Pacific Rim Foundation
Chenoah Shine

Update from Chenoah Shine: 2015 Recipient

Year End Update Spring 2017

 Hello Pacific Rim Foundation members, 

My second year started out with a bit of a leap of faith and I’m so glad I made the decisions I did. I switched my focus from biology to geography, and declared my BSc Double Major in geography and environmental studies. This decision took me down a path to meet a lot of really amazing, driven, passionate peers and motivating teachers. This year has truly been enriching and inspiring. 

Some highlight courses for me this semester were Intro to Biogeography (Geog 274), Political Ecology (ES 301), and Ethnoecology (ES 321) because they completely changed the way that I look at the world. In Biogeography I learned a lot about study design which came in handy at the beginning of the summer. The professor for this course shared some of the best advice I received this semester: to never disconnect the head from the heart in ones work. Advice I intend to act on.

 The most powerful concept we covered in Political Ecology was viewing the structures of today that often seem impassable as changeable stories. This was very hopeful after a lot of gloomy discussion about the world’s problems and discussions of how hard it is to make change. The power of stories for teaching and influencing people became clear in this course, which fuelled motivation for potentially doing documentary film school in the future. Political ecology also clarified the undeniable link between social and ecological challenges. This means that in order to be viable, solutions need to address social aspects (ie. poverty) of an issue (ie. poaching) as well as the ecological aspect (such as maintaining elephant and rhino populations). 

Ethnoecology deepened my understanding and awareness of Indigenous land management systems on this coast. I came to revere the landscape level analysis common in First Nations cultures. This tied into my understanding of the space between the leaves, which has been ever evolving since first year. This view of the world focuses not on the individual and secularized parts (for example leaves, trunk, stems, fish, wood, berries) but the relationships between them (for example, stems transport sugars made in the leaves to the rest of the tree, bears eat fish, fish fertilize trees and berry bushes), and recognises these relationships as equally important to monitor and protect. Discussion also centered on ethics of researching the practices of First Nations groups and the importance of co-producing knowledge became clear to prevent further appropriation of knowledge.  

I also enjoyed learning about Remote Sensing and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) as these are the modern tools of the trade. I loved the elements of problem solving and widespread applications of these tools; almost all my courses made mention of the applicability of GIS and Remote sensing technology. 

This year I also continued my non-academic education. I completed my Open Water and Advanced Open Water Dive certifications during the school year. On my first night dive ever I found myself watching a Harbour Seal hunt fish within arms reach and I had Biogeography concepts of predator prey relations come to mind. I swam around a glacial erratic the size of an SUV on another dive and I had Intro to Physical Geography (Geog 103) concepts revived while 10meters under the sea. I also did a wildlife tracking course at home in Tofino with David Moskowitz. I fell in love with the tracking philosophy and opportunity to feel closer to wild animals without having to see them. These courses further changed the way I see the world and helped me ground my academic learning in the real world.

Finally, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Inaugural Tofino Field School in May. It was an incredible opportunity to learn from Chris Darimont and Andy MacKinnon. The two courses were about rainforest and wildlife ecology and management (Rainforest Ecology and Management Geog 487, and Wildlife Research in Practice Field Course, Geog 456). This was an incredible chance to apply some of the semester’s knowledge to real world situations and to my own hometown on top of that! It was so exciting to have classroom concepts come to life in my own backyard. For instance, we learned about local initiatives by the Central West Coast Forest Society to use ‘landscape level’ (locally termed ‘watershed level’) management strategies adapted from, and in partnership with local First Nations to restore areas of clear-cut logging. In these courses we designed micro research projects and practiced proposal writing. Overall, this past year of my academic career has been overwhelmingly enriching. My gratitude to the Pacific Rim Foundation cannot be overstated. These opportunities would not have been possible for me without the foundation’s support. Thank you so much for the experiences you have made possible for me.

Warmest regards and deepest gratitude, 

Chenoah Sagurao Shine

June 23, 2016


It feels so good to be home on the west coast smelling the fresh salty air and cedar trees. Now that the semester is finished and grades are in, I feel encouraged. I survived 1st year and therefore I have proof that I can do it again. 

