Youth Science Ambassador

Youth Science Ambassador Program: Connecting youth with their local ocean environment, ocean data, and place-based Indigenous knowledge

 

Program Overview

The Youth Science Ambassador Program is an innovative initiative of Ocean Networks Canada (ONC). The program connects youth from local communities with world-leading ocean science from ONC’s observatories and the place-based Indigenous knowledge of the ocean that exists within their region. Involving both rural and urban Indigenous communities, this Program is all about engaging and inspiring the next generation of ocean scientists, marine resource managers, and environmental stewards by exploring connections between their local marine environment and the global ocean.

The program is facilitated by local youth in a variety of communities along coastal British Columbia and in the Canadian Arctic. The Program is adapted to meet the needs and interests of each community. Hands-on learning activities and research projects are co-developed with key community educators and knowledge holders, emphasising a focus on the place-based Indigenous Knowledge held within their territory. The Youth Science Ambassadors work to connect students and classes with ONC data (from local community observatories) and Indigenous Knowledge through the development of enquiry projects relevant to their local ocean environment. These enquiry based projects are developed surrounding the interests of students and priorities identified by the communities. Although the projects vary greatly depending on the community, they all have a common ocean thread: making local observations, global connections.

 

The Youth Science Ambassadors & Communities

There are currently seven YSA positions: three in Nunavut (supported by Polar Knowledge Canada) and four in British Columbia (supported by NSERC PromoScience and Canada Foundation for Innovation):

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
    - Mia Otokiak: April 2016 – May 2017
    - Pearlie-Mae Howard: November 2017 – January 2018
    - position to be filled



Kugluktuk, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
    - position to be filled

Gjoa Haven, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
    - position to be filled

Port Alberni, BC – Nuu-chah-nulth Territory
    - position to be filled

Campbell River, BC –Kwakwaka'wakw / Coast Salish Territory
    - position to be filled

Victoria, BC – Coast Salish Territory 
    - Cathryn Hale: May 2017 - April 2018
    - position to be filled


North Coast, BC – Ts’msyen Territory
    - Eden Atkinson-Bruce: June 2017 - April 2018
    - position to be filled

 

The Youth Science Ambassador Program

The Youth Science Ambassador program supports collaboration with Indigenous communities and schools by facilitating ONC’s education program, Ocean Sense, encouraging participation in ocean data collection and analysis, and fostering interest in ocean sciences. 

Today, there is growing recognition of the impact of human settlements on the state of the global ocean. It is a goal of the Youth Science Ambassador program to promote ocean literacy and citizen science as a bridge to address the knowledge gap and to recruit a new generation of Canadian youth, especially girls and Indigenous youth, into marine science. 

By hiring a local youth (recent high school graduate) to deliver these education programs a stronger partnership is developed between ONC and the local communities. The programs and resources developed are then able to be created with a strong local focus and the inclusion of place-based Indigenous content. The Youth Science Ambassadors also support community collaboration in decision-making for instrument deployment locations and identify ways in which ONC can help to address any areas of concern raised by the community.

 

Current Community & Place-based Projects

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
Snow monitoring program: in collaboration with Kiilinik High School, the Cambridge Bay YSA leads a snow depth measurement program with the grades 8 and 9 classes. Snow depth accumulation and recent snowfall depths are monitored and recorded with the help of local high school students.


 

Kugluktuk, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
    Project to be developed.

 

Gjoa Haven, Nunavut – Inuit Territory
    Project to be developed.

 

Port Alberni, BC – Nuu-chah-nulth Territory
  Project to be developed.

 

Campbell River, BC –Kwakwaka'wakw / Coast Salish Territory
Project to be developed.

 

Victoria, British Columbia – Coast Salish Territory 
Working with Arbutus Global Middle School, Victoria based YSA is leading a school science club where students will explore ocean data and knowledge through inquiry based projects. Together with help from the YSA this club is developing a science fair type project based on local underwater information from Ocean Networks Canada’s observatories and sensors. Students are investigating the changes in local ocean conditions using oceanographic instruments in the Salish Sea on the VENUS Observatory.

