by Matias Totz, Grade 10
We are lucky to live and go to a school so close to the shores of the Salish Sea, one of Canada’s most diverse ecosystems. Did you know that the Salish Sea is home to the world’s largest species of barnacle, octopus and burrowing clam (the giant acorn barnacle, giant Pacific octopus and geoduck respectively)?
After volunteering for a couple of years at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea aquarium in Sidney, I have learned a lot about the fascinating marine animals that live in our local waters. I thought it would be great to share what I have learned with other marine enthusiasts by starting SMUS’s first Marine Science Club. After contacting the World Fisheries Trust, I learned that they were setting up a large aquarium in the Middle School through their Seaquaria Ocean Education Program. They loved the idea of starting a Marine Science Club to learn about the aquarium animals and help take care of their well-being!
The club’s primary goal is to learn about local marine animals and plants by taking care of the Middle School aquarium, researching the animals and sharing this information with the rest of the school. Another goal is to help raise awareness of local marine life that is endangered and threatened.
When we look out at the ocean it seems so vast and powerful that it is easy to forget that it is actually a fragile ecosystem being devastated by human activity like plastic pollution and over-fishing. Did you know that scientists predict there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2025? The more you learn about these amazing sea creatures the more you will want to help them survive!
Club members will help monitor and maintain the health of the aquarium and its various marine residents including feather dusters, sea cucumbers, hermit crabs and nudibranchs (sea slugs!). We will feed the animals (sea urchins love their kelp rings) and maintain a daily data collection log to record salinity, temperature, oxygen inflow and water colour so that we can identify any issues and report problems to World Fisheries.
The Middle School students in the club will be encouraged to research local marine life to share in club meetings, a marine science blog and on the display board behind the aquarium. Other activities we hope to include are having special animal presentations by the World Fisheries Trust, learning about marine science careers from guest speakers and participating in local conservation efforts such as a shoreline clean-ups.
By joining the Marine Science Club students will learn how to take care of an aquarium ecosystem, learn about marine diversity and classification, learn about endangered and threatened species, and hopefully learn a lot of cool facts about our local marine life!
For instance, did you know that if you have eaten sushi you have probably eaten a local species of seaweed called Nori? That one oyster can filter 190 litres of water a day? The giant Pacific octopus has three hearts? Leather sea stars smell like garlic to repel predators? With 37 species of marine mammals, 172 bird species, 247 fish species, 3,000 macro-invertebrates and 500 marine plants living in the Salish Sea, there is tons to learn about our local marine residents!
Our club meets every Wednesday at 12:15 in Room 307 near the Middle School aquarium. All students are welcome! Anyone who has an interest in marine science, taking care of fish or just wants to learn some fun facts to impress their friends are encouraged to come out. Joining the club is also great preparation for anyone who might be interested in taking the Marine Studies and Training elective at the Senior School, or better yet, pursuing a career in marine science or ocean conservation.