Blog Contributor: Hannah Lübker
During my second week of the SSCI programme, my supervisor Dr. Julia Baird and I flew to New Brunswick to attend the annual Wələstəq/ Saint-Jean/ St. John River Summit.
After an extended breakfast with our colleagues from WWF-Canada, with whom we are collaborating in a partnership for freshwater resilience, we went on a little road trip along the river. I was very excited to finally see the river that my research will be centered around – it is beautiful in pictures, but truly stunning in person. As we drove through the countryside, we took breaks to take in the scenery, buy handmade pottery, or drink tea at a village bakery. As someone who is new to Canada, I was quite surprised by the friendly and talkative nature of the people we met, who showed interest in our project and immediately recommended people we should contact to talk about it.
The summit began on Friday morning at the Nashwaak Meadows Centre for Ecology, which consists of two cozy barns, surrounded by nature. The event kicked off with a welcome from Simon Mitchell (leader of WWF-Canada’s Resilient Habitats team), who stressed that the UN Decade of Restoration should not only focus on ecological restoration, but on the restoration of language, culture, and relationships as well. Before we got too comfortable and sleepy in our chairs, we were led to the Nashwaak Meadows restoration site, to experience the restoration efforts, instead of just hearing about them. I really enjoyed this part, as it reminded me of the practical “getting your hands dirty” spirit of my undergraduate studies. There is something so satisfying about being in nature and seeing the tangible results of your work (for example the growth of the trees you planted), which is sometimes missing from my life in academia.
The summit continued with presentations from the Canadian Rivers Institute, the Nashwaak Watershed Association, ACAP Saint John, the NB Invasive Species Council, WWF-Canada, and members of the Wolastoqey Nation in NB. While it was fascinating to learn about barriers to re-forestation on wetlands, how to identify invasive zebra mussels or how the indigenous value system applies to restoration, my favorite aspect of the summit was the atmosphere. The prolonged coffee and lunch breaks offered plenty of opportunities for informal conversation (and an impressive selection of food and drinks) and people were generally approachable, interested and kind.
Unfortunately, our travels were cut short by an approaching hurricane, which lead to the cancellation of all summit activities on Saturday, and to us opting for an early-but-safe return home. Needless to say, I am already planning my return to New Brunswick to explore more places along the Wələstəq and connect to even more future friends and colleagues in the area.
Why do we use the name Wələstəq? Visit https://gem.cbc.ca/absolutely-canadian/s22e06 if you’re interested in learning more about this.