Aquarium visitors include Carson, Emily and Anthony Cartlidge along with Cameron Cormack (rear). After-school programming of Under the Microscope is intended to attract curious kids. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

WATCH: Port Alberni gets up close and personal with sea life

Gift of microscope takes Alberni Aquarium visitors into hidden world



Living, breathing aquatic life — a tiny world largely invisible to the unaided eye — comes into sharp focus at Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre thanks to a donation from a regular visitor.

Through the lens of a handheld digital microscope hooked up to a video monitor, visitors can peer into the pulsating tentacles of an anemone, gain a closer understanding of the intricate internal workings of a turban snail or discover the hidden beauty of an anenome.

“It was a gift from a local family,” said Jenny Fortin, aquarium co-ordinator. “They came in and said, ‘We want to give back to the aquarium because we’ve been regular visitors.’ ”

The Celetron scope wasn’t an expensive acquisition — they retail for about $200-$300 — but for a non-profit facility such as the aquarium the device is priceless in terms of educational potential. Revealing new worlds can be an effective way of inspiring young minds and providing a closer understanding for all.

“We like to inspire people, open their eyes to what’s out there,” Fortin said.

Port Alberni is a maritime community, but there are still a lot of people who don’t have a close connection to the ocean, she added.

“We want to share our knowledge and let them know what’s out there.”

Elaine Gray, the donor, regularly brings her grandchildren Lilly and Annabelle to the facility. When Gray asked about a wish list, the aquarium suggested the microscope. Part of the idea is to attract more visitors out of curiosity, particularly midweek when Fortin would like to see more through the door. That’s why the aquarium holds Under the Microscope, a free demonstration of the scope each Wednesday, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

The more visitors, the more likely the aquarium, which opened only two years ago, can remain operating.

“We want to keep the doors open,” Fortin said.

Jim Wright, an aquarium volunteer, demonstrates the device, using it to probe animal behaviour for all to see.

“It’s not a powerful microscope,” Wright explained. “You can see most of what it sees if you look closely.”

But you would need powerful vision to pick up the same level of detail magnified on the screen. Plus, Wright’s interpretation rounds out the educational experience, particularly for children who may be experiencing a microscopic world for the first time.

“I see it every day, little kids’ eyes opening up,” Fortin said. “I love the diversity we can cater to.”

“I think it’s a great way to educate people,” said Richard Knighton, aquarium interpreter.

The aquarium is run by the West Coast Aquatic Stewardship Association, a group dedicated to habitat restoration, species enhancement, protection, education and stewardship.

Just Posted

Former Port Alberni hockey player heads to Harvard

Maryna MacDonald will be playing for the Harvard Crimson next fall

Finalists named for Alberni Valley Community Excellence Awards

Chamber of Commerce has named almost 40 finalists

Fun had by all at the Rock and Gem Show

Alberni Valley Rock and Gem Club hosts largest event so far

Young Nuu-chah-nulth boy remembered by his big, beautiful smile

A six-year-old boy died in a Port Alberni home on March 13

Huu-ay-aht mother reunited with newborn daughter after court case

Mother and child will reside in Port Alberni with supervision and support

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

LETTERS: Two views of oil pipeline protests

U.S. and other petroleum-rich countries aren’t cutting production

Canadian Paralympic team picked up record 28 medals

The 55 athletes strong had set a cautious goal of 17 medals for PyeongChang

Most Read