When things go wrong

By Sam Andrews


So you’ve been asked to do a public talk on a particular topic by an organization on something you think is quite exciting.  Being very excited about the opportunity to do a spot of science engagement, you jump at the chance!  You spend many hours researching the most up-to-date scientific knowledge on the topic, and many more putting together this information in an easy-to-understand format.  You put together ‘eye-candy’ – photos, videos, and props – to help your audience visualise the issues at hand, and make sure that you have permission to use anything that might be copyrighted.  The talk is promoted around the organization.  You’re excited – they’re excited! The night comes around and… turnout is low.  

Very low.

Image Credit: ThinkMoncur/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)


This is a situation that happened to me a few years ago when I was asked to give a talk about marine litter and pollution to a small environmental group.  Disappointing doesn’t really cut it.  I felt rejected, and that all that time I had spent preparing, wasted.  I could count the number of people who turned up with only my two hands… Including myself…and the organiser. I quickly came to the conclusion I had 3 choices:

  1. Call the talk off.  But some people HAD turned up – what about them?  Just because your audience is small doesn’t mean you don’t have something to share.  For me, this was not really an option.
  2. Give the talk in full.  The set-up for these talk events was to speak for around 45 minutes and then have a Q&A session.   With such a small group, the Q&A session would probably have been very short (even though was accompanied by tea/coffee and cake!).  This was definitely an option.
  3. Change the format completely.  Don’t give a talk – lead a discussion.  I knew my stuff (I had researched it fully for the talk after all) and many of the slide could be used to illustrate concepts that were brought up and help facilitate further discussion, but I had never done anything like this before – and I had no idea what would happen if I did.

I decided to take a risk and go for the third option – lead a discussion.  I started off by explaining to the audience that due to the low turnout I wanted to try a discussion instead.  They seemed keen on the idea so in I leapt.  To help keep things relaxed, we grabbed our tea, coffee, and cake and all introduced ourselves.  I used my ‘title slide’, which held an image of a piece of artwork which I used to start off the discussion.  You may very well recognise it.  Artist Bonnie Monteleone recreated Katsushika Hokusai’s famous painting “The Great Wave of Kanagawa”- in plastic.

It turned out that the art was a great place to start the discussion off.  I explained what the art was about, and then moved into an overview of marine litter and pollution.  Immediately the small audience was alive with questions – and I was able to use some of the slides from my original presentation to help answer them – and create more discussion points (hurrah! My work on the presentation wasn’t wasted!).  We talked about global issues, we talked about local impacts.  We talked about personal experiences.   We even talked about broader societal issues – throw-away society, consumerism, and the like (though not too much – I had to be careful to keep the discussions relevant to our marine litter and pollution topic).

A young girl (if I remember correctly she was 9 years old) came along to the talk as well.  Unsurprisingly she was the quietest person in a room full of adults!  I decided to make a point of asking her questions throughout the night.  After all, she has her own insights, experiences, and her own opinions.  I asked her about what she learnt in school about the issue, and what she personally thought of the marine litter and pollution.  I asked her if she had seen litter on the beaches or in the sea.  I even asked her what she thought we could all do to fix some of the problems.  She responded well – and the rest of the adult audience listened to her intently.  She admitted she didn’t completely understand all the things we had spoken about, but like everyone else she learned some new things that night – like the different types of plastic that are around (I brought props for people to look at), and that those nice pretty coloured balls on some of the beaches were in fact tiny plastic pieces that would only get smaller, and never really go away.  We had a brief discussion about the need for increasing environmental education in schools – and some of the challenges of doing so. 

Time ran away with us.  Our 45 minute talk followed by questions turned into a 3 hour discussion, and I think if I had not ended it there we could have gone on longer.  I asked the audience how they felt about the evening.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  They all agreed that they had learned some new things, and enjoyed being able to share what they knew, explore ideas, and ask questions in a safe environment.  Would I do that again?  Absolutely.


Credit: Triratna_Photos/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Ideally low-turnout should never have arose in the first place.  So why did it?  Here are just a few of my thoughts and lessons learned:

The topic wasn’t of interest

Certainly a possibility, but I am not sure if this really was the main problem.  Coincidentally, marine litter was hitting the news a lot around the time I was doing my presentation, so it was very much in the public view.  Before even agreeing to the talk, we did a quick ‘survey’ on Facebook of the organizations’ members and other groups that might be interested.  We saw plenty of ‘Likes’, and supportive comments and private messages.  In the months prior to the talk, I even had people from these groups saying they wished they had more of ‘these sorts of talks’.

The talk was not well advertised

This was a problem.  The talk was publicised on Facebook on the organization’s group.  Unfortunately the event could only be viewed by members of that group, so when we shared the event to the other groups that might have been interested in coming too, we did not know that all they could see was something along the lines of “attachment unavailable”.  We should have made sure the event could be shared widely, and we should have done a better job at promoting it. 

The format was wrong

Whilst it is easy to talk to a group of people on a particular topic, it does not necessarily promote engagement.  Even if the people were interested in the topic of my talk, they may not have wanted to attend a formal talk.  Perhaps a more interactive session – especially outdoors – would have worked better and been more attractive.

We didn’t target our audience very well.

When I had done public talks for the organization before, we did a lot more work to advertise the event widely.  We even appeared on our local radio station to talk about it!  Turnout at that event was good.  By only advertising on Facebook, we missed a huge group of people who may have been interested in the topic but don’t use the platform.  Of course, there was also the issue that even on Facebook, nobody outside of the host’s group could see the event! 

For those who could see the event, perhaps we didn’t do a good job at making it appealing to them.  Many of the people in the group are already environmentally conscious.  Perhaps they felt that they already knew enough about the issue of marine litter and pollution.  It may have been that whilst they supported the event, they did not feel they would get anything out of going.  Others may have felt that there was nothing they could do to solve the problem, even if they cared.     


