New face of BMSC

By Nicole Webster

Some of you more social-networky types may have notices a few changes. This is the first step in a huge rebranding project! The information and quotes below were given to me by Heather Alexander, who is the project manager. The opinions stated below are my own.


The BMSC brand is broader than its visual identity, more than a signature or symbol. Our brand is the intangible sum of the our attributes: its name, values, offerings, people, its history and reputation and the way it is experienced and promoted. “

I think the idea is to show off to others what the BMSC is, and give it a facelift at the same time.


  • Well a big reason is the loss of NSERC funding, which has been a big blow to the station. The idea is to create a fresh image, promoting the station to its member universities, as well as to possible funding sources, and hopefully keeping things running.
    • A big part of this campaign will be to change the way our  five member universities (UVic, SFU, UBC, UofA, UofC) look at the BMSC. “[T]o raise the profile of BMSC and show that BMSC is a valued asset, and to give a sense of ownership to the home universities.” Before I arrived, I though if BMSC a ‘field station’, an offshoot of the biology department for research or some undergrad courses. This is becoming less true, and the BMSC wants to remind/inform the universities of that, “to engage the member universities in the idea that BMSC is a branch of their campus, with facilities useful to many departments.” BMSC has started making inroad into other areas of research, offering popular non-biology courses in archaeology, ethonobotany, science for non science majors, and science film making and journalism. The same sort of outreach has been going on at the research level, with social scientists staying on station and engineers coming to use the gigantic flume for fluid dynamics studies
  • A second reason is discontinuity. The Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre used to be the Bamfield Marine Station, and not everything was changed to reflect the new name (eg., rather than the new [Both links still work]). The starfish logo is no always the same colour or shape, and is thus not standardized.
  • A third reason is opportunity: “Mark Doherty, owner of Massif, a PR/Design firm from Vancouver, and a part time resident of Bamfield, has offered the services of his company at a greatly reduced rate.”


We have already seen some changes on the internet. There have been updates to twitter, facebook, youtube, google+, and linkedin, and the main webpage.

They have also created a single BMSC alumni facebook group, as a single place to make updates available to past students, and a place where all of us can interact, rather than in our separate cohorts (eg. summer 2012, fall 2013…).

The merchandise is being updated, with the first order already arrived, reflecting the new logo and colour scheme.

Mock up of the new merchandise. Don't fret, they have hoodies too! (and T-shirts, sweat pants, toques, travel mugs...)

Mock up of the new merchandise. Don’t fret, they have hoodies too! (and T-shirts, sweat pants, toques, travel mugs…)

Changes are ongoing, and most are superficial to date, creating a uniform scheme to the BMSC web presence, as well as in brochures, buisiness cards, headers, signage at the station… However, I’m quite excited for the major update to the webpage that is forthcoming, updating information, and (hopefully) making the site more usable.


As always, change is scary. I like the idea of bringing things into line, and especially the idea of better advertising to the member universities. Not only to increase enrollment but to hopefully increase funding and appreciation by the administrations.

There’s two new taglines (anyone know what the old one was, if it exists?):

‘Immerse yourself’
‘Your oceanside campus’

The first is clever and cute, the second seems more practical, and aimed directly at the universities, rather than students/clients.

I really don’t like the new logo. I see that it is stylish, and fresh, and its still got a starfish, but its all soft edges and texture. I understand that a new logo is expected with a revamp, but I love the simplicity of the coil-y starfish. If I were in charge (but I’m not, and I have no idea of the behind-doors situation), I would have made the font and colour changes, but left the starfish – a continuity to the past, a commitment to not too much change from what we love, nor a focus on appearance over substance.

One version of old logo, simple.

One version of old logo.

New logo.

New logo.










I do like the picture heavy content. The beauty of BMSC and Barkley sound are a major part of its success. I would note that both of these images are biologically impossible with water going only halfway up, but I like the style.

Google+ header

Google+ header.

Facebook header

Facebook header

I’m also very excited to arrive in Bamfield, and see what practical changes (if any) will be made to the station itself and how it is run. I hope this will make the difference.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Footer of website and letterhead.

