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Barriers and Biases and Fishing with Dad


In the time of the early nineteenth century, women were generally excluded from most formal scientific education, but they were introduced into learned science-related societies soon after.
For instance, Marie Curie was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in 1903 for physics. Unimaginably, she went on to become a double Nobel Prize recipient in 1911 for chemistry. Since then, 49 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize!
Rachael Carson’s book Silent Spring was published in 1962. Carson’s book, and the controversy surrounding it, effectively transformed public environmental consciousness and provoked action for change.
My name is Shayleen Sampson, and I too hope to make a difference in the development of science.
My interest in nature and science commenced one exquisite afternoon in a canoe while fishing for Walleye (Sander vitreus) and pondering its life history. As with the rise of the Women’s College Coalition and the paradigm of providing opportunities for women in science, my father gave me the opportunity for patient learning, endless questioning, and a transformational afternoon towards learning about the science of fish and traditional fishing.
Many of us claim we do not believe the stereotype that girls and women are not as good as boys and men in nature and science… and for that matter, fishing.
My father however, is not one who deliberately discredits gender and science stereotypes holding the belief at an unconscious level. His beliefs are genuine and even if apparent gender bias is waning in today’s society, I thought this photo in particular would be intriguing to him with respect to assumptions about his daughter’s enrolment in the science of natural resources - specifically fisheries management!
Women are surely not new to the Natural Resources Management Technology (NRMT) Program at the University College of the North (UCN), but as I examined class photos on the wall from the 1980’s onward, it is apparent that women presented (and remain) are dominated by men in all yearly admissions.
I do not identify it to be about ‘barriers and bias, nor the underrepresentation of young women in fisheries conservation leadership. For me personally, it is about a father’s caring and a time spent fishing with his daughter.
Two complementary skill set responsibilities of any natural resource management technology technician simply, and no matter the gender, have the ability to analyze and synthesize data. Both are important and intimate aspects of promoting knowledge and both have been in constant demand for each of my assignments.
It hasn’t been easy. I have learned the sampling of Walleye (Sander vitreus) from remote field camp to laboratory for size, gender, and age composition - is the first step towards developing and establishing a good fisheries conservation strategy.
I have also learned that it is important that student technicians (and all those who fish) understand what a critical role ‘research’ plays in the process. Understanding the consequences of poor sampling practices, taking quality samples, and becoming much more deliberate and consistent in my work are elements emphasized throughout my training.
I have learned that the quality of my work will affect not only the time and effort required to process data, but also the accuracy of the results achieved. These, in turn, have important influences on decisions made.
During the past two years, as a young woman in a Science related discipline I have had to overcome powerful feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted. As a student, I was worked with a sense of hopelessness, questioned my effectiveness, and was often discouraged.
Yet evolving from these feelings is a new understanding of the fundamental nature of a learning process and a search to find my own route to personal expression. My academic drive comes from a deeply personal time with my father, a small group of instructors, and something that is now purposeful and meaningful to me… graduation.
All these activities and struggling have provided me an avenue for enhancing my self-esteem, confidence, and strength of commitment towards a sense of contributing to society. I have learned about being open to change and being someone who can personally reflect on their own development… perhaps an inner transformation towards understanding myself.
One definition of ‘transformation’ provided by an article by Pierre Walter (Dead Wolves, Dead Birds, and Dead Trees: Catalysts for Transformative Learning in the Making of Scientist-Environmentalists) is, “a process by which we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that they generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action”.
Transformative Learning Center at the Ontario Institute for the Study of Education (OISE) describes this type of learning as “a deep structural shift in basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions… a shift of consciousness that dramatically and permanently alters our way of being in the world” (Morrell & O’Connor, 2002, p. xvii).
Of particular relevance for me within this OISE description is the emphasis on a shift in consciousness – on my ‘self-understanding’ and how this shift influences and shapes me now. Essentially, my scholastic development has been focused through the presence of powerful images in my life, and the struggles involved in juggling hope and despair with respect to completing countless assignments!
Thinking back I never really had too much to offer my father that day in the canoe while waiting to catch a Master Angler Walleye. I hope we can do it again soon… I would like the opportunity to cast not only my diploma his way… but some new theoretical and conceptual understandings I have regarding the sustainability of the species!
Shayleen Sampson is a Fisheries and Wildlife Management Graduate of the Natural Resources Management Technology Program through University College of the North. She is currently employes as a Forestry Technician in Swan River.