The QUBS – A Lesson in Diversity and Conservation

Thanks Danielle Ciren (a STRIVE Committee Member) for this excellent insight into QUBS.  

            On January 30th I had the opportunity to visit the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS). This was offered as a BIOL 202 field trip, just one of the many class trips made to QUBS each year.

            QUBS is truly a conservation mecca, located just one hour from Queen’s main campus. Upon our arrival we were ushered into the main building, which houses the dinning hall and kitchen. The look and feel of the place was distinctly similar to my memories of summer camp, from the wood covered walls to the cabins lining the roadway.

            QUBS was created in 1945, largely for returning war veterans. Its main goal then, as it remains now, was to teach students about wildlife biology, ecology, and conservation. During the summer months many field courses are offered, and most research is also conducted at this time. Undergraduates as well as graduate students can dedicate their entire summer to living and working at QUBS.

            The director himself, Steve Lougheed, is very passionate about QUBS and its future! While there he described his ambition to create a DNA database cataloguing the genetic sequence of a mitochondrial gene in every animal species on the property. DNA barcoding is one of the most powerful tools that conservation geneticists have, making it possible to identify a species of centipede with just one leg. Furthermore, the collection of specimens for DNA barcoding would be performed by BIOL 202 students themselves, starting with us!

            Our task for the day was to collect mud samples at the bottom of the lake. Three holes were cut in the ice, and students had a chance to operate an Ekman grab. This neat contraption is designed to be lowered to the bottom of the lake, where it can grab a sample of mud for further inspection. Back in the lab we sifted through buckets of mud for the creatures within. It was incredible to witness the diversity of life occurring in such an extreme environment. We made our best guesses as to the species found, and handed them off to our professors for future sequencing. 

            My trip to QUBS made me hopeful, yet cautious about the future of conservation. Large plots of land have been conserved thanks to the presence of QUBS, and research is continuously being conducted to determine how species are changing with their environment. Unfortunately, many of those very species will probably be extinct within our lifetime. One of the saddest moments of the trip occurred when Professor Loughheed described the large herbarium kept at the site, explaining that its value will grow as many of its catalogued species become extinct in years to come. 

Danielle Ciren | STRIVE Committee Member