Footer of website and letterhead.



Slow life- Coral, sponges, and echinoderm time lapse

I just came across this mind-blowingly beautiful time lapse work of some slow organisms. Take a look (on a big screen at full size and resolution):

This was done by Daniel Stoupin. You can learn about how he made this video, or check out his other amazing work on his blog or website.

Fractals with R, Part 5: Sierpinski Carpet with ggplot2

Figure 1. Sierpinski Carpet

Figure 1. Sierpinski Carpet.

By Allan Roberts

This post uses the graphics package ggplot2 (Wickham, 2009) to illustrate a new method of making an image of the Sierpiński Carpet, which was featured in a previous post (Fractals with R, Part 2: the Sierpiński Carpet). The method used to make the matrix representing the fractal is the same; again, the algorithm is essential the same as the described in described in Weisstein (2012), but implemented in R. In this post, I have used the graphics package ggplot2 to display the image. The ggplot2 layer “geom_tile” produces output much like the function “image” in the base graphics package. View ports made with the “grid” package are used to make the four panels of the plot shown in figure 1; one of the advantages of ggplot2 is that it makes it relatively easy to work with the grid package in this way. Because the function “ggplot” takes a data frame as an argument,  some extra work was required to turn the matrix representing an iteration of the fractal into a data frame with X and Y columns for the positions of cells, and an indicator column I to represent the colour of the cell. Running the script provided below requires that you have the “ggplot2″ package installed; if you have an internet connection, this can be done by entering install.packages(“ggplot2″) on the R command line. (The grid library should come already installed with the basic installation of R.)


H. Wickham. ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer New York, 2009.

Weisstein, Eric W. “Sierpiński Carpet.” From MathWorld– A Wolfram Wed Resource Accessed Oct. 22, 2012:

R Script

#Written by Allan Roberts, Feb 2014
SierpinskiCarpet <- function(k){
Iterate <- function(M){
A <- cbind(M,M,M);
B <- cbind(M,0*M,M);
M <- as.matrix(1)
for (i in 1:k) M <- Iterate(M);
n <- dim(M)[1]
X <- numeric(n)
Y <- numeric(n)
I <- numeric(n)
for (i in 1:n) for (j in 1:n){
X[i + (j-1)*n] <- i;
Y[i + (j-1)*n] <- j;
I[i + (j-1)*n] <- M[i,j];
DATA <- data.frame(X,Y,I)
p <- ggplot(DATA,aes(x=X,y=Y,fill=I))
p <- p + geom_tile() + theme_bw() + scale_fill_gradient(high=rgb(0,0,0),low=rgb(1,1,1))
p <-p+ theme(legend.position=0) + theme(panel.grid = element_blank())
p <- p+ theme(axis.text = element_blank()) + theme(axis.ticks = element_blank())
p <- p+ theme(axis.title = element_blank()) + theme(panel.border = element_blank());
A <- viewport(0.25,0.75,0.45,0.45)
B <- viewport(0.75,0.75,0.45,0.45)
C <- viewport(0.25,0.25,0.45,0.45)
D <- viewport(0.75,0.25,0.45,0.45)

Ucluelet Aquarium grand re-opening March 15

by Amanda Kahn

The Ucluelet Aquarium, across Barkley Sound from Bamfield, is re-opening its doors for another summer season on Saturday, March 15 at 12 noon.  The aquarium displays local marine life of the Pacific Northwest with the distinction of being one of the few “catch-and-release” aquaria in the world.  Admission on opening day is by donation.

The aquarium will be open on Saturday from 12 PM until 5 PM, then will begin regular hours of 10 AM to 5 PM until the summer (when they will stay open until 6 PM).  Check their website for current hours and rates.

Touch tanks at the Ucluelet Aquarium

Touch tanks at the Ucluelet Aquarium. Credit: Ucluelet Aquarium Society.

