Ocean Bridge connects Canadian youth from coast to coast to coast empowering them to make a difference towards ocean conservation. Started in 2018, Ocean Bridge youth spend the year completing service projects in their communities and coming together twice, once for their Learning Journey addressing regional Ocean Health and again for their Urban Learning Journey, where they take the lead and plan Ocean Literacy events together. In 2020, Ocean Bridge expanded from 40 participants to 160 participants divided into 4 cohorts (Pacific, Great Lakes, St. Lawrence, and Atlantic). Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the original Learning Journeys were not able to take place. In turn, the wonderful and resourceful Ocean Bridge staff were able to plan 18 Learning Journeys in 5 regions in just a few short months! Participants explored close to home, learned about environmental issues impacting their communities, and helped support local environmental initiatives.
Overall, the Learning Journeys have been a silver lining in 2020, where youth passionate about the ocean were able to come together and inspire one another and help their communities. And it’s not over yet! In the new year, the Urban Learning Journeys will take place so stay tuned for updates!
For now, enjoy this fin-tastic collection of reflections from participants who explored one of the 5 regions (Atlantic, St. Lawrence River, Southern Ontario, Northern Ontario, and Pacific) during their Learning Journeys.
Thank you to all the writers for taking the time to share your experience with us!
Atlantic Learning Journey By: Carter McNelly
At the beginning of September, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Rural Atlantic Learning Journey for the Ocean Bridge 2020 cohort. Spending a full 10 days completely immersed in the local communities, learning about their struggles and how we can all make a difference. I got to meet 7 other amazing leaders and together we were able to grow and learn, all while helping these communities out. Among just a few of the service projects we did over those ten days, it was the time at Treaty Truck House #2 that stuck with me the most. The Pesegitk Protectors there were using their rights to protest the twinning of a highway and the construction of a controlled tidal exchange. By restricting the flow of fish and water, the Protectors argue this will have irreversible damage to this very important lifeline. We took a walk around the lake to see both sides of the situation and understand just how deep the issue goes. I would not have had the opportunity to even know about this issue from the position I hold. I firmly believe that these Learning Journeys are vital for youth such as myself to gain visibility in their own communities, it is something I will forever be grateful for.
St. Lawrence River Learning Journey By: Marie-Luce Carrier
I was on the trip in Tadoussac with the first group of the Saint Lawrence cohort, from August 14th to 23rd. A special moment was when we were in Mashteuiatsh, Lac-St-Jean, all of us reunited around a campfire by the river for dinner. Around 10 pm, some of us when to bed, in our super Cool Boxes (tiny shacks in which we were two people in each). Six of us remained outside, laying down on the ground to watch the sky full of stars. It was the shooting-star time of the year, so we were hoping to see some. We could see the Milky Way pretty well, and Benjamin Aubé, the photograph who was with us, took great shots of it. It was a gorgeous scenery.
My lovely mates and I were chatting about deep conversation topics: life experiences, beliefs, etc. As we weren’t expecting it, time stopped as we finally “catched” a shooting star. We were so touched that we almost cried. That evening, we saw one or two more shooting stars, the first ones of my summer. We went to bed tired, but so, so happy and amazed to have had the chance to experience some of the wonders of life. We experienced the feeling of being connected to the universe and the feeling of being with close friends with people we had known for less than a week. I felt loved, and super grateful for such beauty and for being so privileged.
My first impression of Lake Huron was during a wind storm. The power of the wind quite literally took my breath away, as I watched the waves crashing to shore and the sun setting over the horizon. I could easily believe that I was looking at an ocean. My learning journey was set on the backdrop of one of Ontario’s most beautiful aquatic environments, but it was the close look at the geological history and the ecosystems supported in this unique place that made the trip so memorable. A Métis culture keeper and botanist led us through several hikes, discussing the lifespan of a lichen, sharing the names of the plants, pointing out the ancient corals in the rocks around us, and making us understand that so much is visible when you know what to look for. Even the littlest life forms have names, have a purpose, and we are connected to these things through a complex system of interactions which form the environment around us.
I’d never thought about learning the names of plants; I didn’t realize I wanted to know. This learning journey inspired in me a desire to make sense of the world around me in scientific terms. I’ve taken the step to go back to school – right at the beginning. I’m now studying high school biology and chemistry online and it’s fantastic. I’m learning everyday and seeing the world with much more curiosity and connection. I’m grateful to have experienced this learning journey and excited for whatever comes next.
