"Since completing the Arctic Studies Program in 2011, my studies have taken me across several borders worldwide. Upon returning to my home university, the University of British Columbia (UBC), I continued classes towards my BSc degree in Global Resource Systems, where I focused on circumpolar environments. I had the honour of representing the Yukon as a youth ambassador with the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Circumpolar Young Leaders Program at the 2012 International Polar Year Conference in Montreal, where I was given the opportunity to speak to hundreds of students about my northern community and the unique challenges we face.
That summer, I travelled north to my home territory’s northernmost point, Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island), and filmed and produced my first documentary about climate change impacts based on interviews with scientists and local Inuvialuit park rangers. That autumn, I stayed home in Whitehorse and took a series of classes at University of the Arctic member Yukon College, such as the History of Yukon First Nations, before venturing a long ways South. As the regional specialization of my degree pertains to both poles, the Arctic and Antarctic, I figured it was time I covered the Antarctic classes of my degree. For this, I enrolled at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand via an exchange program from UBC to take courses from within their Gateway Antarctica program. Similar to how my courses at the Arctic Studies Program covered a wide range of subject areas, from Arctic ecology to Arctic anthropology, my Antarctic courses at Canterbury covered everything from the exploration history of the continent to glaciology of the East Antarctic ice sheet.
I also had the opportunity to take courses in a variety of disciplines such as Natural Hazard Management and Cultural Anthropology. Upon graduating, I worked for the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). My work ranged from understanding the impacts of human activity, both from scientists and tourists, in Antarctica to development of a project to scope solutions for the challenges related to delivery of Antarctic science in the future. My time at COMNAP provided substantial exposure into intergovernmental relations and led me to undertake an internship on secondment at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Tasmania, where I worked with the Fishery Monitoring and Compliance Manager during international negotiation meetings involving 25 CCAMLR Member nations regarding catch limits, proposals for marine protected areas and more.
Seeking further exposure to Antarctica, I took on a role with the Christchurch City Council coordinating scientists to communicate their research at the international Antarctic Science Festival, IceFest. The role furthered my understanding of the barriers science communicators must overcome to effectively deliver important messages to the public. This role contributed to my invite to Antarctica as that year’s COMNAP delegate with Antarctica New Zealand to look at the investment the organization is making in science communication at Scott Base.
Upon returning from this incredible chapter of Antarctic learning, I set my sights north again and returned to my home territory of Yukon. To gain some experience with self-management, I ran my own environmental consulting business for a summer, taking on contracts with the Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee and with the Yukon Government’s Climate Change Secretariat. The Yukon Salmon Sub-Committee is a non-government, public advisory body that provides recommendations directly to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and to First Nations communities on all matters related to salmon and their habitat. I undertook a role in support of community-based engagement across sectorial boundaries to enhance conservation based initiatives to ensure protection and enhancement of salmon resources. This role greatly enhanced my understanding of the diversity of First Nation groups within my own territory and gave me a greater appreciation for on-the-ground challenges of conservation of migratory species.
At the Yukon Government’s Climate Change Secretariat, I was contracted to produce a film showcasing climate change impacts across all three Canadian Arctic territories, to be screened at the Pan Territorial Adaptation Partnership’s Annual plenary. This role was a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with talented individuals in Northwest Territories and Nunavut to create a short communication piece that represented the challenges faced by the diverse communities across Canada’s North.
Upon completing these contracts, I took off on a backpacking trip across Siberia with fellow northerner and friend Julia Loginova, whom I met at the IPY Circumpolar Young Leaders Program years earlier. Since taking Dr Florian Stammler’s lectures at the University of Lapland on Arctic Anthropology with several case studies focused on Russia’s Sakha Republic, I had a great desire to see this region first-hand. Together we backpacked around the Baikal region before venturing north to Yakutia to visit the famous Lena Pillars. The trip was one of the most captivating of my life and greatly increased my fascination with and appreciation for circumpolar peoples.
Following this trip, I traded the hiking boots for Oxford shoes and moved to Cambridge, United Kingdom, where I have since been pursuing a Master's degree in Conservation Leadership as a Gates Cambridge scholar. The year in Cambridge has been one of the most incredible of my life, with no shortage of stimulating lectures and inspiring people in my surroundings. With my 22 classmates hailing from 19 different countries, the opportunity to be in a truly global learning environment has provided a plethora of insight into environmental challenges across borders.
Whilst at Cambridge, I have continued to be involved in environmental initiatives, such as in my position as the lead organiser and host for Cambridge’s Pole to Paris event, a public outreach event on climate change action in the lead-up to COP21. I also had the honour of representing the Yukon at the Arctic Frontiers Emerging Leaders Forum aboard a ship from Bodo to Tromso, Norway where I, along with 16 other young people, had the opportunity to present our thoughts on the theme “Arctic Industry and the Environment” to nearly 1,000 scientists, business representatives, and policy makers, including Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Finland and Greenland. It was comforting to run into familiar faces from the Arctic Studies Program at this conference!
I have continued to express my opinion on matters I am passionate about, such as in my recent opinion piece to The Huffington Post UK regarding indigenous welfare in Canada, titled “Canada: The Side You Probably Don’t Know”. The intricate links between the natural resource sector and Indigenous welfare worldwide has become increasingly apparent to me as my studies have progressed, and it is an area I would love to work on in the future.
Meanwhile, my Master's thesis on capacity development for developing countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) continues to keep me busy and engaged, having recently returned from the IWC’s scientific committee meetings in Slovenia to conduct interviews with members.
There have also been encouraging and humbling accolades along the way, such as receiving the Canadian Youth Environmental Leadership Award at the Globe Awards in 2014, or last year being named as one of The Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.
Although this all sounds relatively delightful and straightforward in hindsight, it wasn’t. I have omitted the countless number of rejection letters for internships, jobs, placements and scholarships I have received along the way. But those doors closing have made me that much more appreciative of the ones that have opened. Upon graduating this autumn, I am not sure where my career path will take me next. I anticipate it will undoubtedly bring new sets of challenges and hurdles to overcome, but I believe the education and experiences I have thus far have prepared me well for what comes next. I feel extremely grateful that my time in the Arctic Studies Program at ULapland has contributed so greatly to that set of experiences I carry with me."
Jodi Gustafson, 2016