This image of an alabaster nudibranch

Focusing on the big picture

Biologist hopes photography prize boosts awareness of fragility of ocean environment

The few places on earth untouched by human intrusion are so hopelessly remote and inaccessible that only occasional visitors — researchers and the most hard-core enthusiasts — dare venture to them. But there are a number of “border” regions where the encroachment of pavement and big-box stores give grudging way to flora and fauna that existed well before modern man arrived to exploit it.

The North Island is just such a place, and many of its residents recognize the value of the region goes beyond the trees that can be harvested, the minerals that can be dug, and the seafood that can be hauled from it.

These people dive headfirst into the North Island lifestyle, and that’s no metaphor when it comes to Jackie Hildering. You’ll find the Port McNeill-based biologist, educator and co-founder of the Marine Education Research Society featured on the back page of this week’s edition for her prize-winning photo in the 2014 Ocean Art contest.

We could recap her bio here, but that would get us to the bottom of this column before getting to the point of it.

For her prize-winning photo, Hildering has won a four-night diving trip to Indonesia. And we’ve won an excuse to share her achievements with our modest audience. Still not the point.

For Hildering, the benefit of having an awe-inspiring photograph of a rarely-seen creature published in a world-wide contest is not personal accolades or a prize. Her gratification comes from its potential to educate the public of the fragile nature of oceans that she rightly describes as “the life-sustaining force on the planet.”

This force is under assault, and only partly through wilful exploitation. Much of the attack comes in the form of apathy and ignorance of what is happening just metres below our collective view.

Hildering took her inspiring, sun-splashed photo while diving to document the perplexing and pervasive wasting syndrome killing populations of sea stars of the coasts of western North America.

“It’s really, really bad,” Hildering says of the sea star wasting syndrome. “Yet, it’s happening where this beautiful, ethereal-looking sea slug is right below the surface. Below that, though, is the garbage.”

We can see whales surface and breech, and ooh and ahh accordingly. And we can pull salmon for our weekend grilling party and appreciate the bounty. But because the vast majority of marine life exists in the dark, out of our sight, we don’t see the potential extinctions and loss of biodiversity — upon which we all depend — the way we do with land-based species.

Hildering’s strength has been sharing that message in a non-confrontational way — “I want to break apart that dichotomy of resource-user vs. conservationist,” she says. “Everybody needs the environment, and greater environmental awareness and preservation can only benefit all of us.”

Hildering, who considers herself first and foremost an educator, says what we need to preserve our own life-sustaining environment is “humility, connection, inspiration and positive action.”

And that is the point.

 

Just Posted

New look and feel on the horizon for Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill

“We are hoping between now and then to do another fundraising campaign for acoustics”

North Island Bantam Eagles capture Tier Three banner with win over Powell River Kings

The Eagles next game is Jan. 19 against the Juan De Fuca Grizzlies at 4:00 p.m. in Port McNeill.

Mainroad meets with Regional District of Mount Waddington

“It was really nice to have Mainroad there to give a presentation to the RD”

Port Hardy council agrees to list question and answer period on agenda packages

CAO Allison McCarrick confirmed the question and answer period will be listed on the next agenda.

VIDEO: Car flies across median, flips over edge of B.C. overpass

Dash cam footage shows vehicle speeding across Brunette Avenue overpass in Coquitlam

Second fatal crash occurs in Alberni Valley

Traffic on Highway 4 is being re-routed as investigators are en route

Indigenous energy summit includes session on pipeline ownership options

Steven Saddleback of the Indian Resource Council says a session will feature presentations on financing models

Japanese grand champion Kisenosato retires from sumo

The 32-year-old Kisenosato was the first Japanese-born wrestler in 19 years to gain promotion to sumo’s highest rank

UPDATE: Accused B.C. high school killer found fit to stand trial

Gabriel Klein is accused in the 2016 stabbing death of Letisha Reimer at Abbotsford Senior Secondary

Right-wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups an increasing concern: Goodale

Ten people died in April 2018 when Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rental van down the busy stretch in Toronto

Canadian stock exchanges to conduct lottery for ‘POT’ ticker amid high demand

The symbol became available after fertilizer Potash Corp. officially merged with Agrium Inc. in early 2018

VIDEO: Mattress fire at Cowichan Hospital under investigation

The Cowichan District Hospital was locked down on Tuesday afternoon due to… Continue reading

Most Read