This year with Ocean Bridge, I got the opportunity to go on an immersive 10-day learning journey to the North Shore of Lake Superior. We were 6 participants and 2 leaders from Manitoba and Northern Ontario that joined together for the unique and life-changing trip. We offered our services to the locals to support the community and educate ourselves on the area. We immersed ourselves in the Anishinaabe culture and met elders of the area to learn their culture. We got special privileges like staying in the lighthouse keeper’s house on Battle Island as we provided our services. There is nothing more magical and relaxing than to stay in a place that was built over a hundred years ago on an isolated island. We worked hard to build railings and give the lighthouse a fresh coat of paint. Exploring the nature of this place was like stepping into another world – there was vegetation I have never seen before. I just wanted to photograph and record every detail. My love of nature grew with every day on this trip. We were totally immersed. Every day we were somewhere new, seeing new parts of the North Shore and experiencing indigenous flora and fauna.
One moment that inspired me was my spiritual encounter with a wild lynx at Hurkett Cove Conservation Area. As we looked into each other’s eyes I just knew that I would fight to preserve and treasure nature for the rest of my life. The urgency was there – if we do not fight for the survival of all species now, no one else will get to experience the power of the wild like I did on this trip.
Together as a group we fought the wild side of Lake Superior, gained an unforgettable experience, gained an imaginable respect for life, and made friendships that I will forever cherish.
Pacific Learning Journey By: Cayley Elcombe
I didn’t know what to expect when I hopped into the Ocean Bridge van en route to Squamish, BC on a sunny day in August. As I would come to find out, 10 days can fly by in an instant when you are having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From practicing cedar weaving and learning about ethnobotany from some amazing local Indigenous knowledge keepers, to eating many delicious lunches on the field at sunny Camp Summit, to long group hikes and warm campfires, I had an amazing time. Not to forget our time aboard the Providence, sailing around Howe Sound – the highlight for me. I have a newfound love for sailing thanks to our days at sea! The formal learning was a very important part of the journey, but equally critical I felt, was the time my group got to spend together. It’s not often that I’ve gotten the opportunity to talk with so many passionate, smart, positive people who all have one common goal or interest – and who are taking the steps to do something about it! I was really impressed to find that each of the other ambassadors in my group came in with the mindset of being open to learning. This led to some great discussions and I value that time we spent together chatting and laughing. This amazing experience really inspired me to continue learning about the environment that I live in, and how I can help protect it.
— By: Angela Phan
My learning journey took place at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, British Columbia where we also spent three days sailing the Howe Sound and Salish Sea on the Providence 1930. Even though I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past twenty-three years, it was evident that I had so much more to learn about my own home.
While on our sailing trip, we got the chance to explore Galiano Island which is one of the southern Gulf islands located in the Salish Sea. We were greeted by a beautiful pristine beach with a remarkable shoreline that consisted of sandstone formations with tidal pools full of sea anemones and starfish. As a city girl from Vancouver, I was captivated by the presence of Garry oaks on the island since it was an indication of the unique Mediterranean-climate they belong to.
I was amazed by the different ecosystems we encountered; however, I was equally impressed by the knowledge shared by my fellow ambassadors and the locals we met. During knowledge exchanges, I learned so much about different topics such as the Southern Resident orcas, ecofeminism, divestment, aquaculture, how to make a documentary, and the histories, stories, and ecological knowledge of Sḵwx̱wúʔmesh (Squamish).
Although my Ocean Bridge learning journey was not what I had originally envisioned, I am so appreciative for the trip. To this day, I feel immensely inspired by everyone I met because of their unique perspectives and knowledge. The experience illustrated the unique capabilities and learning processes we all contribute towards protecting what connects us all – the ocean.
Meet the Writers
Atlantic Learning Journey
Carter McNelly is an Ocean Bridge participant. You can find Carter in St.John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
St. Lawrence River Learning Journey
Marie-Luce Carrier is an Ocean Bridge ambassador currently living in Rimouski, Quebec.
Southern Ontario Learning Journey
Aileen Duncan is an engaged citizen of Ottawa, a supporter of the arts and culture, an outdoor explorer, an infrastructure enthusiast, a caregiver of houseplants, and a policy analyst with the Government of Canada.
Northern Ontario Learning Journey
Kirsten Desorcy is an Ocean Bridge participant from Manitoba. She is currently a student pursuing her Honours Undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba, with the final goal of a PhD in Marine Biology. Kirsten is a wife and mother of two that enjoys traveling and immersing herself and her family in nature. Her passions include: Cetaceans, Animals, Science, Nature photography, Nature documentaries, traveling, reading, scrapbooking, researching, and spending time with family.
Pacific Learning Journey
Cayley Elcombe is a current member of Ocean Bridge and resides in Vancouver, BC. When not spending time on her conservation website for youth, knownorthshore.ca , Cayley enjoys hiking with her dog.
Angela Phan (she/her/hers) lives on the unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, also known as Vancouver. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA in International Relations, where she studied interdisciplinary topics such as politics, business, and environmental studies. She is hoping to one day pursue a Masters in environmental management to learn more about how we as a society, organizations, and individuals can mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.