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Fellows Journal

January/February 2018

RCGS Annual College of Fellows Dinner

Clockwise from TOP LEFT: Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell addresses those gathered for the annual College of Fellows Dinner; Algonquin drummer Awema Tendesi opens the dinner with a traditional song; One Ocean Expeditions’ Andrew Prossin (right) and the RCGS brass unveiling the ensign for RCGS Resolute; Wade Davis delivering the keynote address; Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation; the 2017 RCGS medallists. (Photos: Alex Tetreault and Ben Powless/Can Geo)

Exploration and innovation were the two prevalent themes at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s annual College of Fellows Dinner, held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., on Nov. 16.

The Society made several major announcements, unveiling the official ensign of the RCGS Resolute (One Ocean Expeditions’ new RCGS-flagged polar vessel), celebrating a new memorandum of understanding with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (see “A geographical MOU with Scotland,” below) and revealing design plans for the RCGS’s new headquarters at 50 Sussex Dr., which reopens to the public in spring 2018. Explorers Jill Heinerth, Adam Shoalts and Geoff Green marked the completion of their major 2017 expeditions by returning their RCGS Expedition Flags.

Guests included Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Jeopardy! host and RCGS Honorary President Alex Trebek, former deputy prime minister John Manley, and Mike Robinson and Roger Crofts, CEO and chair, respectively, of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, President of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, and Princess Saba Kebede were hosted by the Society as part of a trip commemorating Emperor Haile Selassie I’s 1967 visit to Canada. The prince became the first royal inducted into the College of Fellows since Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1930.

Ry Moran, director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, spoke on the development of The Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada and how we must learn, like canoeists, how to collaboratively navigate the river of truth and reconciliation. In the following keynote address, Wade Davis, the renowned anthropologist and ethnobotanist, shared photographs and insights from his travels to some of the most remote places on Earth, including the heart of the Amazon rainforest. “Indigenous people the world over are leading the fight to protect the planet’s ecosystems from anthropogenic threats,” Davis said, “and it is on all of us to listen and learn from their efforts.”

A geographical MOU with Scotland

Signing the MOU at the RCGS’s 50 Sussex headquarters, in Ottawa. Left to right: RSGS CEO Mike Robinson and Chair Roger Crofts, RCGS President Gavin Fitch and CEO John Geiger. (Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)
Mike Robinson with Lt.-Gov. of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Alex Trebek after the presentation of the Society’s Bernier Medal.
(Photo: Ben Powless/Can Geo)

It’s a cross-Atlantic handshake between societies with rich histories and common ground. Signed in Ottawa in November, the memorandum of understanding opens the door to collaboration between the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and RCGS. RSGS CEO Mike Robinson was also awarded the Canadian Bernier Medal in recognition of his work modernizing and reinvigorating the RSGS, as well as his role in the establishment of the Scottish Climate Change Act and broader influence on international climate policy. Both he and RSGS Chair Roger Crofts were inducted as RCGS Fellows.

Just a few decades older than its Canadian equivalent, the RSGS (founded in 1884) has a membership of around 2,500, and publishes an academic periodical and a quarterly magazine titled The Geographer. The most recent edition of the latter, themed “Canada at 150,” delves into everything from Indigenous Peoples to Arctic sovereignty to a consideration of “Old Scotia and Nova Scotia.”

“There are many similarities between the RSGS and RCGS,” said John Geiger, CEO of the Canadian organization. “They are venerable Royal societies of great pedigree in exploration and promotion of geographic learning. Both went through rocky periods of declining relevance, yet have emerged as powerful forces for the discipline.”

The future will no doubt see collaboration on innovative publications and educational programming. “I hope this [MOU] signals the beginning of a robust relationship between our two societies that we can utilize to tackle global environmental problems and promote our mutual interests,” said Robinson. “There are so many links between Scotland and Canada, and a great willingness to forge greater friendships still.”

Sights, Sounds and Tastes fundraiser for 50 Sussex

The RCGS’s first fundraising gala of 2018 will feature an exclusive live performance from Québécois singer Coeur de pirate.
(Photo: Maxym G. Delisle)

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is hosting an immersive culinary experience in Toronto’s historic Distillery District at a gala in support of Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration on Feb. 28, 2018

The evening, to be MCed by storm chaser and natural disaster explorer George Kourounis, will begin with a cocktail reception featuring a live performance by rising Toronto artist Jessie Jean, followed by a three-course meal and a private concert from world-renowned Québécois singer Coeur de pirate. Among the Canadian explorers in attendance will be RCGS Flag Explorer Adam Shoalts, who will recount tales from his incredible 2017 solo trek across the Canadian Arctic. Ticket proceeds and the silent auction — featuring adventure holidays from Canadian Geographic Travel — support programming at the RCGS’s new headquarters at 50 Sussex Drive in Ottawa. Reserve your ticket now!

The inaugural voyage of RCGS Resolute

Exploring the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula by Zodiac on an excursion from a One Ocean Expeditions vessel.
(Photo: Javier Frutos/Can Geo)

For its first voyage as an RCGS-flagged vessel, One Ocean Expeditions’ RCGS Resolute is turning south to explore the White Continent. Antarctica Off the Beaten Track, a 13-day expedition from the southern tip of South America to explore the west coast and islands of the Antarctic Peninsula, departs on Nov. 16. “With one of the highest ice-class ratings of any passenger vessel, RCGS Resolute is ideally suited to begin her voyages in Antarctica,” says Andrew Prossin, founder and managing director of One Ocean Expeditions. “The region is very close to our hearts and where our programming began over 10 years ago.” Visit for more information.

