RESEARCH OFFERS KALEIDOSCOPE OF VIEWS
(Nipissing Review Vol 5 Issue 2)
By Dr. Dave Hackett
Biology has been good to me! The study of life and the defense of environmental quality have placed me in many unusual circumstances and provided me with various vistas of the world around me.
I spent some of my early career studying fish in Lake Erie Ė in the days that the Great Lakes were found to be full of phosphates, and the fish (of the worldís greatest inland fishery) were found to be full of mercury. The view from here was algae-green and polluted, and helped to shock me into deeper convictions about my goals and beliefs.
I spent a nightless summer in the Arctic, doing research among lumbering prehistoric musk oxen, fearless bears, rounded hares, and diminutive hardy flowers. The view from here was primitive and pristine and polar.
I spent 3 alpine summers living on a ranch in the foothills and mountains of Alberta. Here, a colony of Columbian ground squirrels accepted me as part of their world and would play around my feet Ė although ranchers and other humans couldnít sneak within rifle range of these animals. The view from here was privileged and western and wild.
Since coming to North Bay, I have floated among the loons and built them nest-sites that will rise and fall with the changing levels of northern lakes. I have censused frogs by their songs and furbearers by their teeth. I have crawled through the wet forest at night Ė with a minerís lamp on my head and fellow maniacs at my side Ė as we stalked elusive salamanders (with rain pelting down and lightning cracking overhead)! Iíve played tapes to owls in the frozen North Bay night and heard them answer in choruses from all directions. The view from here has been challenging, varied, wondrous and real.
In the Massasauga Park, NUís foothold on Georgian Bay, Iíve walked through rugged Group-of-Sevenís landscapes, and howled with wolves, and reached down to touch sunken shipwrecks. Iíve stood with a rattlesnake buzzing between my legs Ė wondering whether to jump or to remain a statue. Iíve heard the ghost of Calhoun Camp; and Iíve met wild creatures that really shouldnít live in the Massasauga Park! The view from here has been mysterious, historical and larger-than-life.
Iíve also had 7 Caribbean forays, focused on tropical environmental problems. In St. Lucia, Iíve visited 120,000 people thriving on a volcanic island the size of Lake Nipissing. Iíve been stunned to discover that millions of gallons of U.S. oil are stockpiled, like bombs, in storage tanks overlooking the fragile shoreline Ė while the power of the volcano, and the trade wind, and the tropical sunlight go untapped. Iíve loved the St. Lucian culture, but Iíve feared for their environment as the future of their forests, reefs, wildlife, wastes, and water unfolds. The view from here has been lush, spicy and tropical Ö but also precarious and small.
These days, I stand at the front of a classroom a lot and talk with my favourite people (Nipissing students) about my favourite topics. Real students donít write "LOVE YOU" on their eyelids and then blink adoringly, as they do in Indiana Jones movies, but they DO light up like sparklers when you touch them with an idea. The view from here IS youthful and energetic and idealistic, and I feel inspired to share my viewpoints about biology and the environment with the leaders of tomorrow.
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