On World Oceans Day, Dal experts explore how to better incorporate traditional Indigenous knowledge into ocean science

Panel Wednesday June 8 at 5 pm

- June 8, 2022

On Wednesday, World Oceans Day will be marked at Dalhousie with a virtual panel on traditional knowledge. (Evan Bollag photo/Unsplash)
On Wednesday, World Oceans Day will be marked at Dalhousie with a virtual panel on traditional knowledge. (Evan Bollag photo/Unsplash)

While it’s pretty difficult to forget about the ocean while on Dal’s campus just steps away from the Atlantic, the annual World Oceans Day presents another opportunity to reflect on the critical role this natural resource plays in everyone’s lives.

This year, Dal’s Faculty of Science is hosting a panel to discuss the intersection between traditional knowledge and World Oceans Day.

Raven Stephens Elwell, an oceans biologist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and a graduate student in Dal’s Marine Management program, is one of the six panelists participatingh in the online discussion later today (Wednesday) at 5pm. She works on coral and sponge conservation.

“There are many ways traditional knowledge can be incorporated into science,” says Stephens Elwell, who is from Butterfly Clan of Millbrook First Nation. She hopes to share at the panel how scientific research and scientific decision-making can incorporate Mi’kmaq and other traditional knowledge.

Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge of Indigenous communities, which has often been outright rejected by the colonial system. Panelists will explore how traditional knowledge can be incorporated into ocean sciences, government policy, and research.

The panel includes experts on both ocean sciences and Indigenous knowledge. In addition to Stephens Elwell, it includes:

•    Cathy Martin, Director of Indigenous Community Engagement, Dalhousie
•    Olivia Choi, Shipping and Marine Safety Project Manager, Council of Haida Nation
•    Lindsay Marshall, Advisor, Highland National Park
•    Lydia Ross, Science Writer, Parks Canada
•    Alanna Syliboy, Mi’kmaw Knowledge and Community Engagement Manager, Mi’kmaw Conservation Group

Revitalizing the ocean — together

This year’s World Oceans Day theme is “Revitalization: collective action for the ocean,” a call from the United Nations to all of humanity to work together on restoring damaged ocean ecosystems and securing the future of oceans.

With the critical importance of oceans as a food supplier and to countless sectors across the economy, the engagement work helps create a more informed public and expose them to new perspectives, like traditional knowledge.

“The main significance of World Oceans Day is education and outreach,” according to Stephens Elwell. “There is so much people don’t know about the ocean.”

For Stephens Elwell, this day provides an opportunity to educate the public on both the scientific work surrounding the ocean but also an opportunity for the public to form an informed viewpoint on the state of oceans.

World Oceans Day was first officially recognized by the United Nations through a resolution in 2008.

The event is accessible online via Teams.


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