Engaging in discussions about various marine biology topics with like-minded youth, observing grey whales in their natural habitat, a day-hike to Taplatos Beach for an investigation into plastic pollution: this is just a taste of the what Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and the Youth Forum has to offer.
Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre is located in the remote town of Bamfield, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Established in 1972 by the Western Canadian Universities Marine Sciences Society, BMSC is acknowledged as among the premier marine research and training facilities worldwide. During my Spring break, I had the incredible opportunity the take part in a five-day youth forum at this extraordinary world class marine research station!
From miniature periwinkle snails to barking California sea lions sunbathing on the rocks, the region surrounding Bamfield has so much to discover. The abundance of life was evident while when we were studying intertidal ecology, which involved collecting data from a sample size area using a quadrant, and this was experiment was conducted in order to analyze the biodiversity and the density of species with the change of elevation.
The thing that struck me the most was how unobservant I had been at the beach, before this experience. I never really paid close attention to the algae growing on the rocks, or even checked out the anemones in the tidal pools. This epiphany brought back memories of the Pangaea USA Expedition, when our group went out to night-dive, and suddenly when my vision was limited to a small area illuminated by our torches, I focused in on the small creatures that surrounded me.
One of the highlights was definitely taking part in the marine mammal survey which includes our grey whale observation. We saw three! Grey Whales are more difficult to spot than Orcas due to the fact that they don’t have a dorsal fin per say, and have a dorsal ridge. The way to spot them is to search for the release of a fountain of water in the horizon. I had never actually had the opportunity to witness a whale-sighting until now, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have done so, considering that the Grey Whale is an endangered species.
© Vancouver Aquarium
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I liked best at the forum, as our schedule was filled with interesting hands-on activities. Our last full day at Bamfield consisted of a day-hike to Taplatos Beach for an investigation into plastic pollution. This was especially interesting as on the previous day, we had the opportunity to study aquatic birds as ecological indicators. This is where we examined the stomach contents of different seabirds, and we then made charts to show the amounts of unnatural debris in their systems. This allowed me to understand how much plastic is impacting the health of our oceans.
Once reaching Taplatos beach, we conducted a shoreline cleanup in order to understand the sorts of pollutants that end up on our beaches. Our small group of three quickly filled two garbage bags full of plastics and Styrofoam. As we worked hard picking up various objects, I noticed that some of the debris had been carried all the way from Japan, and it is perhaps part of the first wave of garbage arriving from the Tsunami devastation in 2011.
The fact that I was able to connect with like-minded youth from around the Province, and even Alberta is really what made this a wonderful experience. All the students at the youth forum were eager to learn, and those refreshing, positive attitudes made my days at Bamfield a fun and fulfilling experience. Whether it was trekking through the knee-deep mud on our hike to Taplatos Beach, or intently observing plankton under a light microscope, it was always a blast!
Visiting Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre was an awesome experience, and It seems to me that this facility is equivalent to a marine biologist’s Mecca for cold water research. I would surely recommend getting yourself over to Bamfield if you have any interest in marine science, and taking advantage of this extraordinary experience.