By Trish Weatherall
Published in the North Island Eagle newspaper Oct. 26, 2018
The Marine Detective has gone national! In October, Port McNeill’s Jackie Hildering received the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC) 2018 People’s Choice award for favourite Canadian science web site, for her site themarinedetective.com.
Her reaction to winning the award is, “Stunned euphoria and a great depth of gratitude. I still feel like I have not come close to processing it. The other websites nominated for the award are of such a high calibre and most represent organizations (and even funded ones!) rather than an individual compelled to do this work.”
The Marine Detective was up against 9 other popular Canadian science web sites: Earth Rangers; Hey Science – Science Sam; Inside the Perimeter; Quebec Science; Research2Reality; Science Alive; Science for the People; The Weather Network – Out of this World; and Tomatosphere – Let’s Talk Science.
Canadians voted online for their favourite site for two weeks beginning Sept. 24. Hildering received an email on Oct. 10 from the SWCC that said, “I’m pleased to tell you that your site blew it out of the water and The Marine Detective is the Winner of SWCC’s 2018 People’s Choice Award for Favourite Canadian Science Site! Your followers and, I suspect, new fans gave your site more than enough love to win. Congratulations!”
Hildering, who is also a whale researcher, marine educator, diver, photographer and co-founder of the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS), created the Marine Detective web site in 2010 with a goal of educating the public about life in the Pacific-North ocean through her underwater photography.
“Awards like this, give some sort of measure to what I try to do,” said Hildering. “It lends credibility and recognition and has amplified the reach of what I am trying to achieve as The Marine Detective. But, much more importantly, it has made so clear that there is a large community that believes in the importance of this work. I feel so supported, affirmed, motivated and grateful. To know that people cared enough and believed in the work as they did, this is like jet fuel for me to keep at it. I feel like I have been lifted up by those who voted and moved forward to continue the work.”
The Marine Detective web site uses the tagline ‘Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there’, and includes a blog, her ocean life photos, and the ability to order her prints on canvas, her WILD calendar, and her Find the Fish children’s book.
“I want what I capture in photography to lead to greater interest and connection to the North-East Pacific Ocean and greater conservation actions for the sake of the well-being of future generations,” she said. “There is such a bias toward warmer waters having more life in them and this is highly problematic in too many of us not understanding that it is these dark plankton-rich waters that can sustain giants like the world’s biggest sea star, barnacle, sea lion, whales, etc.”
Hildering is striving to bring this understanding to more Canadians through as many venues as possible. In addition to the web site, she has a Facebook page (with the popular Find the Fish photo on Fridays), she holds public information sessions throughout coastal BC, and has been featured on Animal Planet’s Wild Obsession television series, and in two BBC documentaries.
In early October, she was filmed locally for a PBS documentary on whale evolution.
“An important part of the documentary will be our area and speaking for how we humans can evolve further in our attitudes and actions towards whales and the ecosystems for which they are indicators.”
She is planning on writing more children’s books and a book for adults that will focus on what she has learned in the North Island area and how easy it is to create positive change when fear is replaced by knowledge and when our value systems change.
She has also recently applied for the Sony Alpha Female program for a chance to be one of five women to receive mentorship, training and support through a $25, 000 grant and $5000 in camera equipment.
“I want what I learn and experience in our remarkable area to count for more,” she said. “I want the words and photos to go further to create more socio-environmental good and counter eco-phobia and eco-paralysis where people are overwhelmed thinking that the problems of the world are disparate rather than knowing there are common solutions and that it is about gain in quality of life rather than loss.”