Sam is a marine conservation biologist/ecologist and marine science communicator.  When she is not talking to people about the ocean, its inhabitants, or its importance to us, she can be found at Memorial University of Newfoundland where she is doing a PhD.  Her research focuses on population connectivity, dispersal, and metapopulations, and their application to marine protected area networks, right here in Canada.  Twitter: @hobosci




Highlights from the 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium

By Natasha Ewing, K-12 Education Coordinator, Ocean Networks Canada


Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC’s) was proud to celebrate its 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium April 28th and 29th.  This unique event continues to provide students and teachers with experiences that highlight and explore the interdisciplinary nature of Ocean Science and Technology. In addition the event also recognizes the diversity of ocean-related careers by bringing in experts in the field such as, Dr. Lauren McWhinnie, Dr. Tom Dakin, and Sara Wickham, to name but a few.  This year ‘s event emphasized the teamwork and collaboration required from different disciplines that is needed to explore and understand the ocean.

5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium Attendees

The Symposium brought together over 70 students and teachers from 16 different schools across Vancouver Island, Northern BC  (Prince Rupert, Kitimat) and the Arctic. Energetic and Passionate presenters, Dr. Andrew Bateman, Dr. Laura Eerkes-Medrano, and ONC’s Adrian Round set the scene each day, highlighting marine conservation, unique career paths, teamwork, collaboration, and community-based research.


Throughout the two day event, students and teachers continued their marine Science and Tech exploration through six engaging sessions, including:


  1. The economic and environmental discrepancy between open-based and land-based fish farms;
  2. The role of computer science in deep sea automated video analysis;
  3. Investigating the diversity of seaweed species through art (seaweed presses);
  4. The need for Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to be included into western science and environmental/coastal decision making
  5. The challenge of creating code to “talk” with Remotely Operated vehicles (ROVs) in the deep sea; and
  6. Understanding the harmful impacts of marine noise pollution.


Exploring the ONC Maze to Create Their Codes

Through short presentations and hands-on activities led by post-secondary students and post-docs, symposium attendees gained a deep appreciation of the complexity marine systems. Furthermore, students began to recognize that their passion for the ocean could intersect with other interests from biology to physics to engineering. 


For example, learning to “code” was one highlight for both students and teachers, who didn’t expect it would be quite so challenging to code they way around the courtyard. Wandering through the mock ONC maze (based on the NEPTUNE Observatory), participants had to carefully plan out their routes to efficiently guide their divers (ROVs) to specific sites of interest. The students could empathise with professional in the field as this activity recreated a real challenge and them to take on the role of scientist, engineer, interpreter and diver. As the “scientist” and “engineers” created the routes and code, the “interpreter” deciphered the code for the “diver” who had never seen the course.  Divers could try the course both blindfolded or not! There were definitely a number of laughs and a few mix ups, but everyone enjoyed the simplified example, including one student who said: “[the] most meaningful [session] for me was the engineering part; I really love coding and want to be an engineer in the future.”


Attendees from Prince Rupert Create Seaweed Presses

This year we took the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) model and stretched it to STEAM; including art as a means for communicating science. Students and teachers were thrilled to get their hands wet and touch live seaweed specimens. They learned how there are 100’s of different species worldwide, how to ID them, and that all seaweeds are edible (except one!). The seaweeds were then pressed in colourful arrangements, which offered an unusual and exciting memento. When they are finally dry, the prints will be shipped out to all the students.  


Marine noise pollution – the lesser-known pollution – hit home for all attendees. Student and teachers were immensely impacted by learning about the devastating consequences of human-induced noise in the ocean and its affect on marine mammals. One student really took the information to heart and began to reconsider their own behaviours; “I cross the border on the Coho [Ferry] all the time and I never knew about how much impact it had on orca populations. As a result I will think more about this when I’m booking transportation.” Witnessing attitude and behavioural changes is education as its best!


Our Ocean, Our Future:

High school students were particularly awed by the diversity of careers and inspired to think about their future. One student commented that, they “really enjoyed hearing about how people got to their careers because [they are] worried about never getting to where [they] want to go”. Seeing “real” scientists and engineers and listening to their journeys confirmed that no career path is linear. Furthermore, each professional’s passion assured the students that there is still an incredible amount of work to be done before we fully under the complexities and mysteries of the ocean and that new discoveries and insights can come from anyone at all.


But let’s not forget, this event could not have been made possible without the students dedicated chaperones and teachers. At the symposium, teachers and educators were able to network amongst each other and brainstorm ways to incorporate more ocean science and technology into their classes. A great venue for professional development, the teachers shared their tips and tricks among one another and offered experience based feedback on all activities.  To help reach students not able to attend, activities and concepts highlighted at the symposium were shared with teachers to use in their classes. In addition, teachers were shown aspects of ONC’s Ocean Sense program and real time data.


To view the 5th Annual Ocean Science Symposium twitter “moment” and exciting highlights from the event, follow this link – https://twitter.com/i/moments/859475129348218880.

Contact Natasha Ewing, ONC’s K-12 Education Coordinator for more info at tasharei@uvic.ca, and stay tuned for details on next years Ocean Science Symposium!

Ocean Sense  – http://www.oceannetworks.ca/learning/ocean-sense

Ocean Science Symposium webpagehttp://www.oceannetworks.ca/learning/learning-events/ocean-science-symposium .

Interactive Technology for Ocean Literacy – Right Across Canada!

By Chris Porter


WildVision Edutainment brings the Oceans to Schools with an immersive experience featured on a whale-size inflatable screen. Edutainment is a phrase developed to ensure that students gain appreciation of educational material through being entertained. OceanWalls was inspired on this basis by myself, Christopher Porter.


