Natural treasures of the west coast of Vancouver Island

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island and is characterized by rugged coasts and lush temperate rainforests. Imagine white sandy coastlines, eagles soaring overhead, ferns, and cushions of moss hanging from the branches of towering Sitka spruce, and the ocean stretching off as far as the eye can see. While this may be appealing to most tourists, to entomologists, and naturalists alike, this place is a heaven, making it an ideal location for collecting some of the most bizarre and unique invertebrates in Canada.

Ucluelet Aquarium, exhibiting the unique marine plants and animals (invertebrates and fishes) native to the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Ucluelet Aquarium, exhibiting the unique marine plants and animals (invertebrates and fishes) native to the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The morning was spent servicing our three sites that have been previously set up in three very unique ecosystems, including old growth and second growth forests, and a bog. We managed to catch some interesting invertebrates today, including voracious ground beetles and enormous banana slugs.

Appearing to be wearing a royal crown, this small king crab is a robust creature living in intertidal pools of the west coast of Vancouver.
Appearing to be wearing a royal crown, this small king crab is a robust creature living in intertidal pools of the west coast of Vancouver.

In the afternoon, we had some free time to explore the district municipality of Ucluelet which means “people of the safe harbour” in the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) language. While Graham, Kate and Danielle went off to explore the touristy side of town, I slipped away from the group to visit the Ucluelet Aquarium. The Ucluelet Aquarium is non-profit public aquarium which exhibits unique marine plants and animals (invertebrates and fishes) native to the west coast of Vancouver Island. I was informed by a staff member  that all the specimens in the exhibits, with the exception of freshwater juvenile salmon, were collected from the nearby Pacific Ocean, specifically from Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound, and are seasonally released back into the ocean. Most specimens are collected either by scuba divers, by hand at low tide, or by hand seining beaches, whereby species of interest are removed from the net and the rest are returned to the ocean. Other species are occasionally donated by local anglers who can access deep or offshore habitats.

The main attraction of the aquarium was the Giant Pacific Octopus, which at this Northern range, can be found from the intertidal zone to depths of up to 2,000 metres. They are robust creatures adapted to cold, oxygen-rich water, and arguably the world’s largest Cephalopod. Other species central to the displays are various rockfish species, crabs, bivalves, feather duster worms, bay pipefish, sea anemones, and the sea pen. Because the aquarium continuously pumps raw sea water through its exhibits, planktonic larvae of all sorts settle out in the exhibits, providing an ever-changing challenge of interesting discoveries.

Jellyfish have to be housed in a specific aquarium that allows a circular flow to prevent it from sinking to the bottom or being swept up in the filter systems.
Jellyfish have to be housed in a specific aquarium that allows a circular flow to prevent it from sinking to the bottom or being swept up in the filter systems.

As I am writing this, I realized that this will be my last and final blog for BIObus 2014. This has been an amazing experience for me. We had a few bumps in the road, including RV complications, but overall it has been great! I hope to continue a career at BIO in the future, applying my knowledge and passion of the world of insects to continue the excellent reputation of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.

-Joey Addesi

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