Maxine Westhead has always been conservation-minded and wanted to help make change. After snorkeling in Hawaii in the 1980s, she fell in love with the marine environment and on the spot decided to become a marine biologist — deviating from her childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian.
“Talk about being at the right place at the right time,” says Westhead.
After completing her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Guelph, Westhead landed an internship with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in 1998 and has worked for the Marine Planning and Conservation Program within the department since then.
In 2014, she joined Dal's Marine Affairs program in the Faculty of Science as a part-time lecturer and adjunct professor.
“Over the years, I took on various roles in marine conservation, marine protected areas, marine spatial planning, and species at risk. I also studied the mudflats of the Minas Basin and the impacts of physical disturbance through clam and baitworm harvesting for my Master’s degree at Acadia University."
With both her research expertise and her management-level experience, Dal now welcomes Westhead as Professional in Residence. The role, which is a collaboration between the university and DFO, will support Master of Marine Management students in the development of professional and networking skills. Maxine will also lead research seminars, skills workshops, and individual consultations with graduate students.
“As an international leader in oceans research and partnerships, we are pleased to support this exciting initiative, which expands our resources for graduate students in the Faculty of Science and deepens our long-standing partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada,” says Chuck Macdonald, dean of the Faculty of Science. “We are thrilled to have her serve as a bridge between the academic and professional worlds in the realm of marine management."
Helping students find their passion
Westhead's role will primarily involve advising students through a professional lens. She will be meeting with them one on one to talk about career goals, their unique studies, and potential internships. She will also support the students in developing their professional networks by introducing them to the right people in their fields of interest.
“I’ve been proudly working with the Marine Affairs program for almost a decade now and increasing my involvement with the program is an honour. My job with DFO and my role with Marine Affairs have been generally separate undertakings to date, so I’m happy to be able to formally bring them closer together,” she says.
Westhead is currently the section head for Marine Planning in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Maritimes Region. For ten years, she has led the Maritime Region MPA Program and for the past three years has been leading the regional Marine Planning team, which includes Marine Spatial Planning and Marine Environmental Quality.
“This is an excellent opportunity to continue and further develop the Department’s strong relationship with Dalhousie University, which is a key source of future interns and employees,” says Doug Wentzell, DFO’s regional director general.
“As I age and get closer to the end of my career rather than the beginning, I feel the desire to give back. I’d like to end my career knowing that I’ve helped several students find their passion and get their foot in a door somewhere,” says Westhead. “With environmental and oceans issues locally and globally still being so pressing and urgent, I also believe that the more people we have working on solutions, the better.”
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