This Acadia University course is taught entirely on Bon Portage Island (BP), off the south tip of Nova Scotia. 

Shown at left is the south end of Bon Portage Island, including the historic lighthouse.

(Photo by Ingrid Pollet)

(photo by Carolyn Marshall)
1.  Prerequisites

If you are an Acadia student, you will preferably have taken Organisms and their Environment I (BIOL 1113); any other ecology you have taken will help.  If you are from a different university, equivalent course backgrounds are recommended.  In either case, permission will likely be granted for biology students who love the outdoors and have a reasonable academic record.  You should also be in GOOD physical condition because there's a lot of walking, often on cobble beaches and through dense forest.

2.  Course description

The official text you are REQUIRED to bring is a field guide to your favourite organisms (e.g, algae, seashore invertebrates, plants, insects, birds, mammals); these organisms can be the focus of your major project (see below).  Browse the nature section of any bookstore, or surf the web to find what you want.  The Peterson field guide series is a good standard against which to measure the quality of guide you should acquire.

You are also REQUIRED to bring a dissecting kit.  See the packing list.

The course gives you hands-on, outdoor experience with plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates in marine pelagic, intertidal, brackish, and terrestrial habitats. 

In brief, the coordinating instructor introduces you to the Island and its facilities.  In consultation with the coordinating instructor, you will design and carry out a scientific investigation that you will run whenever you have free time during the 2 weeks.  After the first 2 days, a different instructor comes on the Island around supper time, and often gives a talk the first night to introduce their topic.  Part of the next day is spent in contact with the instructor's favourite organisms.  After that, you usually do some sort of project outdoors.  The next instructor appears after 2 days, until you have had a total of 5 modules.  You will be evaluated based on projects, reports, presentations, enthusiasm of your participation, and whatever else the instructors decide.  Some additional reference materials may be made available.

(Photos by Catherine Percy, Lauren Barbieri, Bernard Glover, & Adele Mullie) 
Well-behaved students are permitted to "grub" petrels from their burrows

(photos  by Heather Barton, Rodger Evans, Matt Phinney, and Lauren Barbieri)

Professor Shutler is often there to enhance the learning experience.

Doing things aquatic with Dr. Dadswell.

(photos  by Mairi Chadwick)

3.  Dates

See above; note that you are responsible for getting lunch the day you head down; you'll be boated to the island at 1230 on Saturday. 

  Even this late in the year, a swim is quite invigorating, based on testimonials provided by the Bahamian (above) and Canadian (below).


 (photo by Jo-Leigh MacPhee)
4.  Registration

The course has been moved from summer to the September semester; this results in substantial savings in tuition, but means you won't see your mark until December.  The base cost per student is now $890 (down from $1279 for Canadians and $2108 for non-Canadians) to cover meals, accommodation, and boat transportation.  Once you have received approval from the coordinating instructor to be in the course, you must pay in full by 15 June. 

If you are already an Acadia student, you will need to provide Lisa Taul (902-585-1334; with the necessary information to register.  If you are not an Acadia student, you may be evil, and you will need to contact the Admissions Office to acquire a student number; once you have that, contact Lisa to register.  Non-Acadia students must also provide proof of extended medical coverage (e.g., Blue Cross, Great West Life, etc.) to cover emergency ambulance services, prescription drugs, and if possible, medical evacuation costs.

Non-Acadia students follow the same procedures as Acadia students, but will also need to have an official transcript sent, and a "Letter of Permission" so that credit for the course will be transferred back to their home institution (costs for transcripts and Letters of Permission vary by institution).  Finally, so that there is somewhere to record your mark from the course, you need to apply to Acadia University (an additional $25).

Students who withdraw from the course before 9 August will forfeit $75 of their fees; withdrawals after this date will forfeit all fees.

Maximum enrollment is 20 students, on a first come, first served basis for students in Atlantic Canada, following which vacancies may be filled by students from other geographic areas.

Final course grades will be submitted to the Registrar's office as soon as possible following completion of the course.  Grades will not be available to students until December.


5.  Contacts (Department of Biology, Acadia University, Wolfville, NS, B4P 2R6)
Lisa Taul

6.  The setting

Look forward to your stay at Acadia University's Richardson Field Station in Biology on Bon Portage Island (Outer Island on some maps).  Students are responsible for their own transportation to Shag Harbour; you become University responsibility once you board any of our boats.  Because parking is limited and also for ecological reasons, car-pools are your best option, followed by being dropped off.  Meet at the Prospect Point Wharf (there's another wharf that ain't the right one) in Shag Harbour at 12:30 on the appointed departure date.

The Island has a fully equipped kitchen and dining area.  Meals are usually prepared by a cook (they usually can handle some food sensitivities), and you need only bring the snacks & beverages to which you are addicted.  You will share after-meal cleanup responsibilities with your colleagues.

If someone needs to contact you, they should call the Biology Department (902-585-1334) to obtain the Station Manager's phone number; the latter number will be provided to all students in advance of the course.

7.  Medical and psychological preparations
The Field Station has First Aid kits and staff trained in First Aid, good communication links with the mainland & the Coast Guard & fishing vessels, and an arrangement with a medical clinic in nearby Barrington Passage.  However, medical attention is not as handy as it is on the mainland, so if possible, have a medical and dental check-up before the course. 

Psychologically, be prepared to stay on the Island for an extra day or two if the weather is rough.  Be prepared to live in close quarters with your colleagues, and be able to stay cheerful for extended periods when you are outdoors, even when it's 2 degrees, raining, and windy.  It would be even better if you could stay cheerful if you haven't eaten for days and the nearest washroom is a grove of trees.  The former hasn't happened, but the latter is a frequent occurrence.  Finally, fresh water is not in tremendous supply on BP; be psyched for pit toilets and infrequent showers.  Regardless, be prepared to have some working fun.
(photos by Chris Mueller
 & Matt Hazel)
Packing checklist
Bon Portage Island
Bon Portage Research
Other field courses in Atlantic Canada


Updated  Nov '16