As the month of August comes to a close, so too does my time as the Student Marine Educator/Land-based Outreach Coordinator for Cetus. All I can think is that I wish I had more time!
The tasks of this position included doing dock talks – visiting marinas across southern Vancouver Island to talk to private boaters about marine conservation and the Be Whale Wise guidelines; attending marine-related events with our outreach and education materials to talk about Cetus’ programs; and distributing Be Whale Wise posters and brochures from Sooke to Sidney to Cowichan Bay. I spoke to over 500 people at marinas and distributed brochures to over 100 locations. I set up our table at a SIMRES (Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society) event on Saturna Island, the Nanaimo Marine Festival and Bathtub Races, the MEC Big Wild Challenge at East Sooke Regional Park, and at the Fairfield Thrifty Foods to encourage people to become Smile Card members.
Leah made sure I also got to spend some time collecting data on the Straitwatch South boat. Even though my time on the boat almost earned me the nickname “Rain Bearer” (the only times it rained in Victoria all summer were the times that I was on the boat) I loved every second of it! I even got to spend a few days at our camp up north and a day working up on the cliff (Eagle Eye) monitoring whale and boater activity in and around Robson Bight Ecological Reserve.
My summer was filled with great conversations and lots of enthusiasm and concern for cetaceans from the overwhelming majority of the people I talked to. I have never had an experience when doing conservation outreach and education where people were so quick to give positive feedback, be thankful for our work, and seem motivated to make a difference. Often, in this field, it seems impossible to influence people to care and take action on such important issues, so these positive experiences were very refreshing and motivating! It was lots of fun chatting with children about baleen and humpback whale lice. I loved getting people to guess what species our second, smaller skull was (a Leatherback sea turtle). It was great seeing people light up when I told them about identification methods for different cetacean species, or seeing their concern when talking about the conservation challenges that we face with our marine environments.
Basically, my job was awesome.
I leave Cetus with an increased understanding of the importance of the conservation concerns that it focuses on and a feeling that I have helped many others to better recognize this as well. Witnessing incidents where boaters did not follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines and doing research on derelict fishing gear has reinforced this understanding. These experiences also highlighted both the breadth and scale of destruction and disturbance that our oceans face. I also have rediscovered my faith in education as an indispensable aspect of the solutions to this conservation mess.
The educational components of Cetus prove daily to be imperative to its goals. As a preventative strategy, outreach and education can help ensure BCs children learn to care about our marine environments and grow up to be stewards. Educating boaters on-shore helps to prevent incidents on the water before they happen. Given that infractions of the Be Whale Wise guidelines, derelict fishing gear, and increasing traffic and boat noise remain pertinent issues off of Vancouver Islands’ coasts, Cetus’ programs continue to play a pivotal role in the protection of many threatened species.