hours."

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