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!