Field Expedition Itinerary

Day 1

On Day 1, we load up the charter bus and head to the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre. Today we focus on getting to know each other through introductory games. We will familiarize our students with their field station and natural surroundings by going on an exploratory nature scavenger hunt.


Before dark, we will flip rocks and check our minnow traps in a pond to look at amphibians!

We will end the evening with a campfire and discussions around nature, society and inspiring BIPOC scientists.

Day 2

On Day 2, we begin the day with a Coastal Ecology workshop, where students will learn about the biology of Nova Scotia's coasts and shallow waters.

After lunch, we will commence with a Flora of Nova Scotia workshop, where students will work with a botanist to learn about and ID various types of plants.

We finish off the evening by diving into Scientific Illustration and Nature Movie Night!

Day 3

On Day 3, our morning activity will be an Ornithology and Bird ID workshop. Students will have the opportunity to learn about bird identification through sight and song. 

In the afternoon, we will have our Microbes are Everywhere! workshop where students will examine the diversity of microbes in their coastal environment.

We finish the evening with an interactive discussion about sustainability and the environment.

Day 4

Before heading home on the bus, we take an opportunity to enjoy nature on a hike in the nearby Thomas Raddal Provincial Park, where students can use their newly developed ID skills to examine the birds, plants, bugs, and amphibians around us.

Stoney River

Coastal Ecosystems

This workshop will introduce students to coastal ecosystems, led by marine biologist Suchinta Arif. We will start by exploring a neighbouring sandy beach ecosystem. These ecosystems are constantly being altered by the forces of the wind and the sea and can change drastically over the course of the season. We will notice several shorebirds run back and forth between the breaking waves on the beach in search of food, as well as the marram grass on the dunes, holding the sand in place with its dense network of roots. Students will learn about how these plants and animals have adapted to sandy beach ecosystems, as well as their interactions with other organisms and their physical environment.

Next, we will walk to a nearby coastal cove ecosystem. Here, students will discover how the calmer waters of the cove attract a higher diversity of fish, birds, and marine plants. Specifically, the intertidal zone is an important habitat for many species as well as the region where nutrients are exchanged between the land and sea. In groups, our students conduct an experiment to determine which part of the intertidal zone is the most diverse and why.

We will finish our workshop by highlighting why coastal ecosystems are important and list the many ecosystem services they prodive to humans. We will also highlight some of the conservation challenges facing sandy beaches, coves, and other coastal ecosystems throughout NS.

White Flowers

Flora of Nova Scotia

This workshop will introduce students to the flora (plants) of Nova Scotia and will be led by plant biologist Georgia Denbigh. Together, we will learn about different types of plants, including ferns, mosses, gymnosperms and flowering plants. We will also highlight the distribution, habitat, ecology and value of key native plant species, some of which can only be found here in Nova Scotia! 

Once students become familiarized with the flora around them, they will develop their plant ID skills by using a dichotomous plant key to identify plants by species. A dichotomous plant key is an important tool used by ecologists to identify plants. It lets the user answer a series of questions (each having two options) about the plant they are trying to identify. Students will also be given their own plant ID guide to help them with their identifications.

We hope that this workshop will build appreciation for the beauty and intricacy of the plants around us and empower students to discover them in their own neighbourhoods (using their very own plant ID guide)!

Image by Peter Lewis

Ornithology and Bird ID

Led by Melanie Massey, students will walk through trails on-site and learn to identify birds by song and sight. We will provide binoculars and bird ID guides, and walk students through using guides to identify birds, and discuss how different behaviours, habitats, and flight patterns can also help with bird identification. We'll also talk about bird markings, and use our field notebooks to scribble down observations about birds to help with identification later. We'll finish with a group scavenger hunt where students try to find one bird from each major taxonomic category in Nova Scotia!


Microbes are Everywhere!

Here’s a question for you: how small can a living, moving, reproducing creature be? The answer may surprise you. Microbes are found everywhere on earth - from polar ice caps, the driest deserts, the deepest seas, to your own backyard! There, they play crucial parts in ecological systems by fulfilling a broad host of roles. Aside from breaking down dead organic matter, some can photosynthesize to provide us with oxygen, just like plant matter. Others can break down chemicals in the absence of sunlight to produce energy. In this workshop, we will be taking a trip into the unseen world contained in a single drop of pond water. 


We will collect our samples and identify the living beings within. Together, we will practice preparing wet mounts with our samples, utilizing microscopes, and characterizing various classes of microbial critters!  Students can look forward to meeting dancing euglena, gentle Tardigrades, and drifting cyanobacterial strands.

©2020 by Melanie Massey, Suchinta Arif, and Catalina Albury

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