by Amanda Kahn
One of the most frequent questions I get when I tell people I study marine sponges at the University of Alberta is why I chose to come to a land-locked province to study animals that live in the ocean. Granted, I sometimes ask myself the same thing, such as when temperatures drop to -40 degrees C, but in reality, we’ve worked out several different ways to do our field work.
The marine centre is used by just about everyone in our lab to do our work, but sometimes it’s not possible to find what we need out there. For me and my labmate Rachel, we study the glass sponges that form reefs in the Strait of Georgia. Those reefs are too deep to dive to, so we study them using a remotely operated vehicle–a remote-controlled submarine called ROPOS that acts as our eyes and hands underwater.
We also go diving to study our sponges. While the species we study is found quite deep in Barkley Sound, they are shallower–within recreational diving depths (less than 130 feet)–in Saanich Inlet. So, for the second time in two months, we left snowy Edmonton for the coast.
We flew into Victoria as the sun was setting over the various islands around southeastern Vancouver Island. Stay tuned for future posts to see photos from our research trip!