Mapping Canada’s history of residential schools with Google Earth

Cree students at their desks in All Saints Indian Residential School, in Lac La Ronge, Sask., 1945.
(Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN: 3191693)

With the support of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Canadian Geographic Education recently became the first Canadian organization to launch a story with Google Earth Voyager. “Canada’s Residential Schools” addresses a dark chapter in our history. The Google Earth-based story weaves together photographs and video links of firsthand accounts from residential school survivors with the aim of educating and encouraging all Canadians to learn more about residential schools, as well as inspiring Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to work together toward reconciliation. For more information and to link to the Google Earth story, go to

RCGS-sponsored Bisaro Anima Cave expedition reaches record depths

(Photo: Jared Habiak/Bisaro Plateau Caves Project)

On Jan. 1, 2018, Kathleen Graham descended 670 metres into the Bisaro Anima Cave, near Fernie, B.C., establishing a new record for the deepest cave in the country. The team made the discovery during the latest expedition of the multi-year Bisaro Plateau Caves Project, which is supported by the Alberta Speleological Society and this year received funding from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. The team expect further exploration to take them even deeper. For the whole story, visit

(Photo: Office of the Secretary to the Governor General)


Two RCGS Fellows were inducted into the Order of Canada in late December 2017.

For his outstanding contributions as a renowned fluvial geomorphologist who has heightened our understanding of rivers and river processes.

LOUIE KAMOOKAK, Gjoa Haven, Nunavut
For his relentless dedication to collecting and showcasing the stories of the Inuit of Nunavut.



Bill Lishman with his ultralight aircraft and Canada geese, the genesis of Operation Migration and inspiration for the 1996 film Fly Away Home. (Photo: Bill Lishman)

Fly away home, Father Goose

Bill Lishman, LLD MSM. Born in Toronto on February 12, 1939. Died after a short fight with leukemia at Purple Hill on Dec. 30, 2017.

Like most Canadians, I knew of the one and only Bill Lishman long before I ever met him, largely through the success of the 1996 Oscar-nominated film Fly Away Home, which was based on his exploits imprinting migratory birds to fly with a man on an ultralight aircraft. It’s an amazing story, to be sure, but in the flesh, the man himself made the character in the Hollywood film seem pale and one-dimensional by comparison.

Father Goose was impulsive, confident, nonlinear, fearless and a whole lot of fun, and those around him were usually happy to follow him to places on the map that said “There be dragons.” And throughout his nearly four score years (he died just 44 days shy of his 79th birthday), he was richly recognized for his trailblazing ideas, particularly his singular work with geese and cranes — not that that mattered to him.

He held honourary doctorates from the Ontario Institute of Technology and Niagara University in New York State. He was a Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and a Fellow International of the Explorers Club. In 2016 he was awarded the Stefansson Medal, the Canadian Chapter’s highest accolade, for his “exemplary lifetime accomplishments and groundbreaking innovation.” And at the height of his worldwide fame as Father Goose, he was awarded the Governor General’s prestigious Meritorious Service Medal for bringing honour to Canada for his pioneering work with migratory birds. He left behind a remarkable legacy of books, films and public artworks, and people all over the world who he inspired in one way or another, sometimes flamboyantly but more often in his own quiet and inexorably arresting way. He was at heart a humble man, who’d be squirming a little by now if he knew you’d read this far.

Bill Lishman wormed his way into my heart for all of those reasons. I had the pleasure of working and travelling with him over a number of years with Adventure Canada and with Ottawa-based Students on Ice. The last time we sailed together, just a couple of years ago, he had cooked up a novel concept for energy-efficient and socially sensible housing for Canada’s Arctic communities. Travelling with a cameraman, at each stop along an eastbound Northwest Passage itinerary, he would find the mayor or local Indigenous councillors of the community. He’d sit them down wherever they were — indoors, outdoors, it didn’t seem to matter. He’d show them his idea and then sit back and listen to their reaction and response.

Father Goose had the most attractive and engaging humanity and humility about him. He was grounded in place and in family. He was comfortable in his own skin. He was genuinely curious about everything under the sun. He could listen. He could laugh. He could dream out loud. He could enact those dreams — the more implausible and impractical the better. He could always find a story from his rich and often chaotic trove of tales that he could weave into yours, without so much as a whiff of narrative one-upmanship. There was always a vibrational energy about him that powered conversation, but there was never the sense that he was in a hurry or easily bored, as long as the ideas were fresh and the banter kept rolling.

It was in this context, one fine Arctic afternoon, that we bounced from his nascent ideas about the design for an aluminum iceberg to be installed outside the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and onto star stories, myths, tropes and archetypes, which — as it did with Bill — caromed somehow into the fact that at some point he’d carved a piece of ice into a hand lens, polished it lovingly with the warmth of his hands, and focused the sun’s rays to start a fire. Fire from ice. Really, Bill? Really. 

—James Raffan

Read James Raffan’s full tribute to Bill Lishman


(Photo: Ottawa Citizen)

Longtime civil servant Michael Pitfield died on Oct. 19, 2017, at the age of 80. His more than 50-year career in the public service included time as clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and, from 1982 to 2010, Senator (independent) for Ottawa-Vanier. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarked following Pitfield’s passing that he remains the youngest person ever to lead Canada’s public service (he was 37 when he became clerk of the Privy Council), and described his contributions as “far-reaching and enduring.”

Pitfield, a top advisor and friend to Pierre Trudeau, is credited with playing a key role in the 1982 patriation of the Constitution and the establishment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And, said Justin Trudeau in his October statement, “He was a tireless advocate of bilingualism and national unity whose leadership helped bring us closer as a country and make our democracy uniquely our own.”


(Photo: McGill University)

Helen Rowland passed away on Sep. 26, 2017, at the age of 92. Her long career at McGill University started in 1964, when she came on as secretary for the department of geography, but she will be remembered best by many among the RCGS Fellowship for her role as the first executive secretary of the Canadian Association of Geographers. Between the late 1960s and her 1992 retirement, Rowland single-handedly ran admin for the CAG and worked with at least two dozen of its presidents, most of them geography professors from across the country. She was known for her superb efficiency, wisdom and common sense, kindness and charm, and for her genuine enthusiasm in meeting CAG members in person when she travelled to the association’s annual conference. She was presented with the CAG Award for Service to the Profession — for her contribution to the development of geography — in 1991.

