Field Trip Activities

Each group itinerary is tailored to fit your learning objectives.

Our educational activities are focused on the biological, chemical and physical sciences. We also integrate journal writing, videography, fine art, geography, archaeology, mathematics, chemistry and physics. These activities are adaptable; please advise us of specific goals and topics for your group in advance. Co-teaching with our staff is encouraged.


Field Experiences

Oceanography and Biodiversity in Grappler Inlet (2 hours)
Travel up Grappler Inlet in one of our research vessels 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 (>1.5 hours)
A field trip to the Deer Group Islands on the MV Alta includes sampling from the subtidal environment and marine mammal and bird observation. A dredge net sampling from the sea floor yields a diversity of organisms including sea stars, urchins, octopuses, crabs, fish, sea cucumbers, and many others not inhabiting the intertidal zone. A trip to the open ocean, depending upon the season and migration pattern, whales, harbour seals, sea lions, and a diversity of marine birds can be observed. There is an additional cost for these trips, please see pricing guide (maximum 12 people per trip).

Research Vessel Barkley Star
Experience marine mammal and bird surveys in BMSC’s research and diving vessel. There is an additional cost for these trips, please see pricing guide (maximum 12 people per trip).

Brady’s Beach Intertidal Exploration (3-4 hours)
Brady’s Beach, with its picturesque sea stacks, sandy and rocky shores, is a wonderful place to explore the intertidal zone. Exploring this beach is an opportunity to see the organisms in their natural environment. Brady’s Beach is an ideal site to conduct quantitative and qualitative studies, for example, tide pool studies involve mapping, estimating volume, and observing organismal interactions.

BMSC’s Education Team can deliver lectures and lead activities on intertidal ecology, including tidal and zonation processes, coastal geomorphology, kelp forest ecology, marine terrestrial interactions, and more.

Eagle Bay (3 hours min.)
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 (1-3 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. Quantitative studies using biodiversity indices can be done here. The biology of many plants, including fungi, mosses, ferns, shrubs, and trees is discussed with an emphasis on traditional cultural uses (ethnobotany). Culturally modified trees along the path illustrate how first nations people harvest from trees. A specific focus on non-vascular plants complements the B.C. Biology curriculum. Temperate rainforest ecology can also be incorporated with the Brady’s Beach and Pachena Bay field trips.

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 use of a selection of the West Coasts’ >600 species of macroalgae. With live specimens in the lab, students can handle the algae as they learn to identify new species and the role of algae in the marine food web, with a focus on kelp (big brown algae) and the ecosystem of kelp forests, and is a valuable introduction to intertidal field studies.
Reproduction and life cycles of algae and algal pressing on herbarium paper can also be included.

Plankton Lab (1.5-2 hours)
This lab is an eye-opening experience demonstrating the diversity of life that lives suspended in the ocean.  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 as they explore the often underappreciated world of plankton.  Students involved will record the species of plankton observed, taking part in a multi-year study looking at seasonal changes in plankton diversity.  This lab usually coincides with the oceanography fieldtrip to collect plankton samples.

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 many 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!
A few examples of previous experiments:
Substrata preference of hermit crabs
Swimming scallop reaction time to different sea star species

Reproduction of Marine Invertebrates (Seasonal, 1 hour plus timeline)
This lab is an examination of the spectrum of reproductive strategies that organisms have adapted to overcome the challenges of reproducing in the ocean. In one-hour students will observe the fusion of egg and sperm, the formation of a fertilization envelope, and will have set up a culture of developing (sea urchin or sand dollar, depending on the time of year) embryos to observe throughout the duration of their stay. From these subsequent observations students will create a timeline of their developing urchins.

Conservation Case Studies (2-3 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, population changes, pollution, climate change, over-exploitation and the various species status listing (endangered, threatened, special concern, extirpated, extinct) in Canada are discussed in an open forum.  Students then examine the biology of a species at risk, the threats to its survival, what conservation measures are in place, and what a student can do to help.

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

Fish Printing (1 hour)
 Gyotaku (‘gyo’ meaning fish and ‘taku’ meaning impression) is a traditional method of fish printing dating back to the mid-1800’s. Japanese fishermen recorded their catches by placing rice paper onto fish painted with ink. In this workshop, students create their own gyotaku using rubber fish and acrylic paint. Encourage your students to bring T-shirts, sweatshirts, or canvas bags to print, or they may use paper available in the lab. These prints make wonderful souvenirs to take home.

Ocean plastics: Using seabirds as indicators of ecosystem health (1.5 – 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, along with the stomach contents, in order to determine if the bird is a good indicator species for plastic pollution. This lab is a good lead-in for the field trip aboard the M/V Alta, since many of the birds examined in the lab can be seen along the route traveled through the Deer Group Islands.  

Slide Shows

Marine Mammal Slide Show (1-2 hours)
Enjoy a virtual survey of the marine mammals inhabiting the North Pacific Ocean.  This comprehensive slide show includes the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), the mustelids (sea otters), the cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises, and the magnificent whales).  The biology of each group and species specific facts are discussed.  Fascinating details about each group make this slide show engaging and thought provoking. 

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