Gentle Giants

If you’re ever on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, I strongly suggest hiking out to the Cape Beale lighthouse.

I went out that way to look for some new locations for my current research project…specifically I was looking for teeny tiny littorinid snails.

That plan got a bit sidetracked when the (absolutely lovely) lighthouse keeper appeared…and told us that she’d spotted some grey whales just off of the point.

Grey whale spotted from the lighthouse at Cape Beale.

She lead us down to the rocks and we sat with her for the next hour enjoying the company of three grey whales as they rolled around in the kelp beds a mere 15 meters away from where we sat eating our lunch.

It was certainly a lovely reward after our hike.

One of three grey whales I was lucky enough to see from the beach at the Cape Beale lighthouse.

I might be more of a fish and invertebrates kind of person…but there’s always something very special about getting to see whales, and that feeling is always magnified when the sighting is as serendipitous as this one was.

Coming to You from the Outer Coast

This has been a busy busy week…on Sunday I arrived at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Center in Bamfield, BC.

http://www.bms.bc.ca/

Bamfield is on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, and is one of my favourite places.

I wouldn’t call this place ‘untouched’ per se…after all, Bamfield got started as a fishing and logging town! It’s definitely wild though, especially compared with the hubub of some of the nearby major cities; namely Victoria, Nanaimo, and Vancouver. On any given day above the water, you could see bears, deer, bald eagles…or if you’re very fortunate, a breaching humpback or grey whale! Below the water there is truly amazing marine life…I always find that the fish and invertebrates out here are much bigger than they are in the waters of the Salish Sea. Particularly exciting for me are sightings of Ratfish and abalone; two species that you just don’t see that much of in some of the more easily accessible dive sites within driving distance of Vancouver.

I’m here to continue working on research for my Master’s project…I’m studying small intertidal snails for my thesis, which I am hoping to defend sometime in the next 2 months. My work involves a lot of kayaking and hiking to get to my field sites…and then I lie on the ground with my nose pressed against the barnacle-covered rocks to make my observations. But with some of the views I get, it’s pretty hard to complain. Too bad these little guys don’t hang out deeper though…they’re exposed by the tide every day, so no diving required! Makes the research easier from a logistics standpoint, but it’s hard to not tailor a project such that I get in more time beneath the waves.

Prasiola Point

Sure beats sitting at a desk!

The first time I came to Bamfield was in 2006 with a class field trip for an invertebrate biology course I took during my undergraduate degree. To get an idea of how much I liked it…I came back for 12 weeks of intensive field classes in the summer of 2007, and I haven’t looked back. One of the best experiences I had out here revolved around a 3-week course in 2010; Scientific Diving. By the end of it I was certified to dive for scientific research (see http://www.caus.ca/pages/pages.php?id=6 for more details), and I had improved my skills immensely. In just under 3 weeks we did 27 dives; we learned different techniques for carrying out research underwater, designed and carried out our own independent research project, and got certified as REEF level 2 surveyors (see http://www.reef.org/ for more details). If you have any interest in diving for research, I would strongly recommend a course like this one, though you can also be trained ‘on the job’ by someone with the right certifications.

If you’re interested in doing some diving out in Bamfield, I strongly recommend Broken Island Adventures: http://www.brokenislandadventures.com/

For more information about undergraduate programs offered at BMSC: http://www.bms.bc.ca/university.html

For more information about scientific diving, check out this blog from my dive buddy during the course: http://coldwaterdiver.net/category/scientific-diving/

Let’s have some introductions…

Well hello there blogosphere.

Please excuse me as I play with these functions and find my way around the site…but here’s a little bit about me to get started.

I’m passionate about the marine world…that’s why I have Salt in the Blood. I’m going to work on getting a lot of marine-themed posts up here over the next few weeks…I’m particularly excited to share some more of my adventures in marine biology out in Bamfield, BC with you.

As this blog progresses, I hope to write a lot of about some of the conservation issues faced by marine environments, as well as some of the best ways to get out there and enjoy them (as important as it is to be informed about environmental issues, it’s always nice to focus on why you should care too!).

So thanks for bearing with me…and I’ll do my best to get more up here soon.