Rowland was never made a Fellow of the RCGS, but to many of the Fellows who are or who were CAG members, she was a legend.


Rosita Forbes (1890-1967)

Travel writer and adventurer Rosita Forbes was a Fellow of the RCGS and RGS.
(Photo: Rosita Forbes/Public Domain)

We rode through a three-thousand-year-old country, saw the ruined capital of the Queen of Sheba and the underground red-rock city of Lalibela … scrapped with brigands, outwitted crocodiles, and eventually emerged battered and in rags with a book of adventures and 1,000 feet of film.

Even if Rosita Forbes’ synopsis of her 1924 expedition through Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) does not, somehow, convince you to add her travel narratives to your reading list, it’s as much a useful snapshot of the swashbuckling storyteller herself as of her adventure. Intrepid, indomitable — and by early-20th-century English standards sometimes scandalous — Forbes undertook long journeys to the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and other far flung places after leaving her British army colonel husband in 1917 and driving ambulances on the Western Front during the First World War.

Widespread fame came with the 1921 publication of her second book, The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara, which Forbes penned after trekking by camel across Libya with Egyptian explorer Ahmed Hassanein. It was on this expedition that she famously disguised herself as an Arab woman to enter the forbidden Kufra Oasis (becoming the first European woman ever and second European to do so in 40 years), capturing illicit photos of the Senussi Muslim order’s political centre and holy place with a camera hidden in her headdress. Such cultural infiltration would now, perhaps, be frowned upon from all sides, but among Western readers in the 1920s, the story was a sensation.

The daughter of a landowning squire and British MP, Forbes was both of her class and time (her minimizing of Hassanein’s important role in the Libyan expedition and certain ingrained imperialisms are, with 2018 hindsight, hard to miss) and well beyond them. In the introduction to From the Sahara to Samarkand: Selected Travel Writings of Rosita Forbes 1919-1937, editor Margaret Bald writes that “Forbes did, in fact, break new ground for women ... She was an irrepressible and independent traveller who took risky and difficult trips, braved the hostility of the colonial officials and bureaucrats of the British empire, and invaded the male sphere of exploration, using charm, chutzpah — and her extensive network of establishment connections — to get where she wanted to go.” By the 1930s, Forbes was the editor of Women of All Lands, a trailblazing culture, lifestyle and politics magazine.

Rosita Forbes in Libya, disguised as a “Bedouin sheik.” Published in The Secret of the Sahara: Kufara.
(Photo: Rosita Forbes/Public Domain)

Although her early narratives focused on the Middle East and North Africa, she also wrote prolifically about experiences in India, China, South America and the Caribbean. Forbes’ travel writing benefited from its combination of her trademark dramatic flair, fascinating interviews with regional leaders and grasp of histories, social conditions and politics — a depth that may have grown out of her time in Morocco, where in 1918 she had been dispatched by Parisian magazine editors to study French colonialism in North Africa. The films she produced on her wanderings and expeditions, meanwhile, put her squarely in the ranks of the pioneering documentarians.

Forbes was divisive, simultaneously idolized and condemned for having seized her independence, for her exotic adventuring and the company she kept along the way. She was celebrated as one of the finest travel writers of her time and criticized for voicing her commitment to Arab nationalism and other political stances. The impulse that drove her, though, and that she spelled out in her 1925 book From Red Sea to Blue Nile, was much simpler: “The perfect journey is never finished, the goal is always just across the next river, ’round the shoulder of the next mountain. There is always one more track to follow, one more mirage to explore. Achievement is the price which the wanderer pays for the right to explore.” 

Fellows in the news

NOTE: Contributions from the Fellows are published in the language in which they are submitted.


(Photo: Paul Zizka)

For nearly a decade, Paul Zizka has explored the seldom-visited corners of the Canadian Rockies to produce the most original and innovative photographs possible. As a photographer and adventurer, he is drawn to the extraordinary, and his body of work is the result of both countless nights spent outdoors and demanding ascents of the Rockies’ highest peaks. Now, he is excited to launch his latest book of photography, The Canadian Rockies: Rediscovered. Published by Rocky Mountain Books, the book provides a freshly curated selection of 200 of Zizka’s best mountain photographs, and elevates the Canadian Rockies to new heights.

WINDH, Jacqueline

The shores of Magellan Strait. (Photo: Jacqueline Windh)

Jacqueline Windh is returning to southernmost Chile in February to join an international expedition into traditional Kawéskar territory. On her previous travels to Patagonia, she worked with the Yagán, the southernmost Indigenous people in the world, to translate into English a book of stories told by the last speakers of the Yagán language. Both the Yagán and Kawéskar of the region are canoe-going people, culturally similar to the coastal Indigenous tribes of Vancouver Island, where Windh lives. 

On this trip, Windh will join an expedition led by Swedish forest ecologist Lars Östlund that includes a team of Chilean biologists and archeologists working on behalf of the Río Seco Museum of Natural History. They will search the forests along the shores of Magellan Strait for evidence of Kawéskar land use, such as trees that have been bark-stripped to make canoes. Windh hopes also to make it to the Kawéskar village of Puerto Edén, one of the most isolated human settlements on the planet.


Boulder-filled till down-ice from the Strange Lake deposit. (Photo: Derek Wilton)

Derek Wilton, a professor of earth sciences at St. John’s Memorial University, is collaborating with the Nunatsiavut Government on a project that has significant implications for resource evaluation in the Canadian Arctic and near-Arctic. The remote Strange Lake area in Northern Labrador contains a world-class rare earth element deposit. REEs are strategic minerals used in a variety of high-tech applications, ranging from computer and smartphone screens to super magnets. Wilton’s project aims are to examine the mineralogy of these till deposits using sophisticated mineral mapping technologies housed at CREAIT laboratories at Memorial, and to develop a regional exploration tool for REEs that correlates mineral mapping data from surface till around the deposit with satellite spectral imaging. Read the story in the MUN Gazette.


