Field Trip Activities

Each itinerary is tailored to maximize your Bamfield experience

Our educational activities are focused on the biological, chemical, and physical sciences, but we’ll also incorporate aspects of mathematics, art, and social sciences into the lessons taught at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. Expect to spend a lot more time outdoors, and a lot less time in front of screens while you engage in our unique type of learning. We encourage students to keep a journal during their visit, and will facilitate a reflection session on the last night of the trip to summarize the whole experience. It really doesn’t matter if you’re here for a 2-night, 3-night, or 4-night stay, you’ll leave with a newfound appreciation of the world around you!

Please advise us of any assignments or projects your group will be working on as we firm up your itinerary. Many of the activities described below can be adapted to meet specific learning outcomes.


Field Experiences

Oceanography and Biodiversity in Grappler Inlet (2 hours)
Travel up Grappler Inlet in one of our skiffs and experience being an oceanographer! This tranquil inlet provides the backdrop for an examination of the biotic and abiotic characteristics of the ocean. Oceanographic measurements and plankton collections are taken at two locations, the head and mouth of the inlet. At each location students measure temperature, salinity, and turbidity. Back in the laboratory, the data are discussed, comparing between the head and mouth of the inlet, and added to an ongoing multi-year study. Most plankton, collected using a fine meshed net, cannot be seen with the naked eye; the Plankton Lab provides a microscopic examination of the sample.

Research Vessel MV Alta (1.25 hours)
A boat trip to the Deer Group Islands on the MV Alta includes sampling from the subtidal environment, as well as marine mammal and bird observation along the way. A dredge net sampling from the sea floor yields a diversity of organisms including sea stars, urchins, crabs, and sea cucumbers. Every catch is different, and you never know what you might see out there!  (Maximum 12 people per trip)

Brady’s Beach Intertidal Exploration (3-4 hours)
With its picturesque sea stacks and sandy and rocky shores, Brady’s Beach is a wonderful place to explore the intertidal zone and see marine organisms in their natural environment. The overall theme of this trip is intertidal ecology, and we time your visit to occur during low tide. Brady’s Beach is an ideal site to conduct quantitative tide pool studies such as mapping and calculating diversity, qualitative observation of interactions between living things, learning about tidal and zonation processes, and even kelp forest ecology and seaweed diversity. There’s so much to see, you’ll never want to leave this beach!

Eagle Bay (3 hours)
Eagle Bay is a semi-exposed rocky shore where students can observe a diversity of intertidal animals and seaweeds in their natural habitat. Some organisms inhabiting only areas of high wave exposure, such as gooseneck barnacles, can be found here. This bay is also a beautiful place to have reflective time as the sound of crashing waves on the shore is enhanced by the whistle buoy. Students are encouraged to explore under rocks, gently handle animals, and ask lots of questions.

Bioluminescence (0.5 hours)
This short but magical field trip is conducted at night off the BMSC dock. It is an opportunity to see the water glow! When phytoplankton are disturbed, a chemical reaction occurs. One of the products of this chemical reaction is a visible flash of green light. Knowing the science behind it does not detract from the magic of seeing bioluminescence first hand. Bioluminescence is best observed on calm days during the Spring, Summer and Fall, but is often less visible during or just after a big rainstorm.

Temperate Rainforest Ecology (2 hours)
Experience a guided walk in the coastal temperate rainforest. Our forest path meanders through old growth before entering into second growth, allowing students to compare the two. Along the way, learn to identify the local fungi, mosses, ferns, shrubs, and trees, with emphasis on traditional cultural uses (ethnobotany) of these plants. See if you can spot any Culturally Modified Trees, and be sure to bring your boots. It wouldn’t be a rainforest trail without a lot of mud!

