In communities along the British Columbia and Nunavut coastlines, Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC) Youth Science Ambassadors are empowering students, teachers, leaders, and Elders to use high-tech ocean sensors and interpret the data to inform decision-making about their changing ocean.
In February, three of ONC’s newest Youth Science Ambassadors traveled to Victoria for two weeks of training at the start of their one-year terms (Figure 1). Launched in 2016, this program engages students, educators, and the public in coastal areas served by ONC’s community observatories (Figure 2). A key goal of this innovative program is to respectfully connect Indigenous knowledge, ONC data, and ocean science to help Canadians to #knowtheocean.
“This program is designed to engage the coming generation in ocean literacy and invite community members to engage in ocean science,” says Cody Tolmie, ONC’s new Indigenous community learning coordinator who supervises the Ambassadors (Figure 3). “We’re training youth from communities where ONC has observatories—and where we're planning to have observatories—to bring Indigenous knowledge and science together.”
“We created the program to support youth in their communities as mentors and facilitators of ocean science activities with other youth and community members, including active hunters, people on the land, and Elders,” says Maia Hoeberechts, ONC’s associate director of learning & community engagement (Figure 3). “They also bring voices from their communities to the work that we're doing at ONC. That includes Indigenous knowledge and scientific monitoring taking place in their territories.”
In addition to learning about ONC’s world-leading ocean monitoring infrastructure, data management, outreach, and educational activities, the Ambassadors received hands-on instruction in how to deploy ocean sensors and interpret the data (Figure 4). “We’re training them to read and interpret the data, so when the community has questions, they can explain what they're seeing under the waves,” says Hoeberechts.
“I love science!” says 21-year old Gibson Porter from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut (Figure 5). “I want to get as much information as I can about ocean science and bring it back home so that they know what opportunities are out there in the world.” In his spare time, Porter spends time hunting with Elders and listening to cultural stories of the past.
“I love being the Youth Science Ambassador for Prince Rupert because it lets me connect with the community, the youth, the teachers," says Taylor Reidlinger, who recently completed her undergraduate degree in marine biology from the University of Victoria. “Traditional research methods don’t always integrate the social and economic aspects that are important in community, so I love that this role helps me connect with people about what they want and need to know about the ocean. ONC helps bridge that gap so that people can be informed and make a positive change as we move forward.” (Figure 6).
“This program is going to help my community, it's going to notify them about the changes in our weather compared to last year—that's a big help to my community, the hunters and scientists too. The ice is a lot thinner every year and the berries take longer to ripen,” says Dennis Ongahak from Kugluktuk, Nunavut (Figure 7).
“I'm surprised every 15 minutes with these guys, there's always something new that they're teaching me,” says Tolmie (Figure 8). “We're doing a training week but I'm learning so much from them every single day. I've fallen in love with my job this week, there's so much to learn on both sides. They're so open and so ready to learn, and they're ready to teach too.”
Find out more about the Youth Science Ambassador Program.
If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Youth Science Ambassador, check out our current job opportunities. The job posting closes June 30, 2019.