Deep Bay Marine Field Station, Bowser BC

Vancouver Island University (VIU) has this site called Deep Bay Marine Field Station. It’s located in Bowser, BC, which is about 30 minutes down the road from Qualicum Beach. My family had been curious about it for years and had some bad luck. In 2014 we tried to visit the Field Station and last year (2020) we rebutted by COVID-19, but this year we struck it rich. Between 10 AM and 4 PM they were open.

VIU has a research station where they are working on selective breeding of oysters and, more recently, scallops. It’s an industry initiative because they are trying to make a climate change resilient oyster so that cool restaurants like Joe Fortes in Vancouver can have the perfect shaped oyster. We were shown a wild oyster in comparison and there really isn’t a comparison. They have a lab where they take boy oysters and pick good specimens and inseminate millions of girl oyster eggs and then keep them inside for a while before putting them in the farms off shore to let them grow up.

Who knew? And if you think I have the answer to how they determine the sex of an oyster, I did not ask.

There is a touch tank with interesting creatures from urchins to sea cucumbers as well as a skeleton of a juvenile grey whale. The story behind this particular specimen is that the T’Sou-ke (a.k.a. Sooke) Nation had the whale wash up on shore and said that it would be great at the VIU station. Subsequently, the whale was buried for four years to allow natural decomposition in order to make recovering the skeleton easier. Then they exhumed it and finished cleaning the skeleton. Literally nothing about this sounded easy to a desk jockey like me.

The views of course were spectacular. There were ravens (not crows) and turkey vultures doing some beachcombing. In the distance you could see the dock-like rigs that hold the lab kick-started shellfish.

For more see:

Orca Whale Skeleton
Captive Oyster Breeding Lab
Juvenile Grey Whale Skeleton
No Sudden Moves!
View from the Station
Oyster Farms in the Distance

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