Firstly I will fill you in on my second semester. My environmental studies course continued to be a highlight. We discussed basic principles of ecology, network theory, reductionism of science, and so much more. It was inspiring to learn from a professor who is so passionate about his work. I discovered there isn’t any curriculum for university courses; they are designed by the professors that teach them so it is important to seek out professors interested in similar topics as you. 

During second semester I also made an effort to become more involved with extra curricular activities. I attended some field volunteering sessions with the Oceans Student Society where I learned about collection methods and lab analysis of surf smelt eggs. I found it very exciting to be part of a project that is gathering information for the conservation of fragile ecosystems. I also attended a talk on campus about the camouflage of cephalopods, which was fascinating. 

Speaking of volunteering, before my summer travels I volunteered for a week with the Central West Coast Forest Society on their smolt trap monitoring program. I really enjoyed being in the field and learning more about the fish in our local streams. Specifically species identification as well as the data gathering methods for the fishes weight, length, and also how to assess their health.  I could not help but think of a quote made by one of the biology faculty members; “You become a biologist when you do science that is not for a test or grade”. I do not mean to say I consider myself a scientist now, but I have felt the joy of doing work that is not for my own personal benefit and can understand how that distinguishes someone from being “a person that knows a lot” from a “scientist” or whatever they wish to be in life.

Back to my courses second semester, biological anthropology was interesting and I felt that it cultivated perspective on, and enhanced my vocabulary in the discussion of the equality of all peoples. I found statistics was useful in all my other classes, and it seemed to be a common theme throughout the semester. I was surprised to find that I enjoyed stats in the end, despite the fact I felt like I was learning a new language for the first week. Chemistry was necessary, and although I didn’t exactly love the course, I learned a lot from taking it. 

Unlike many of the other students in my Biology course, I enjoyed the material on plants. The class also expanded my understanding of the factors that shape the evolution of creatures and the reasons for certain species success. One professor said to us this year “real life is stranger than science fiction” and he and the course proceeded to prove this point. From carnivorous sponges to wood frogs that freeze solid in winter and hop happily away come spring thaw I began to see where many novelists get their inspiration; the real world! I am constantly amazed by the aptness of nature’s solutions and creature’s adaptations.

I think learning how to learn is one of the biggest challenges of an education. In fact, I often think that schools aren’t set up in a very good way to allow this process to occur. However, figuring out the most efficient and effective ways to remember information and apply it is important in the modern world.  There is great value in the modern classroom although I don’t believe everything can be learned there. I’m grateful for the opportunities that I have had outside the lab and lecture room to gain knowledge in creative exploratory ways. 

Throughout my travels this summer I felt that my time in the classroom was paying off. I enjoyed applying the themes and ways of thinking I had learned to topics and discussions I had abroad. I look forward to continuing my education inside and outside of the lecture hall.

Have a great summer!


Update from Chenoah Shine: 2015 Recipient

January 13, 2016

As my first semester has come to a close I can surely say it has been a mind opening, world altering, significant four months of my life. I can liken it to the liminal rights, or transition stage of a right of passage ceremony like we discussed in anthropology class. There are many ups and downs one goes through in the first semester of University as many of you will know and managing the uncertainties and doubts of this time is half the challenge. The fishpond is much larger than home, the expectations are higher and the stakes are higher too; which comes with many new challenges but also oodles of opportunities for growth. Learning to live on my own has been an adventure and I feel a sense of accomplishment because I can say I am still standing and stronger than before the semester and my five-course load commenced. More than a few times I found strength in my gratitude for being chosen as the recipient of this scholarship.

Aside from managing the challenges, I enjoyed fantastic lectures and classes that have changed my perspective and opened my mind. My favourite class was by far Environmental Studies (ES). The course used food as a focus to flow through the problems in their physical and scientific context, then looked through the political and philosophical lens at how these problems affect society, and finally to some of the solutions and approaches that are being enacted today. The syllabus was partly designed by Nancy Turner, a world-renowned ethnobotanist, who we were fortunate enough to have a lecture from. After her lecture I truly felt like I was on the right track and getting closer to something I want to do with my energy in the world; she moved me deeply.