 

North Coast, British Columbia – Ts’msyen Territory
Working with Ocean Networks Canada’s North Coast based YSA, students at the 'Na Aksa Gyilak'yoo School (Kitsumkalum) are exploring ocean data from the Prince Rupert - Ts’msyen Territory Community Observatory and Ts’msyen knowledge of the ocean to develop a science fair type project related to the impacts of climate change within Kitsumkalum Territory.

 

YSA Program Alumni & Testimonials

Mia Otokiak

As ONC’s first Youth Science Ambassador, Mia Otokiak (April 2016–May 2017) successfully furthered ONC’s community, youth, and educational engagement in the Cambridge Bay region. In her words: “Because of Ocean Networks Canada I’ve learned so many fascinating things about the Ocean, which I had always wanted to learn about but never had the chance to, until now. To make it even better, I’ve passed all this information down to students of the same schools that I went to, the same schools that I graduated from. […] I can guarantee that ONC was a huge reason I have been able to get my current job with the Nunavut Impact Review Board, whose mandate is to protect and promote the existing and future well-being of the residents and communities of the Nunavut Settlement Area. […] ONC has been a huge stepping stone in my career of science and I am truly grateful to have been a part of the team.”
Mia, an Inuk from Cambridge Bay, has now gone on to a full-time job in science, working for the Nunavut Impact Review Board. As part of her work as YSA with ONC, she led a youth, community-based monitoring program with the students of Kiilinik High School to collect snow data to help in scientific modelling of ice conditions.

 

Cathryn Hale

Cathryn Hale was ONC’s first YSA for the Victoria area. In this role, she worked to develop relationships with local First Nations and schools to encourage youth to pursue careers in science. By introducing students to careers and resources that they may not have heard of before she hopes to spark an interest that will carry through to adulthood and benefit their communities. During the school year she visited schools to give presentations and deliver hands-on activities. During the summer she organized and ran day camp activities with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and Esquimalt First Nations. Cathryn also helped out with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) project the Learning and Engagement Team ran in partnership with local schools. Cathryn also spearheaded ONC’s work with Arbutus Global Middle School, assisting students with their ocean related inquiry projects and videos they prepared to showcase at the Ocean Science Symposium in May 2018. 

Cathryn is Ahousaht from the Sam family. She was born in Port Alberni, BC, but grew up mostly in Chetwynd, BC. She worked in forestry, mining, and studied forest science before deciding to pursue her true interests - oceanography! While she enjoyed the landscape and the dramatic seasonal changes of the northern interior, she always missed the ocean and chose UVic for its role in ocean research and its proximity to her nuučaan̓uɫ roots. She is currently about two and a half years into her undergraduate degree with a combined major in Physics and Ocean Science. 

Cathryn gets mildly annoyed when people say she is a marine biologist. While she can tell you about hydrophone recordings of whale calls and ONC’s research to monitor noise pollution and its effect on whales, she cannot tell you anymore about their biology than you get from a book.

 

Eden Atkinson-Bruce

Eden Atkinson-Bruce is from Terrace, B.C, she grew up hiking in the mountains, fishing in the Skeena River, and wandering the woods. Immediately after high school, Eden attended a local community college and then university, pursuing an Integrated Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science. Among other things, she is also pursuing a Small Engine Repair diploma, through a distance education institute.

From May 2017 to April 2018, Eden was the enthusiastic North Coast of BC Youth Science Ambassador. Eden worked closely with the Kitsumkalum First Nation’s 'Na Aksa Gyilak'yoo School to develop inquiry based projects surrounding the effects of climate change on Ts’msyen Territory. Students used ONC’s data from the Prince Rupert - Ts’msyen Territory Community Observatory to make observations about their local ocean environment. The students also worked with local knowledge holders and elders to learn about how Kitsumkalum Territory waters and lands are being altered because of climate change. The students from one of the classes even wrote a song about climate change within their territory.