I spent 25 years training whales and dolphins all over the world. I have watched millions of guests be entertained by the live animal displays and shows we would create. Today movies like CNN’s Blackfish bring up the issues that affect the animals themselves that struggle in zoos and aquariums. I trained Tilikum the whale and am featured in that movie. It was my relationship with him that caused me to leave the captive industry and find an alternative. OceanWalls is my solution, using technology to capture animals in the wild instead of nets. This display is an evolution of display that showcases the wonders of the WILD and to ensure animals like Tilikum get a chance to return back to it. 


When I learned that the wild Southern Resident Killer Whales of BC are endangered, I had a change of heart to the value of the millions of dollars spent to maintain and acquire wild animals in the name of conservation. Playing a video game one day with my son Noah, I was amazed at the knowledge transferred to Noah through this fantasy game world.

 I visualized a way to create the same type of immersive experience as gaming but using wild animal imagery captured using technology, not captivity. The concept of OceanWalls was born. In 2014 the prototype exhibit was launched at Hillside Shopping Centre.


OceanWalls in a HD interactive digital exhibit featuring the wild through imagery collected with technology. The content featured is from over 50 non-profits and individuals that share their wild content with OceanWalls. The display prominent in the food court allows thousands of visitors to enjoy the wild through this incredible sharing of content. As a prototype the exhibit has proven to be effective in engagement with the public. OceanWalls received the Canadian Gold Award for Cause Related Marketing by the International Council of Shopping Centers. With over millions of visits and hundreds of thousands of touch users, the digital exhibit has proven to be as an effective engaging exhibit equivalent to any captive pool.


With the success of the exhibit, I further expanded the wild vision to include schools. Follow the Pod School Tour was launched November 2016 visiting schools from the Okanagan all the way to Edmonton. Bringing an immersive experience through the use of our whale-size inflatable screen. At 26 feet wide it is the length of an adult male killer whale and gives the students an amazing understanding of the immense size and importance of these animals.


The school tour includes a teacher’s kit as well as access to our O.R.C.A. Rangers Newsletter, a kids club dedicated to supporting wild orcas. The show educates the audience on the Southern Resident Killer Whales that live in the Salish Sea off of BC. Now at only 78, the last three resident pods need as much attention and support for their own survival. These same animals numbered at one time over 160 but many were removed to be showcased in aquariums in the name of conservation.


The uniqueness of each killer whale is discussed based on the dorsal fin and saddle patch of the animals. Giving the students the insight into how scientists are able to create the family charts of these last remaining Southern Resident Killer Whales of BC.


The presentation finishes with an amazing collection of video content talking the students from the surface of the water through the depths of the oceans and finishing staring into the eye of a wild killer whale underwater!

Students, Parents, Teachers, Principals and School Trustees have remarked on the incredible content featured and the importance of the water conservation message for the preservation of natural salmon habitat that is received while discussing the Orcas. The one hour show features interactive student participation as well as questions and answer period. It was amazing to see the incredible knowledge known about the oceans despite on average 40% of the students in the schools have never seen the ocean.


It has been incredible to see the great work being done in our schools to educate our children on the importance of wild conservation. Collectively working together in our skills and passion for conservation we will ensure that we make a difference for the remaining Southern Resident Killer Whales.

Any organization can easily submit their content to be displayed on the OceanWalls Network simply by #OceanWalls in Social Media.

If you are interested in learning more about the OceanWalls School Tour or receiving our Teacher’s Kit for your own use do not hesitate to contact me.


Thanks Every One for Being OrcaSafe!


Chris Porter Sea-E-O

WildVision Edutainment inc. 

Founder O.R.C.A. – Orca Rescue Conservancy Association

“Captivating People, Keeping the Wild Free!



Re-Imagining Atlantic Harbours for the Next Generation 2050!

By Lydia Ross


“The Halifax Harbour holds so much value in my life. It’s here where I connect with our bustling ocean and imagine centuries of sunsets over historic McNab’s Island. It’s a special place, where industrial human activities and our natural world exist as one system. Yet, it seems our harbour’s natural world has been dropped from its story.

Halifax Harbour and McNabs Island (CC by Wikimedia Commons)

Many view the harbour as an industrial waste dump, void of life and fish habitat. And while it’s true the harbour has had a crappy past… since 2008, millions have been invested into the restoration of the harbour’s water quality through the Harbour Solutions Project. Today the harbour is no longer a waste dump. It’s time to change how we understand and speak about the harbour by highlighting the cultural and ecological values central to our harbour’s story.”- Lydia Ross, #Mywatermark



The Re-Imagining Atlantic Harbours 2050 project aims to install an interactive water-quality testing station and interpretive panel along the Halifax harbourfront. The panel will feature a map showcasing the harbour, its eight watersheds, and our urban environment as one marine ecosystem with historic and ecological value. The panel will highlight basic water-quality parameters necessary for swimmable, drinkable, fishable harbours, and help locals and visitors use and interpret interactive water-sampling devices, providing hands-on engagement with the Halifax harbour (secchi disk for water clarity, thermometer for temperature).

Kelly Schnare, Program Manager, and a group of core individuals have been developing RAH2050 for two years. “The program aims to give locals and visitors an interactive way to learn about the Halifax harbour as a living marine ecosystem and to empower them as citizen scientists”. Halifax Water, Halifax Waterfront Development, Department of Fisheries, Ocean Viewer, and Watermark Project have helped grow this pilot initiative through financial and consultative support and collaboration.

“A key element of this program will be an interactive web portal featuring all things Nova Scotia and marine science. The panel will ask that you upload your data to our site where you can then learn about other cool ways to view, understand, and protect our ocean. Our community partners have been so important as we bring together conversations between scientific communities, locals and visitors.”

