: Perched on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, BMSC provides access to a remarkable diversity of marine, terrestrial, freshwater and cultural sites of the North East Pacific basin. With 3000 sq m of modern laboratory space it can support research in almost any field of study.
Oliver Evans

June 3, 2021

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre makes positive ripples with education and research partnerships

Join the Bamfield Centre to virtually explore the ocean floor on World Oceans Day, June 8

The true test of a ship’s captain isn’t how they navigate calm seas, but rather how they weather a storm. For Dr. Sean Rogers, PhD, UCalgary professor and director of the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC), the past year wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Yet despite the uncertainty and challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rogers and his team of researchers and staff at the BMSC navigated through the murky waters and have come out stronger than ever.

  • Photo above: Perched on the outer west coast of Vancouver Island, BMSC provides access to a remarkable diversity of marine, terrestrial, freshwater and cultural sites of the North East Pacific basin. With 3,000 square metres of modern laboratory space it can support research in almost any field of study.

For 49 years, the BMSC — a unique partnership between the University of Calgary, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and University of Alberta — has offered world-class teaching, learning and research opportunities, allowing countless Albertans to experience the wonders of the ocean. In a typical year, the centre would be bustling with K-12 school field trips, university students, graduate and faculty researchers.

However, for 2020 the entrepreneurial team used the temporary pause of visitors as an opportunity to shift their focus toward deepening community partnerships, supporting ocean research, upgrading facilities to reduce their environmental footprint and creating more accessible virtual learning experiences for learners across the country. Respecting health authority guidelines, Tao Eastham, head of research services, developed safe work plans with staff to accommodate priority research, hosting more than 100 researchers from all five member universities at the BMSC.

Mutually beneficial opportunities support research together in a good way with Huu-ay-aht First Nations

(Left to right) Huu-ay-aht Executive Council Members, Robert J. Dennis Sr., Charlie Clappis, Duane Nookemis, BMSC Manager of Operations, Chuck Spoon, McElhanney Project Engineer Nathan Slater, Industra President/CEO/Owner Scot Brudon, Industra Owner Rob Brydon stand on the site of the new WWTP On October 6, 2020 for a ground breaking ceremony.

: Huu-ay-aht First Nations

Photo above, from left: Huu-ay-aht Executive Council members Robert J. Dennis Sr., Charlie Clappis, Duane Nookemis, BMSC manager of operations Chuck Spoon, McElhanney project engineer Nathan Slater, Industra president/CEOowner Scot Brudon, and Industra owner Rob Brydon stand on the site of the new WWTP on Oct. 6, 2020 for a groundbreaking ceremony. 

“Virtually everything at BMSC is done with community in mind,” says Rogers. “We have strong partnerships with respect to research and education. Our work with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations has been particularly incredible. They participate in a large number of research projects and educational initiatives because these endeavours are tackling questions that they are very interested in as a nation.”

One such example is the new wastewater treatment plant. In 2020, the BMSC and Huu-ay-aht began constructing a modern wastewater treatment plant that will be owned by the Huu-ay-aht and operated at the BMSC marine station. Wastewater treatment is crucial to maintaining ocean health and supporting coastal communities such as the Huu-ay-aht.

Similar to ACWA’s work along the Bow River in Calgary, the new facility will create all kinds of opportunities to incorporate research, experiential learning and educational initiatives, demonstrating the importance of clean water. UCalgary contributed $200,000 to transform this vision into reality along with the other BMSC member institutions, for a total of $1 million. The new utility will replace older septic and discharge systems to serve additional users, improving local environmental health and wastewater management in the area.

Graduate student Shannon Mendt conducting field research.

Graduate student Shannon Mendt conducts field research.

Leya Tess Anderson

Partnership with Cascadia Seaweed highlights benefits of seaweed 

Founded in 2019, Cascadia Seaweed is growing to be the largest North American provider of cultivated seaweed — a climate-positive crop that requires no freshwater, fertilizers, pesticides or arable land to grow. It uses nutrients from the sea, sequesters more carbon than land plants, mitigates acidification, creates habitat, is renewable and fast growing. 

Last year, Cascadia leased space at the BMSC and constructed an innovative modular seaweed nursery. This nursery makes use of the BMSC’s seawater system to provide the clean, cold seawater necessary for Cascadia’s ambitious, climate-positive and ecosystem-regenerating kelp farms. The benefits of supporting regenerative aquaculture can be realized across the country — even by Alberta ranchers in the beef industry. Supplementing agri-feeds with seaweed has the potential to eliminate bovine methane emissions, helping farmers to raise more sustainable cattle by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Kelp reforestation research has global reach

UCalgary’s Chris Neufeld has been collaborating with researchers from other BMSC institutions to better understand the factors driving the decline of kelp that we are observing both locally and globally. In efforts to reverse losses in giant kelp beds off Vancouver Island, Neufeld teamed up with Ocean Wise Conservation Association and Canadian Kelp Resources to implement solutions that will create scalable solutions for kelp forest restoration and seaweed cultivation.  

Owen Newson and the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

Owen Newson and the remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

Kelly Clement

Shift to online classrooms creates more accessible learning for students

While K-12 students across the country will not get the hands-on experience of playing in the BMSC’s touch tank and exploring the beaches, BMSC staff have worked hard to create engaging online learning opportunities that will bring the magic of the ocean into living rooms and classrooms. The BMSC’s education unit produced online summer and fall university courses, a seminar series which can be found online on their YouTube channel, as well as the BMSC live program.

Coming up on World Oceans Day on June 8, the BMSC has partnered with UCalgary’s Office of Sustainability to offer the Diving into Ocean Biodiversity and Citizen Science event.

For Rogers, celebrating World Oceans Day “is a chance to reflect on the importance of the questions being asked, the work being done and how we — as students and researchers — can really impact and affect change with respect to those challenges.”

During this real-time immersive educational experience, participants will virtually explore the ocean floor near Pacific Rim National Park Reserve with Jasmin Schuster, PhD candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the BMSC’s remote operated vehicle (ROV) to learn more about Reef Life Survey Canada’s biodiversity research in rocky reef marine ecosystems.

Register now for this exciting event. Trust us, you won’t want to let this opportunity float away.

About the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre is a not-for-profit, registered Canadian charity,and a shared campus of the Universities of Victoria, British Columbia, Alberta, Calgary, and Simon Fraser University. Situated in the town of Bamfield, within the traditional territory of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations in Barkley Sound, and adjacent the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, BMSC offers unparalleled access to a wide array of environments – including unique coastal, marine and rainforest habitats and exceptional species diversity.

UCalgary Sustainability

The initiatives highlighted within this article connect to SDGs 4, 6, 9, 14 and 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to be a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.