Maggy Spence, one of 82 summer 2022 Sustainability Scholars, shares her experience working to research, engage, and pilot community-based action towards a more sustainable future. 

Written by Maggy Spence

This summer, I am working on a unique project with the False Creek Friends Society, a relatively new, up-and-coming non-profit organization. The long-term goal of the Society is to establish a marine protected area within False Creek and English Bay co-managed by the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations--the traditional caretakers of this area since time immemorial. The involvement of these Nations is vital to this project, as they were the first people on this land to establish successful relationships with this marine area. In my research and to ensure the endeavours of False Creek Friends Society, it is essential to learn from and collaborate with xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ as we work towards establishing a marine protected area. 

As a Sustainability Scholar, I have been gifted with this fantastic opportunity to become immersed in the work of the False Creek Friends Society, a community group deeply rooted in relationships and a sense of care for the marine environment. My research for the Society entails reviewing other cities' and non-profit's plans, policies, and actions on public engagement strategies for marine protection and conservation work.

I have also been able to translate some of this research into action by supporting the launch of a youth campaign to engage the next generation of marine conservationists and stewards for the False Creek Friends Society. Additionally, I am a key participant in the False Creek BioBlitz 2022, which involves supporting a series of engagement booths while activities take place to scientifically document the species in False Creek. 

After reviewing these policies and actions, piloting public outreach initiatives, and gaining insight from the False Creek Friends community through a short survey, my research will produce a list of recommendations to help the False Creek Friends Society move toward the long-term goal of establishing a marine protected area. However, I must say, this non-profit organization is already well on its way to success. The Society has a strong community base of 70 members committed to building a more profound sense of connection to, care for and understand the False Creek Area.  

I am currently a UBC graduate student in the School of Community and Regional Planning, working towards a career in either social or environmental planning. One day, I aspire to work for a city government to help improve the lives of those most vulnerable in a community, through equitable and sustainability-focused initiatives. As a Sustainability Scholar, I've had opportunities to meet, connect, and work with professionals in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors of planning and marine sustainability. I like the fact that the work I'm doing is what I would imagine doing as a professional.

As a Sustainability Scholar working with the False Creek Friends Society, I have learned that relationships and existing networks are essential drivers toward sustainable action. Everyone has something important to contribute to sustainability research and something even more significant to gain, which is why embedded community research is a crucial tool to create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.