Protecting our marine environments begins at our watersheds. A watershed is an area of land whose rivers and streams all drain into one larger waterbody, in this instance, the Halifax Harbour. Many people live within Halifax Harbour watershed ecosystem. “We want to inspire an awareness of place within this watershed system and illustrate all the ways we impact the harbour from land”, Kelly explains. Actions include being mindful of what you put down your drain and picking up litter wherever possible to prevent it from entering our marine ecosystems.  

Fluctuations in water quality indicators such as temperature and clarity impact the capacity for marine environments to sustain life. Marine animals thrive within varying ranges of environmental parameters that include salinity, temperature, clarity, dissolved oxygen, and nutrient levels. Knowing about these parameters and how they affect certain species can also help us understand how climate change impacts species distribution. Many invasive species overtaking marine environments, such as the European green crab and the invasive tunicate, thrive in changing climates. Understanding the factors which affect the health of our harbour will be necessary to help us imagine a swimmable, fishable harbour for 2050.

Seagulls at the harbour (CC by Pixabay).

 The Halifax Harbour basin had numerous fisheries in recent past and still holds value as fish habitat for many marine species like lobster, herring, smelt, mackerel, gaspereau, salmon, harbour seals, porpoises, and sharks! Through this project, we hope to raise awareness around our harbour ecosystem, and address knowledge gaps around harbour health and how urban development, residents, and visitors impact the harbour watershed.


Through interpretative education, hands-on learning, and an online resource portal for everything marine science, RAH2050 aims to change the way people think and talk about the Halifax harbour. Celebrating Halifax harbour’s cultural and ecological significance will connect locals and visitors with more ways to value the harbour. We hope people will understand their influence on harbour health through their day-to-day actions. The program aspires install the panel and open the interactive station to the public on April 22nd, Earth Day. Please visit our website and Facebook page for more information and updates. RAH 2050 is a program of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation – Atlantic Chapter. Please visit Sierra Club for more information on other amazing programs!


Lydia Ross has volunteered for several years with the Sierra Club helping pilot marine education initiatives. “I love connecting people with our oceans who don’t normally harbor a connection with our natural world“.  Lydia has experience working in Marine Conservation Areas restoring aquatic ecosystems. Her main interests lay in seagrass ecology, in particular blue carbon.
I’ve been fortunate to observe and understand our marine environment in unique ways. It’s wonderful being able to share this passion through engaging programming and artistic expression.”


Small ideas done right create big waves

By Magali Grégoire


I used to say that it wasn’t until I moved to Atlantic Canada over three years ago that I encountered marine life from the North Atlantic. But the truth is, it wasn’t until I made this move and started volunteering at the Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium that I had a significant encounter with ocean life. This small-scale aquarium showcasing only local marine animals changed the course of my career and ignited a passion for ocean conservation. What was the difference between my experience at the Mini Aquarium and that of my previous encounters? The passionate, engaging and dedicated personnel that unveiled the magic of the sea to me. It is these people that can make or break a visit and who can turn the littlest snail into the most fascinating animal.

Interpreting at the PHMA. Photo by Kaylen Janes

The first time I was up close to the animals that I now teach so passionately about was while I was completing my Master’s internship at the Montreal Biodôme. Within its walls, the Biodôme has recreated five ecosystems including the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Among the wildlife showcased here are sea cucumbers, anemones, sea stars, urchins and crabs, the very animals I now love to talk about the most.  But at the time, I didn’t give these animals the time of day.


During the summer of my internship, the Biodôme was closed to the public. So while I spent many of my lunch breaks walking through the ecosystems, no interpretive staff was ever there to tell me about the small creatures that deserve our attention as much as the large ones.  As I strolled through, my attention was mostly focused on the “blockbuster” animals – the sloths and golden lion tamarins of the tropical forest, the lynx of the Laurentian Maple Forest and of course the penguins from the Sub-Antarctic. If you had asked me at the time if an aquarium needs large, charismatic animals to capture visitors’ attention, based on this experience I probably would have said yes.  


As you can guess, this is no longer what I think. My experience as a visitor, volunteer and a staff member of various scientific museum institutions has taught me otherwise. I have seen first-hand that not only tourists but those who grew up with the ocean as their backyard can be amazed and intrigued by the animals found in their ocean playground. And yet, although I know this, I had a moment of hesitation this past August when I was about to launch a series of events, the Touch Tank Days, under the umbrella of the Back to the Sea Society.

Touch Tank Days held in Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage


The Back to the Sea Society is a non-profit whose mission is to spark curiosity for marine life off the coast of Nova Scotia.  The ultimate goal of our society is to open a seasonal, catch-and-release, small-scale aquarium within the Halifax Regional Municipality. The purpose of the Touch Tanks Days was to create an event that would allow us to obtain community feedback and serve as a proof of concept.


The Touch Tank Days consisted of two small tanks – one was filled with your typical touch tank animals (urchins, snails, mussels, sea stars, hermit crabs and rock crabs) and the other showcased a moon snail and scallop. The day before we held our first Touch Tank Day, I couldn’t help but worry. What if no one was interested? What if everyone mentioned that these were animals they had seen before? Would people wonder why our operation was so small? 

Touch Tank Day animals

As it turns out, not a single one of my worries was founded. Over the course of seven Touch Tank Days over 1500 people visited and the positive feedback was overwhelming. Just as I had observed in the past, children and adults alike were captivated by what we had to say about these small creatures. Our knowledgeable and passionate volunteer interpreters created a memorable experience for our visitors. When asked in a survey to indicate what was their favourite part of the Touch Tank Days, a majority of the respondents answered learning about the animals and talking with the knowledgeable volunteers.