Our professor spoke of diversity breeding resilience and seeking pro action with positive purpose rather than fighting against the obstacles. One of the course goals was to learn how to communicate effectively about environmental issues which is also a personal goal of mine. The course focused on developing student's critical thinking skills and general knowledge of the global systems that perpetuate environmental degradation. Environmental challenges faced today are so broad and complicated, however having a method to approach problems with creates confidence and I am grateful this course could begin to teach these systems of thought. Although I can never look at a banana the same way after many discussions about the production process being part of the food item and the many injustices of modern'fisod systems, I am energized and inspired by the scale of changing conversations. Our professor Ryan was successful in leaving the class with a sense of hope in future and current capabilities to enact change.

In our last lecture from Ryan, she said that good citizenship involves action, real action, but also, very importantly reflection. Reflection is needed to understand where action is most effective and what action is currently working or not working. The time of reflection is where deeper learning occurs and one can understand their perspective on a topic more fully. This piece of writing is a chance for me to do just that.

I discovered a common thread weaving between my different courses. We discussed similar topics in biology, anthropology, and environmental studies, thus a different perspective or angle was gleaned and connections were drawn. The biology course provided all the necessary basics on evolution and genetics as well as some useful information on invertebrates that I look forward to incorporating into my work kayak guiding on the water this summer. Chemistry class never failed to be entertaining as I was blessed with a passionate and comical professor. He performed many experiments for us that had the whole lecture hall in awe or in stitches. Math class was survivable; it was not the most enthralling class to me however it went by successfully and I learned once again the importance of hard work and simply putting the time in.

I look forward to next semester's classes. I am very excited to start a biological anthropology course as well as continue with the next ES class and the second half of biology and chemistry. At this point, I have decided to do a bachelor if science majoring in biology with a minor in environmental studies or a double major in the ES and biology. If it were humanly possible to take a three way joint degree including anthropology I would. Speaking of the future, the transition to adulthood is somewhat subtle but once it happens you begin to realize that things won’t ever be the same as before. Once you learn about certain things your mind is changed forever just as one's view of the tranquil sea changes after they have experienced the power of it first hand by being immersed in the waves. In a similar way, the tide of the big real world has begun to tug at me as I have stepped out of my cozy little hometown. I am nervous and excited as ever to discover where these new waters will take me and how an education at UVic can help me reach my goals and navigate through the currents.

Coming to recognize the systems and the strategies that are most efficient to reach success in university is one of the greatest tasks and although its not always fun, or enjoyable I can earnestly say I am enjoying the experience. I also just can't help but fall in love with having thousands of books around me as I work in the library... It is an interesting if not exciting time to be in university. With a new Prime minister and necessary change in many industrial processes, I am thrilled to have the resources and perspective of a student during this time of change. I was excited to participate in a creative collective action to call for commitment to climate change from Christy Clark and Justin Trudeau. It was staged in front of the Parliament buildings in Victoria before the Climate Change Conference of 2015 in Paris. It was a hugely successful event with 700 attendees from all ages and was organized by a group of students in my environmental studies class called The People's Spark.

One guest lecturer, Morris Lamrock, in my Environmental studies class, shared a poignant story. He said that at a meeting at the Center for Environmental Education in Ahmedabad, India he met a man who asked him and a group of his equally bright, eager, and slightly wiseacre friends "what is the most important part of a tree?". Each student took a stab at it by giving an educated explanation as to why that was indeed the most vital part. Each time the man agreed, "yes, that is very important part of the tree, but not the most important part". After they had exhausting every part of the tree; roots, trunk, branches, and leaves, the group was more than a little confused (as our class was] so, finally, they asked the man what his answer was. He replied, "the most important part of the tree is the space between the leaves". Morris shared his perspective on what this philosophical answer might mean. He relates the "space between the leaves" to the times in school and life where you chase the things you are passionate about. When you run after the teacher in the halls asking for more information. The meetings and conversations that you have with likeminded people that expand your understanding in ways the lecture hall could not. I have a mind to agree with Morris's interpretation and I look forward to expanding the space between the leaves.

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