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Belgian exchange students tackle problematic plastic from B.C. shellfish farms

Wouter Jansen and Maxime Boufflette are taking applied studies program at NIC’s Campbell River campus
NIC exchange students from Belgium, Maxime Boufflette (centre) and Wouter Jansen (right), with supervisor Logan Zeinert (left) are studying the degradation of plastics used on oyster farms on Vancouver Island. Submitted photo

A pair of Belgian exchange students are trying to help B.C. shellfish farms take a greener approach.

As part of an applied studies program at North Island College, Wouter Jansen and Maxime Boufflette are looking into how plastic equipment used in shellfish farming deteriorates, with the hopes they can suggest new, environmentally friendly and financially feasible equipment.

Logan Zeinert, Senior Research Technician with NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation, has been supervising and supporting Jansen and Boufflette in their project.

“The research they are doing with shellfish farming hasn’t been done before,” said Zeinert. “Shellfish farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the effects their gear may have on the marine environment and are working to mitigate these impacts.”

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Since arriving in Campbell River in February, Jansen and Boufflette have been learning about new research methodologies and Canadian culture.

“We have learned a lot about ourselves, since it really is an adventure that we are here,” said Boufflette. “We also have taken the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety training as part of our studies here, which is focused on the history and current situation for the Indigenous peoples of Canada. That’s an opportunity we would not have had in Belgium.”

Jansen and Boufflette are the first students to come from the University College of Leuven-Limburg on exchange to NIC, and they are the first Belgian exchange students to work with CARTI on a research project. They hope, however, that they will not be the last.

“It really has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, especially as we have scholarships from our home college that have helped us to be here. It’s been exciting to be the first students to come here from our home university,” said Boufflette.

Jansen and Boufflette have been inspired by their work at NIC and they hope to continue in the field when they return home in June.

“Belgium is known for growing mussels and for the shrimp industry of the North Sea,” explained Jansen. “There is a company near my hometown who is developing biodegradable fishing equipment. I’d be excited to be a part of that work in the future.”

Jansen and Boufflette welcome the opportunity to connect with anyone interested in their work and can be reached through the CARTI website, where their research findings will also be shared:

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