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Bonne Bay beckons

By Pamela Gill

What better way for an environmental science student to spend the summer than in a small boat investigating the waters and shorelines of majestic Bonne Bay?

Fiona Cuthbert, manager of Memorial University’s Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point, was at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College recently to enlighten students on the opportunities that exist just a couple of hours away from the Corner Brook campus.

“Environmental science students need to satisfy field course requirements for their degrees,” said Ms. Cuthbert. “These field courses are offered at the Bonne Bay Marine Station by the Biology Department on the St. John’s campus. The courses are specifically designed for the station, and can’t be completed at any other Memorial University location.”

Five undergraduate field courses in marine biology are offered at the Bonne Bay Marine Station during the spring/summer semester, with additional courses being offered during the fall/winter semesters. Spring/summer courses include Marine Principles and Techniques; Estuarine Fish Ecology; Biology of Boreal and Arctic Seaweeds; Experimental Marine Ecology of Newfoundland Waters; and Marine Mammals.

The Bonne Bay area provides unique opportunities to learn marine science because of the unequalled diversity of habitat, marine plants, fish and invertebrates that exist on the station’s doorstep. This diversity cannot be matched anywhere else in northeastern North America. Courses are designed to maximize the unique natural laboratories of the ocean and adjacent lands.

Students will use small boats to access various habitats, to learn sampling techniques and to develop practical skills. Students are encouraged to use small boats to increase their experience as safe boat handlers. The station provides basic theoretical and practical boating instruction so that students can comply with Canadian Coast Guard standards.

Bonne Bay is also a world-class site for diving. Kelp beds, "bottomless" walls, arctic coral reefs and shoals of fish are only a sample of the many beautiful underwater attractions. Students who wish to dive as part of their academic program must contact Dr. Bob Hooper of Memorial’s Biology Department to ensure they satisfy Memorial’s criteria for scientific diving. Scuba tanks, weight belts, buoyancy compensators and regulators are available for use by qualified students.

Many of the students who take field courses in Bonne Bay go on to choose careers in marine and environmental science, or do further research as Graduate students. Students are also offered a chance to use their knowledge of the Bonne Bay area as Marine Education Interpreters with the station’s public program.

“The field courses we offer are an opportunity for students to get out of classrooms and into the outdoors,” said Ms. Cuthbert. “It’s the ultimate environmental experience – outdoors, in boats, collecting live samples. Everything we have is alive – you won’t find any bottles of pickled organisms in our labs.”