2018/01/16: Resolutions

Almost 3 years ago, I wrote some words about my experiences in a field course at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. At the time, going to the BMSC was the culmination of a dream I had as a high-school student in landlocked Alberta, to go out and learn about our oceans in the field. Since then, I have graduated from university with a BSc and found myself a job in my field at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at UBC. I’m quite lucky, all things considered.

I’m pretty different from the person I was when I graduated from high school. I moved away from home and found a place for myself in a new city; I explored radical new ways of thinking about issues of social justice (and then cooled off again after being burned a few times); I witnessed my family grow in the form of a wonderful boyfriend, a mischievous and active nephew, and the engagement of one of my siblings to his long-time girlfriend.

Crossing into the new year definitely feels like passing through a significant threshold. I spent a pretty big part of 2017 almost living day-by-day: waking up, going to work, coming home, watching YouTube, eating, sleeping, repeat. The last few weeks were especially so, a delicate balancing game between apartment-hunting, working two jobs, applying to graduate programs, and plenty of other small things. While I obviously had the occasional movie outing, going to restaurants, and other stuff, I haven’t gone on a hiking trip, went out on the water, or done anything like that in a long time.

Coming into 2018, my partner and I have settled into a brightly-lit place in a great neighborhood. My finances are stable, and thinking about the future feels less like I’m poking through a blinding haze. My overarching feeling is that I want to live less on a day-by-day basis, so I’m putting together a list of the various things I want to accomplish this year. In no particular order:

  • Travel somewhere. My boyfriend and I will be celebrating five years of being together, and we haven’t gone on a trip anywhere for more than a year. Some potential destinations include Montreal, Portland, Seattle, or New York.
  • Do more stuff outdoors. I consider myself a fairly outdoorsy person. However, my track record is fairly bad! I « never had time » or « was too busy » for the last 7 years. I want to change that in the following ways:
    • Get my own ski equipment
    • Go on at least three hikes and one camping trip
    • Go kayaking or boating
  • Complete a PADI Open Water Diving course. I work in marine science and have told myself I would learn to dive during my undergraduate degree. I’ve been putting it off for a long time and I think now is the time to get it.
  • Go to the gym at least three times a week. Classic resolution, but I was pretty good with this in late 2016 and early 2017. I want to get back on the wagon and be in better shape.

I think these are good places to start.


Return to something

6 weeks. 2 profs. 1 TA. 15 classmates. 2 teammates. 1 independent project. Over 700 sculpins.

These are just a few of the numbers that are rolling through my mind as I write this on the last legs of my time here at Bamfield.

In many ways this trip has been both what I’d expected, and not, at the same time.

For instance, I knew I’d be taking this course along with other like-minded individuals. I didn’t expect them to all be fantastic in such unique and wonderful ways, a glimpse of what science would and should be in the future.

I knew that the course would explore conservation issues in both marine and terrestrial contexts. I didn’t expect to be so challenged and engaged by the terrestrial component, given my marine science focus in my undergrad.

I knew that I’d experience firsthand the wild places of the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t expect to go swimming in a Canadian beach under a starry sky, cross a marine channel to sample tidepools on a small islet, or jump down a stony 40-foot waterfall.

I knew that I’d take on an independent project and hopefully apply skills that I’d learned through the years. I didn’t expect to learn so much about so many different things, including statistics, experimental design, marine intertidal science, and lessons in humility.

Did our independent project end up with seriously actionable results? Debatable. 3 weeks is a pretty short period of time to take on such a huge study like we did. But we did a good job despite that.

And along the way I managed to learn more about my strengths and weaknesses, both academically and socially, and begin to work on them.

I’m coming away from this time in Bamfield with field skills, knowledge and connections, of course. But more deeply than that, I’m coming away with a deep appreciation for the evolving academia of today and tomorrow; with resources and reassurance for my future endeavors; and for the unique places like Bamfield that can foster knowledge and kinship all at once.

Three weeks in Bamfield

I’ve been at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in British Columbia since July 26th, for a class on coastal biodiversity and conservation, learning about the ways scientists use facts and evidence, combined with ecosystem-based knowledge, to preserve the world’s richness of species.

So far I’ve learned a few things:

  1. Spending full days out in the field is something I can definitely do as a career.
  2. The diversity of life found in the intertidal is there for you to discover, but you have to look carefully.
  3. Snorkelling in islands along the west coast is amazing, even if you’re only looking at brown algae mostly.
  4. Wetsuits are really snug.
  5. Sea star wasting disease is still majorly altering intertidal communities of echinoderms, but ongoing biodiversity and disease prevalence surveys for sea stars in this region aren’t being done that often, or that well.
  6. Jumping down 40-foot waterfalls into water is a very scary thing to realize you’re doing in mid-air.
  7. People who go out on a limb to help retrieve lost things are great (like when I lost my camera after I jumped from aforementioned waterfall).
  8. Kermode bears have a significant selective advantage when hunting salmon during the day time, over regular black bears. This advantage may explain their persistence.
  9. Swimming at the beach at night with the full moon rising and the stars appearing in the sky above is really something else.
  10. Selective logging can be used to increase biodiversity in forest stands, but only certain types.
  11. Carmanah is as beautiful in person as it is in the posters.
  12. Camp cooking includes a lot of MacGyver’ing if you want s’mores during a fire ban.
  13. At night, in rivers and ponds of the old-growth forests of BC, baby cutthroat trout and small crayfish emerge from their daytime homes to scavenge for food.
  14. Swimming in fresh water is much colder than in ocean water.
  15. Catching tiny water bugs in nets can be a good way of seeing whether a river ecosystem is healthy or not.
  16. Physical exertion + humid air = gallons of sweat.
  17. Mushrooms are incredibly difficult things to identify convincingly.
  18. Wetlands, from marshes to bogs, are some of the most threatened ecosystems in North America.
  19. Chest waders are fun to use.
  20. There are over 40 different species of plants that can be found in a single bog area, including carnivorous sundews found nowhere else.
  21. Using computational algorithms to determine what portions of an area to put into a wildlife reserve is much more difficult than you’d think.
  22. Your profs and TA may just be the coolest scientists you meet in your career so far.
  23. Bald eagles sound less impressive than pop culture would have you believe.
  24. Scientists come in all kinds of packages- 15 wildly different classmates attest to this.
  25. Bamfield has been in some ways different from what I expected, but in many ways exactly what I was hoping for.

For the next three weeks, I’ll be going out into the field to do an ecological survey of intertidal sculpins, their distribution depending on tidal height, salinity, oxygen levels, temperature and other factors, and maybe incorporate ideas about their conservation into the mix. My first foray into fish science!

In the meantime, I’ll try and develop the purpose of this blog, so expect some fluctuation as time goes by. And if you’re down to view the progress on this study, stay posted!