(Photos: (left) Firefly Books; (right) Latitude 46 Publishing)

Explorer and mapmaker Hap Wilson had two books published in 2017. Lake Superior to Manitoba by Canoe (Firefly Books) is a seven-year project mapping out five per cent of the total Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) — a 1,250-kilometre water trail now called “Path of the Paddle.” River of Fire: Conflict and Survival on the Seal River (Latitude 46 Publishing) is an expedition on northern Manitoba’s Seal River, a paddle down the river during Manitoba’s worst wildfires, and an exposé of the relocation of and conflicts between the Sayesi Dene First Nation and the Manitoba government.

WELLS, Peter G.

Hiking the SW Coast Path, coast of Dorset, U.K. (Photo: Peter Wells)

Exploring new places on foot being a life-long avocation, Peter Wells “discovered” the Spray Lakes region of Banff National Park and Wonder Pass on the continental divide to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial year. Earlier in 2017, he dropped down in altitude, trekking the SW Coast Path of England — from Cornwall to Dorset — with a backpack adorned with many Canadian flags — a walking ad for our country. This led to many informal discussions with local walkers whom he met along the path, often about the characteristics and dynamics of the coastlines of both countries, England’s being much more accessible and settled than Canada’s, but both countries blessed with magnificent unspoiled coasts. Wells considers walking his platform for introducing Canada’s wonders to family, relatives, colleagues, students and new friends.

WARD, Lin and Allan Pace

(Photos: Allan Pace)

Lin Ward and Al Pace were both keynote speakers and canoe instructors at the English Canoe Symposium held at Lakeside on Lake Windermere, U.K., November 10-12, 2017. Lin and Al shared tall stories and stunning wilderness photos of their more than 30-year Arctic odyssey exploring Canadian Subarctic rivers. Canoe skills clinics on Lake Windermere were fully subscribed throughout the weekend and, as Lin commented, “Who knew the Brits would be so crazy about open canoeing — Canadian style!”

VOYER, Bernard

(Photo: Sylvain Foster)

Bernard Voyer was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, from Concordia University in November 2017. “Mr. Voyer has lived a life of tremendous adventure and accomplishment as an explorer, humanist and environmentalist,” said Pascale Biron, a professor in Concordia’s department of geography, planning and the environment, during the convocation. Voyer’s citation detailed his expeditions to the top of the world’s highest mountains, his delivery of more than 1,000 lectures around the world in both French and English, and his deep commitment as an environmentalist and to supporting youth development. In the audience at the convocation was Nima Nuru Sherpa, a young man from Nepal and the son of Dorjee Sherpa, who climbed Everest with Voyer twice. For 15 years, Voyer and his wife, Nathalie Tremblay, supported the young man’s education in Kathmandu. Now graduated, he is continuing his education in Canada, at Concordia University.


Paul VanZant, thanking the OAGEE for the Award of Distinction. (Photo: Susan Hopkins VanZant)

Paul VanZant has been recognized by the Ontario Association for Geographic and Environmental Education with the organization’s Award of Distinction. Presented at the OAGEE’s annual fall conference, held in November 2017 at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ont., the award recognizes “an individual’s outstanding contribution in advancing, promoting and improving the quality of geographic and/or environmental education in the province of Ontario.” VanZant has been a geography teacher and department head at Mayfield Secondary, in Caledon, Ont., for decades, has written three geography textbooks used in school boards across Ontario, and is a longtime member of the OAGEE.


Len Vanderstar at the summit of Barbeau Peak, northern Ellesmere Island, on June 18, 2017. (Photo: Len Vanderstar)

In June 2017, The Summits of Canada team — Len Vanderstar (Smithers, B.C.), Eric Gilbertson (Seattle, Wash.), Serge Massad (Montreal) and Brian and Laura Friedrich (D’Arcy, B.C.) — collectively summitted 2,616-metre high Barbeau Peak, on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. This marked the final summit in a decade-long quest for Vanderstar in highpointing each province and territory in Canada, timed with Canada’s 150th celebrations (making him the first Canadian to do so). The Summits of Canada commenced with expedition leader James Coleridge, another RCGS Fellow, with the mission to promote Canadian geography through adventure activity to Canadian students and abroad. Colin Fearing, meanwhile, was instrumental in website construction and maintenance, and keeping open lines of communication and spirits alive when teams experienced life threatening storms on Mount Logan.


(Photo: Johann Sigurdson)

The October 2017 edition of COPA Flight (the journal of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) included a feature by Johann Sigurdson titled “Flight into history: Father-son trip of a lifetime.” The story details the recent journey to York Factory undertaken by Sigurdson and his 22-year-old son to explore the region in which the 1697 Battle of Hudson’s Bay took place (one of the most significant and obscure naval battles in Canadian history) and to search for historical artifacts.

(Photo: France Rivet)

RIVET, France

In September 2017, France Rivet had the privilege of being an expedition lecturer on Crystal Cruises’ Northwest Passage Cruise. In November 2017, she published Renatus’ Kayak: A Labrador Inuk, an American G.I. and a Secret World War II Weather Station, by author Rozanne Enerson Junker. The origin of Renatus’ Kayak lies in a model sealskin kayak made in 1944 by Renatus Tuglavina and given to Woody Belsheim, a radio operator at a secret American weather station in Hebron, Labrador. Knowledge of the weather station and of Renatus’s life were lost until Junker began her quest, 70 years later.

