by Carolyn Prentice (Univ. British Columbia undergraduate at ZEN Vancouver, British Columbia Site)
My experience working on the ZEN project in Dr. Mary O’Connor’s lab this past summer was simply fantastic. It was great to have a summer job that I was really passionate about; anytime anyone asked me what I was doing for the summer, they were in for more than just a one-sentence answer! It was also great to share the experience with many other passionate biologists; we had an amazing group of workers and volunteers. Even when it was rainy and windy and our hands were numb, we knew we were lucky to be doing what we were doing! I am grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity, especially as an undergraduate and working on the ZEN project has certainly inspired me to continue studying the fascinating communities that inhabit Zostera marina beds. I am also excited to see the results of the ZEN projects from all of the different sites!
A typical day for the crew at the ZEN B.C. site:
1. Pile into the U.B.C. Zoology van with equipment and keen volunteers.
2. Arrive at the field site, put on (leaky) chest waders and sun hats or rain jackets (typically the latter).
3. Head down the 300 or so stairs to the beach, pass all of the locals getting their daily exercise and wearing ‘what are you guys up to’ looks on their faces.
4. Head out onto the mud flats, try not to stop moving or risk getting stuck in the really sticky mud.
5. Go about whatever task we had set out to do that day. Meanwhile, enjoy the beautiful scenery – the nearby Gulf Islands, the B.C. Ferries sailing across the Straight of Georgia, and hundreds of foraging herons.
6. Walk back up the 300 or so stairs (great exercise!)
7. Empty the leaky waders.
8. Go to Tim Horton’s to get iced caps or hot chocolates (typically the latter) before heading back to U.B.C.
9. Go home feeling like the luckiest people in the world!