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Summer by the sea

- August 16, 2010

Dal student Carolyn Inglis and Patricia Smith take a look at their sample bags. (Nick Pearce Photo)

This is not the usual jaunt to Peggy’s Cove, where you go to jump from rock to rock, take pictures of the lighthouse and complain about having to pay for parking at the Sou’Wester.

No, this trip is definitely different. Dalhousie students walking the shore of Peggy’s Cove are on the lookout for the tiny creatures and plants that live on or near those famous rocks: the kelp, the barnacles, Irish moss, periwinkles and algae.

“Peggy’s Cove is a standard example of a rocky shore in the Atlantic region,” explains ecologist Christopher Corkett, the Dal professor who teaches Introduction to Marine Life of Nova Scotia (BIOL 2605), one of the classes of the Dalhousie’s Seaside program.

“At Peggy’s Cove, we can see ‘zonation,’ a general principal in ecology where we see the patterns of algae in zones.” During the class, students also visit other seashore environments, including a sandy beach and a salt marsh.

SEE PHOTOS: A different perspective on Peggy's Cove by Nick Pearce

Seaside—Summer Education and Applied Science Institute at Dalhousie in Ecology—provides a unique experience, getting students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors. Offered through the Faculty of Science, the Seaside program is all about the field trips. For Orinthology (BIOL 3622), for example, the scientific study of bird populations, students visit sites near Halifax on day trips and spend six days camping in southwestern Nova Scotia, at the Harrison Lewis Field Station in Port Joli. For Field Studies of Marine Mammals (BIOL 3626), students camp for two to four days on Brier Island at the peak of whale-watching season.

On this misty morning, the students taking Marine Life depart the bus parked just at the entrance to Peggy’s Cove and follow their professor over boulders and through bogs to the seashore. Once at the edge of the sea -- with the iconic lighthouse barely visible across the bay in the fog -- Dr. Corkett instructs them to collect samples from tidal pools. They’ll take a look at their samples under the microscope back in the laboratory.

“Something green and blobby works for me!” says Kyle Mustard, a second-year student majoring in history and sustainability, as he peers into a rust-colored crevice. The class, which counts as a half-credit, is geared to non-science majors and attracts students in a wide variety of disciplines.

“For me, it’s a good way to see Nova Scotia and to learn about it from a scientific perspective,” says Alberta native Carolyn Inglis, a student in environmental science and international development studies. She explains she was attracted to Dalhousie for its reputation as a top science school and it hasn’t disappointed. “I love it, absolutely, it’s the best,” she enthuses.

LINK: Seaside Program at Dalhousie


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