RIEDEL, Doreen Larsen

St. Roch in Pasley Bay on the Boothia Peninsula in September 1941. (Photo: Library and Archives Canada)

The Vancouver Maritime Museum initiated the Northwest Passage Hall of Fame in 2017 to celebrate the heroic effort of many explorers who contributed to the discovery of the Northwest Passage and to honour the achievements of individuals, vessels and expeditions who have successfully traversed the Northwest Passage. Each year, one individual, vessel and expedition will be inducted into the NWP Hall of Fame. The inaugural Vessel Inductee Award went to RCMP MV St. Roch. Launched in 1928 with the mission of serving remote RCMP detachments and communities along the Arctic coastline, it was during WWII that she became the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic and subsequently also the first vessel to sail the more northerly deep water Northwest Passage route and to circumnavigate North America. St. Roch is now housed in the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Doreen Larsen Riedel, daughter of Henry Larsen, who captained the St. Roch during its entire Arctic career, accepted the award on behalf of the famous vessel. For more on the Northwest Passage Hall of Fame and the other 2017 winners, visit


High-definition side scan image of the Nelson, B.C., waterfront showing steamtug Ymir (left), remains of CPR shipyard ways (centre) and a 15-car CPR railway transfer barge (right). (Photo: John Pollack)

Last year, RCGS Governor John Pollack, Fellow Harry Bohm and volunteers from the Underwater Archaeological Society of BC and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology conducted approximately 90 square kilometres of high-resolution side-scan sonar surveys in the southeastern corner of British Columbia. Pollack, Bohm and the Survey Nomads team are using a STARFISH 452F CHIRP system for this multi-year inventory of late 19th- to early 20th-century steam-era wrecks associated with the CPR Lakes Division system on the larger lakes, and the pioneer stern wheel steamboats of the Upper Columbia River. The sonar unit is precise enough to image obscured wrecks missed in previously surveyed areas. Twenty-seven areas have been surveyed to date, four new wreck sites have been documented by divers and added to the inventory maintained by the BC Archaeology Branch, and another six targets remain to be confirmed.


Uncomfortable: Experiential learning in a foreign land, Joe Pavelka’s upcoming feature-length film, is slated for release in January 2018, with a screening at the American Association of Geographers conference in New Orleans in April 2018. The film chronicles experiential and transformational learning as part of the ecotourism and outdoor leadership program at Mount Royal University. It will be moving into the film festival circuit by March of 2018. 
(Photo: Carol Patterson)


For the winter issue of the Earth Island Journal, Carol Patterson wrote a feature on the joint efforts of Parks Canada and the Haida nation to restore natural and cultural landscapes of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, including attempts to eradicate deer and rats in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.

PARDY, Brandon

(Photo: Brandon Pardy)

Brandon Pardy, Labrador Inuk, organized and managed the Labradorians of Distinction awards (held in November 2017) from concept all the way through graphic design, selection committee design and management, advertising, sponsorship, the public nomination process and event planning, launching the awards out of the Member of Parliament for Labrador’s office. This ongoing program will continue to award medals, through a public process, to individuals who have shaped Labrador economically, culturally, socially or environmentally.

PACE, Allan

(Photo: Allan Pace)

To celebrate Canada’s 150 Birthday, the charitable organization True Patriot Love sponsored a two-week wilderness canoe expedition on the remote Keele River, N.W.T., for veterans suffering with PTSD. Al Pace, Canoe North Adventures’ lead guide, was the expedition leader on this special project, which paired veterans with corporate civilians who served as both canoe partners and mentors. “This was the most unique and challenging expedition I have ever led,” says Pace. “The veterans discovered magical healing powers in the turquoise waters of the Keele River and by sharing their gut-wrenching stories around the campfire each evening, they were able to experience a new level of inner-peace.”

MOLARO, Nigel and Victoria Angel and Lisa Prosper

(Photo: ERA Architects Inc.)

In late November 2017, the National Capital Commission chose a redevelopment plan for Ottawa’s Nepean Point called “Big River Landscape” from 26 international submissions. ERA Architects — of which RCGS Fellows Nigel Molaro, Victoria Angel and Lisa Prosper are a part — is on the winning team, which also includes Janet Rosenberg & Studio Inc. (who submitted the proposal), Patkau Architects and Blackwell Structural Engineers. The Big River Landscape project, set to start in 2019, will build new multi-use recreational pathways and enhanced accessibility features, and add a continuous promenade from the Rideau Canal to Rideau Falls Park.


(Photo: Viking Books)

The North American launch of Alanna Mitchell’s new book, The Spinning Magnet: The Force that Created the Modern World and Could Destroy It, was in Toronto on January 30. Best described as a romp through the history of how we know that the Earth is a giant magnet whose poles may be poised to switch places (a phenomenon that would leave our planet exposed to dangerous radiation from space), The Spinning Magnet is part journalistic journey, part deep-dive into the history of and science behind one of Earth’s most essential forces, an immersive global investigation with a gut-wrenching final message that gives readers the inside track on these brand new scientific findings about how the planet’s magnetic field is changing.

MILNES, Arthur

(Photo: Courtesy Office of the Prime Minister)

Arthur Milnes had a busy Confederation 150 year. He edited and co-edited three published books — Canada at 150: Building a Free and Democratic Society (co-edited with the University of Windsor’s Heather MacIvor and published by LexisNexis), With Faith and Goodwill: 150 Years of Canada-US Friendship (published by Dundurn and funded by the Canadian American Business Council), and Without Walls or Barriers: The Speeches of Premier David Peterson (co-edited with Ryan Zade and published by the Queen’s School of Policy Studies). Milnes also created a special Confederation 150 time capsule that was featured in more than 20 columns, beginning with the Ottawa Citizen on Canada Day, and he was appointed archivist of the new Brian Mulroney Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.

MILLER, Paul D. (a.k.a. DJ Spooky)

(Photo: Paul Miller/Twitter)

In October 2017, Paul Miller won one of the inaugural Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, a five-year, $8 million initiative by the California-based Hewlett Foundation that will award 10 such prizes annually in five performing arts disciplines. Miller won the award for his Sonic Web, an 11-movement multimedia production (for string quartet, vocalist and an original electronic instrument) about the origins of the Internet and what must happen to keep it accessible, neutral and free. The purpose of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions program is to celebrate the foundation’s 50th anniversary by supporting artists in their creation of works that not only bring communities together but that will inspire, engage and challenge audiences across the country and around the world in years to come.


