The GMWSRS operates year round but our facility in North Head, Grand Manan is seasonally used. I live on Grand Manan full time but my office is in my house. In most years, the Gaskin Museum of Marine Life opens around the beginning of June and closes on Thanksgiving in October. Our researchers are often not here until July and stay into September and occasionally October. The house is not insulated and only portable electric heaters provide any heat so it is not the warmest place in the winter.
Last year, the regular field season ran from July to mid-Sept., however, Dr. Koopman (Heather) and Dr. Westgate (Andrew), Skye, Arran and Nevis (their two dogs and a cat) spent ten days in the house in December while Heather was collecting lobster egg samples for lipid (fat) analysis in a pilot project she started to assess the fitness of female lobsters as measured by the amount of fat they deposit in their eggs. The egg cycle in lobsters is a two-year process with eggs carried internally for about a year and then externally on the tail for another year. The more fat in each egg, the more resources the larvae have during their development.
The earliest the house has been used by researchers was in 2001 when Dr. Ronconi (Rob) and Sarah Wong arrived to conduct nesting seabird surveys on the outer islands in the Grand Manan archipelago in April. They were greeted by a snow storm! Fortunately the snow didn't last.
While the house is small, it has a great kitchen where incredible meals are prepared. The bedrooms are also small and you can expect to be sharing. The living room and another room have been taken over as our public space where our museum and gift shop are located. The water supply has always been difficult, at first a dug well and now a drilled well, but is manageable if everyone is careful with their water use. Grand Manan does not have a municipal water supply and everyone relies on their own well for water.
We are located directly across from the ferry ticket office and are often the last stop for many visitors to the island. Many people lament that they would have stayed longer in our museum but had left it to the last before catching the ferry off the island.
Our researchers volunteer their time during the field season. To do this, they are either employed elsewhere or are graduate students. We also offer a couple of positions for interns or research assistants. We feel it is important to offer opportunities to up and coming marine biologists who may not have had the chance to work in the field. We provide as much training as necessary and take applications each year until the middle of March.
We are looking forward to an exciting summer with a number of continuing projects but at the moment everyone all our staff are elsewhere and busy with data analysis, teaching, etc., with the exception of myself. I am finishing a stewardship project where myself and two others have been going to local schools, fishing groups and other local community groups to present material about disentangling whales from fishing gear. I am also in charge of the right whale adoption program and send out packages to those wanting to support our work by symbolically adopting one or more right whales. You can check out our adoption website for more information: http://www.AdoptRightWhales.ca. I am also in charge of stocking our gift shop and have found some great new items for the summer.
Having lived on Grand Manan for many years now, it is interesting to see how many seabirds, seals and whales are here year round but of course the biggest challenge is the weather during the winter and observations are often limited to shore or from the ferry.