University of Victoria geographer Maycira Costa demonstrates how ‘citizen scientists’ will take photos of the Strait of Georgia as part of a project that will measure the health of the Salish Sea.

BC Ferries become floating labs, classrooms in summer programs

BC Ferries passengers will be able to engage in some research and higher learning as they make their crossings this summer.

BC Ferries passengers traveling between Vancouver Island and the Mainland will be able to engage in some research and higher learning as they make their crossings this summer.

The University of Victoria has announced its launch of a research project, which will see ‘citizen scientists’ gathering data about the Straight of Georgia during BCF crossings; and BC Ferries has announced the 11th season of its Coastal Naturalists program, delivered in partnership with Parks Canada.

UVic’s educational odyssey takes place on the Queen of Oak Bay’s Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay crossings.

Beginning July 1 passengers on select sailings are using a table app to collect images of the sea and sky, which will be used to document the colour of the water, and its health – the greener the water the more productive and healthy it is.

“This type of crowdsourcing is very useful to scientists,” says UVic geographer and FOCOS (ferry ocean colour observation system) project lead Maycira Costa.

“The data collected from the tablets will be compared to the data scientists are gathering with precision instruments installed on the ferry and with satellites.”

If the citizen science data from this project can be validated, the program will be expanded to tablets used on fishing boats in the Salish Sea.

Throughout the summer, the passenger data will be analyzed by UVic geography, computer science, math and statistics students to see if good matches can be obtained.

If you’re not a frequent passenger aboard the Queen of Oak Bay, but want to learn more about water colour and ocean health, try out the HydroColor App which is available for download from iTunes and GooglePlay.

The Coast Naturalists program runs until Sept. 5 on select sailings of Swartz Bay – Tsawwassen and Departure Bay – Horseshoe Bay runs.

“Nine enthusiastic Coastal Naturalists will engage with customers during 20-minute presentations on the ships offering a real life coastal experience,” says a BCF’s Corrine Storey, vice president of customer services.

“The program helps raise awareness about B.C.’s coast and increase appreciation for its wildlife, marine life, geography, culture and history.”

Approximately 150,000 passengers participate in these presentations each season.

“Parks Canada is pleased to work with BC Ferries to offer this outstanding program. With the chance to spot a pod of splashing orca, discover the secrets of an ancient clam garden, and learn about the culture and history of the people and region,” said Helen Davies, Parks Canada superintendent for Coastal BC.

The Coastal Naturalist schedule can be found at



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