Slave River student researcher wins trip to Poland

Tracking Change - Youth Knowledge Fair winner to attend UN Convention on Climate Change

FORT SMITH, NT – Paul W. Kaeser High School student Ryan Schaefer will be off to Poland this December after his research poster on the health of the Slave River was voted the crowd favourite at the Tracking Change - Youth Knowledge Fair 2018 in Edmonton over May 16-18, 2018 at the University of Alberta.

Schaefer conducted a qualitative study on how climate change has impacted the Slave River and the loche, jackfish, whitefish, trout, and other fish that call it home. He interviewed local experts in Fort Smith who have fished the river for decades, including Curtis Schaefer, Louis Beaulieu, and Kevin Antoniak. The men told Schaefer that they suspect climate change has had an impact on the fish meat, which is softer than in years past. They told him that they are now catching fish with sores, and that an increase in algae gums up their nets.

He also read additional research his teachers shared with him about metals in fish, the impacts on human health, and biomagnification; and how the Slave River is downstream from the oil sands. Then, he pulled it all together into a poster presentation for Tracking Change..., which required presentations to focus on how local and traditional knowledge can be used to track and monitor waterways in the Mackenzie River Basin. Schaefer was one of approximately 60 students from Western Canada who attended Tracking Change...

“I wanted to express to people in the city that things are changing and that the health of the fish is declining,” said Schaefer, who felt that his presentation stood out because he included plenty of colour and passed out dry fish to the crowd.

The sixteen-year-old is excited to share what he has learned in Katowice, Poland along with fellow winners at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from December 3-14, 2018. It’ll be his second time visiting the country, but this time he’s there on business. “It’s a topic that needs to get out there,” he said.

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