Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Coastal Adventures

Last week the Biology Department at Dalhousie University hosted a conference for the Association of Biology Laboratory Educators (ABLE). We had 3 days of workshops (Wed - Fri). The workshops are for teachers to showcase exactly what they do with students for a particular topic. The participants do exactly what the students would do in the laboratory, then we have time to ask questions, discuss the logistics details and of course go over the assignment and student evaluation. I gave the Forest Ecology workshop which is the field trip to Point Pleasant Park that I do every Fall with my class that I posted about here. We had 20 "students" in each of the morning and afternoon sessions of the workshop and everyone had a blast rummaging around the forest plots. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos. I did have my camera but got sidetracked identifying plants and chatting about the exercise.
Saturday was excursion day for the conference participants and I was fortunate enough to lead the Peggy's Cove and Sea Kayaking trip. There were 39 people on our little excursion and our first stop was a hike to Polly Cove (pictured above). We had 1.5 hours to explore the coastal barrens, named so because of the obvious lack of trees due to the very harsh winter conditions and very shallow acidic soil. I obsessed about the carnivorous pitcher plants before and I will do it again here...but only a little. They bloom for a few months and at this time of year the flowers are fresh and colourful.
Here is a field of them!
We also saw another carnivorous plant called Sun Dew. The do look like little suns with dew on them! See the red "flames" ringing the yellow centre? Click on the photo, you will see them better.
They are like a little (the size of your fingernail) Venus fly trap with what looks like water droplets on the tip of each hair. The droplets are actually sticky and and trap any unsuspecting insect the scurries over or lands on them. I would have never know about these if it hadn't been for some botanists in our group! I love hiking with Biologists! :)
We also saw two species of tiny pink orchids. This one is called Grass Pink (it's leaves are grass like) or Calopogon tuberosus. The other was the Dragon's Mouth Arethusa bulbosa. They are both bog orchids and are quite small, maybe the size of a loonie (our 1 dollar coin for you non Canadians).
Image from
We actually have 39 orchid species in Nova Scotia. I just planted the Pink Lady Slipper or Moccasin Flower in our backyard a month ago! I hope the 3 of them will survive and thrive!
Image from Vickie Emms at

After we headed into Peggy's Cove. Don't get me wrong, this place is beautiful but it is now crawling with tourists. I much prefer the quaintness of it 10 years ago when I first arrived.
You know you are with a group of Biologists when...I asked the group what they would prefer, shopping in the quaint stores and art gallery OR checking out the algae and tidepools. There was a unanimous roar of "ALGAE" from the group. So we only spent an hour here checking out the lighthouse and eating lunch...the bathrooms were really popular! :)
My favorite view of Peggy's Cove...Its intertidal zone, which is where we went next. We spent 1.5 hours splashing around the tidepools along a nice long stretch of intertidal (not pictured above) before heading off to do some sea kayaking.
The weather had been overcast but warm until we arrived to our kayaks. The the wind picked up and the temperature dropped about 5 degrees. It was hard paddling against the wind and waves. We were battling whitecaps at some points! Another participant and I got to help out in a rescue! One fellow capsized and we aided the guides to try to get him back to shore. It was an adventure! He was cold and lost his glasses but unhurt. It will make a great story! :)

All in all we had a great day and the conference was a success! Now I have to get back to focusing on my thesis. I have 1/2 of Chapter 3 submitted for approval and comments and Chapter 2 is taking shape!

Have a great Wednesday!


  1. it does sound like an adventure!
    We always thought the little venus fly traps were cool growing up- there are lots, perhaps due to the barrens down home. :)

  2. This sounds absolutely amazing and a great way to spend a few days. Every time I visit your blog I wish I would have pursued my original interest in marine biology! The pictures are great and its always nice to learn about new species, so I appreciate your posting them. Good luck on the thesis!

  3. Hi there,

    I went to Peggy's cove a few years ago when I travelled Canada. It really is a beautiful place. I came across your blog as I searched for images of Peggy's cove, as I couldn't quite remember what the lighthouse looked like.
    I am now writing a book about my adventures in this beautiful country and I am currently writing about Peggy's cove. You have some fantastic looking photos on your blog, I'm sure I'll be back!