Almost every year the WWF teams up with SOI to help inspire youth by sending students from northern Canada and Greenland, along with a WWF staff member onboard the annual Arctic expedition. We chatted with Sue Novotny. She’s been working for the WWF’s Arctic Programme since 2011, but the Arctic 2014 expedition will be her first time experiencing what the Arctic has to offer in person.
Tell us about your work with WWF?
I create digital tools that help people take part in conservation. What does that look like? Everything from online advocacy campaigns for new parks, to smartphone games, to an interactive map of polar bears with GPS collars. I’ve worked with WWF’s Global Arctic Programme for 3 years, and several other environmental organizations in the past 15 years.
My degree is in entomology, but I decided that science communication and the web (relatively new at the time) would be much more fun than counting fruit flies. That turned out to be a good decision – I love what I do.
What will your role be on Expedition?
I am joining as an educator. I suspect I’ll learn as much from the students as they do from me.
What are you looking forward to?
From looking at the bios of the students and educators, I’m excited to meet such a smart, enthusiastic bunch of people! In particular, I’m looking forward to working with the two students WWF has sponsored on this expedition.
And of course, I’m excited to finally experience the Arctic. I’ve pored through thousands of photos of the landscapes, animals and communities of the north in my work at WWF, but nothing compares to being there.
Walruses are fascinating – they’re enormous, they’re social, they change colour with temperature. I hope we get to see them.
WWF is a long time supporter of SOI, both through our expeditons and research vessel Arctic Tern I. How does SOI’s mission support WWF’s conservation work?
WWF is pleased to sponsor two students on SOI’s Arctic expedition each year, one from northern Canada and one from Greenland. It’s a great opportunity for them to meet other students from the Arctic and around the world. They bring their new perspectives back to their communities to help them engage in those communities’ futures.
We’ve also supported the Arctic Tern, taking her out on her first ocean voyage for Students on Ice, as we sailed the edge of the Last Ice Area, getting first-hand experience of conditions there, talking to local people, and helping bring its significance home to millions of people around the world. We’ve since helped support the Tern’s continuing mission to serve as a platform for research in the region.
WWF and SOI are both focused on the Arctic’s future. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, but it may be several decades before we feel the full impact. For example, by 2040, it’s projected that most summer sea ice will be gone, except for a small fringe along northern Greenland and Canada. It will be a very different Arctic than the one we know today. In 2040, today’s students will be the decision makers dealing with the outcomes of climate change. SOI’s programs ensure we’ll have passionate Arctic champions leading the way.