UVic makes important changes for student field trips to Bamfield

Message from the Director, Dr. Sean Rogers

The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC) is a globally leading research and teaching station located on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and is co-owned by the University of Victoria, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University. For over 48 years it has supported undergraduate and graduate field education and training in the ocean sciences and other areas, as well as hosting national and international researchers with world-class infrastructure, while also offering award-winning, place-based public education science programs. As the largest employer in the village of Bamfield, our research and education routinely have impacts provincially, nationally, and internationally with respect to the health and sustainability of our oceans.

On September 13, 2019, John Geerdes of Iowa City, Iowa, and Emma Machado of Winnipeg, Manitoba, both 18, died on the Bamfield road while travelling by chartered bus to the BMSC. Many of the other 43 first-year students and two chaperones travelling on this annual biology field trip were also injured. BMSC staff have been heavily involved in the University of Victoria’s independent review, which makes several important recommendations related to the safety of student travel to the BMSC. We have examined and wholeheartedly agree with these recommendations. As the destination for these programs, we agree with one of the conclusions in particular, that BMSC staff have important local knowledge, expertise, and experience, and can thus directly provide safety recommendations related to travel and communications for clientele of the BMSC. We are committed to working closely with the University of Victoria and other groups to help share this knowledge to the benefit and safety of all travelers visiting Bamfield. We are also very committed to working with the University of Victoria to help implement other important recommendations as provided in the review. 

Yet, the degrading condition of the Bamfield road continues to present significant risk to the safety of our community, clients, and families, and impedes our ability to operate in Bamfield. This tragedy was yet another stark reminder that the Bamfield road needs our immediate attention to improve public safety standards towards enabling safe passage to Bamfield for all. We continue to work closely with the entire community, local and provincial governments, and Huu-ay-aht First Nations in the strong advocacy that improvements are still needed. We are heartened by the recent work of the Bamfield Road Reconciliation Group and understand that the stakeholders have agreed on a number of recommendations to meet these shared goals. We have urged the government to meet their commitment to upgrade the safety of the Bamfield road so that the BMSC may continue educate youth and support life-changing exploration and discovery to the benefit of all British Columbians and Canadians. We encourage anyone who shares these goals to become informed of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ proposal and join the call to make long-overdue upgrades to the Bamfield road. The deaths of Emma and John are incredibly tragic. We can clearly do more to help prevent accidents like this from happening in the future.

Sean Rogers, Director

UVic news release