Students

My Summer at ACAP - Cristian Estrella

ACAP Saint John has been a great work experience; I have gone from learning about the Canadian Fauna to learning about the different marine species found in the Maritimes. Providing support to an ecological survey around the Little Marsh Creek area provided me with data analysis experience and real life application of such data. I learned to identify prominent fish species such as sticklebacks, trout, killifish and shiners, as well as rare species such as the American eel, and Sea Lamprey. Co-leading an urban tree inventory for the Lower West Side provided me with the tools to accurately identify all the tree species found in the area.

Overall the ACAP experience has been a very valuable one in terms of the knowledge acquired and the experience as a whole. The support provided by the staff was invaluable and their willingness to help or provide guidance when needed gets them an “excellent” rating. The ACAP Saint John experience was wonderful and I would recommend to anyone able to at least volunteer from one of their projects, to do it without hesitation because you will not regret it.

 - Cristian Estrella

My Summer at ACAP - Andrew Shaddick

After receiving my SEED voucher and scrolling through the many job opportunities, ACAP Saint John very much caught my eye with the description they had posted. It was one of the only environmental non-profits in my area, and the work they had done around the city was something I greatly respected. I was confident that I wanted to work there. 

Upon starting the job, I met my coworkers and was shown around the Social Enterprise Hub, where several other non-profits have their offices. I was struck by the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere in the building and of the people occupying it. For the first week or so, I spent my time reading many of the previous reports that the staff at ACAP Saint John had made over the years. Within the second week, I was in the middle of a full day of tree planting and picking up litter down by Spar Cove. It was tiring work, but I found myself genuinely valuing the improvements we were making to the previously mistreated area. With every tree I planted, I imagined what they might look like in twenty or thirty years. 

It wasn’t long before the first opportunity to go electrofishing came. I had personally never heard of the concept prior to working here, but I suppose the name is pretty self-explanatory. The goal was to get an idea of the abundance, number of species, and size of fish in a particular stream. What always surprised me was just how many fish were contained within what appeared to be a roadside ditch or shallow, forested stream. Our focus during late June/early July was a habitat survey and eventual electrofishing of Little Marsh Creek. I can’t imagine walking around with rubber overalls through densely forested areas in thirty-degree weather is everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally thought it was a great experience, and I’d do it again and again. There was something very enjoyable about exploring an area, taking note of its various natural features, then coming back to discover what sort of fish live in that environment. 

The main duty of us summer students, aside from gardening and keeping the Sustainer Container watered, was completing a tree inventory of the Lower West. We would drive over to catalog trees and record diagnostic details about them, including species, location, height, etc. During this time, we talked with curious and friendly locals about the project, many of whom seemed happy to have people taking an interest in the area. The inventory itself took us about a month to finish, in which we documented nearly six-hundred trees over fifty-seven streets. 

One of my favourite things about working at ACAP Saint John was coming into the office and seeing what new things we were doing that day. The variety of duties kept work interesting and enjoyable. But personally, the best part of working here was that none of it actually felt like work: It was all fun, which was only made better by the kind, funny, and knowledgeable people at ACAP Saint John. It’s unfortunate that I only got to spend a short fourteen weeks in the office, but I appreciate the time I spent here all the same.

Thank you for the opportunity to work at ACAP Saint John and for the wonderful summer I had here,

Andrew Shaddick

Waterways of New Brunswick

Just in time for the New Brunswick day long weekend I am sharing some of my personal visits to New Brunswick's well known and less well known waterways. Before I started working for ACAP this summer, my main environmental interests have always been in pollution control, endangered species, as well as anything and everything related to climate change that I could get my hands on. Though my passion for the environment has been intrinsically imbedded in my mind since an early age, I never really began to think about one of the main things that constantly surrounded me... water.

Since working for ACAP I have discovered a deep interest in aquatic ecosystems in every which way whether it was for their ecological productivity value, the species that inhabit the water, their health, and their aesthetic value towards a broader community. Now more than ever with my own form of transportation, I can explore and delve in my personal scientific interests from a angle that I have always been aching to fulfill. However, I must note that you do not need a motorized vehicle or anything similar in order to go searching for aquatic ecosystems as they might just be found in your backyard!

