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Laure Waridel Bursary Winner Marianne Falardeau-Côté Brings the Arctic to the Classroom


Flying over the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut in a seaplane during a scientific research expedition.

Dear Équiterre Community: As this year’s Laure Waridel bursary winner, I’d like to share with you the highlights of my activities.

Playing “Who eats who?” to understand ecosystems

This summer, I had the pleasure of running a science workshop for children aged 8 to 12 at Le Camp de L’île day camp in Montreal. First, I gave a short presentation on the Arctic marine ecosystem. The children learned about its key species and features, such as the permanent ice cover and extreme light conditions. Then, we played a game in which each child was a link or species in the Arctic marine ecosystem: a phytoplankton, a zooplankton, all the way up to a whale or human. They had to figure out who eats who and create a food web, using ropes to attach prey to their predators. For example, polar bears eat seals and seals eat Arctic cod, which eats zooplankton, and so on. At the end of the activity, they’d formed a happy ecosystem all bound together.

Children play Arctic marine species. Here’s a little seal! (Photo credit: Le Camp de l’île)

Children learn the importance of key links in the Arctic marine ecosystem, including microscopic organisms like plankton. (Photo credit: Le Camp de l’île)

The aim was to get the children thinking about the importance of keeping ecosystems healthy and maintaining their biodiversity. The Arctic marine ecosystem relies on key links to work well. These include phytoplankton, zooplankton and Arctic cod, which are essential to maintaining emblematic species, such as ringed seals and their predators—polar bears. Did you know that Arctic cod, a species unique to the Arctic, can transfer up to 75% of the energy from zooplankton to mammals and marine birds?

After forming an ecosystem, the children explored what could happen if a species was depleted or disappeared, due to environmental stress, for example. They learned that all species in this ecosystem are interrelated and depend heavily on lower links, such as phytoplankton, sometimes referred to “the grass of the sea,” and zooplankton.

Arctic cod is a key species in the Arctic marine ecosystem. (Credit: Dr. Gérald Darnis, in Darnis et al., 2012)

Giving a presentation on the Arctic marine ecosystem. (Photo credit: Le Camp de l’île)

Engaging teenagers using tips from the pros!

I was fortunate to talk to Équiterre’s Co-founder and Senior Director, Steven Guilbeault, and Climate Change and Energy Advisor, Geneviève Puskas, about sharing information with the public at their offices this summer.

I then had the chance to put their invaluable tips into practice when I gave a talk to Secondary 4 students at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf in early September. I spoke about the Arctic Ocean, its marine ecosystems and the various ecosystem services—or benefits to humans—they provide.

Once again, I wanted to show them how everything is interrelated. For instance, the whole planet benefits from the Arctic’s permanent ice cover, which reflects sunlight and helps regulate the climate. And Arctic communities enjoy a number of ecosystem services, such as access to highly nutritious food through fishing and hunting.

I also talked about issues that are shaping the Arctic, including the impact of climate change, and wrapped up by discussing existing solutions, such as using renewable energies.

The students were really engaged in the discussion, and I was struck by their enthusiasm for finding solutions. We certainly have a lot of motivated, aware young people in Quebec. Experiences like these make me feel optimistic about the future!

Talking about Arctic issues at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. (Photo credit: Samuel Brière)

The Arctic, which helps regulate the climate, is crucial to the whole planet. (Photo credit: Samuel Brière)

2018 Clean50 Emerging Leader

Canada’s Clean50 awards are announced annually by Unilever, Delta Management Group and the Clean50 organization to recognize 50 individuals or small teams, from 16 different categories, who have done the most to advance sustainability over the past two years. I was deeply honoured to receive a 2018 Clean50 Emerging Leader award in recognition of my research in the Canadian Arctic, particularly my interdisciplinary, participatory approach to studying marine ecosystems and ecosystem services. The award also highlights my efforts to share my scientific research with the public and young people in southern and northern Canada.

I attended the Clean50 Summit in Toronto on September 28, which kicked off with a number of working groups on what Canada can do to move towards a sustainable economy in the next 25 years. Award winners discussed various lines of action in groups. My group focused on agriculture, food and fisheries, and came up with several recommendations, including implementing mechanisms to prevent food waste, encouraging urban farming and improving traceability of seafood. I had the chance to talk to women and men making outstanding contributions to sustainable development in Canada. And at the end of this productive day, I attended the awards ceremony and learned more about the other recipients, including the nine other emerging leaders and their fascinating projects. Please take the time to read about these Canadian pioneers in sustainability.

Happy recipient of a 2018 Clean50 Emerging Leader award!

First working group on the future of sustainability in agriculture, food and fisheries.

Ten 2018 Emerging Leaders—an award category made possible thanks to Unilever.

Upcoming plans

This fall, I’ll be holding more workshops and talks for young people and working hard on my PhD research. I’m also preparing a huge participatory workshop to be held in Nunavut this coming winter. I’ll be sure to keep you posted. Have a great fall!

You can find out more about my project and watch my video presentation on the Équiterre website, as well as on my blog.

Marianne Falardeau-Côté

Quoted in this article: G. Darnis, D. Robert, C. Pomerleau, H. Link, P. Archambault, R. J. Nelson, M. Geoffroy, J-É. Tremblay, C. Lovejoy, S. H. Ferguson, B. P. V. Hunt and L. Fortier, Current State and Trends in Canadian Arctic Marine Ecosystems: II. Heterotrophic Food Web, Pelagic-Benthic Coupling, and Biodiversity. Climatic Change (2012), 115:179.