SERS grad students moves on to finals in national Storytellers challenge

Friday, April 7, 2017

Scuba diver under water next to cage giving 'thumbs up'

It’s been a year of firsts for School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS), Master’s student Cheryl who was runner-up in the University’s 2016 3MT competition and is now a Top 25 finalists in The Storytellers competition. “I’d never done anything like this before,” she laughs, “but I’d never done anything like the 3MT either. You just have to believe that you can do it.”

Funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the competition invites post-secondary students from across Canada to explain, in 3-minutes or 300 words, how an SSHRC-funded research project is improving life for Canadians. 

Young asian woman with glasses and blue top in front of living wallChan chose to create a stop-motion video to showcase her work Fish for our Future: Communities and Marine Conservation. It examines how marine protected areas (MPAs) impact the wellbeing of communities and influence the way people interact with the ecosystems upon which they depend. While on the surface, marine conservation may sound like a “good news story” as she dove deeper, Chan discovered that some communities are paying a high price.

“Fishing is such a huge part of the culture there,” she explains, referred to Bluefield, Jamaica, where she conducted her fieldwork. “And to say ‘You can’t do this anymore’ not only takes away from people’s livelihoods but it also just really makes them question what their future is going to look like.” Conflict, depression and food insecurity are just some of the problems now facing the community. 

“Cheryl’s wellbeing focus provides new insights into the relationships between people and these protected areas that is important for planning and management,” says Derek Armitage, associate professor in SERS and Chan’s graduate supervisor. “Countries around the world, including Canada, are trying to protect 10% of their marine space by 2020,” he continues. “Cheryl's research highlights how these efforts are not likely to be successful in the long-term without careful attention to the economic and social wellbeing of adjacent communities.”

The Storytellers Competition challenges young researchers to clearly communicate the importance of their research in a creative, innovative and compelling fashion, using video, audio, text or an infographic. 

 “It is wonderful to see SSHRC send a clear signal to the next generation of researchers about the importance of sharing knowledge in ways that are accessible,” Professor Armitage says. “And in ways that reflect the contributions of social scientists to the pressing challenges facing Canada.” 

For making the Top 25 cut, Chan will receive a cash prize of $3000, an invitation to attend a research communications master class at Congress 2017 and an opportunity to present her work in front of a live audience at the Storytellers Showcase. If she is one of the top five presenters, she’ll be invited to the SSHRC Impact Awards this fall. 

Previous Storytellers finalists from the University of Waterloo include Games Institute PhD candidate Steve Wilcox (2013), English PhD candidate Emma Vosen (2016) and SERS MES candidate Noori Khan (2016).

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