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NWCC students get first-hand look at biodiversity of North Coast

PRINCE RUPERT Northwest Community College (NWCC) students in an Ichthyology class, studying the biology of fish, took advantage of springtime weather for an exciting field trip earlier this month to explore fishing areas within traditional Gitgaat territory, southeast of Prince Rupert. The Applied Coastal Ecology (ACE) students had the opportunity to engage in some interesting field research to learn more about marine fish diversity in the area and the importance of varied habitat types. To his knowledge, instructor Chris Picard says the area had never been explored in this way. "I am not aware of any other fisheries work being completed at our study sites, so ours was likely the first look at fish diversity there." said Picard, adding the group found a wide array of species using the eelgrass and beach habitats. "This field trip gave the students an opportunity to become familiar with some of the biodiversity the North Coast has to offer," Picard added. "The sites were heavily used by juvenile pink and chum salmon, as well as a variety of other interesting and unique species, such as pipefish and tubesnoutboth closely related to the more familiar seahorses in tropical seas. Numerous adult and juvenile flounder, along with several other species were also observed, suggesting the area is important for supporting fish biodiversity. Undoubtedly, had we more time, even more would have been learned and discovered." Picard says it took a team effort to pull off the trip successfully. The support of the Gitgaat Guardians was paramount to the overall success of the project. The Guardians, which form part of the Hartley Bay Bands Land & Marine Resource Department, supported the class's permit application to BC Parks, required to complete research in the area. Extending the hospitality of the Gitgaat, the Guardians also provided the use of their guardian cabin, boat transportation and use of equipment. Picard and the students put in a lot of work, and Prince Rupert Campus Principal Wendy Prystay also worked diligently to ensure all the administrative and permitting requirements were successfully and efficiently addressed. The Gitxaala Nation also supported the BC Parks permit application. NWCC is a valuable community asset, impacting the lives of students and our communities. Through its nine campuses, 500-plus employees and an annual injection of over $30 million into the local economy, NWCC is an economic engine supporting the many communities that look to us to provide innovative programs and services.

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