On October 24th our BIOL 326 class set out on a weekend field trip to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in British Columbia. We spent the weekend exploring the forests, rocky beaches and marine fauna of Bamfield and were given the opportunity to dredge aboard the Alta research vessel. If you aren’t familiar with dredging, Google will tell you the following:
Dredge /drej/ – verb
1) Clean out the bed of (a harbor, river, or other area of water) by scooping out mud, weeds, and rubbish with a dredge
2) Bring to people’s attention an unpleasant or embarrassing fact or incident that had been forgotten.
I can assure you; however, that we did not clean out the bed of the entire body of water nor did we discuss any embarrassing incidents. We simply brought up some sediment to see what cool invertebrates were residing beneath us.
We left the shore at 3:30 pm, October 25th 2014 on the Alta and although I would like to tell you it was a beautiful sunny day, it was not. The rain was coming down pretty hard but fortunately we had already been out on the water for two hours prior to this trip and so we were already soaked. As we travelled towards our destination we saw a few sea lions … just kidding we saw hundreds of sea lions. They were basking in the rain and I couldn’t help but think in that moment how much I wanted to be a sea lion, warm and relaxed. At the end of the day; however, these sea lions were just trying to distract us from our main focus, the invertebrates!
Once we arrived at our destination, we brought up some sediment, and dumped it on a sorting table. We all gathered around the table and began sorting through the sediment. Although we had been looking at invertebrates all weekend, dredging gave us an opportunity to see some of the benthic invertebrates that we hadn’t yet seen such as sea cucumbers and sea urchins. We saw lots of hermit crabs, sea stars, feather stars, snails, nudibranchs and so much more! The diversity was amazing for such a small sediment sample and therefore I can only imagine diving to the bottom to see what it actually looked like.
After we had thoroughly explored the sediment, we carefully returned the larger organisms to the water. We then scooped the rest of the sediment back into the water as well and washed down the floor of the vessel. Bamfield makes a point of not imposing large disturbances on organisms, balancing education with habitat preservation. We then returned to shore, changed into dry clothes and talked about our adventures over dinner!
For a better idea of what we were doing exactly check out this video (except we weren’t dredging for Oysters):