One of Back to the Sea’s volunteers, Candace

Often times, we strive to inspire people with big, innovative ideas. I believe that we tend to forget that a small ideas executed right can have just as much of an important, long-lasting impact. Educating while entertaining goes a long way and the Back to the Sea Society will continue to do their best to deliver engaging activities that foster a desire to protect our ocean. If you have a small idea that you are hesitant to launch, I encourage you to do it! Don’t wait for it to be perfect; don’t wait for it to be world-class. The more activities we put out there that contribute to ocean literacy, the more people we will inspire!

The most rewarding thing is a smile!


Magali is an educator and museologist with a passion for ocean life. She completed her B.Sc. in Biology and Physics at McGill University followed by an M.A. in Museum Studies from UQÀM. Currently the Special Events Coordinator at the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and Chair of Communications of the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society, Magali has close ties with environmental conservation and ocean sustainability in Nova Scotia. Magali is the founder of the Back to the Sea Society and is spearheading the project of bringing a catch-and-release aquarium model to Halifax.
Contact: magali@backtothesea.ca; Twitter: @BacktotheSea_NS


A CaNOEr in Europe: EMSEA Conference 2016 (Part 2)

By Sonya Lee


My second day at the European Marine Science Educators Association conference at the Titanic Belfast museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland started with more amazing presentations. The rest of the day following was dedicated to an Open Space Session. Open Space is a time dedicated to allow conference participants a chance to discuss the topics and questions that have always wanted to discuss with fellow ocean educators. I think it is always the highlight of EMSEA and because I loved it so much last year, I added it to the conference program at the CaNOE conference in Halifax this past June.

Participants make suggestions of discussion topics on Post-Its and everyone signed up for their desired sessions at EMSEA Conference Day 2. Photo from the EMSEA Twitter @emseassociation.


Day 2 ended with a reception at the Belfast city hall with the Lord Mayor. The venue was gorgeous and there was lots of wine, but I turned in early to prepare for my presentation the next morning.


I got to the conference early on the last day to prepare for my presentation. I was presenting in the session showcasing TransAtlantic ocean education work and spoke about the successes and challenges of the Discovery Centre’s program to increase ocean literacy and ocean career literacy in Nova Scotia. The Discovery Centre is a science centre in Halifax and the Tide to Technology program provides hands-on learning to Grade 8-12 students about oceans and ocean technology careers through ROV operation, basic coding, and activities simulating concepts of marine acoustics and marine geomatics. The program is delivered for free all around Nova Scotia with sponsorship from the Ocean Technology Council of Nova Scotia.

The end of my presentation at the EMSEA Conference 2016 talking about the Discovery Centre’s hands-on ocean literacy and ocean career literacy program called Tide to Technology. Photo from Meg Marerro.


I also spoke about the momentum that is building in the province to increase ocean literacy as well. There are many organizations, in addition to the Discovery Centre working to increase ocean education such as Ocean School, the Institute for Ocean Research Enterprise, and Oceans-NS to name a few. The Department of Education in Nova Scotia has also recently dedicated an entire day in November called the Ocean Education Day where over 700 students from all over the province came to participate in hands-on ocean education workshops that the Discovery Centre and the organizations mentioned above and others were involved in. I had a lot of great conversation with other educations following my presentation and I was proud to represent a small province across the pond doing amazing work in ocean literacy.

Méabh (middle) found the mini sailboat in Ireland launched by the University of Connecticut as part of Dick Baldwin’s (right) Educational Passages program. She is showing us what she found in the water-tight compartment of the boat. Pictures from Twitter @emseassociation.


The last workshop session I attended at the EMSEA conference was also the most inspiring and amazing presentation for me. Dick Baldwin is the founder of Educational Passages, an amazing educational program that uses unmanned GPS-equipped miniboats to teach students about the ocean and connects people all over the world. Many miniboats have sailed across the Atlantic using just ocean currents and winds and students can track their boats in real-time with the GPS coordinates sent by the boat. It is an amazing way to teach about the interconnectedness of the ocean, ocean currents, weather, geography, different cultures, art, boat-building and much more.


To date, Educational Passages, have helped school students launch over 70 miniboats. Currently the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and other institutions are coordinating an Atlantic Regatta of miniboats launched by 22 elementary, middle and high schools from eight different countries around the Atlantic Ocean. The Marine Institute at Memorial University of Newfoundland and students at Mobile Central High School is part of the regatta and has sent the first Canadian miniboat into the Atlantic. Their boat, Mobile Goat (after a Newfoundland folk song) was launched in November. Check out where it is here. I think this is a fantastic program and I think we should get more Canadian school participating in the next international regatta of miniboats on all our coasts.


I had a fantastic time at EMSEA this year. I’ve listened to amazing success stories, discussed challenges with fellow ocean educators and was recharged and inspired to keep doing what I am doing. It was lovely to see people I met last year and I’ve made wonderful new connections. Next year, the EMSEA conference will be held in Malta. I hope to be fortunate enough to attend again, but maybe more CaNOErs can attend and share what we are doing to advance ocean education in Canada.



SonyaLee_CaNOE Board Bio Sonya is a Science Educator at the Discovery Centre, a science centre in Halifax, NS. She delivers hands-on curriculum-based science workshops to students in Grades P-12 all around Nova Scotia. This is her second year on the Board of Directors of CaNOE. In 2015-2016, she co-chaired the Conference Organizing Working Group to organize the 2nd CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference in Halifax. This year, she hopes to use her experience in hands-on education to help steer an Education Working Group for CaNOE.




A CaNOEr in Europe: EMSEA Conference 2016 (Part 1)

By Sonya Lee


This past October, I attended the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA) conference as a CaNOE representative. I was selected to present a poster about CaNOE and to speak on my work combining ocean technology and ocean literacy at the Discovery Centre in Nova Scotia. This was my second time attending the EMSEA conference, so I knew from the beginning that I was in for three days of amazing presentations, interactive workshops and meeting and reconnecting with inspiring individuals working in ocean education.

