Lake Superior by area is the largest freshwater lake in the world. Known traditionally as Kitchi-gummi, or Gitche Gumee, in Ojibwa meaning “great lake” or “great water”, Lake Superior has a shoreline of 2,938 km and is fed by some 300 rivers and streams. It is a great lake in both size and grandeur, and, according to Englobe’s environmental scientist Brooke Davison, needs to be afforded the greatest of protection.
Brooke Davison, Environmental Scientist for Englobe, was troubled by the long list of issues impacting Lake Superior - chemical contamination from industry, shoreline development, invasive species, habitat loss - and instead of giving up hope, she saw an opportunity for her to make a difference.
Brooke is an outside, all the time, every day, every season kind of girl. Most often, you’ll find her on a rural project site in northern Ontario collecting and examining important environmental flora and fauna samples. Happiest outdoors, her respect and admiration for nature started when she was young and has deepened into a meaningful connection that touches nearly every aspect of her life. Expanding beyond work responsibilities to include much of her leisure time, Brooke recently decided to scale-up her commitment to environmental stewardship by becoming an Ocean Wise Bridge Ambassador.
Interested to learn more about the program and what being an Ocean Bridge Ambassador entails, we talked with Brooke about how protecting Lake Superior, Canada’s freshwater ‘ocean’, was her reason for joining Ocean Wise.
Q. What is Ocean Wise and what inspired you to become an Ocean Bridge Ambassador?
Ocean Wise is a global conservation organization on a mission to protect and restore the world’s oceans and freshwater systems. Ocean Wise is focused on education, research, and direct-action conservation, through initiatives such as sea-forestation, shoreline cleanups, seafood programs, plastic reduction, and marine mammal rescue. Ocean Wise has many programs, and I specifically am an ambassador with their Ocean Bridge program.
Ocean Bridge is a 20-week part-time program that is project-based. Overall, it aims to empower youth in fostering a culture of giving back to their local community through conservation initiatives. The program is bookended by a remote learning journey held on Manitoulin Island in partnership with Wiikwemkoong First Nation followed by an urban learning journey in Ottawa at the end of August. The urban segment of the project is for ambassadors to share their projects with each other – a chance for us to all listen and learn and be inspired.
Manitoulin Island is spectacular and during our stay we spent a lot of time outdoors and in the Wiikwemkoong First Nation community building connections and participating in cultural programming led by Indigenous leaders. A highlight from the week for me was a water walk guided by Wiikwemkoong elders. As a group, we walked the 5km shoreline in Wiikemkoong to give our thanks to the water, to focus on the importance of the water, and to gain a greater appreciation for the water. It was an incredible experience.
Q. How does this program align with your passion for the environment and community?
I have always had a passion for the environment which developed even more when I moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario 10 years ago to pursue an Environmental Management degree specializing in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. My life in northern Ontario allows me to participate in my favourite outdoor activities such as kayaking, sailing, camping, and hiking which all revolve around Lake Superior – the largest of the great lakes.
This area has brought me so much joy, and through this program I am given the opportunity to give back to the community, and lake, that has helped shaped who I am. The fact that the Ocean Bridge ambassadorship is so focused on caring for water and conserving biodiversity, developed in partnership with local Indigenous communities, it was an obvious fit for me. It really aligns so perfectly with my core beliefs.
Q. From a conservation perspective what are you hoping to achieve?
I want to establish a successful educational project that positively impacts the lake and surrounding community. I really believe that education is the key to conservation - people don’t protect what they don’t love or what they don’t understand. How can they love something if they are not even aware of it? I believe those fortunate enough to live adjacent to Lake Superior often take it for granted sometimes, and I think this is also a great opportunity to remind people how special and important this magnificent body of water truly is.
Q. What’s your big idea? Any details you can share on your planned freshwater action project?
I have a few ideas which I am currently outlining and adjusting based on the timeframe and resources I have. There are so many amazing conservation services and initiatives already present in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area that there is no lack of inspiration. I am unable to provide specifics on my plan, but I can share that it is education-based and inspired by Lake Superior. Stay tuned for more information!
On the topic of conservation, she highly recommends reading “The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals” by Dr. Merlin Tuttle. Detailing his lifelong adventures with bats, Tuttle is an incredible conservationist and bat educator who has dedicated his life to advocating for the protection of bats. As far as underdog stories go, this is one of the best. Brooke explains that while bats have a bad rap, it’s time that people educate themselves on the huge environmental and economic benefits bats play in ecosystems around the globe.
Less of a book and more of a podcast person? You can learn about Dr. Tuttle’s ‘batty’ adventures on Ologies, a weekly science podcast hosted by Alie Ward!
- Chiropterology (BATS) Encore with Merlin Tuttle
- Chiropterology Part 2 (BATS) Encore with Merlin Tuttle