“So what do you do on a biology fieldtrip?”
“We do biology things, of course.”
“But what does that even mean?”
This conversation took place between my sister and I the morning before I left on a fieldtrip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre with the rest of my class. If you, like my sister, have ever wondered about the going-ons at what can only be best described as ‘Biology Camp,’ then your prayers have been answered. These are the top 5 things that happen when a group of 20-something biology nerds visit Bamfield:
1. We enjoy a nighttime invertebrate search at Eagle Bay
While stumbling around in the dark on the (surprisingly steep) sea-stacks, we identify invertebrates and take way too many pictures that we will later realize are terrible because our only source of light is a headlamp. We marvel in delight over an opalescent nudibranch, are awed by the presence of an endangered northern abalone, and are overcome with joy when we spot a western redback salamander. What a night to be alive!
2. We French-kiss sea anemones in tidal pools
Sea anemones are sessile cnidarians that have an adhesive foot, a strong columnar body, and many sticky tentacles that surround their mouth (that doubles as an anus!). These tentacles are extremely fun to touch because they (a) feel squishy and (b) stick to your hands. The reason they stick to your fingers is because the tentacles are covered in special stinging cells that fire tiny harpoon-like structures that inject venom into your skin when touched. Anemones use this both for defense and capturing prey. We lick these tentacles and, because tongues are more sensitive, feel a weird tingly sensation in our tongues that we couldn’t feel in our fingers. This tingly-numbness lasts for at least a couple hours. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
3. We drink with our professor and T.A.s while playing a biology-themed version of “celebrities”
Fact: biologists like beer.
4. We jump into the ocean at midnight to experience the bioluminescent plankton up close
Bioluminescent plankton are tiny organisms living in the ocean water column that can produce light due to a chemical reaction that occurs inside their bodies. When the surroundings are dark enough, disturbing these little guys by moving them causes them to light up and glow blue. Given that biologists love to immerse themselves in biology, what better way to experience this phenomenon than by immersing our bodies into the cold Pacific Ocean in October? Of course we are definitely not naked and wear PDFs at all times.*
5. We get our hands dirty while searching the contents of a dredge
Catching a ride on the Alta, we admire a decomposing whale and a sea lion colony made up of Stellar and California sea lions before reaching the spot where the boat can do a small dredge. We frantically dig through the shells and mud scooped off of the sea floor in order to find sea urchins, tiny bat stars, sea pens, and even a small octopus!
*Exact events have been altered