UVic student becomes superhero for slugs
SAANICH -- A large owl is sitting up on a tree branch, reigning over Mystic Vale. The bird looks down on the forested ravine next to the University of Victoria. "Who?" it seems to be asking. "Who is walking in my woods?"
I find Holly on one of the paths near the owl. I ask if she saw the bird up in the trees. The student says she didn't. "I tend to look at the ground," Holly says with a smile. "So I don’t step on anything."
Holly is a superhero of sorts. "I'm rescuing banana slugs," she says. "From being stepped on on the trail."
The 18 year old embarks on her mission after a rainfall. "It's easier for them to slide around when the ground gets wet," she explains.
Before the slugs can slide toward unsuspecting danger, Holly swoops in, checks that they are uninjured, and gently places them on the other side of the trail.
Holly's countless powers include super-appreciation of slug appearance ("They're almost elegant"), super-knowledge of slime trivia ("It can absorb 100 times its weight in water"), and super-vision against slug imposters ("It’s a banana peel. Not a banana slug!").
Like all heroes, Holly has an origin story. She recalls rescuing her first slug when she was four or five. "I named him Peter and put him on my arm," she recalls with a smile. "I carried him around the park for about an hour!"
Since then, Holly says she's saved hundreds of slugs from harm. While I focus the video camera on her successful rescues, Holly explains all the important roles that slugs play in an ecosystem.
When she finds one that has been injured, she takes the slug to the creek, and dips her hand in the water. Holly gently rehydrates the slug with a fingertip of water. It's here she demonstrated her greatest power of all – empathy.
"He has no way to defend himself if he gets stepped on because he has no shell," she says quietly, caring for the slug. "And they can't run really quickly to get away when someone's coming."
While slugs are not faster than a speeding bullet, Holly's compassion is more powerful than a locomotive. While she can't leap tall buildings with a single bound, Holly does leap a short fern towards a single leaf, where she returns the rehabilitated slug to safety.
She hopes that others will follow in her careful footsteps, and realize you don't need a cape to be a hero. "Watch where you're going," she proclaims with smile. " Slugs are cool!"