My entire life I have lived just a few mere kilometers away from the Nerepis river, which connects to the larger Saint John River that helps to feed the Bay of Fundy. I have always heard stories about a fishing hole that was located where I live that people have been going to for the last 40 years, but I never took the time to explore it myself. More recently, I was informed that Ducks Unlimited was involved in a project down the road from my house after questioning my immediate family of all the dump trucks travelling up and down my road. I live on a more often than not deserted road that no body really bothers to travel down. However, I soon learnt that a dyke was being built through 300 truckloads of infilled gravel, clay, and sand mixture to prevent the small neighborhood located near me from flooding. Being the interested intrinsically motivated scientist that I am, I had to find out more.

Travelling to the end of my road and hiking through the wood and along the Nerepis River I discovered the progress of the dyke being built. Though my initial interest was to come find out more about the dyke, I was presently surprised by what else I found. It was the marsh that I found that instead sparked my interest. In the marsh where a multitude of birds singing their songs, frogs jumping and swimming throughout the vast expanse of lily pads and reeds, and a the biggest beaver dam/hut I have ever seen! I would have never guessed that something so beautiful was so close to my house. Evidently, the fishing hole behind my house that everyone always told me about, was actually connected to this marsh after investigating from a birds eye view of google maps.

So far, this has been my favourite body of water that I have found this summer. However, I have been going on excursions since late May and ACAP has only helped to fuel my love for the environment in regards to the preservation of all water bodies. Mostly, I just travel around my house with a radius of a few kilometers and end up pleasantly surprised in what I happen to find. I highly recommend everyone to take time to explore their local lands, and if that does not appeal to you, maybe a larger more coastal area will spark your interest like Saint Andrews or Fundy National Park!

Images from Beginning Until End of Post

  • Image 1: Marsh that connects to the Nerepis River that extents back towards Keatings Corner, NB and travels south towards Woodsman's Point, NB
  • Image 2: At the top of Laverty Falls in Fundy National Park, Alma, NB
  • Image 3: Mud Lake in Welsford, NB that feeds Welsford Falls that then later connects to the Nerepis River
  • Image 4: Saint's Rest Beach at low tide that is located in Saint John (West), NB
  • Image 5: Sand Brook Falls in Wirral, NB
  • Image 6: Top of Welsford Falls in Welsford, NB

The Storytelling of Science

 “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious- the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” – Albert Einstein  Mystery In the natural world is terrifying in an inspiring sort of fashion.  We’re not entirely sure why we feel an unnervingly annoying nag somewhere between our neck and navel when we do something inherently wrong….but we do.  We’re not fully confident we can explain the remarkably unusual act of throwing our heads back and contorting our faces in a gremlin-like yawn when we’re tired….but it happens.  We marvel at the healing power of our minds during the placebo effect though no medication has been administered.  And we simply cannot explain the geometrically amusing state of Stephen Harper’s hair…but there it is in all its shapely glory.   I think we can all agree that it IS in fact this mystery that keeps us moving forward in the scientific world! We are arrestingly absorbed by the unknown and there is profound elegance and beauty in that.  But with every new discovery, with every beakers-drop and within every ecosystem there is another device we crave, the wonderful story nature tells.  Indeed within it all….is the storytelling of science!  Rachel Carson’s epic  Silent Spring  encourages us to band together in defense of the natural world with a sledge hammer of emotion as much as facts and figures; we could almost feel the poisons on our skin, as if she Pavlov-ed us into trembling at the very mention of pesticides.  Hawking’s  Theory of Everything  reminded us to look skyward in wonder with its rhythmic, pulsating equations of the cosmos.  It is this brilliantly scientific poetry that inspires us to march onward towards discovery and will most certainly be the driver for future generations of scientist frontiersman!

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious- the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” – Albert Einstein

Mystery In the natural world is terrifying in an inspiring sort of fashion.  We’re not entirely sure why we feel an unnervingly annoying nag somewhere between our neck and navel when we do something inherently wrong….but we do.  We’re not fully confident we can explain the remarkably unusual act of throwing our heads back and contorting our faces in a gremlin-like yawn when we’re tired….but it happens.  We marvel at the healing power of our minds during the placebo effect though no medication has been administered.  And we simply cannot explain the geometrically amusing state of Stephen Harper’s hair…but there it is in all its shapely glory. 

I think we can all agree that it IS in fact this mystery that keeps us moving forward in the scientific world! We are arrestingly absorbed by the unknown and there is profound elegance and beauty in that.  But with every new discovery, with every beakers-drop and within every ecosystem there is another device we crave, the wonderful story nature tells.  Indeed within it all….is the storytelling of science!

