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Seaside Station.

The U's turn-of-the-20th-century Seaside Station on the British Columbia coast.

Seaside Station

Recalling the U's Canadian outpost

M, fall 2006

In 1900, Josephine Tilden was canoeing along an uninhabited stretch of British Columbia coastline. She had graduated from the University five years before and, as a member of the botany faculty, she was the U's first woman scientist. Along that shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, she found an abundance of algae--her specialty--and saw the chance for some original research.

Somehow she convinced a local family to donate the land adjoining the shore. And using a great deal of her own money, she made arrangements to build a biological research station known as Minnesota Seaside Station--the University's only Canadian outpost and a stunning example of the excitement that surrounded the field of botany at the beginning of the 20th century.

Every summer from 1901 to 1906, between 25 and 30 professors and students journeyed to the research station by train. They worked hard--spending long hours collecting and studying specimens and attending noon and evening lectures--and they amused themselves with decidedly turn-of-the-century pastimes like dances, plays, and storytelling.

Even though the head of the department, famed botanist Conway MacMillan, called the Seaside Station "...a most important adjunct of the department," the Board of Regents was uncomfortable about maintaining a research station in Canadian territory, and it was closed in May 1907. Tilden went on to become a world-class algae expert and never lost the adventurous spirit that founded the Seaside Station. As she finished her long academic career in 1935, she sailed with 10 grad students to explore the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, still searching for uncatalogued specimens.