Octopus Marine Ecology Centre






    The Cowichan/Koksilah Estuary is immediately adjacent to the Centre. We are presently conducting baseline studies on distribution of intertidal seaweeds, and mudflat animals as part of an estuary stewardship program. The animals in the soft bottom at 20 meters depth are also regularly sampled as part of our school program. Uses and activities in the estuary are subject to the Cowichan Estuary Environmental Management Plan.

Sand flats
    Cherry Point [Boatswain Bank] is 10 minutes by road or water from the Centre. It is a muddy sand flat some 500 meters wide from high to low water. We often conduct group activities such as estimating populations of sand dollars and clams by using beach seines to assess fish diversity.

Fully wave exposed open coast
    This habitat is some 40-50 km to the west of the Centre on the other side of Vancouver Island. We make extended day trips in school buses over logging roads to Botanical Beach in association with the Cowichan Lake Education Centre. The beautiful tide pools and rock formations are worth the trip. We also take small groups to Bamfield via a 40 km launch trip down a west coast fjord [Alberni Canal]. Bamfield is the site of Bamfield Marine Centre, a research and educational facility operated by five universities. Learn more about the Bamfield Centre at their website: http//bms.bc.ca/.

    Saanich Inlet extends from near the Centre to some 24 km to the south. The deeper portions are without oxygen for most of the year. In 1995 we surveyed intertidal life at about 30 localities along the length of the inlet. Areas of the subtidal have been extensively studied from the PISCES submersible. Sponges which are typically restricted to deep water [hexactinellids] occur within 20 meters of the surface in Saanich Inlet as well as other local fjords. Information on the inlet has been compiled in a series of reports of the Water Quality Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

Semi-wave exposed rocky shores
    Some of the Gulf Islands within 30 minutes boat travel from the Centre exhibit a high intertidal marine biodiversity. Almost all major groups of animals and plants are represented. Broad, thin slabs of shale in some areas are ideal for comparing the seaweed encrusted upper surfaces with the animal encrusted lower surfaces. Through care in returning these slabs to their original locations, we have taken groups to visit these sites over a period of 20 years with no noticeable decrease in diversity.

High tidal currents
    Narrow passes between some of Gulf Islands have tidal currents of 3 to 9 knots. Animals which have adapted to the forces of these currents thrive here as they obtain an abundance of food from the high volumes of passing water. These include species of sponges, moss animals, sea squirts, sea anemones, worm snails and others.