News

Planet Protector
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Katie Morrissey’s dream job title might fit on a business card, but it’ll be tight.

“Captain astronaut marine environmental exploring educator who dabbles in environmental awareness event,” she rhymes off when asked to describe her ultimate career path.

Amongst the lighthearted fun, the St. John’s native is seriously committed to her vision to help protect the environment. Her experiences at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University are helping her do just that.

“When I was looking at post-secondary programs, I had three criteria in mind,” said Ms. Morrissey, who has earned four scholarships during her time at MI. “I wanted to complete a program that would provide me with employment, provide hands-on experience and result in a lifestyle that would not worsen the Earth’s condition.”

Her decision to attend the institute’s marine environmental technology program was solidified in 2011 after learning about the program and the feedback she received about MI from her friends.

“I had heard from many friends that the MI structure was extremely helpful and personal,” she said. “Smaller classes, hands-on lab work and the certificates and training received were all factors.”

In 2015 Ms. Morrissey earned the Students on Ice Scholarship through MI and spent two weeks exploring the Arctic—an experience that further inspired her love of the outdoors and commitment to protecting the Earth.

“At one point I was sailing along the edge of a glacier in a zodiac when we saw a polar bear swimming only meters ahead of the boat and at the same time an iceberg the size of a cruise ship cracked, flipped, and dissipated into nothing,” she said. “The experience revitalized my positive attitude towards making a change in the world with regards to the environment.”

Ms. Morrissey will graduate from MI tomorrow and is looking forward to sharing her experiences and education in support of Planet Earth.

“I want to begin by getting hands-on learning experience on a smaller scale,” said Ms. Morrissey. “This means familiarizing myself with local freshwater systems, relevant species and their relationship with both marine and terrestrial environments.”

Right now, she’s on a work term with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) that takes her to St. Mary’s Bay each day where she tracks the number of salmon making their way out to sea. It is an experience that is bringing her lab training to life.

“It’s one thing to observe fish that have been frozen and preserved for the laboratory setting. Being able to take samples from and identify types of trout and various life stages of salmon while they’re very much alive is a whole other—and much more slippery—can of worms,” she said. “I find myself enjoying every moment of this work as I look into the history of the river fish populations, DFO’s efforts to track and improve it and the direct correlation to marine systems as species make their way out to the open ocean to begin their massive trek up North.”

Ms. Morrissey believes that environmental protection begins at an individual level and that the actions of one really do have a broader influence on the behaviour of others.

“I strongly believe—and know—that the behaviour of one human being can have great effects on the behaviour of others,” she said. “In the same fashion that a small smile can change an interaction between two people, if you recycle or actively cut down on your personal waste each week while communicating your success with others in a positive way, it is much more likely your behaviour will be passed on to others.”

She has personally seen the difference in others’ behaviour, citing past roommates, her partner and the people she works with as examples, after talking passionately about protecting the Earth.

“Being part of Students on Ice and attending MI revitalized my focus on the environment,” she said. “I have met so many like-minded people who will also list fresh air, mountains, fog, and icebergs as some of their favourite things about where they live.”

Ultimately, Ms. Morrissey’s career goal is to be involved in the outdoors, working towards protecting terrestrial, marine and freshwater species of all kinds.

“Before I get there, I plan on completing my bachelor of technology degree this coming year and I am thinking about completing the advanced diploma in sustainable aquaculture at MI,” she said. “Students on Ice introduced me to interests like natural education, while MI sparked a new interest in sustainable aquaculture.”