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Tales from the tide pool
By Natasha Ewing
Growing up in the East Kootenays, my playgrounds were the Rocky Mountains, alpine lakes and fields of wildflowers in the summer. I have always felt at home in nature and was more comfortable climbing trees, exploring the backcountry and snowboarding down steep, snow covered slopes than being a “city-slicker.”
Although I have always loved – and will always have a special place in my heart for the mountains and rugged outdoors of BC’s interior – I became absolutely and utterly enthralled with the ocean the first time I came to the West Coast. To this day, that passion has only grown deeper.
My first vivid memory around the coast was flipping rocks on Sidney Island and watching the little shore crabs scurrying away. My cousins and I became masters at catching the little crustaceans and trying to have them race over the uneven terrain, which soon proved to be a futile game.
Being comfortable on the shore soon grew to wanting to explore beneath the waves; to be face to face with animals and experience breathing underwater. My first SCUBA diving opportunity came in Costa Rica during spring break – practicing in the pool for an hour gave me the “credentials" to see a world unknown to many. Slowly swimming with a tank on my back, I was in complete awe; I felt a million miles away from anything I had ever known, yet felt completely calm and at home in the water. Maybe I truly was a water baby, or better yet, a sea goddess.
Immediately after coming home from spring break, I enrolled in a PADI SCUBA diving course to gain my open water certification. However, I was still living in the interior and my exciting Costa Rica dives quickly turned into an exploration of a murky, lily-pad infested lake.
As my passion for the ocean continued to grow and I became increasingly aware of ocean threats, I began to wonder what difference I could make. I applied to the University of Victoria and made my way west to continue my education in biology and ocean sciences. Throughout my degree I was fortunate to experience some wonderful courses, including a full semester at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC). For four months at BMSC I explored the beaches, went snorkelling in the giant tide pool, conducted my own research, met experts in their field and never read a textbook. What better way to understand the complex mysteries of the ocean than through hands-on experiential learning?
While many people love the research and discovery side of science (or being locked away in the lab), I found my second passion in outreach and education – I enjoy sharing my knowledge, teaching others and inspiring the public to think differently about the ocean we are surrounded by.
If you were an astronaut up in space, staring back at planet Earth, you might think it had been misnamed and should really be called planet Blue, as the ocean covers more than 70 per cent of the planet and is home to 80 per cent of life. This beautiful ecosystem in our backyards not only provides the world food, resources, a means for transportation and a spiritual connection, but the ocean influences the climate, provides us with 50 per cent of the oxygen we breath and is the basis of our livelihood.
The oceans are changing and changing fast – there are no ifs ands or buts about it. However, as coastal dwellers we have the opportunity to learn about this precious ecosystem and share our knowledge to protect this valuable resource. With only five per cent of ocean truly explored, there is much to discover – and boy am I excited!
Over the next several months I will share my passion for the shoreline and introduce you to species you can find in Oak Bay, mysteries of the ocean and hope to increase your ocean literacy.
Combining her passions for education and the marine ecosystem Natasha Ewing inspires K-12 teachers and students to incorporate hands-on experiential ocean science into the classroom for Ocean Networks Canada.