Archive for April 18th, 2009


As I’ve gone through the Beam Reach program, I’ve subconsciously looked for the one thread weaving each part of the experience together. As redundant as it seems, the truest thread I’ve found is connection.

The first time I consciously thought about connections during the program was while listening to Paul Coltrell during our first day at the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) Transboundary Naturalist Workshop. He was acting as a representative of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and explaining the steps that the Canadian government had taken to protect killer whales. Something about his explanation made me consider, more fully, the difference between transient killer whales, those who prey on mammals and move in quieter and less stable social groups and resident killer whales, those who prey on fish and move in highly communicative and stable social groups.

Those first few connections sinking into place at the workshop.

Those first few connections sinking into place at the workshop.

It was the first day I truly felt my brain had gone into “Whale Zone,” the name I’ve given to the state of being I find myself in when questioning whales and research. One of things we learned during two days of an incredibly steep learning curve was that residents and transients very rarely associate. They have slight morphological differences, different behaviors, and different sources of food. How can two populations be so similar and also so different?

In my opinion, the difference between the residents and the transients is the demonstration of something geologists call ‘actualism.’ It’s the idea that everything that is happening now has already occurred somewhere in the world. It’s a great way to study things that happened millions of years ago because you can look at something happening now and say that it is happening the same way it would’ve then. In my mind, we are seeing the actualism of speciation, a connection between species forever cemented in time, originating from the one point.

Not all connections I’ve found at Beam Reach are so scientific in nature. Most of them are as personal as can be. Each of us has found different personal connections, friends, family, or strangers who know people we know, who can contribute to our research, whose experiences connect to each one of us in a comforting and strange way.

Jason was trying to explain the name of the street he lives on, a vernacular word for someone ferocious. He couldn’t think of the word jargon and so instead, used the French word ‘patois.’ He didn’t notice he had used it but I was thrilled to hear it. That one word prompted a new connection, a realization that there was someone here who spoke French. I asked him how he learned his French and he explained a bit. We had been talking for a few moments before we realized that we were still speaking French and that no one else in the room could understand a word.

Jason and Val, who bring their own unique connections

Jason and Val, who bring their own unique connections

The more I look back, the more I think about the connections weaving through all parts of this course, not just through me but through my family, my school or my friends. My dad did an independent study for Val in college on wood waste. The bike I’ve been riding here was brought to me by a complete stranger, transferring an act of kindness he once received and then safeguarded by Scott, prior to my arrival.

I am infinitely grateful to be reminded of the depth of connection between everything in our world. What could be more appropriate to be reminded of in a program about the survival of a population and the changes necessary to make our society sustainable.

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