Rachel Carson’s epic Silent Spring encourages us to band together in defense of the natural world with a sledge hammer of emotion as much as facts and figures; we could almost feel the poisons on our skin, as if she Pavlov-ed us into trembling at the very mention of pesticides.  Hawking’s Theory of Everything reminded us to look skyward in wonder with its rhythmic, pulsating equations of the cosmos.  It is this brilliantly scientific poetry that inspires us to march onward towards discovery and will most certainly be the driver for future generations of scientist frontiersman!

Above is a picture we can almost unanimously identify (no it is not a furry representation of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation).  Although we may not all be aware of Chi Chi, the giant panda who inspired Sir Peter Scott, we are all quite aware that it is the official symbol of the World Wildlife Fund. 

Aside from saving the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing costs, Chi Chi brings to light the intensely important essence of the storytelling of science. 

Conservation, in theory and in practice, intrinsically revolves around the respectable debate of why we conserve.  What is it about a certain species that begs its salvation over another lesser species?  How do we delineate which ecosystems are in greatest need and how do we dictate our findings to organizations on the ground and the general populous?  Do we want to live in a world where the rainforests have long since been obliterated and abolished? Nature is becoming less natural all the time, are we certain that we can imagine a world without the splendor of colorful wonder that rejuvenates us as fellow animals?

The former two questions are scientific and the latter two tell the story.  Scientifically speaking WWF’s panda Chi Chi represents a double-sided conservation model.  Although giant panda’s may not be as biologically significant as the honey-bee or the giant sequoia, high atop the misty mountains of Western China there is another story being told.  Giant pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo, in earnest needing anywhere from 25 to 85 pounds of the woody perennial daily to maintain their robust figure.  These bamboo forests are the heart and soul of Western China, an economic and geographic strong hold with an essence of enormity; both in terms of physical beauty and biological productivity.  These wholesome forest ecosystems are not just the home of Chi Chis next of kin, but a stunning symposium of wonderful and curious species; some of whom, like the golden monkey, are endangered.

In pursuit of protection at the highest level, a deeply enriching story is being told about the giant panda and their bamboo homes.  Indeed we can protect an entire ecosystem, ensuring the survival of endangered species, but we need only fall in love with one.  Laboriously and gracefully walking from A to B, pandas have the distinct qualities of a wise old man; respectful, calm, understanding even in some ursidae way.  Young children hold their plush brethren when they go to sleep at night and their black-rounded eyes are almost apologetic.  They sit thoughtfully on their bean-bag-behinds in pleasant temperament and alternate between walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating as the time and place demand simply because that’s what they do. They seem happy to do it.  Their young, rather orb-like babies, wordlessly beg to be hugged and you are overwhelmed by the strange desire to tell them everything is going to be okay even though you’re not at all sure why it wouldn’t be. 

In every distinctly unique faction of science stories like that of the giant panda are being told.  The story often reads like an epic poem and its value cannot be underestimated.  The wonderful and amusing story of the giant panda currently being told is an inspirational introduction to the amazing world of Western China’s bamboo forests, and all the mysteriously magical creatures in it that are in need of a story of their own.  Citizen scientists and professionals alike can see to it that these stories of conservation and community have a happy ending, all that is needed is for someone to start telling it! 

Bridging the Gap

Collaboration In the Public Sector 

“ACAP Saint John has become known for partnering and working with the community to help provide solutions to existing and pending environmental problems.” 

 

Collaboration is important.  It’s really important.  Putting aside the intricacies that distinguish private sector versus public sector, every successful non-profit organisation must be philosophically intent on open-mindedness, outreach, and community collaboration. 

Although the private sector may be immune to certain strains of conflict present in the public sector, not-for-profits simply cannot exempt themselves from the democratic process.   Non-profits working in human rights, addiction services, healthcare, and the preservation of local ecosystems may be different on the surface, but they all share one essential component; the community and the individuals they serve. 

I think it is inherent in all of us to want to help.  ‘Help’ being used as blanket coverage for that most human feeling of wanting to contribute in some way.  Nobody wants the seas to rise and swallow island nations whole.  Nobody wants their local beaches to be covered in poorly-disposed-of human trash.  Nobody wants a community to be without green space to play, laugh, run and grow.  We all have stock in the natural world and it is us who will lose our investment should grassroots environmental work not continue. 

