Like many children growing up in B.C. in the ‘80s, I looked up to Rick Hansen, the man who travelled for two years around the world in a wheelchair. He showed us that this world is limitless; all you have to do is give it your best shot.

That’s the message he shared with us today, the first day of the 7th International Symposium on Sturgeon. I must admit, I was surprised to see him here at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo. I knew that he knew about accessibility and spinal cord research, but sturgeon? As it turns out, while he was waiting at the hospital for his newborn daughter, a conversation with another proud father led him to learn about this fish.

After sharing some inspirational and funny life stories, Rick wove into his talk his involvement with the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society, of which he is the founding chair. He drew parallels between his lifelong journey raising awareness for accessibility issues and spinal cord research, and the conservation of sturgeon, saying that both require leadership, cooperation and optimism.

It was a real thrill to hear him speak – now it’s time to shift gears as I get set to attend sessions put on by scientific experts in this field.

Karen Horak is a writer-editor at the Vancouver Aquarium. She is in Nanaimo to cover the 7th International Symposium on Sturgeon. Titled “Sturgeon, Science and Society – at the Crossroads: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century,” this conference, hosted by the World Sturgeon Conservation Society, is held every four years in cities around the world. Look for her blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets this week.

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