If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to live, eat, and breathe science then taking the opportunity to visit, study, or work at a science field station is an experience you won’t forget! About 2 weeks ago I got an awesome chance to go to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre for the weekend with my BIOL 326 class. Bamfield is a beautiful village found on the west side of Vancouver Island in the protected inlet of Barkley Sound. This area is richly diverse in terrestrial, marine, and fresh water organisms as well as an interesting historical and cultural background.
I was slightly apprehensive at first, as the list of things to pack stressed warm clothing, lots of layers, and every sort of waterproof clothing in existence! Even though I have lived in Vancouver all my life (where rain is expected as the norm) I do not own a pair of rain pants but I managed to secure a pair from a lifesaver friend of mine, and I would not have been able to survive that weekend without those rain pants!
Our journey started with a 7 hour trek from UBC, past Stanley Park to Horseshoe Bay, across the water on a ferry, through Port Alberni and about a 2 hour journey on a bumpy gravel road until we finally reached our destination! We opted to receive Bamfield’s meal plan since we were only visiting for the weekend, and we made it just on time for dinner that first night. I was actually quite surprised that the food was as good as it was. There were a lot of options, and the food was tasty and filling, although I did learn quickly about a “secret” Bamfield protocol that taking a muffin to go from breakfast would be essential to tide you over until lunch time. After dinner we got to choose our rooms in these cool wooden cabins.
There were 2 bunk beds per room and a shared washroom for every 2 rooms. Later that night we set out on a night excursion to Eagle Bay where we explored the numerous and diverse intertidal organisms found on the west coast of Vancouver Island with our headlamps and flashlights on high.
The next day was jam packed with activities. We went on an early moving exploration of the sandy and rocky sections of Brady’s beach, where we raced to complete a scavenger hunt to find a wide variety of species in the intertidal. Then after lunch we took the boats and went out to discover and learn about the oceanography in Barkley Sound, which ended up being quite an experience since we were in a small motorized boat with no protective coverage and it was raining like the dickens that afternoon (hence the need for rain pants)! We also performed a plankton tow that we ended up observing later in the lab using microscopes. After we returned and attempted to dry some of our clothing on the small radiator in the washroom, we went back on the water, this time in the research vessel Alta. We went into the open seas and got to observe a large sea lion colony playing in the water and relaxing on the rocky cliffs. We then got to perform an ocean dredge, where a strong net is weighted to the ocean floor and drags across the bottom collecting everything into the net as the boat moves forward.
This net was then hauled back up and released into a large basin where we could scavenge for cool organisms within the sediments. Afterwards the organisms were returned to the sea. The next day, the rain had finally dissipated and we were able to finish off our trip with a beautiful and serene, although extremely muddy, walk through the temperate rainforest next to the field station.
The information I took away from my adventure at a marine field station, was the interesting and diverse array of organisms that live in our coastal areas, as well as the amazing atmosphere of living in a small community and on a small campus dedicated to marine sciences with people who share similar interests, knowledge, and passions
But my favourite part about this whole experience was being able to share it with the new friends I have made in this class, and our epic battles of charades during the long nights (of which reverse vasectomy was a topic that I completed successfully I might add 😉 ). Oh and of course the creation of a new word= “ the bellfie: similar to a selfie but involving a large protrusion of the belly!”
For more information on education, research opportunities, or just for a vacation please check Bamfield`s website!