By Sarah Walsh
Growing up in Newfoundland, whether it was out fishing with my family, exploring beaches, or out watching the whales dance and play, I was always immersed in ocean life. As a 7 year old, it was obvious; I was going to be a marine biologist. However, little did I know at the time, I would lose that dream somewhere along the way through junior high and high school. I allowed my social life to take precedence and unfortunately, I became lost along the way. Leaving high school, I watched as all my friends effortlessly walked onto the path they’ve made for themselves. They knew exactly what they wanted and I was left behind, which I’m sure is something many people experience but at the time I felt alone. After countless attempts to find my niche, an opportunity arose which would ultimately lead me back to my original path;
marine biology. It was a moment of joy and pure embarrassment because I finally found my passion; something I had all along.
Photo: Dave Howells, davehowellsphoto.com
I’m not going to say it was easy once I decided to change my major to Marine Biology. I had already spent two years at university dragging my feet, so trying to come back from that was tough. When I graduated, academically, I was a nobody; however, someone saw my drive and passion to be more. Am I ever glad because my first opportunity to become a marine interpreter in my last year in university was the beginning of something much bigger than I could have ever imagined.
Photo: Marine Institute
Being an educator was not something I had planned and it’s not something I’m working towards academically; it’s more of a passion. I love studying the ocean, but I also love teaching others about why they should love it too. I’ll side track for a second here, but after finishing my Marine Biology degree, I moved onto a second degree/diploma in Ocean Mapping. Yes, I know another slight career change, but it’s along the same path… Okay, back to marine interpretation. While I was studying to be an ocean mapper, I had other opportunities to educate the public during my summer breaks. They were amazing experiences and it helped build my presence within the ocean education community. I felt like I had made my mark, while also building up my resume. But life happens and my public education days seemed to be at their end when I became a full-time hydrographer after graduation. Bummer, I know, but I still have a pretty cool job. Let’s be honest.
Photo: Sarah Walsh
Who knew you could be both a hydrographer and an ocean educator at the same time? I always dreamed about it, but never thought it was really a thing. Well, welcome to the life of Dr. Robert Ballard and the Ocean Exploration Trust. This organization combines scientific research onboard a 64-meter vessel, while simultaneously educating the public through live video, audio, and data feeds. Cue the pearly gates opening! This was the dream and I still can’t believe I was chosen to be an intern on the EV Nautilus. So, needless to say, my passion to educate was reborn because I discovered it was possible to do both. However, will I work for the OET again? Maybe. Maybe not. The point is that I now know that regardless of my title, I also want to continue educating on the importance of our oceans because I am at my happiest when I can do both. Okay, now cue in Team Sedna …
The Sedna Epic Expedition was something I’ve been following since 2016; however, the project has been ongoing since 2014. Everything about the project was exciting to me; climate change research, ocean education, and an all-female team. Speak about women empowerment! These women were phenomenal; driven, adventurous, and all well established in their careers. To me, it was the bee’s knees; however, it was also something I thought was unattainable for me, but I still thought I’d try. Getting a “No” reply was the worst that could happen, so to me, it was worth it. Being still in school at the time and not quite where I needed to be career-wise, I knew it was not going to happen. We kept in touch though, mainly through social media. I would get a “like” every now and then, but for me, that was cool enough (I was clearly fangirling).
So, a few weeks back, I learned a very good lesson. “Trying” is always your best bet, no matter how far-fetched because in early March, I received a message from Team Lead Susan R. Eaton asking if I would be still interested in joining Team Sedna. After a bit of jumping around the house, I replied calmly “Yes, I am interested” and sent along my cover letter and resume with haste! Well, after a week of trying to figure out if I could pull this off, financially mainly, I officially became the newest member of Team Sedna. I was now one of those driven, adventurous women and the only Newfoundlander going north to boot! I had just accomplished another dream of mine… women are amazing, aren’t we?
Starting August 4 th and running until August 17 th , Team Sedna will be conducting ocean educational outreach programs in indigenous communities, as well as diving and snorkeling to conduct scientific research on climate change. However, a main focus of this project is to work with Inuit and Inuvialuit girls and young women in the Arctic to focus on health, wellness, environment, and empowerment issues. In collaboration with Inuit advisors, Team Sedna strives to create citizen ocean scientists and empower youth, girls and young women to become the next generation of Inuit leaders to tackle societal change, climate change and ocean change in the Arctic. So, the “Sedna Epic Expedition will serve as a ‘call to action’ for citizens of the world, including youth, providing aboriginal and scientific knowledge in support of science-based policy that governments can implement to mitigate global warming” (www.sednaepic.com).
I don’t know about you, but I think this is the type of project Canada needs right now; Climate change research, reconciliation, women empowerment. It tackles some of the main issues occurring in Canada right now and I am so honoured to be a part of it. As you know, I am passionate about increasing our knowledge of the oceans, and reconciliation, while new to me, is something all Canadians should be passionate about. The Expedition serves to inspire women and girls to think ‘big’ and to follow their dreams, no matter how out-of- the-box they may seem. That holds near and dear to my heart because I struggled to find my way and it wasn’t easy. However, through determination and help along the way, I have achieved my dreams and continue to create new ones. So, I want to help these girls and young women discover their potential because I believe we’re all capable, strong women.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog and I hope you’ll all join along on our journey. If you would like to learn more about the Sedna Epic Expedition, please visit their website www.sednaepic.com. Also, if you would like to donate to my travel fund, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/support-team-sedna-member-sarah. I’m also gratefully accepting ; therefore, you can contact me via email (Sarah.Walsh@dfo-mpo.gc.ca) if you like to become a sponsor.
Sarah Walsh is a multidisciplinary hydrographer with the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) in St. John’s, NL. She obtained a Bachelor of Science focused in Marine Biology from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a Bachelor of Technology and Diploma in Ocean Mapping from the Marine Institute. Sarah is an advocate for our oceans; therefore, she dedicates her time to better our understanding the ocean through ocean mapping and public education. As a communications working group member with CaNOE, she hopes she can help spread awareness about the importance of ocean literacy.