Working with the K’ómoks Nation towards Q’waq’wala7owkw on their unceded territory.

Working with the K’ómoks Nation towards Q’waq’wala7owkw on their unceded territory.

NIC biology students helping with Project Watershed research

NIC students Matthew Orlowski (right) and Jaewon Kim collect samples at Goose Spit. Photo Credit: North Island College

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NIC biology students are getting a unique opportunity to help with an important forage fish research project, thanks to a partnership between NIC and Comox Valley Project Watershed.

Students have been helping with sampling for forage fish eggs on key shorelines throughout the region.

The research project is made possible thanks to funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation fund.

“There’s a huge knowledge gap with forage fish and their spawning areas,” said Jennifer Sutherst, project manager and estuary coordinator, Comox Valley Project Watershed Society. “Forage fish are a significant food source for a lot of different species, so it’s really important to get these data so we can better understand how they’re using this habitat.”

NIC instructor Georgie Harrison worked with Sutherst on setting up the project.

“One of the advantages we have at NIC is our connections to community organizations that provide these kinds of unique and wonderful opportunities for our students,” said Harrison. “Being able to do field work in your first and second year isn’t something you would get the chance to do at a big institution. And it’s very rewarding as an instructor to watch my students work in the field and apply their skills.”

Biology student Matthew Orlowski jumped at the chance to get involved with the project.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “It’s so hands on and it really gives a deeper understanding of it, being in the field and actually doing the work.”

Fellow student Jaewon Kim said being able to help out with important research has been a great experience.

“You can see the importance of the science their doing,” he said. “To be in the lab at school and doing experiments is great, but when you can do something that you know is making a difference, and you can see the difference – it’s quite rewarding.”

Orlowski and Kim are joined by Livia Hosegrove, Christian Synder, Angela Mitchell William Lu, Jasmin Urdahl, Mubarak Salim and Courtney Charnell. Along with being in the field to gather samples, students are helping with analyzing the samples and collecting data. Project Watershed has also been able to use NIC’s lab spaces to examine the samples.

“NIC has been integral to this project from the get-go,” said Sutherst.

Harrison notes that along with the field work, the other skills students get to practice are invaluable as well.

“They get to practice professional behaviour,” she said. “They’re working with biologists, learning how to work in a professional research environment. The team at Project Watershed has been fantastic about supporting our students and encouraging them, sharing details of their professional careers. It’s been a really positive relationship.”

NIC is offering a range of biology courses this fall, including Principles of Modern Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Cell Biology, and Principles of Ecology.

To see the full list of NIC’s science courses, visit For more information about this post contact  Elizabeth YoungMedia Liaison, North Island College.

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