But where to start?  To the individual who wants to help stabilize the environment and who wants to benefit from a sustainably green community, the task seems immense.  Almost overwhelmingly impossible.  What a shame it would be if the hundreds, indeed thousands, who want to see New Brunswick’s environment flourish remained silent because they did not know how to best tackle the BIG issues. 

Having a third party organisation bridging the gap between the community and environmental change is key.  With our partnerships, outreach, community inclusion and passion for the natural environment of Saint John, ACAP has become an intense resource for change.  

We Have Concerns

An Open Letter to Our Future

To be an explorer is the stuff of dreams.  Young children go to sleep with visions of twinkling stars, now star-dust in the Milky Way.  Twenty-somethings carry the ideals of exploration into careers as writers, biologist, physicists, philosophers and dreamers.  Those characterized by the deep lines of graceful old-age look back on their lives in pursuit of early memories of blazing trail in a ‘simpler’ time.  Wouldn't it be sublime if every human-being had the chance to enjoy the universe in this deliberate and wondrous way? How fantastic it would be if we could all fall in love with the natural and profound wonders of the world ahead of us! How truly excellent it would be if our motto was no longer, “Progress for the sake of Progress,” and instead became, “Collaboration for the sake of Sustainability.” The conclusion forthcoming may have already dawned on you; for the first time in forever, we are the generation who can. 

We've found ourselves at a crossroads in history where we are witnessing the formation of a uniquely prestigious club, in fact and undoubtedly the first of its kind; the generation that can no longer claim ignorance.  We have stumbled into an era of technology that was largely not of our making but a tool we've adopted for ourselves.  We have become and will continue to become the first crusaders of information.  Knowledge Knights.  Legions of learning forming every day that see fit to be angry with the status quo because perhaps that’s what the status quo deserves. 

A personal example would do well here. 

In Africa I lived in a uniquely extraordinary region.  At the epicenter of the Warm Heart of Africa in Malawi, I worked among children who redefined inspiration.  Each at high risk of micro-nutrient deficiencies in an area whose people play host to the HIV/AIDS virus to the detrimental tune of 1 in 3 inhabitants, but who each-in-turn hold true to their devotion  to humanity. For those who live in Lilongwe, their environment has cultivated a truer sense of ‘human’ than I, or anyone from the West could ever hope to personally measure.  These children solidified in me a level of gratitude for education and learning I may still be without had I not stepped off that plane.  Our generation is coming around to this conclusion with a grandeur and determination unlike any before it.  Our love for learning and sharing information has come to represent exploration, public engagement, being angry and outspoken when the situation demands it of us, refusing to be left out-of-the-know and having a keen understanding of the importance of the scientific method; all pillars of ACAP Saint John. 

We have created a situation in the modern world whereby those with the least possessions, possess the least voice.  We can accept it no longer.  Climate change is happening and we know it.  There are systemic institutions which seek to keep us unhealthy, actively targeting children and those who are economically challenged, and we know it. There are one billion without the requirements for life and we know it.  The fear of not knowing is behind us, and the challenge of what we will do about it is ahead. This is an open letter to those in Saint John and beyond who, for the first time in history, have the opportunity to right the wrongs.  We will be the first to scientifically and socially benefit from a global discourse that finally includes the incredible minds and talents of one billion people who have, until now, been all but forgotten. 

We've banded together and have accepted that the human condition has pushed us into corners but we’re enchanted by the idea of pushing back! Sharing information via the internet is the general on the stallion leading us ahead.  We have the ability to learn if we chose to do so and we have the ability to talk about it with people we may never meet in person.  The sharing of ideas, the brainstorming of solutions, and the dispersion of knowledge about humanity and the environment from Montreal to Mongolia.  A global conversation that quite literally has never taken place on such a scale. 

ACAP Saint John is a bastion for information, a conduit to environmental change and a channel for local participation.  Outreach has become the name of the game. Encouraging those who have by no fault of their own been in the dark and welcoming them into an era where we can band together and in unison say, “You have got to be kidding me.” I am confident that in 15 years we will look back into the annals of history and see that Saint John’s residents, young and old, chose to join the wave of change.  ACAP Saint John will not only be riding that wave, it could very well be what sets it in motion. 

It simply cannot be said enough; we have created a situation in the modern world whereby those with the least possessions, possess the least voice.  The fear of not knowing is behind us, and the challenge of what we will do about it is ahead.

Join us in making Saint John a front runner in public discourse on the path to change! 

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