Cardston, Alberta, Elevators (oil sketch). (Photo: Robert McInnis)

Some 50 years ago, Robert McInnis started putting aside his favourite oil sketches from wherever he lived and travelled, considering them a legacy for when he had grown too old to paint. He is still painting (albeit less prolifically), but for his 75th birthday show, McInnis made a selection from these “stored and saved” works for a 2017 exhibit at the Roberts Gallery in Toronto entitled 75-55-35 (for his 75 years of age, 55 years as a painter and 35 at the Roberts Gallery). A second 75th-birthday show was also put on at Mayberry Fine Art in Winnipeg, his home gallery, featuring his new Manitoba Prairie landscapes. As his RCGS Fellowship nomination read, “Few have seen the Prairies and foothills as [he has], with such power and evocative beauty.”


(Photo: Akaash Maharaj)

Akaash Maharaj was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel for his contributions to global affairs and international equestrianism. This is Kentucky’s highest state honour, and in modern times carries no military functions. Maharaj serves as head of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, and in that role created the Manila Concordat on employing international law to bring the world’s worst kleptocrats to justice. A former national athlete, he was CEO of the Canadian Equestrian Team when he led it to its best Olympic and World Equestrian Games medal results in Canadian history. Read his blog for more about his commission as a Kentucky Colonel.


(Photo: Denis St-Onge)

L’Académie royale des sciences de l’ingénieur de Suède (IVA) a officiellement accueilli M. Pierre Lapointe, président et chef de la direction de FPInnovations, à titre de membre international nouvellement élu, à l’occasion des activités de sa 98e réunion annuelle se déroulant à Stockholm, en Suède. M. Lapointe a été officiellement accueilli durant la réunion annuelle, et il a également prononcé un discours à l’occasion du banquet en présence des 600 invités dont le prince Carl Philippe de Suède, où il a entre autres souligné l’importance de faire partie de l’Académie en tant que membre international. De plus, sa présence a contribué à favoriser une nouvelle ère de collaboration entre le Canada et la Suède.

KINGSLEY, Jennifer

Meet the North project lead Jennifer Kingsley. (Photo: Eric Guth)

RCGS Fellow and National Geographic Explorer Jennifer Kingsley travelled throughout Chukotka, Russia, in September and October of 2017 for the third season of her project Meet the North: Life in the Arctic, one introduction at a time (@meetthenorth). This is a journalism project based around personal stories from people all over the North. Her work is sponsored by the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Alliance as well as the National Geographic Society. Russia is the sixth Arctic nation she has visited since 2015.


Setting up the camera frame in Castleguard. (Photo: Greg Horne)

Canada’s longest cave, Castleguard, is partly located under the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains. Over the last two decades, Greg Horne has made 11 trips to the cave, some 22 kilometres one way from the nearest road (adding up to nearly 500 kilometres back and forth). His latest trip was in December, with members of the Alberta Speleological Society, to install a waterproof camera in the cave for the purpose of monitoring seasonal ice levels near its entrance. Changing ice conditions in recent years has caused access to be blocked by the ice. This camera, along with weather station data, may provide information for the development of a predictive model for the future.

Earlier in 2017, while working for the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada’s BatCaver program along with the program’s Alberta co-coordinator Dave Critchley (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) and Alberta Environment and Parks Senior Wildlife Biologist Dave Hobson, Horne discovered a bat hibernaculum in remote northern boreal Alberta, outside the Rocky Mountains. Bats were counted and swabbed for DNA, temperature and relative humidity data loggers installed and ultra-sonic acoustic recorders deployed. The wildlife disease white nose syndrome has accelerated the need to locate this critical habitat before the arrival of the disease in the West.


Heinerth receiving her award at the 2017 NOGI Awards Gala. (Photo: Jill Heinerth)

RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth recently received the NOGI, Sports & Education Award from The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences. This lifetime achievement award — presented to Heinerth by RCGS Fellow Phil Nyutten — has a venerable 57-year history, and is known in the industry as the “Diver’s Oscar.”

Heinerth continues to travel to numerous speaking engagements across Canada, keynoting events for groups such as the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, Manitoba GIS Users Group and Excellence Canada. Thanks to the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, she is gearing up for another ambitious series of school visits to Eastern Canada, the far North and the region south of Ottawa near her new home in Carleton Place. Heinerth was also recently included in the new book Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries (see “AMBROSE, Shelley” for more on this publication and to see which other RCGS Fellows made the list).


A plate from the recovered collection, which shows panoramas of Alsek Glacier when it was more than 300 metres thick. (Photo: Neil Hartling)

Neil Hartling has published two articles in the most recent Northern Currents newsletter about exciting work he and his team have accomplished. “How We Saved an International Treasure” details the discovery of century-old glass negative panoramas of glaciers in 1906 that had been threatened with disposal, and “The Boundary Line that Emerged from the Ice” is the story of the heroic efforts to survey the Canada/Alaska Boundary along the Alsek River.


A cultural performance at the Indigenous Tourism Awards Gala. (Photo: Neil Zeller/ITAC)

In late 2017, Kim Gray, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Toque & Canoe, was honoured to attend the 6th annual International Aboriginal Tourism Conference — co-hosted by the Tsuut’ina Nation in Calgary on their traditional land in Treaty 7 territory. The two-day conference hosted guest speakers such as Senator Murray Sinclair and a record-breaking 500-plus stakeholders, including representatives from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, as well as globally minded Indigenous and non-Indigenous tourism organizations. Gray’s story about the event and the Indigenous-led tourism movement in Canada can be read at


(Photo: Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants)

Joe Grabowski, who started the non-profit Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants as a way of bringing science, exploration, conservation and adventure into classrooms through virtual speakers and field trips, was recently named a top 50 finalist in the Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession. The top 10 finalists will be announced in mid-February, with the winner being named about a month later at the Global Education and Skills Forum, held in Dubai in previous years. Grabowski was also selected as National Geographic’s first Education Fellow, a role which is taking him out of the classroom for the year to work on both Nat Geo projects and his own undertakings.


