Science Horizons intern: Chelsey Landry-Karbowski

Born and raised in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Chelsey Landry-Karbowski learned how to fish, fillet and salt cod at a very young age. Now a marine conservation officer with the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, she spent early morning hours on a boat with her grandfather catching fish for their large family. She attributes her deep respect for the environment to her the Q’alipu Mi’kmaq First Nations’ heritage and close connection to nature.

Chelsey was hired by the Ecology Action Centre with funding from Environment Canada’s Science Horizons internship program. Now a full-time employee, she says the non-profit could not have hired her without that assistance. When she graduated with her Master’s degree in Coastal and Marine Resource Management from a university in Iceland, she could not have afforded to work as an unpaid intern. At the time, she was engaged to be married to a fellow Master’s student who came from Germany and one of them needed a paying job.

“We are very pleased to have Chelsey as a part of the team and proud of the work we do,” says Katie Schleit, Ecology Action Centre’s marine campaign co-ordinator. “Chelsey was a recent master’s graduate with specific knowledge of marine policy and of aquaculture in particular. We were impressed with her positive attitude, organization and work ethic from the get go.” The centre has hired other staff through the Science Horizons program too.

Chelsey became seriously interested in science, and especially its social aspects, when she was studying at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Yet she also says her admiration of marine biologist Matt Hooper, played by American actor Richard Dreyfuss in the 1975 blockbuster thriller Jaws, influenced her career choice. The academy-award winning film was the first big film where one of the main characters is a scientist who really understands fish, she says.

When studying for her undergraduate degree in Aquatic Resources, Chelsey went on an internship to Costa Rica where she studied how changes in habitat can affect sea turtle survival rates. Temperatures experienced during embryonic development can determine the sex of offspring in some animal species. In the case of leatherback turtles, warmer temperatures result in more female hatchlings being born than males.

Chelsey was a recent master’s graduate with specific knowledge of marine policy and of aquaculture in particular. We were impressed with her positive attitude, organization and work ethic from the get go.

- Katie Schleit, marine campaign co-ordinator, Ecology Action Centre

Chelsey Landry
“With climate change, we are aware that temperatures are rising and currently there are more female than male turtles being born,” she says. The sex differential is substantial -  three times as many females can be born compared to males. To survive long-term, turtles may need to find cooler nesting places.

For her Master’s thesis, Chelsey researched the link between sea lice found on wild fish and salmon fish farms located in Iceland’s fjords. Sea lice are marine parasites which attach themselves to fish skin and consume fish-clinging mucous. Found naturally in the wild, sea lice become a problem when they are found in large numbers on fish. Because fish-farming cages hold many fish in confined spaces, sea lice infestations can be catastrophic for farmed fish and can spread into wild populations.

Chelsey says she applied for dozens of jobs before she was offered the internship at Ecology Action Centre. She was thrilled that she was able to work in her field in her home province and found out about the job offer just before leaving Iceland. Her work has included the creation of fish fact sheets and “best practice” reports for mitigating bycatch caught by the fishing industry. Bycatch refers to marine creatures and fish unintentionally caught in fish nets and other gear when fishing for other species.

What is electronic video monitoring (EVM) and how does it work?

It’s a form of electronic monitoring that incorporates cameras, pressure sensors, Radio Frequency Identification tags and Geographical Positioning Systems to monitor and collect data on fisheries catches and interactions. Video is continuously recorded over the duration of a fishing trip and a series of two to four cameras capture all of the fishing activity. This information is then reviewed to identify or confirm the data.

It can be used to collect or verify data on catch of target and non-target (bycatch) species, including species type, length and weight. EVM can also be used to monitor Endangered, Threatened and Protected species interactions, fishing activities, which occur within Marine Protected Areas and compliance with fisheries regulations. Outside of its basic functions, EVM can be adapted to collect various types of oceanographic data, including pH, temperature and salinity.

- Information provided by the Ecology Action Centre

Chelsey’s main project now is promoting electronic video monitoring on fishing boats to assess what types of marine creatures and fish are being caught and how. The fishing industry on Canada’s west coast is a leader in the electronic video-monitoring of vessels and American fisheries are also moving towards electronic monitoring. “We need to have better data collection and the best way to do this is for the fishermen to collect their own data,” she says.

Her focus is on collaboration with the fishing industry. “We must continue to build these relationships with the fishing community and First Nations,” she says. “We don’t want the fishermen to be shocked and apprehensive.” Founded more than 40 years ago, the Ecology Action Centre is involved in many aspects of ecology and conservation. Members of the marine team have diverse responsibilities. Chelsey says that she loves working within an engaged team devoted to a range of issues. “Whether sharks, tuna, fisheries policy, sustainable seafood or aquaculture, we all have different things going on,” she says. “I have benefited greatly from the mentoring I received and working with a group of people who are great at what they are doing,” she says. “They are making a difference for our environment and our community.”

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