A few weeks ago, our class visited the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Bamfield is located of the west edge of Vancouver Island in British Columbia and serves as an educational centre, and a field station for a variety of research. As a result, it provided an excellent opportunity for us to experience life and research at a field station!
As with any new life experience, one of the most important aspects of the trip for me was the eating experience offered by Bamfield. To my surprise, while the cafeteria had a summer camp atmosphere, the food offered was far different than that of a summer camp. Each day, the cafeteria offered up tasty meals that included a fresh entrée, sides and dessert. To my delight, they also had a daily salad bar and a number of desserts, including brownies and eclairs.
For the weekend, our class was housed in bunk-house style dormitories. Each room had two bunkbeds and, like the cafeteria building they definitely had a summer camp type of atmosphere.
By the end of the weekend, the building became a place of familiarity and was comforting to come back to, especially after a long day outside in the rain.
Bamfield contains a number of interesting and impressive laboratories and learning facilities.
One such building was the Whale Lab. There, we had the opportunity to learn about a number of marine invertebrates while observing and touching live organisms.
One of my favorite moments of the teaching lab was being able to hold the brittle stars, which, as their name suggests, are extremely brittle. They were extremely active and their movement and appearance made them look like tiny versions of some kind of movie monster.
While at Bamfield, we were able to travel to a number of diverse areas to observe and research marine organisms.
Our field trips ranged from night walks on the Brady’s Beach (to observe invertebrates at low tide on rocky and sandy shores) to oceanography and plankton collection in the inlets.
As it turns out, my favourite field trip was boating out on the research vessel, the Alta. First, we were able to learn about local species of sea lions while seeing them in their natural habitat. It was incredible that we were able to see so many of them at such a close distance.
Then, we performed a dredge, in which we collected a number of interesting invertebrates (including sea stars, urchins and sea cucumbers!) from the ocean floor. The sheer number of different organisms that we were able to dredge up made for an interesting and educational experience.
If I had to stress one key point that I learned about field research, it would be to be prepared!
On our way back from the trip, our vehicle got a flat tire and if we didn’t have a spare tire we would have been stranded in the middle of the logging road! ‘
Also, during our weekend trip, it rained.
I have never appreciated raingear as much as I did during that weekend.
Nevertheless, our trip to Bamfield was interesting, exciting, educational, and, more than anything, it was memorable.
For more information on the courses or programs offered by the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, check out their website.
For further detail on the activities we did during our field trip, check out some of the other posts on this blog!