The Titantic Belfast Museum. The building exterior shows how big the ship’s bow was from all angles.

The conference was hosted by Titanic Belfast, in Belfast, UK. The museum has fantastic galleries that tell the story of the great industrial feat and tragic demise of the RMS Titanic. Titanic Belfast is also a centre of education and ocean literacy, especially of the deep sea, as the search for the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean brought deep sea exploration into the public eye. The museum was very impressive and it even had a ride that took you on a multi-sensory journey through the making of the Titanic.

I arrived a couple of days early to recover and explore a bit of Northern Ireland before diving into the conference. I made my way up to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (a Game of Thrones film location) and the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the north coast. The drive up the coast was very wind-y and narrow (not to mention on the left side of the road), but it was worth it for the breathtaking coastal views.

Me with basalt columns in Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO heritage site, on the north coast of Northern Ireland. Very cool rock formations with a fun legend to go with it.


Day 1 of the conference started with the EMSEA president, Fiona Crouch, descending into the conference room down the Titanic’s iconic Grand Staircase. Following Fiona’s fun welcome, we heard from two keynote speakers. Ivan Conesa-Alcolea from the European Commission spoke on the progress of Horizon 2020’s ocean literacy initiatives, notably on SeaChange and ResponSEAble. David Cline from the US Aquaculture Society addressed the importance of moving away from capture fisheries into sustainable aquaculture for marine conservation and what educators can do to help.

EMSEA President Fiona Crouch giving her opening welcome address with the replica of the Titanic Grand Staircase in the background.

The rest of the day was filled with parallel presentation sessions on bringing marine science into formal and informal education settings and workshops. I was inspired by presentations that highlighted amazing examples of hands-on activities at the Marine Biological Association, conservation communication from the Pitcairn Islands with the Zoological Society of London, and a study on barriers to teaching about the ocean in classrooms in the UK. During the workshop about aquaculture and education, there was an example of an education program by Ciimar in Portugal that used mini tanks in classrooms to show how molluscs in a multitrophic aquaculture system can improve water quality. It was interesting to hear different perspectives and discussions around aquaculture and education.

Starting on day one of the conference, I presented a poster on CaNOE. It was a great opportunity to speak to Europeans and Americans about ocean literacy in Canada and to share our achievements. It was a great first day as I caught up with fellow educators I had met last year, connected with new people and learned of their successes and challenges in advancing ocean literacy in their respective countries. Stay tuned to read about the next two days of the EMSEA conference!

Talking about CaNOE with Weronika from the Gdynia Aquarium in Poland.


SonyaLee_CaNOE Board Bio Sonya is a Science Educator at the Discovery Centre, a science centre in Halifax, NS. She delivers hands-on curriculum-based science workshops to students in Grades P-12 all around Nova Scotia. This is her second year on the Board of Directors of CaNOE. In 2015-2016, she co-chaired the Conference Organizing Working Group to organize the 2nd CaNOE Ocean Literacy Conference in Halifax. This year, she hopes to use her experience in hands-on education to help steer an Education Working Group for CaNOE.



EXPLORING THE GREAT BEAR SEA: New, Free Curriculum Resources

By Karen Anspacher-Meyer, Sarah Lockman & Jennifer Buffett


If you are an educator who also loves marine life and the ocean – and sharing that love and passion with students and others – then British Columbia is a pretty neat place to explore. From estuaries and rivers, to fjords and tidal flats, to a vast array of species and the people who call coastal communities home – there is so much to learn about using this ‘living case-study’ in your teaching practice and engaging students in marine and ocean literacy.


The Great Bear region of British Columbia’s North Pacific Coast is one of Canada’s unique ecological treasures. It is home to islands, wild rivers, cold-water seas, and one of the world’s last intact temperate rainforests. This region of British Columbia’s coast is one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world, has enormous cultural significance to the people who live here, and contains important resources for BC’s economy. The Great Bear Sea – a new name used to describe this marine area – encompasses the waters that surround the Great Bear Rainforest and extends from Campbell River on Vancouver Island to the border of BC and Alaska. It covers a large area – 103,000 square kilometers in total – and extends from the high tide line to the edge of the continental shelf.

Credit: Prince Rupert Adventure Tours

The film the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future, by Green Fire Productions, is a journey through the Great Bear Sea region, home to First Nations for thousands of years. The film explores this unique area – an expanse of ocean where whales, wolves, bears, fish, seabirds, other marine life and humans thrive in rich coastal ecosystems. The Great Bear Sea is also a place where worlds collide – a place full of historic conflicts and looming battles over ocean resources. Now 18 First Nations and the Province of British Columbia, through a government-to-government process, have created marine plans for the Great Bear Sea to both protect their home and to build sustainable coastal economies through the Marine Planning Partnership (MaPP). Through the film, we meet people and communities along the coast of BC who are working to implement BC’s marine plans, particularly in the four sub-regions outlined in the MaPP: Central Coast, Haida Gwaii, North Coast and North Vancouver Island.

Credit: Vernon Brown & Phillip Charles

These ideas and perspectives provide a great opportunity for inquiry and place-based learning in schools and other settings, and thus the Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum was born! The Exploring the Great Bear Sea Curriculum currently consists of an elementary cross-curricular unit for Grades 4-7 and secondary units for Social Studies Grades 11-12 and Environmental Science Grades 11-12. Using film segments, research data, local knowledge and place-based stories, the curriculum explores themes such as collaborative science, marine planning, Indigenous Knowledge, biodiversity, sustainable resource management and marine stewardship. All resources are connected to the revised BC curriculum and include full lesson plans and supplementary resources, as well as film clips to support classroom learning. Although linked to the BC curriculum, these resources are applicable to any educator looking to explore these themes in their classroom or in other learning contexts.


