Citizen Science

The citizen science program occurs throughout the months of May and June, and are available to grade 5 classes and other interested groups.  The program is offered to grade 5 classes from SD68 free of charge as all fees are covered by the school district.

2020 registration is not yet available. If you have any questions about registration please contact the Community School Coordinator, Basia Henoch (


NS3 and VIU’s Citizen Science Project

Citizen science, the involvement of the general public in scientific inquiry, has increased the scope of biology projects by organizing volunteers to collect data and participate in long-term scientific studies.

In the fall of 2014, the NS3 collaborated with researchers at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and piloted a Citizen Science intertidal sampling program that monitors the dynamics of an introduced bivalve species Nuttallia ocscurata in the intertidal at Departure Bay Beach.

Due to the success of the pilot project, the Citizen Science Project will now continue as a long-term study involving not only staff and volunteers from VIU and NS3, but also junior scientists from grade 5 classes within Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools.



What to expect

Each class will be on Departure Bay Beach for one hour, during which they will learn about the alien species lurking in our waters – the varnish clam! Students are split into groups, with each group in charge of collecting data by digging 10-15cm below the sand and collecting any bivalves they find along the way. The bivalves are then measured, identified, recorded and then put back.

The students are also able to spend time at the Education Tent, where they will explore the diversity of seaweed and intertidal species under microscopes and test their bivalve identification knowledge.






Curriculum Connections

As part of NS3’s Citizen Science project students will:

  • Make observations and predictions
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Observe, measure and record data using appropriate tools
  • Identify patterns and connections in data
  • Identify social, ethical, and environmental implications of their findings


SD68 Grade 5 Teachers and Volunteers

NS3 is currently signing up grade 5 classes to participate in our spring 2019 citizen science sampling days. Please see our Citizen Science Flyer for more information on how to sign up your grade 5 class.

We have additional resources available such as a sampling game to familiarize your students with scientific protocol they will be using on their research day, and information about the differences between introduced, invasive, and native species. 

NS3 is currently looking for volunteers for citizen science research days in May and June 2019. Please click here to learn more and contact us if you are interested.

Keep scrolling down to learn more about Varnish Clams!!

 Varnish Clams Nuttallia obscurata

Commonly known as the Varnish Clam, Nuttallia obscurata, is an introduced species originally from Korea, China and Southern Japan that is suspected to have been introduced into the Pacific coastal waters via ballast water from ships. Varnish clams are mainly found in the upper one-third of the tidal zone, although it can also be found in the middle and lower tidal zones along the west coast from Oregon up to British Columbia.

First observed in B.C. waters in the early 1990’s, they can now be found in abundance with numbers of reaching up to 800 individuals per square meter. Varnish clams have a shiny brown oval-shaped shell with a purple interior. The exterior tends to darken as it transitions from a juvenile to an adult. It is a burrowing species that can live fairly deep, down to about 30cm, in a substrate. Most commonly it is found in sand or gravel type substrates.

During the early spring to fall spawning season, females have been observed to have between 40 000 and 6 000 000 eggs depending on location and water temperatures. Predators of the Varnish clam include raccoons, various crab species, Lewis Moonsnails, Glacous-winged gulls and northwestern crows.

Even though it is considered an invasive species, it appears to co-exist with several other species such as the little-neck clams. Although Varnish clams provide an additional food source for predators and it is commercially fished, it is not very popular with humans.

Adapted from: History of Nuttallia obscurata by Jeraldine Marshall
To view entire paper, click here.

Varnish Clams


Varnish clam (right) with hole drilled by Moonsnail

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