By Justin Lisaingo, Vancouver Aquarium biologist and diver
After a couple excellent boat dives, it was time for our community outreach event at the Elders Palace. We returned from the boat dives, placed our animals in our holding facility, and had to burn through dinner to prepare for our big night. We set up a slideshow of Danny’s exceptional photos, a table with some light snacks, and a table with some animals with ice packs to keep them cold. I had been looking forward to meeting the members of the community since we first arrived, but felt some trepidation — not wanting to make a fool of myself. After all, the Aquarium has an education department that excels at this kind of thing, but I felt a bit outside my comfort zone.
The event had been shared on Facebook and evidently word had spread through town effectively seeing as there was a steady stream of people coming in even before we were scheduled to open and right up until we were closing down. There was a diverse group of over 100 people; many from Cambridge Bay, and some out of town researchers, elders, adults, and kids. Oh, how cute the kids were. They were engaged from the moment they saw the strange animals on the table. Most of the kids had never seen a sea star or marine worm up close and were flabbergasted at the diversity of colours and shapes in their own backyard. In summer, the bravest of the youngsters jump off the docks into the frigid waters, but they certainly don’t linger long enough to explore the depths under their flailing feet.
I think it went well. It was absolute chaos trying to split your attention between ten different people, while making sure the water was staying clear and cold for the animals and that they were being handled properly, but it was a lot of fun. You could see in their eyes, the growing glow of enthusiasm, and it was pretty special to be a part of that. Most out of town researchers arrive into town, frantically collect their data, and then leave in a plume of dust off the tarmac. Fair enough, it is very expensive to ship yourself up here, so you have a responsibility to make the absolute most out of every second. But, we heard from several people that they really appreciated that we took the time to give back to the community. Reciprocity is the key to a healthy relationship.
Once the clean up after the hurricane of activity was done, we rushed back home to eat a late but glorious dinner of frozen pizza, filled the SCUBA tanks, processed the day’s dive photos, and entered taxonomy data into our dive logs. I guess we must have stumbled into bed at some point too. We do have a responsibility to make the most of our time up here as well.
With global temperatures on the rise, we’re racing against time to gain insight about one of the least scientifically understood regions on the planet: the Arctic. This month, scientists from Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre head north to expand upon innovative Arctic research projects started in 2015, in collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), the federal agency responsible for advancing Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic and for strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology. This blog series chronicles our scientists’ time and research efforts in the Arctic.