Microscopes, Manila Clams and Milner Gardens & Woodland; Oh My!

Author: Desarae Poier

I fell in love with the Island when I moved here 5 years ago for my first year at VIU. Since then, that love has grown to a deep appreciation, respect and interest in the community and environment I now call home. When I saw the Student Research Assistant job posting, I had minimal knowledge on the MABR, MABRRI, or what kind of research was being done on campus. However, I quickly recognized the unique opportunity offered to me, and delved into some research. I had no idea what a biosphere reserve was, let alone a forage fish! When I started at MABRRI in September of 2021, the air was full of uncertainty. Classes had just resumed in person for the first time in almost two years, and many businesses and schools remained online in the wake of the pandemic. My primary task was working on the Forage Fish Project conducting sample analysis, examining processed sand samples collected from local beaches, hoping to spot forage fish eggs. My class schedule, coupled with the slow return to working in the office, meant long hours in the evening working in the MABRRI office, hunched over a microscope. Scanning through the samples, looking for new life, and sifting through a microecosystem unseen by the naked eye became the best part of my week, a welcome reprieve from my homework. While COVID protocols and work-from-home schedules left the MABRRI office not as full as usual, I enjoyed the work I was doing. Fast forward a few months, and things were slowly on the return to normal. I was able to go out into the field with Alanna and Jacob and try my hand at sample collection. Even now, these days are my favourite. We spend the day chasing the tides, moving from beach to beach, and are able to see the beauty of the MABR and surrounding area, firsthand.

With the end of the school year, I was able to move into a full-time position as a Student Research Assistant and am now living the full MABRRI experience! I really enjoy the mixture of office and field work and have been fortunate to help support a variety of different projects. I am still sampling, processing, and analyzing for forage fish, but have also been able to go out in the field for several other environmental projects. I spent a *very* rainy weekend collecting, counting, measuring, and releasing clams for our bi-annual Clam Abundance Survey. I’ve also had the opportunity to go out with Jessica to Milner Gardens and Woodland (which is absolutely vibrant in the spring) to study the effects of climate change on plant phenology, alongside her very knowledgeable volunteers. Being in the office surrounded by other students and full-time staff has been amazing, and hearing about the many projects MABRRI has on the go has really solidified how important the work being done is. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to experience so many different types of field work and hone my data collection/entry skills. Being able to gain valuable research experience in the biosphere region is such a unique opportunity and being at MABRRI has really changed my perception on the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and connection, especially regarding sustainability. I can’t wait for the rest of my summer with them and can’t wait to see what they do in the future.