My Salish Sea Summer: Seaweed Central

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My Salish Sea Summer: Seaweed Central


By Rachel Rickaby


Recently, I started an exciting project—to use my knowledge from university and combine it with what I have learned on-the-job to create seaweed education resources. It began with an idea to create a new presentation about seaweeds in the Salish Sea and has since branched out in many directions!

I am researching some of the most common local seaweeds and seagrasses, along with their traditional uses by Coast Salish First Nations. Once I collect enough information, I will create a formal talk about seaweeds—similar to our octopus presentation—as well as have other seaweed-themed activities. We aim to have seaweeds in the centre for visitors to touch and learn about.

To begin, I headed out with fellow Educator, Aneka, and explored a nearby beach looking for seaweeds! We found many intriguing species—most of which I had learned about in a course at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre! Aneka had never seen many of them before and it was fun to teach a coworker about a topic I have become passionate about.

Above left to right: Turkish Towel (Mastocarpus spp.), Rockweed (Fucus distichus), Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) and Sea Lettuce (Ulva spp.), and Sea Noodles (Sarcodiotheca gaudichaudii).

On July 14, I had the chance to share my newfound seaweed knowledge at the CRD's Marine Day at Witty’s Lagoon. Arriving early we collected a variety of seaweeds—similar to what we want to have at the centre—for people to touch and learn more about them. On the beach, we helped identify creatures and taught people about beach biodiversity. 

This experience gave me a ‘taste’ of outreach and outdoor education. It was a fun challenge explaining topics and identifying species we don’t see every day in the aquarium. Curious people passing by allowed me to practice mini seaweed talks throughout the day.

We received a lot of questions about both traditional and common uses of seaweeds. Most people were surprised to learn almost all seaweeds in the Salish Sea are edible—although some may taste better than others! One man started munching on a blade of seaweed as soon as I said it was edible, which was pretty awesome!

  CRD Parks Marine Day at Witty's Lagoon Regional Park

CRD Parks Marine Day at Witty's Lagoon Regional Park

Learning more about Coast Salish First Nations has been a very rewarding experience. When I began this co-op work term and I mentioned to my supervisor I would love to learn more about Coast Salish cultures, she went ahead and gave me the freedom to do so with this side-project and I am very grateful.

In a biology degree, there is little opportunity to explore First Nations culture and traditions. However, it is important to recognize that First Nations culture is a key part of Canada and incorporating traditional ecological knowledge into our scientific knowledge gives us a more complete view of the natural world.

If you want to learn more about seaweeds come by the aquarium soon to touch and learn about some local seaweed species, or just come talk to me! I am always excited to share what I’ve learned about the weeds of the sea!

Update: Since Rachel's blog post was completed, she has hosted a drop-in touch and learn table with seaweeds collected from Sidney's Glass Beach and re-purposed some of those seaweed samples into specimens for our Microscope Monday feature. Seaweed is also cool when magnified!

My Salish Sea Summer Episode 2.0


Episode 2.0

The Centre runs school programs for children in kindergarten through grade 11; each program centered on concepts found in the BC school curriculum. These field trips disguise learning as fun (Shh, don’t tell the kids!) through hands-on activities and games. The school year has ended and I’d like to share with you a few things I realized while teaching students.

First, teaching is nothing like I expected it would be. There is no perfect recipe for the ideal lesson because the ingredients—the students—differ in so many ways. Every time I teach it is different and I’ve come to appreciate every group of students is unique. You have to be willing to adjust to meet their needs and keep everyone engaged. And I need to accept not everything will go exactly as planned and having a script just won’t work.

This was particularly evident during a Pacific herring dissection! We witnessed every possible reaction possible that day—from the class of 26 grade 6’s—with facial expressions ranging from delight to disgust. I saw:

  • Eyes wide
  • Eyes closed
  • Eyes covered with hands
  • Eyes peering through splayed fingers
  • Eyes looking down/away/at anything but the fish
  • Eyes looking closely through a magnifying glass at the fish body parts
  • Backs turned
  • Mouths agape
  • Mouths covered
  • Noses plugged
  • Noses heavily sniffing fish parts
  • Running from the room

This is especially true about teaching outside! We never know what we will find during a beach exploration (including strange garbage—spark plugs and a broken golf club!) and this keeps you on your toes. It also gives you an opportunity to inform the kids of some of the troubles our oceans are facing, like plastic pollution and garbage on the beach. It opens their eyes and may inspire them to help make things better.


We found a blood star...


...and lots of trash.

Secondly, since taking on this teaching role of educator I have a newfound respect for the teachers I had growing up. Teaching is all about multitasking! Not only must you maintain everyone's attention, but you also must teach the required material in a fun and captivating way, while sticking to a time schedule. I had these kids for an hour—school teachers manage this for an entire school day!

Finally, I have learned kids say some pretty amazing things! They speak their minds and have both the hardest questions and funniest responses. Kids often express exactly how they are feeling, especially if they are bored! They question things adults often accept as true. And above all else, kids say some pretty hilarious things. Often so ‘out there’ I’m not even sure how to respond.

During Adventures of a Crab, a program for preschoolers, I’ve had some entertaining conversations.

After I explained how crabs use their claws to eat, a young boy put his hand up.

Me: “Is this a question or a comment?”

Boy: “Question.”

Me: “Ok, go ahead.”

Boy: “When I eat crab I like to dunk it in lots and lots of butter!”


Me: “What do you guys think crabs eat?”

Girl: “Allergies?”

Me: “....Good guess, but no.” 

Overall, teaching is a blast! While there are definitely challenging days, there are many more enjoyable ones! I have learned about the teaching process, taught about sea creatures, and shared my love for the ocean with countless kids. As a marine biology student, there is nothing more fun than that!

My Salish Sea Summer—In the beginning...


My Salish Sea Summer:


In the beginning...

by Rachel Rickaby (photos and videos by Rachel Rickaby)

My name is Rachel and I am excited to be spending my summer as an Educator at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea! I am a 4th year Marine Biology Co-op student at the University of Victoria. The co-op program allows me to test out different biology-related jobs for 4 month intervals. This gives me the opportunity to explore an array of positions and gain experience before I graduate.

As a Summer Educator, I am responsible for a wide variety of tasks, but primarily I will be teaching visitors of all ages about the incredible biodiversity of the Salish Sea. This includes school groups, from kindergarten to grade 12, as well as presentations for the general public about our local species. Growing up I couldn't have imagined a job where I'd be presenting in front of large audiences. I've definitely been wary of public speaking! But here I am, taking the plunge (pun intended!).

I have often wondered what it would be like to work at an aquarium and I have not been disappointed! There is always something new to learn and exciting to see. I am proud to declare I discovered a mosshead warbonnet had laid eggs in our eelgrass exhibit! The warbonnet was camped out in an empty barnacle fanning the eggs with her tail, circulating water over them to keep the eggs healthy.

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Her eggs were then tended by our Aquarists. Eye spots appeared and the young fish began moving around in their eggs.


A few days later I witnessed the hatching of penpoint gunnel eggs! My favourite part of that experience was getting to share it with so many aquarium visitors. Throughout the day we watched with anticipation as each new egg hatched, each one dodging the hungry rockfish.

Babies that swam up near the surface were scooped up by an Aquarist and are now living in our animal care room. They will remain there until old enough to fend for themselves. If we are lucky, we may see some of the baby gunnels in our exhibits soon.

Within the first few weeks of working at the centre I already feel at home. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer holds; stay tuned for more about me and my Salish Sea Summer!