In 2021, 160 young people (ages 18-30) formed Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program, a national team engaged for eleven months in co-creating and delivering ocean and waterway service projects for their home communities. Ocean Wise Direct Action is exciting immersive program for in-depth learning and youth engagement with oceanic and aquatic conservation efforts across Canada. This national service-learning program will connect Canadian youth and young professionals with experts in marine and aquatic conservation organizations, empowering them with experiences in direct marine and aquatic conservation initiatives, adventurous opportunities for fieldwork, professional research projects, and educational and outreach programs. 
Skylar is a Direct Action Ambassador interested in educating the public on the importance of wildlife conservation and environmental issues. She recently completed a three month placement at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre, working alongside the education coordinator and gaining skills to use for future opportunities.  
The Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre is a registered charity whose goal is to protect and conserve Ontario’s native turtles and the habitat in which they live. They accomplish this by operating a turtle hospital that treats, rehabilitates, and releases injured turtles, by performing extensive research in the field to further conservation initiatives, and by running a comprehensive education and outreach program. 
 

What if I told you that all eight species of Ontario’s turtles are listed as species at risk due to habitat loss and road mortality. Surprising, isn’t it? Ontario has lost 75% of wetlands due to human development. This has had a major impact on our turtle populations, which also has in turn impacted our remaining wetlands as they cannot function without turtles.  

This is a photograph I captured of one of the many patients (Midland Painted turtle) at OTCC. He was hit by a car and suffered a fractured carapace

This is a photograph I captured of one of the many patients (Midland Painted turtle) at OTCC. He was hit by a car and suffered a fractured carapace

 

For the past 12 weeks I have been working alongside the amazing staff at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC), located in Peterborough, Ontario. Here at OTCC we take in thousands of turtles every year. Many of these turtles have been hit by cars, boats, or have been kidnapped from the wild. Did you know it is illegal in Ontario to take any native species from the wild without a permit? Unfortunately, this happens all of the time because people think they can take wild turtles in as pets. Throughout this placement, I have been working alongside Wendy, the Education Coordinator, educating the public on the importance of turtles, the different species, and how we can continue to conserve turtle populations and their habitats.  

These are three of our 10 education ambassador turtles, Mappy the Northern Map turtle, Shellbie the Midland Painted turtle and Andrea the Blanding's turtle

These are three of our 10 education ambassador turtles, Mappy the Northern Map turtle, Shellbie the Midland Painted turtle, and Andrea the Blanding’s turtle

 

Every day at the centre is different, whether it’s guiding tours, cleaning turtle tanks, preparing social media posts, building furniture, or brainstorming ideas for future events. It’s all enjoyable and impactful. These tasks are all essential for keeping the centre up and running and could not be done without the support of the community and volunteers. With every experience, I knew I was making a difference, and I knew I was a part of something that was making a positive impact for turtle conservation. As an individual who has studied environmental science and conservation, being at the OTCC was such a life changing experience. Releasing turtles back into the wild was a feeling that made my heart full and gave me hope for the future.  

The Education Coordinator, Wendy, can answer any question you can think of about turtles. Wendy inspired and taught me everything I know about turtles so I can continue to educate friends, family, and the public. Learning how to promote tours and bring awareness via social media are one of the many skills I can now add to my resume and use for future career opportunities.  

The OTCC runs a very successful hatchling program, this little snapping turtle was emerging from his egg during a private tour

The OTCC runs a very successful hatchling program, this little snapping turtle was emerging from his egg during a private tour

 

This would not have been possible had I not applied for Ocean Bridge Direct Action. I joined this program because I wanted to be involved in my community, and support local organizations that cared about conservation as much as I do. I knew that with any experience and opportunity I was given, it was going to be exceptional and there are no words to describe how amazing the OTCC truly is. This experience has definitely taught me to never be afraid to try something new, and to not be afraid to take chances and get involved in something you are truly passionate about. I want to thank everyone who made this possible as it is an experience I will never forget and cherish forever. I plan to continue to be involved with the OTCC and look forward to what the future brings.  

 

 

What is Ocean Bridge?
Ocean Bridge brings together young Canadians with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who are passionate about making a difference in their communities through the lens of oceans and waterway conservation. These Ocean Bridge Ambassadors from all across Canada work together, receive funding and learn from experts in marine conservation and education through an online platform and in-person learning journeys to develop service projects related to ocean health and ocean literacy in communities across the country. Ocean Bridge is an Ocean Wise initiative funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps.

Ocean Bridge Direct Action is an exciting immersive program for in-depth learning and youth engagement with oceanic and aquatic conservation efforts across Canada. This national service-learning program will connect Canadian youth and young professionals with experts in marine and aquatic conservation organizations, empowering them with experiences in direct marine and aquatic conservation initiatives, adventurous opportunities for fieldwork, professional research projects, and educational and outreach programs.

Canada Service Corps
Canada Service Corps is designed to generate a culture of service among young Canadians; concrete results for communities; personal growth through participation in a diverse team of peers; and lasting impacts on participants. Visit www.canada.ca/CanadaServiceCorps to learn more and how to get involved in the way that works best for you.

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