A Bit About Us
We are graduate students at Dalhousie University who are tired of empty diversity and inclusivity statements. We decided that we want to enact real change, by providing an educational outdoor experience to secondary students who might otherwise face barriers to learning about ecology and the natural world.
We've created a diverse team of researchers to engage students with cutting-edge workshops on topics such as ornithology (the study of birds), coastal ecosystems, invertebrates, and plant biology. Read more about us and our backgrounds below!
Catalina Albury, Suchinta Arif, and Melanie Massey
Catalina Albury: The ocean and outdoors have always been a huge part of my life. I left the small island I grew up on in the Bahamas for Halifax to start an undergrad at Dalhousie. At home, I witnessed a lot of environmental destruction that threatened our coral reef and mangrove habitats. This led me to get involved in quite a bit of environmental activism against the offending developments in the area. I also began to see how environmental racism disproportionately affected people in my community who had no ability to retaliate. This made me want to take action and I decided becoming a scientist might be the best way to help. I found a home in the scientific community in Canada and have become really passionate about using science communication to connect us all.
Currently, I’m an MSc candidate studying phytoplankton, which are microscopic floating plants. Here‘s something you might not know: these little green powerhouses responsible for about half of all the photosynthesis around the globe. My work involved trying to better understand how different environmental conditions like temperature and nutrients affect their ability to do this job. This has important implications for our understanding of the climate and how it will change!
Suchinta Arif: Growing up in Toronto, ON, I always felt deprived of marine field experiences, and more generally, the ocean! During my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, I decided to take matters into my own hands, and enroll in a series of field courses at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, a remotely located field station in Vancouver Island, BC. This was a foundational experience that exposed me to marine biology, the ocean, and influential scientists in the field. This experience eventually led to me to pursue a career as a marine scientist.
Currently, I am a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University where I study how coral reefs are being impacted by climate change and other anthropogenic impacts. Aside from doing my own research, I really enjoy teaching others about the wonders of our natural world. I have previously taught a marine mammal field camp for high school students, as well as several ecology-based university courses.
I am excited to share this experience with a group of high school students and hope that it can empower them to pursue a career in the sciences as well.
Melanie Massey: Believe it or not, I first started to think of myself as "outdoorsy" in my twenties. Growing up, I didn't get many chances to experience nature - certainly not, at the least, from a scientific perspective - despite my love of animals and all things creepy-crawly. I finally got the chance to get outside in 2013, and found myself exploring the Badlands of Alberta on a Paleontology trip. Since then, I've also gotten the chance to live outside for a full summer doing fish research, go birdwatching year-round, and chase Snapping Turtles in Algonquin Park.
I have always loved working with students, and have been giving interactive science workshops and public lectures for K-12 since 2014. These days, I teach high school biology on the side while doing my Ph. D. on how changing temperatures will affect fishes. I'm also a huge advocate for the inclusion of art in science, and love giving illustration workshops.
Our Workshop Leaders
I was always unsure of what I wanted to do growing up, but I was curious and excited by the natural world around me. I navigated through various courses and programs to find my calling. It was through the help and encouragement of some phenomenal female scientists that I was able to find my path, and I hope to help guide students in finding theirs! I am finishing up my MSc in biology and I am 100% a plant nerd. I eat, sleep and breath plants! (Literally!) I am currently studying the cellular mechanics behind one of the plant pigments used to fight cancer and human illnesses. I am passionate about volunteering and teaching and have helped organize numerous plant-related labs for both students and teachers. In my spare time, I love to garden, hike, and make pottery. I can’t wait to show you all the neat things about plants and hopefully spark an interest in the sciences!
I have a vivid memory from childhood of placing goopy green pond scum on a slide and viewing it through a microscope for the first time: the formless blob became a dazzling world of tiny animals and microbes living a jungle of spiraling algae, more diverse and complex the longer you look at it. Space travel takes a long time and deep-sea research is expensive, whereas the microbial world is no less alien and easily accessible with just a special kind of glass — and, as it turns out, one can build a career on the tiny organisms unseen by naked eye.
I am currently a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University. For my PhD project, I collect and cultivate particularly strange and understudied (or, sometimes, undiscovered) single-celled microbes and analyse their genetic information to see where they fit in the evolutionary tree of life. I also use electron microscopy to explore the fine anatomy of these cells and learn more about their biology. The vast, vast majority of diversity of life on earth is microbial and invisible to our daily lives, and yet has a profound impact on the environment around us, and even within us. We are just getting started in understanding microbes out in nature — in fact, one can find entire new kingdoms of life in a pinch of nearby soil.