Sensory organ discovered in sponges helps them respond to their environment despite having no nervous system

by Amanda Kahn

Sponges are animals, but they do not have the features we’re used to seeing when we think of animals: no gut, no head or tail, no nerves, and no stomachs or other organs.  And yet despite not having a nervous system, sponges are able to respond to their environment by changing the canal sizes in their filter-feeding system, in an action called the “inflation-contraction response.”  It’s basically akin to what we do when we sneeze.  This was observed in the mid-1900′s, but scientists have only been able to speculate what could be helping the sponges sense and coordinate various cells in their body when there are no nerves or sensory organs observed.  Danielle Ludeman, one of the authors here at the Madreporite, has just published an article describing the sensory organ that she and her coauthors, Nathan Farrar, Ana Riesgo, Jordi Paps, and Sally Leys, discovered in many different species of sponges: primary cilia used to detect changes in water flow.  Check out the time-lapse video below to see how responsive sponges are to irritants (in this case sediments) in the water.

Danielle tested if those cilia are used to detect changes in water flow by using drugs that target and knock out the cilia.  When the cilia were knocked out or knocked down, the “sneeze” response couldn’t be initiated.  If cilia were permitted to grow back following treatment, the “sneeze” response could be initiated.  In our kidneys, primary cilia are used to detect water flow.  The structure of the paired cilia Danielle found aligns well with those of primary cilia in other animals, further supporting that these are sensory cilia that allow the sponges to detect their environment.

The cilia line the osculum, the chimney-like opening of the sponge.  If that osculum is removed, the sponge also is not able to initiate a sneeze response.  This led Danielle and co-authors to determine that the osculum can be thought of as a sensory organ, and not just a giant chimney.

Figure 4 from Ludeman et al. 2014

The “sneeze” response is shown by an increase in canal diameter followed by a rapid decrease (the black lines in the graphs). Various drugs that affect the cilia also affected that inflation/contraction. Source: Ludeman et al. (2014).

Why does this matter to us, and how does it apply to evolutionary theory?  Sponges are one of the earliest branches off of the animal tree of life (the Metazoa).  While they are animals, their distant relation to us and to all other animals (collectively called the Eumetazoa) means they diverged from whatever last common ancestor the Metazoa shared and evolved into something quite different and independent of what other animals have evolved into.  This isn’t unique–every animal phylum is very different from every other.  What is unique is their placement at the base of our collective “family tree.”  If a sponge shares a feature that we also have, it’s likely that the proto-animal–the last common ancestor that all animals shared–had that feature as well.  It brings us a little bit closer toward understanding how we evolved from single-celled organisms to the multicellular, fantastically complex and coordinated animals we are today.

Still think sponges are boring?
(Hint: they are, but only in one way that word is defined!).


Ludeman, D.A., N. Farrar, A. Riesgo, J. Paps, and S.P. Leys (2014).  Evolutionary origins of sensation in metazoans: evidence for a new sensory organ in sponges.  BMC Evolutionary Biology, 14(3).  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-3.

To learn more about sponges and research on the origin of animal body plans, check out the Leys lab website.

Death on the point

Windy ride
By  Nicole Webster

The 'tidal flat' on the point beside first beach. Does this have a geographical name? Credit: N. Webster

The ‘tidal flat’ on the point beside first beach. Does this have a geographical name? Credit: N. Webster

On the same hike with the escaping amphipods, I also saw a tidal flat (is that the right word?) covered in dead things. I’m unsure what the cause of the death was. We were just at the end of a neap tide cycle (with smaller tide fluctuations), and the weather had been really nice (~20C, Perhaps it was just too hot, and this spot was fairly high up on the shore. Perhaps a combination of no really high tides with many hot days was too much. This is unsurprising, and certainly happens all the time. There are many occaisions where you can see swathes of dead barnacles and sea weed after a scorching summer day with a mid-day low tide. This was the first time I saw a diversity of organisms. Beyond fish and chitons (pictured) There were many empty limpet shells and crabs.

A unknown fish, already well stripped, with some Littorina sniffing around. Credit: N. Webster

A unknown fish, already well stripped, with some Littorina sniffing around. Credit: N. Webster

A poor dead chiton, being gleefully devoured by a small hermit crab. Credit: N Webster

A poor dead chiton, being gleefully devoured by a small hermit crab. Credit: N Webster