Julia Simmerling ’15 fills us in on what an average day is like at the Cedar Coast Field Station and tells us how Quest prepared her for life after university.
Tell us a bit about the Cedar Coast Field Station.
Cedar Coast Field Station is an independent, not-for-profit organization created by Quest Alum Simon Nessman ‘17. Our mission is to preserve ecological health through place-based research and education that celebrates the cultural and biological diversity of Clayoquot Sound. It’s a perfect place to host students, researchers, and artists that are drawn to the West Coast and are keen to learn from the local ecology.
What does an average day look like for you?
As station coordinator, each day is different, similar to the weather. It often starts with coffee and emails, then a meeting of some sort, and by mid-afternoon I tend to drift outside either to go on a walk to a nearby beach, work in the garden, snorkel at low tide, or stack firewood. When school groups are visiting, I am hosting, and in the spring, I take part in our weekly juvenile salmon monitoring project.
CCFS is open to a broad spectrum of disciplines. Tell us a bit about your offerings.
Similar to Quest, Cedar Coast provides an interdisciplinary learning environment. This in turn attracts a variety of station users. Local youth attend our summer camps, grade school classes come for field trips, university students have been employed as summer students, and the local community has gathered here for retreats and adult workshops.
If someone wants to get involved with CCFS, how can they do so?
The best way to get in touch is to email us at email@example.com. We are always open to receiving volunteer applications and are looking to host Quest students wishing to conduct research associated with their Keystone projects, or fulfil their Experiential Learning credit. Our website, cedarcoastfieldstation.org is also a great resource for those interested in learning more about who we are and what we do.
You must see all sorts of wonderful wildlife. Any amazing stories to share?
Working on Vargas Island and sharing this place with the local wildlife is definitely one my favourite parts about living on the coast. Waking up to eagle calls, hearing the wolves howl across the Sound, or watching grey whales swim in the bioluminescence are absolute gifts!
Was your Question (at Quest) related to what you’re up to now? If so, explain.
My question, “What makes a thriving coastal community?” is a common thought of mine, even three years post-graduation. During my concentration years, I focused my studies on ocean conservation, marine resource management, and the benefits of small scale community projects. This job, running an ecological field station, feels like the real-life version of my degree.
In what ways did Quest prepare you for life after university?
Experiences at Quest created opportunities to meet future employers. I think Experiential Learning Blocks are super valuable for that reason. A Tutor helped me find a volunteer opportunity that I was completely passionate about, and I immediately become connected to the people in my field of study.
If you could offer your first-year-Quest-student-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Take a course that has the most scary/incredible/life-changing reputation of all. There are people to support you. You will surprise yourself. You will push through. You are smart enough.
Thanks, Julia…anything else you’d like to add?
There are currently five Quest alumni working for CCFS, and three of us live on-site. Instead of having your friends live down the hallway of North Village, we have tiny cabins, share a garden, collect rainwater and eat communal dinners together. I find it remarkable how we’ve come together post-Quest and are each contributing to this huge endeavour, a project that has grown far past a single Keystone.