For instance, the film clip below allows students to experience the bounty & other-worldly beauty of the intertidal zone with Trevor Russ, Vice President, Council of the Haida Nation, as he harvests traditional foods in Haida Gwaii and talks about the role of Traditional Knowledge as the foundation for the Haida Gwaii marine plan. This clip is then tied to lessons that look more specifically at traditional knowledge through seasonal rounds or seasonal use cycles, which map the traditional knowledge of an area, displaying the when and what of harvesting around the seasons for a specific place.

All curriculum resources are available free of charge and include printable resources, links to film segments, and supplementary materials. These can be accessed and downloaded from www.greatbearsea.net.


In the coming months, we will also be launching a resource for the post-secondary setting. This resource will fit a variety of teaching contexts, including marine biology, environmental studies, resource management, Indigenous studies, etc., and will provide film clips, supplementary materials and pedagogical resources.


Curious to learn more about this area and see more of the film? You can watch the Great Bear Sea: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future trailer, or view the full length (75 minute) film to learn more about the region and the Marine Planning Partnership.


To join the mailing list to be notified of new resources, or if you are interested in arranging a workshop for teachers at your school to explore how to use these resources in practice, please visit the website: www.greatbearsea.net or contact us at greatbearsea@gmail.com.

Credit: Rowan Trebilco 


Green Fire Productions, a non-governmental organization, specializes in producing documentaries on sustainability and conservation of natural resources. The Great Bear Sea is part of the Ocean Frontiers film series on ocean stewardship in North America. www.ocean-frontiers.org Founded in 1989 by Karen Anspacher-Meyer and Ralf Meyer, Green Fire films are used in classrooms worldwide and screened in community events, for decision-makers and on public television. www.greenfireproductions.org.

Sarah Lockman and Jennifer Buffett have worked in formal and informal educational settings, including elementary, secondary and post-secondary classrooms, non-profit organizations, municipal and provincial educational organizations in BC and Ontario. Together, they have over 30 years of curriculum development, teaching and educational leadership experience, with specialization in innovative approaches to hands-on, inquiry and place-based learning. (They also love the ocean!) Contact them at: learninginplace@gmail.com

Credit: Florian Graner

“Belugas on the Bay: Through the Camera Lens” with the Churchill Northern Studies Centre

By Evan Roberts


1beluga_pd_2016This summer I’ve been fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity to work as a Bilingual Programming Assistant at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC). The CNSC is an independent non-profit organization that facilitates research and education in western Hudson Bay and is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year. Working in the Educational Programming Department I’ve had the chance to participate in and support facilitating a number of the CNSC’s Learning Vacations (LV). A LV is a unique model of educational tourism that allows the participant the chance to be entrenched with experts on the subject of their choice throughout a one-week immersive, informative and participatory experience. The topics include Beluga Whales, Polar Bears and the Aurora Borealis.


The very first LV that I had the chance to participate in was titled Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens. The extremely knowledgeable and talented Kristin Westdal and Chris Paetkau led the LV. Kristin is a Marine Biologist who has worked extensively in the arctic, and she was keen to share her vast knowledge of belugas with us throughout the week both on the water and in the classroom. Chris, a videographer by trade and co-founder of Build Films spent hours with participants leading and coaching us in a wide range of photography concepts that spread from basic intro ‘point-and-shoot’ techniques and then into much more complex underwater photography skills while keeping all participants engaged whether they were simply equipped with a cell phone camera, GoPro or loaded with lenses and a Digital SLR. With Kristen teaching us all about the whales that we were seeing around us and Chris taking photos of it all, it was a truly magical experience to be out on the water with them both. In addition to our time spent on boat excursions exploring the Churchill River estuary and Hudson Bay, we also had the chance to tour the town of Churchill and the surrounding area. A highlight for me was visiting the Prince of Wales Fort. As a National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada, we were treated to a captivating interpretation of the deeply rooted history of the Fort and the broader Churchill area from our Parks Heritage Presenter Duane. Understanding the history of the area allowed for a more profound understanding of the cultural and historical significance of this plot of land at the mouth of the Hudson Bay. The history of Churchill is further punctuated with a visit to the Itsanitaq Museum (formerly Eskimo Museum) located in the town of Churchill.  The museum creates a clear timeline of the history of the Churchill area and allows visitors the chance to witness the progression of the Dene Indigenous culture as well as the Inuit cultures from further north of Churchill. Additionally the museum exhibits arctic marine mammal artefacts like baleen from a bowhead whale and a few examples of a narwhal tooth.



As a photographer, I was attracted to this LV because of its name, but what this opportunity allowed me to do was gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Churchill beyond just being the Polar Bear Capital of the World. When you peel back the layers of Churchill, and dig deeper, you start to realize just how culturally, socially, and historically significant this small little humble town on Hudson Bay really is. Your sense of identity as a Canadian starts to strengthen as you walk within the walls of the Prince of Wales Fort. Your sense of adventure and wanderlust peaks as a Beluga Whale breaches for air right in front of your kayak, and you snap the perfect photo. Your knowledge broadens as experts guide you on Beluga age and gender identification with whales that are right beside you. In short, this LV was undoubtedly the springboard to a life-changing summer.




Churchill Northern Studies Centre is an independent non-profit charitable organisation dedicated to supporting research and education initiatives in Churchill. The Centre is open year-round to provide logistical services to scientists working in the Western Hudson Bay region. In addition to supporting world-class research, we are also proud to offer a wide variety of educational programs to the general public through our Learning Vacations as well as custom trips for school and youth groups. Participants in CNSC programs have the unique opportunity to learn more about their chosen topic directly from renowned scientists and naturalists. Our upcoming dates for this featured Learning Vacation- Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens will happen from June 22 – 27, 2017. To learn more about this program and others visit our webpage www.churchillscience.ca/events with online booking available to reserve your spot as a participant!




