I’m also passionate about connecting adventure with science. Throughout my own education and training, I was always on the look out for opportunities to combine my fascination with travel and other cultures, with my academic activities. One of the most exciting and impactful examples from my career stems from my time as a Post Doc at the University of Calgary, where I was fortunate to be a part of a transdisciplinary team involved in a global health field school in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. We slept in tents for a month each May and worked closely with students from community health sciences and veterinary medicine on research projects related to human and animal health. Spending as much time in the nature as possible is important to me both personally and professionally; I measure my own quality of life by the number of nights I sleep under the stars per year!
During my post doc period I received a Grand Challenges Canada Stars in Global Health award which gave me the platform to develop a school and community-based intervention (Project SHINE – Sanitation and Hygiene INnovation in Education), where the focus was on facilitating the development of locally driven, youth-led strategies to improve water, sanitation and hygiene challenges, with an initial emphasis on open defecation. Project SHINE uses a two-pronged approach; innovations in science education (especially frugal science) and social entrepreneurship to encourage green job creation and achieve ripple effects across education, health and livelihood domains.
This intervention has been subsequently adapted and implemented in rural India by Phd candidate Anise Gold-Watts, where the focus shifted to include other environmental concerns that youth raised, such as pollution. Shortly after joining NMBU, we received funding from Norad for the Rupantaran project (Transformation) in Nepal, which further extended my understanding of sanitation and the need to treat waste, in all its forms, as a precious resource. In that project which involves several faculty members from NMBU and is a partnership with Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University, we have tried to incorporate Ecosan or ecological sanitation approaches to harvest urine with the intention to fertilize school gardens, to improve the nutrition status and thereby learning outcomes of school children.
These collaborations have expanded my understandings considerably and prompted me to consider how the SHINE approach to science education and social entrepreneurship as a model for health promotion could apply to other issues, such as plastics. The need to move beyond reduce, reuse, recycle and RETHINK has never been more pressing.
I saw the call for eXXpedition crew applications in a Facebook post and made a pitch on the basis of my experience with Project SHINE and wanting to extend it to ECO-SHINE. After a lengthy selection process that involved submitting a video to pitch the concept, I was thrilled to find out that I was accepted! I will be joining Leg 5 of eXXpedition, from Aruba to Panama via the San Blas Islands in December 2019.