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Marine station to be tourist draw

Deep Bay Marine Field Station Director Don Tillapaugh welcomes the public to an open house March 30. - NEWS FILE PHOTO
Deep Bay Marine Field Station Director Don Tillapaugh welcomes the public to an open house March 30.
— image credit: NEWS FILE PHOTO

BRENDA GOUGH

News Contributor

It's a bit off the beaten path but once you visit the Deep Bay Marine Field Station, an off-campus research facility of Vancouver Island University's Centre for Shellfish Research you'll be pleasantly surprised at what is inside.

Although the primary goal of the station overlooking Baynes Sound is research, the facility serves as an excellent tourist attraction and this year is a venue for some of the activities scheduled for the Brant Wildlife Festival in March.

The purpose of the facility which opened in 2011 is to find sustainable ways to farm shellfish, and to help re-energize B.C.'s coastal aquaculture industry. It also supports First Nations shellfish aquaculture businesses through training and mentoring and is actively promoting local tourism.

Clustering scientific, environmental, economic and public engagement programming into one facility the station serves as a model of how various coastal and marine activities can co-exist harmoniously.

The state-of-the-art facility has a unique design and with stunning ocean views and a commercial kitchen it is fast becoming a popular wedding venue.

It is also one of the greenest buildings in Canada and was awarded Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

The visionaries behind the field station were hoping the public would embrace the centre and so far that objective has been successful.

Manager Brian Kingzett said their visitor numbers continue to increase and by partnering with other organizations including the Nature Trust of BC which is coordinating the Brant Wildlife Festival they are meeting their goal of turning the facility into a public attraction.

"We have been doing more community events because we want to engage the community.  We want to let them see the science we are doing and give people a good experience," Kingzett explained.

As part of the Brant Festival the facility will be open to the public on March 30 and Kingzett said with the addition of some new exhibits the free open house event from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. is sure to be a great addition to the Brant Festival line-up.

"Our open houses have been successful in the past.  We have four touch tanks now and two 800 gallon aquariums showing local species from Baynes Sound," he pointed out.

He said the giant fish tanks with 1600 gallons of sea water are quite impressive and they have been well received by those who have been out to the station.

By using the facility for more than just educational purposes VIU has helped Deep Bay become a tourist destination and that has boosted the local economy.

VIU's Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island is making use of the teaching kitchen at the field station to develop students' skills.

Some of the programs being offered to the public include culinary seafood seminars to promote learning experiences for all ages and community outreach.

Other programs range from one hour tours on the vessel MV Chetlo to research based sleep-overs that focus on marine conservation and sustainability.

On March 16 during the Brant Festival the public can book a herring spawn boat tour on the Chetlo.

VIU staff and bird expert Dr. Rob Butler are hosting a two hour marine birding tour of Baynes Sound.

The waterway plays host to large numbers of local and migrating seabirds and the Chetlo is a spacious and stable vessel to observe this annual event from.

You must pre-register for the tour, there is one at 9 a.m. and one at 1 p.m. and the cost is $100.

Other Brant Festival events at the station include a presentation by Dr. Rob Butler into the clever minds of crows on March 16 at 7 p.m.

Blue Notes a film by Peter Mieras is being screened on March 20 at 7 p.m.

To register for the boat tour contact Robin Rivers at 1-866-288-7878 ext 226 or email rrivers@naturetrust.bc.ca

The field station is located at 370 Crome Point Road in Deep Bay.

For information on programs and tours visit www.viu.ca/csr or phone 250-740-6398.

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