Photographer and delegation leader, with a research interest in sustainable livelihoods, from Ontario, Canada

Andrew Wong joined the SOI Arctic expedition in 2010, which set in motion his international advocacy for sustainability in the Polar Regions through the SOI Alumni Delegation, and an extensive research project in Igloolik, Nunavut on sustainable livelihoods and knowledge transfer between Inuit elders and youth. He is the recipient of the Toyota Earth Day Scholarship and a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant.

The Expedition Experience

Andrew’s Arctic expedition not only deepened his love of nature, but it also directed his education and moreover his career in the years following. The most impactful parts were the ‘gradual, increasing sense of community’ and meeting and getting to know Inuit youth for the first time, on top of witnessing the beauty and fragility of nature.

“I remember how tranquil and serene and breathtaking it was to be slowly passing [through the fjord] into Auyuittuq National Park, that was special for me, I felt connected with my love for nature.”

Realizing Goals & Ambitions

Once Andrew returned from the Arctic he realized it was a place he wanted to keep returning to. Andrew wanted to advocate for polar sustainability at an international level, so he rallied a team of 14 fellow SOI alumni who attended the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

“Just taking all that in and then coming back to southern society that was a huge contrast for me, because I spent two glorious weeks up in the Arctic and I come back to a society down south that felt kind of boring and not very special, and it lacked the colour and intensity that I felt during my time up in the Arctic, so realizing how unique and special the Arctic was, and how it is such a fragile place, I was thinking, okay, what can I do, having had the privilege of going to the Arctic, what can I do to do my part and protect it.”

Making a Difference

For Andrew’s honours thesis for his undergraduate degree, he found his way to give back to the region that captivated him as a high school student. He embarked on a research project into sustainable livelihoods, in which he studied the ways Inuit elders transfer knowledge, such as hunting skills, to youth. He received grants through various organizations, including the National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, to spend time on the land in Igloolik, Nunavut. This project also included a photography component, in which he brought two cameras into the community, one for him, and one for the Inuit youth who were learning how to hunt, to document the experience.

Looking Ahead

Having recently graduated from the University of Waterloo, Andrew’s life is full of possibilities. All he knows for certain is that going forward, he wants to pursue photography and mountain climbing.

“Everyone has their own definition of what making a difference means for them, but for me, I think it involves identifying something that you care about, and that you think is worth your energy and literally spending some of your life working towards.”

“My dream is to shoot assignments for National Geographic, I’ve also taken a strong interest in climbing, and I want to pursue that and see where I end up with the sport of climbing. Maybe who knows, try to combine the two and be in the mountains climbing and shooting at the same time; that would be my dream space.”