After working with Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) in Cambridge Bay, 20-year old Mia Otokiak has landed an exciting job to help protect Nunavut communities.
When ONC installed a community observatory in Cambridge Bay in 2012, fifteen-year-old Mia Otokiak was inspired to get involved and learn about the ocean that surrounds her tiny hamlet. Five years later (Figure 1), she is fulfilling her dream of pursuing a science career, and helping other young people do the same.
“I was first introduced to ONC when I was taking Grade 10 Biology,” says Mia. “Some ONC staff came to our class and asked us if we wanted to see an underwater observatory being installed. I had always wanted to be a marine biologist so I was interested right away. I wanted to learn more, to see Cambridge Bay from a different point of view, and that’s exactly what ONC helped me to do (Figure 2).”
In 2016, ONC launched a new program to engage students, educators and the public in coastal areas served by ONC’s community observatories. Mia applied for the job and became ONC’s first Youth Science Ambassador (2016-17) facilitating program activities in her hometown. A key goal of this innovative program is to respectfully connect Indigenous knowledge, ONC data, and ocean science to help Canadians to #knowtheocean.
“Last year, I was involved with bringing students down to the Cambridge Bay dock to show them the most up-to-date underwater observatory and getting more students interested in ocean science, just like ONC did for me (Figure 3).”
“Because of ONC, 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.”
During her year-long tenure as Arctic Youth Science Ambassador, Mia participated in classroom presentations, student mentoring, community events in her home town and two Ocean Science Symposia in Victoria, British Columbia. She also led a snow-monitoring program as part of the ONC-led POLAR Knowledge Canada research project Safe Passage, which aims to improve our understanding of sea-ice processes, especially those critical to Arctic transportation (Figure 4).
In August 2017, Mia represented both ONC and the Cambridge Bay community when the historic Canada Coast-to-Coast-to-Coast expedition made a memorable stop in the tiny Nunavut hamlet (Figure 5). In September, Mia helped ONC host an Open House event in Cambridge Bay to help recruit a new Arctic Youth Science Ambassador.
Mia was recently hired as a Junior Technical Advisor at the Nunavut Impact Review Board, an institute of public government whose primary objective is to protect and promote the existing and future well-being of the residents and communities of the Nunavut Settlement Area.
“I can guarantee that ONC was a huge reason I have been able to get my current job with the Nunavut Impact Review Board,” say Mia. “ONC has been a huge stepping stone in my science career, and I am truly grateful to have been a part of the team (Figure 6).”
ONC’s Youth Science Ambassador program has now expanded to include five regional one-year positions⎯in Nunavut (Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, and Gjoa Haven) and British Columbia coastal regions (Greater Victoria and the north coast) for 2017-18. Find out more about the current openings for Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven Youth Science Ambassador positions, open until the end of September 2017.
“With the help of the Youth Science Ambassador program, ONC has succeeded in doubling its engagement of K-12 students over the last year. This is creating opportunities for Indigenous youth⎯who are underrepresented in the science and technology fields⎯to participate in hands-on ocean science-related activities and to explore how science is relevant to them and their communities,” says Maia Hoeberechts, ONC Associate Director, User Services.
We wish Mia Otokiak all the best in her future endeavours!