(Photo: Daisy Gilardini)

Conservation has been Daisy Gilardini’s calling throughout her career as a photographer, so she is particularly thrilled to announce that her “Kermode bear” story, shot in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, is the winner of the Conservation Story award in the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Competition. Selected from 26,000 images by photographers in 59 countries, the winners will be published in the fall/winter 2017 special collector’s edition of Nature’s Best Photography magazine and displayed in the awards exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., until September 2018.

GERVERS, Michael

(Photo: Michael Gervers)

In 2015, Michael Gervers, a professor of historical and cultural studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough, received a grant from the U.K.-based Arcadia Fund to digitally preserve the knowledge and techniques involved in the making of Ethiopia’s rock-cut churches. Since then, he’s travelled to Ethiopia three times and uncovered 20 modern churches across the country. In recognition of this research, Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, the grandson of the country’s last ruling emperor, awarded Gervers the Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Ethiopia.


(Photo: Debra Garside)

For six days, Debra Garside withstood temperatures as low as -55 C to capture her image “Warm embrace,” which has been shortlisted for the People’s Choice Award in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition of London’s Natural History Museum. Taken in Wapusk National Park, Man., the photo shows a mother polar bear protecting her cubs, having recently emerged from the maternity den. Watch a short film about the experience, in which Garside explains what these iconic animals mean to her and why it was important to endure the conditions of the shoot. Voting closed Feb. 5, 2018.


Grindstone Creek Boardwalk, one of the Royal Botanical Gardens’ major nature sanctuary properties, in Burlington, Ont. (Photo: David Galbraith)

In late 2017, the Ontario Trillium Foundation announced that it would be funding a two-year program of research and innovative interpretation of the cultural landscape of the 1,100 hectares owned by Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton and Burlington, at the head of Lake Ontario. Led by David Galbraith, RBG’s head of science, with RBG’s head of education Barbara McKean, the RBG Heritage and Heroes program will include a re-exploration of the history of the cultural landscape of Canada’s largest botanical garden — relating what people see today to the land’s more than 9,000 years of known human habitation — and will feature stories of some of the fascinating characters associated with it. RBG Heritage and Heroes will extend research already underway into the archaeological, cultural, and urban stories that this rich landscape tells, and will continue themes developed in the 2017 creation of RBG’s newest interpretive trail, “Enji naagdowing Anishinaabe waadiziwin: The Journey to Anishinaabe Knowledge,” which was created in partnership with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation with support from the Ontario 150 Fund. 


(Photo: Keith Levesque/ArcticNet)

Louis Fortier, scientific director of ArcticNet: A Network of Centres of Excellence, received a special Lifetime Achievement Award during the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Inspiration Awards gala on Wednesday Nov. 8. The Nature Inspiration Awards recognize individuals, groups and organizations whose leadership, innovation and creativity connect Canadians with nature and the natural world. Fortier, based in Quebec City, is an advocate for conservation and global climate change action, and has dedicated his career to Arctic research. His leadership has been integral in the development of first-class national and international research initiatives in the Arctic, including ArcticNet, the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, the Canada-France International Joint Laboratory Takuvik and the Institut nordique du Québec.

EATON, Susan

Leading a geology hike on Fogo Island. (Photo: Susan Eaton)

In June, Susan Eaton co-led a natural history field trip to the Cypress Hills of Alberta and Saskatchewan for The Explorers Club: Canadian Chapter, and worked as the ship’s geologist during Adventure Canada’s Mighty Saint Lawrence Expedition, from Quebec City to St. John’s and just about everywhere in between. In July and August, as the Geologist-in-Residence at the Shorefast Foundation’s Geology at the Edge program, she lived in the Newfoundland fishing outport Seldom Come By, delivering public lectures and leading geology hikes for Fogo Island Inn guests and people from outport communities, and running a kids’ geology camp that blended arts and crafts with minerals, rocks and plants.

Eaton was also included in the new book Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries (see “AMBROSE, Shelley” for more on this publication and to see which other RCGS Fellows made the list).

DAWSON, Jackie

Canada will be the president of the G7 from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018, with the political summit occurring in Charlevoix on June 8 and 9. As such, the Royal Society of Canada is responsible for presiding over the process leading to joint statements of the G7 academies, and has selected two topics for drafting now as 2018 G7 statements. Jackie Dawson, of the University of Ottawa, is the chair of the drafting group for the first of these statements: The Global Arctic: the sustainability of northern communities in the context of changing ocean systems.

CLARKE, George Elliott

Gary Ewer (left), conductor of Symphony Nova Scotia, and George Elliott Clarke. (Photo: George Elliott Clarke)

For the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, former Parliamentary Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke and Symphony Nova Scotia presented Clarke’s poem “Achieving Disaster, Dreaming Resurrection: The Halifax Explosion of December 6, 1917, and Its Aftermath.” The event, which was hosted at the Halifax Central Library on Dec. 6, 2017, featured excerpts of the poem accompanied by five musical selections performed by the symphony. 


Allen Clarke (right) and Jacquie Tilford with a Viking at L'Anse aux Meadows, N.L. (Photo: Allen Clarke)

With the Society’s encouragement, Allen Clarke approached the Newfoundland and Labrador RCGS Fellows in 2017 with the idea of funding and creating a Giant Floor Map of the province. “It is, in my mind, one the most beautiful and interesting places in the world,” says Clarke. “The scenery is breathtaking, the people are wonderful, it has great food and fascinating history — what’s not to like?”

Ellen Curtis, the Society’s director of education, says Clarke, was incredibly supportive, and the Fellows themselves were quick to put words into action, raising more than $25,000 to produce a GFM with all their special places highlighted on it. The map is in the final stages and should be ready for launch and distribution throughout Newfoundland and Labrador by early 2018.

CLARK, Russell and Trisha Stovel

(Photo: Russell Clark)

In 2017, Russell Clark and Trisha Stovel launched Beneath BC, a non-profit online project aimed at making underwater Canada better known to Canadians through a wealth of video, images and shared stories. While the focus at this stage is British Columbia — where the pair lives and dives professionally and for fun — the main objective is to expand over time to become “Beneath Canada,” and to appeal not only to divers, but more importantly also to non-divers. Through video clips of marine life encounters, photos of adventures, blog posts and their trademark “Minimentary” videos, Clark and Stovel want people to discover a side to B.C.’s oceans, rivers and lakes that they probably haven’t yet realized exists. 