Evan Roberts is a student at the Universtiy of Winnipeg completing a double-major in Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Evan is a passionate photogapher, mediocre hockey player, and a cycling enthusiast.



Note from CaNOE: Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s whale-watching guidelines applied in other regions suggest that boaters use a slow speed if within 400 m of whales and idle when they come within 100 m of them. Current beluga tourism operators have developed selfregulating rules of conduct that attempt to minimize disturbance. 

Learn more:

Beluga Habitat Sustainability Plan

DFO Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines


Come join a CaNOE working group, and help move Canada’s ocean education forward

By: Lucija Prelovec


About a year ago I started the Science Communication Graduate program at Laurentian University.  Previously I completed a BSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph and have been working in education at various aquariums and wanted to be more involved in ocean education.  My time in the Science Communication program helped me connect with numerous informal education networks in Canada, but found few focused on ocean education.  In the past I worked in Florida, and became well acquainted with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA).  I hoped to find an equivalent organization, where a Canadian network of individuals who are passionate about sharing their love of the oceans with fellow Canadians.  This is what brought me to the Canadian Network for Ocean Education, a group of like minded individuals I was eager to learn from.  

At the end of my program this spring I chose to complete an internship in Halifax, where CaNOE happened to be holding their 2016 Ocean Literacy Conference: Ocean Optimism. I figured there couldn’t be a better way to become involved with CaNOE than start volunteering at their conference.  Being able to interact with people who love learning and teaching about the ocean during this conference inspired me to continue my involvement with CaNOE. I decided to do this by becoming involved with the organization’s working groups – the hardest part was choosing which one to join! I had to review my options:


Conference Planning

What better way to help CaNOE than to  plan their next conference?  In 2015, this Working Group put together a stellar inaugural conference jam-packed with workshops in Vancouver.  In 2016, the conference sailed across the country to Halifax where it was once again filled with great workshops, lectures, and our first ever Open Space where we were able to explore and discuss topics with our fellow colleagues.  What’s to come to come at our next conference in 2018? Join the group and be the first to find out!


CaNOE 2016 conference participants partaking in our first official open space.  Credit: Lucija Prelovec


Governance Planning

If you are more interested in the smooth functioning of  CaNOE, then this is the group for you! The first couple years were focused on setting up the society and creating the CaNOE governance documents, but there’s still lots of work to be done.  The future of this group entails bylaw compliance and review, the BC Societies Act, Board elections, and internal matters.  Pull up a chair and lend your administrative advice!


Finances and Fundraising

As a not-for-profit group, we require funding to achieve our mission.  It is very important to have a group to keep our finances in check, and search and apply for grant opportunities.  Here you will hone your skills in finding the perfect grant and even writing a perfect grant proposal, critical skills to have in our field.



Now you know CaNOE has a blog, but did you know we also have a Facebook page? A Twitter? A monthly newsletter?  All our posts and updates on the various communication platforms are written by the Communications group.  If you are interested in spreading the word about CaNOE and love sharing awesome ocean education news, this is the group for you.  Plans for the coming year include creating a communication strategy and increasing CaNOE website traffic.  Give us a hand and learn the ins and outs of social media!


CaNOE member celebrating Ukee Days in Ucluelet, BC.  Credit: Anne Stewart


Strategic Planning

A key part of any organization is coming up with a plan and missions you wish to achieve.  This group helps keep CaNOE on course as we continue to grow across Canada.  Even though in 2016, our Directors approved a 5 year  Strategic Plan, the work is not done.  Continuing on, this group will work towards CaNOE’s long term goals by setting short term goals and annual work plans.  


International Efforts and Activities

Perhaps you would like to use your camaraderie skills and build relationships with other similar organizations who share our passion for ocean literacy.  For example, Canada has committed to advancing transatlantic ocean literacy, with the EU and the USA in the Galway Statement. What better way to grow as an organization then to learn from other amazing organizations around the world? Help us build and maintain these relationship where we can share each other’s resources!


Education and Outreach

Two CaNOE members at a local Oceans Day festival in Sidney, BC. Credit: Heather Murray

As of 2016, the Canadian Network for Ocean Education has  started a group that focuses on the latter part of our organization’s name –  education!  As one of the newer working groups, the Education and Outreach team hopes to build a database of ocean science learning resources.  A special invitation is extended to teachers from this group.. If you know of other organizations doing great marine and freshwater outreach or are a teacher wishing to help spread ocean education across the country, then this just might be the group for you.




The final, newly added group, will be looking into CaNOE membership options, including fees, categories, and benefits.  In addition, this group will be helping Regional chapters get going. Regional groups will set their own goals, have a regional perspective and support  members locally .   We hope to increase membership among those who are not based directly on the east or west coasts.  If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of then we’d love to have you!


Phew! Now that I know all my fin-tastic options it has come time for me to choose a group. Maybe writing this blog post is a dead giveaway, but I chose to join the Communications Working Group! But because I could not choose just one of the amazing working groups, I also joined the Education Working Group! I hope my past experience will be an asset to these teams and I can’t wait to learn from my fellow CaNOE colleagues.

If you wish to join us then please do! If you’re not a CaNOE member yet – fill out our online form – then volunteer to join a working group! Shoot an email over to info@oceanliteracy.ca, let us know what group you are interested in, and we will get back to you as soon as possible! I hope to work with you soon!

2015 conference participants enjoying one of the awesome field trips.  Credit: Haley Guest


headshotLucija is a marine science educator who has in the past worked at the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, and the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation.  Upon completing her Science Communication graduate program at Laurentian University she decided to continue exploring more informal science institutions. Twitter: @LucijaRose