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Building the vision for an ecology centre on the North Coast 

By Jasmeen Bhangu, North Coast Ecology Project Coordinator with Ecotrust Canada’s  North Coast Innovation Lab  and the  North Coast Ecology Centre Society   

Deciding to take the internship in Prince Rupert to actualize the North Coast Ecology Centre was an easy choice, making it all the more difficult to leave during the COVID-19 crisis.

Before joining the North Coast Innovation Lab with Ecotrust Canada, I was working toward completing a Master’s degree in geography, environment, and geomatics at the University of Guelph, which explains why I was drawn to the North Coast Ecology Project. This internship offered a range of opportunities to apply my knowledge and skills.

Outside of academia, I’m passionate about the environment and wildlife. I embarked on this journey to share this passion through education and community engagement, and to embrace the rural, coastal life in Prince Rupert that my research has been centered around.

The vision

Currently, there is no ecology centre or aquarium of any type in Northern BC, which is why many Prince Rupert community members, such as schools, small businesses, and local families, are motivated to work together to see this vision become a reality.

The North Coast Ecology Centre Society (NCECS) is working toward creating a permanent education centre that highlights the region’s ecological richness. The centre would be a community resource for locals and visitors to connect with the environment around them, building a culture of environmental stewardship.

Terrestrial and marine species are inextricably linked along the North Coast. Unique among mini-aquariums and ecology centres in British Columbia, the North Coast Ecology Centre will use a seasonal catch-and-release system and feature both terrestrial and marine species.

Being the only ecology centre in Northern BC, the site will draw tourists to the region, contributing to the local economy. The plan is to establish the centre along the waterfront, an area that the City of Prince Rupert, local business, and organizations are committed to revitalize.

Next steps following the pandemic

During my four months as project coordinator with the North Coast Ecology Centre Society, I worked with the board of directors and consultants toward seeing the vision for the centre come to life. Together we created a detailed and organized business plan for the future.

In that time, I was also planning for 2020 community events, but then COVID-19 happened — our plans were cancelled, and the Ecology Centre was presented with new challenges. But in my remaining time with the society, we still found ways to reach out to the community through our online platform where we shared activities and information on local marine and terrestrial species.

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, progress toward building an Ecology Centre in the region has been temporarily halted. The Ecology Centre Society is operated by a volunteer board of directors, which has limited capacity. Despite this, the Ecology Centre Society remains active on social media to maintain its connection with the community through nature education.

While acting as the project coordinator, I saw real potential for bringing the vision of the North Coast Ecology Centre to life. The concept has been widely encouraged by community members and poses as an amazing opportunity to promote stewardship through nature education, while enhancing the waterfront and building the local economy in Prince Rupert.