CANO, Catherine and Claire Kennedy

Catherine Cano (top) and Claire Kennedy. (Photos: WXN)

Catherine Cano, president and general manager of the Cable Public Affairs Channel, and Claire Kennedy, partner at Toronto’s Bennett Jones LLP and one of Canada’s leading lawyers in tax and transfer pricing, were nominated to the Women’s Executive Network’s 2017 Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 list. The awards were launched in 2003 “to shine a spotlight on the incredible accomplishments of professional women across Canada in a way that would both recognize talented leaders and inspire others.”

CAMERON, Christina

(Photo: Christina Cameron/Routledge)

The French translation of Many Voices, One Vision: the Early Years of the World Heritage Convention, co-authored by Christina Cameron and Mechtild Rössler, was launched at UNESCO in November 2017. The book examines the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage Convention, a highly successful international treaty that influences virtually every country in the world. Focusing on the Convention’s creation and early implementation, it considers World Heritage and its global impact through diverse prisms, including its normative frameworks, constituent bodies, personalities and key issues.

Cameron also participated in an expert meeting as session chair, moderator and drafter on “The Future of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues: Technical Considerations & Potential Effects on Authenticity and Outstanding Universal Value,” organized by The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Tokyo University of the Arts and UNESCO, Sep. 27-29, 2017. The meeting examined the pros and cons of the reconstruction of the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.


(Photo: Jett Britnell)

In November, underwater and wildlife photographer Jett Britnell was approached by the editors of DivePhotoGuide to write and illustrate “An Underwater Photographer’s Guide to British Columbia.” DivePhotoGuide is a comprehensive underwater photography and videography resource and award-winning website for a community of more than 50,000 underwater photographers and videographers from around the globe.

Britnell has also been invited to present three seminars at Beneath the Sea, America’s largest consumer scuba and dive travel show, which is being held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, N.J., March 23-25, 2018. Two of his seminars will feature British Columbia (“Tropical Splendor in a Cold Sea: British Columbia’s Famed Browning Passage” and “Diving Wild: British Columbia’s Diving Hot Spots”), while the third is “Shoot to Thrill: Tips & Tricks for Improving Your Underwater Photography.”

BAIKIE, Caitlyn

Caitlyn Baikie MCing the government apology to Newfoundland and Labrador residential school survivors. (Photo: Brandon Pardy)

Caitlyn Baikie was invited by the Canadian Embassy to speak as part of a delegation of government officials, academics and Arctic experts from November 5 to 15, 2017, in Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo, to raise awareness of climate change and social, cultural and economic impacts. Soon after this, she MCed the landmark apology from the Prime Minister on behalf of the government of Canada to residential school survivors in Labrador and Newfoundland.

APPS, Deborah and Valerie Pringle

Deborah Apps, Valerie Pringle and Geoff Green (Front row, right-to-left) in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., celebrating the connection of The Great Trail with locals, supporters and the Canada C3 team. (Photo: Ray Goose/Trans Canada Trail)

On September 10, 2017, RCGS Fellows Deborah Apps, president and CEO of Trans Canada Trail, and Valerie Pringle, TCT Foundation board co-chair, joined locals in Tuktoyaktuk to celebrate the 100 per cent connection of The Great Trail in the Northwest Territories. The celebration took place at the Trail’s Kilometre Zero North, mainland Canada’s most northerly point and where the Mackenzie River Trail meets the Arctic Ocean. The Trail links many of the First Nations and Inuvialuit communities throughout the territories. The connection event also coincided with the arrival of Canada C3, a team of adventurers led by RCGS Fellow Geoff Green, in Tuktoyaktuk.

On October 19, Apps and Pringle also celebrated the 100 per cent connection of the Trail in British Columbia with Trail partners, volunteers and donors. Award-winning music producer David Foster and the Lt.-Gov. of British Columbia Judith Guichon, both TCT Champions, were among the speakers at the Victoria event, which was also attended by Honorary RCGS Fellow and TCT Foundation Board member Laureen Harper.


Mark Angelo rowing on India's Ganges River during the making of RiverBlue as producer Roger Williams films. (Photo: Mark Angelo)

The acclaimed film, RiverBlue, which has helped boost a major international movement to change one of the planet’s greatest polluters of rivers, is now available on multiple platforms for either rent or purchase. The film chronicles an unprecedented round-the-world river journey by Mark Angelo that ended up documenting the dark side of the global fashion industry, the second most polluting industry on Earth. The film screened this past year at major film festivals around the world, winning a series of prestigious awards in both the United States and Europe, including best documentary feature at the U.K.’s largest independent film festival, Raindance.

AMBROSE, Shelley

(Photo: EVOKE Press)

Shelley Ambrose and several other RCGS Fellows (Meg Beckel, Kim Campbell, Susan Eaton, Jill Heinerth, Meagan McGrath, Natalie Panek and Sheila Watt-Cloutier) are featured in a new book, Canada 150 Women: Conversations with Leaders, Champions, and Luminaries, by Paulina Cameron. Published in November 2017, the book chronicles the journeys of 150 Canadian women, from politicians to spacewalker, entrepreneurs, scientists, Olympians and artists.

EVOKE Press’s media release: “Ambition, diversity, strength: few groups better represent the potential of Canada than women. Canada 150 Women profiles 150 of the country’s most inspiring, groundbreaking and powerful female role models, providing insight into their achievements — and a challenge for all to better support women. Candidly sharing personal and professional moments of struggle — and success — interviewees also discuss how feminism has changed in their lifetimes, suggest advice to women embarking on their careers, and set forth their bold visions for Canada.”

N.B.: Items for “Fellows in the News” are welcomed and should be sent to Nick Walker at

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