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Our Technology & Marine Conservation program took place in Halifax and Wofville, Nova Scotia, on July 29th – 30th. We welcomed 8 girls aged 12 – 16 to spend 2 days and 1 night learning about endangered marine animals and the technologies being used to conserve them.
We started off at the Ocean Tracking Network headquarters at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where we learned about the management and conservation of several species of Pacific salmon, and used real salmon data to look at their movement patterns. We then headed into the Dalhousie glider bay to see two different slocum glider models used in collecting oceanographic data like water temperature, salinity (the saltiness of the water), dissolved oxygen, and abundance of microorganisms. We finished up our morning by touring the University’s Aquatron facility, Canada’s largest university aquatic research facility. In this space, we got to take turns piloting the Ocean Tracking Network’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) around the 684,050 litre research tank.
In the afternoon, we drove into the Annapolis Valley to Acadia University’s Biology department, where we began by touring the department’s wildlife museum and impressive collection of hundreds of species of preserved animals! We then welcomed four women in science from Vemco/Innovasea, the world leader in the design and manufacture of acoustic telemetry equipment used by researchers worldwide to study behaviour and migration patterns of a wide variety of aquatic animals from salmon smolts to great white sharks. These scientists taught us about acoustic telemetry (the use of computerized tags to track the fine-scale movement patterns of aquatic animals) and showed us demonstrations of their different technologies, including the tags and receivers we’d see in the field the next day. After the technical part of this workshop, each of our featured scientists presented about their careers paths and educational backgrounds, which ranged from math to biology to electrical engineering.
For the evening part of our program, we worked in teams of two to build mini lego drone kits, which we then practiced flying with somewhat limited success! We realized that we had to problem-solve the interference that was happening between multiple remotes, and figured out what distance was safe to independently operate our mini drones. That night, we slept in residence at Acadia and woke up early the next morning to drive to the Cogmagun River in Centre Burlington.
At the river, we assisted a group of female biologists from Acadia’s Coastal Ecology Lab (CEL) with their conservation research project on endangered American eels (Anguilla rostrata). Our girls went out on the Porter family’s fishing boat at high tide and learned how to set and haul the eel traps. First, girls were given a description of the type of river habitat that eels like: lots of structure (grass, rocks), and a slow current. Our participants then had to pick their own spot on the river and set their eel trap into the water. After throwing their trap and buoy in and letting it soak for about an hour, girls returned to their sites and picked up their original traps. If there was an eel inside (we caught 2 total!), our girls got to promptly help measure and hold the eel, which was then brought back to shore for a minor surgery. In order to calm the eel before the surgery, in which an acoustic tag is inserted into its abdomen to track its movements in the river, the eel is first sedated in a diluted bath of clove oil. Our participants got to watch the CEL Biologists insert the AAA-battery sized tag into the eel, and then stitch it back up. After the sedative wore off, the eel was released back into the Cogmagun River to live and share its movement patterns with us.
We finished up this program with a group photo of our amazing participants and volunteers. Our girls got to meet and interact with 13 women in science during this program, and we would be remiss to not thank them for their time and effort. Massive thanks go to: Gabby Deveau and Sam Renshaw from the Ocean Tracking Network, Stephanie Smedbol, Colleen Burliuk, Ainsley Hilliard and Gillian Astle from Vemco/Innovasea, and Liza Tsitrin, Jesse Lilly, Danni Harper, Linsday Carroll, Erica Porter, and Kelsey Crouse from Acadia’s Coastal Ecology Lab. Our sincere thanks also go Porter Family Fishing and filmographer Jerry Lockett of Seahorse Productions, and last but certainly not least, our incredibly generous sponsors, the WISEatlantic Partnerships Program grant and Vemco/Innovasea. Thank you to all who contributed!
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This program will be offered next in July 2020.