Skye Augustine is passionate about working in the field of marine science and contributing to First Nations communities.
“I want to change the way we’re doing resource management to provide space for not only traditional knowledge but also cultural protocols and First Nation worldviews,” says Augustine, whose family is from the Stz’uminus Nation on Vancouver Island.
Augustine works for Parks Canada as the clamgarden project coordinator in the Gulf IslandsNational Park Reserve. She is on temporary leave to pursue a PhD on the subject with research funding from Parks Canada.
Her thesis will form part of a five-year collaborative eco-cultural restoration project involving coastal First Nations and various partners to revive the practice of ancient clam gardens and examine how they impact intertidal systems.
Previous research at SFU has revealed that ancient clam gardens, built as long as 1,000 years ago and cultivated in rock-walled beach terraces, produced significantly better harvests than gathering clams from unmodified beaches.
Now, says Augustine, “we are working with First Nations to improve the health of beaches and improve opportunities for Coast Salish people to reconnect with important places and increase the accessibility of clams and other traditional foods.”
Augustine’s interest in ecology grew out of a student exchange year in Thailand during her undergraduate program at the University of Victoria.
“I worked on a coral restoration project and realized I wanted to do marine science,” she says. “I also took my first and only anthropology course there. It was the first time I realized my Coast Salish heritage and culture was really interesting to people—my instructor there was fascinated.
That experience helped frame the things that are important to me and reminded me to value the things that I have.”
She says returning to B.C. and beginning to work on clam gardens brought her full circle.
“I realized I could do work that combined my passion for marine science and conservation with who I am and where I’m from. Now I’m learning the Hul’q’umi’num language and working with elders and my community.”