Invertebrate Diversity Lab (1.5-2 hours)
Students will explore the diversity of live marine invertebrates found in Barkley Sound in the laboratory. Instructors will provide a brief introduction to classification systems and characteristics and identification of species. Teaching will be tailored to the grade (curriculum) level and requirements of individual groups. This lab is a great introduction to the organisms that students will observe on field trips to beaches or sampling subtidally from research vessels.

Seaweed Ecology Lab (1.5 – 2 hours)
This lab focuses on the identification, ecology, and human uses of a selection of the West Coast’s 600+ species of macroalgae. With live specimens in the lab, students can handle the algae as they practice using a dichotomous key to identify species, while also learning the role of algae in the marine food web, and the importance of a kelp forest ecosystem. This lab is a valuable introduction to intertidal field studies, and you would be hard-pressed to find so many species of seaweed anywhere else.

Plankton Lab (1.5 – 2 hours)
This lab serves as a follow-up activity to the oceanography field trip, and is an eye-opening discovery of a secret world of tiny ocean critters.  A brief lecture focuses on types of plankton found in Barkley Sound, the biology of major groups, and how plankton plays a role in our lives (Red Tide, bioluminescence, productivity).  Students are then equipped with microscopes and guides and tasked with finding as many different species as they can, contributing to a multi-year study looking at seasonal changes in plankton diversity. Prepare to be amazed as you find out what really lives in a drop of seawater!

Experimental Marine Biology Lab (around 3 hours)
Using the scientific method as a guideline, students will design, plan, and run their own experiments.  This is a great opportunity to focus on adaptive behaviour of marine organisms and to get hands-on experience working with the invertebrates available in the lab.  Presentations of results and conclusions follow the completion of the experiments.  This is a great lab for those students who would like to experience the many aspects of scientific research: brainstorming, experimental design, analysis, and presentation.  By the end of the lab, students will feel satisfied with the feat they have accomplished as well as brimming with more questions to investigate!

Reproduction of Marine Invertebrates (Seasonal, 1 hour plus timeline)
This lab highlights the spectrum of strategies that organisms have adapted to overcome the challenges of reproducing in the ocean. In one-hour, students will observe the fusion of invertebrate egg and sperm, the formation of a fertilization envelope, and will set up a culture of developing embryos (sea urchin or sand dollar, depending on the time of year) to observe throughout the duration of their stay. Subsequent daily observations of “the babies” allow students to create a timeline that tracks echinoderm embryo development, which is surprisingly similar to human embryo development. (This lab is only available during 4-night stays)

Conservation Case Studies (2 hours)
Conservation is an important initiative to encourage in young people but can be met with frustration due to lack of resources, information, or inspiration. This workshop strives to inform and encourage students to think critically about the issues involved. Topics such as habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, climate change, over-exploitation and the various COSEWIC status listings (endangered, threatened, special concern, extirpated, extinct) in Canada are discussed in an open forum.  Students then examine the biology of a particular species at risk, the threats to its survival, learn which conservation measures are in place, and brainstorm ways students can help.

Gavia immer -Minocqua, Wisconsin, USA -swimming-8

Ocean plastics: Using seabirds as indicators of ecosystem health ( 2 hours)
Students will learn how to identify several species of seabirds and aquatic birds, and will examine the characteristics that make birds adapted to survive on the ocean. They will then perform case studies using replicas of stomach contents to answer the question “Is this species a good indicator of plastic pollution?” Students must consider the feeding strategy, habitat, and range of each bird, and perform an analysis of the stomach contents in order to find the answer. This workshop serves as an opportunity to learn more about birds, and also raises awareness about the challenging problem of ocean pollution.

Slide Shows

Marine Mammal Slideshow (1 hour)
Enjoy a virtual survey of the marine mammals inhabiting the waters around Bamfield.  This comprehensive slide show includes the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), the mustelids (sea otters), and cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, and whales). Fascinating details about each group, combined with sound clips, bone specimens, and pelts, make this slide show engaging and thought provoking. And you never know, maybe you’ll spot some of these animals live during your field trips!