Look At This Stuff, Isn’t It Neat…

A late October afternoon in Bamfield could not have brought more beautiful weather for us. Just kidding! Hurricane remnants were sweeping up the west coast delivering buckets of rain. So when the weather gets you soaked, the only option is to hit the high seas!

Land Ahoy! Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

Land Ahoy! Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

Late afternoon hit and the Alta research vessel arrived back at the dock delivering the first group back to land. The stragglers who missed the first boat took the second trip of the afternoon. As we clambered on, we were warned by our Captain that heading to Boulder Island to see the California Sea Lion colony may be a bit rocky so we should batten down the hatches. Always listen to your captain because he was right. After what felt like hours, we finally reached the islands only to see hundreds of sea lions playing in the wash, basking on rocks, and barking at each other.

Camouflaged Sea Lions on Boulder Island. Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

Camouflaged Sea Lions on Boulder Island. Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

Making our way back seemed calmer and quicker. We made a pit stop near the mouth of Bamfield Inlet for a quick dredge of the bottom – we pulled up treasures even Ariel would be jealous of!

What may seem like garbage to one person is a biology student’s treasure!  Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

What may seem like garbage to one person is a biology student’s treasure!
Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

Giant snails and huge sea cucumbers to the tiniest sea stars and hermit crabs was only a part of what we dredged. Even a flounder was picked up and swam around. While it was extremely enjoyable discovering benthic creatures, the lack of feeling in my hands made it a little difficult to want to sort through the bottom of the ocean and get them wet all over again. All the tiny creatures were passed down to my end of the tub as I squealed with delight over how cute they were. My favourite invertebrate was a little blood star smaller than the tip of my finger!

The cutest baby blood star! Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

The cutest baby blood star! Photo credit: Nicole Kellough

But! Do not fret; all of these critters were put back in the ocean to carry on with their day. The Pacific Northwest is an amazing place for observing great oceanic diversity in a small area. One quick dredge brought up around eight different phyla of invertebrates.

On a side note, dredging usually has a negative connotation towards ocean conservation, but the dredging that was done that afternoon was at such a small scale that next to no animals were harmed in the process. Large scale industrial dredging can seriously disrupt entire ecosystems, not just in the locations that are being dredged but also in the dumping zones and surrounding areas. Should you be interested in learning a bit more about dredging and the current global issues facing the topic, take a look at these websites and news articles:

Dredging in the Great Barrier Reef:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140131-great-barrier-reef-dredge-unesco-science-coal-australia/

Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Plan:

http://www.bieapfremp.org/fremp/managementplan/actionareas_navigation.html

If you’re interested in the Bamfield Marine Science Centre where our adventure took place, you can find more information here:

http://www.bms.bc.ca/

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