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Powell River Salmon Society Salmon conducts outreach initiative

Powell River Salmon Society is expanding its efforts to enlighten the community about the organization and the importance of salmon.

Chantal Dunning is the society’s new education coordinator, having taken the job after working several years as an outdoor educator in a variety of locations.

“I’ve been learning a lot and it’s really cool to be part of this team,” said Dunning. “I’m trying to bring that outdoor knowledge and way of teaching to the salmon society. With this role I’ll be working on more community outreach, whether that’s in classrooms or in the community, finding different ways to connect with people.”

Dunning said several events have also been organized in the coming months to involve community members and educate them about the salmon lifecycle, including at Powell River Public Library on February 22. She is conducting a community storytime session at the library from 10:30 to 11 am. It will be with preschool-aged children and their families. Dunning will be reading a book, as well as talking about the salmon life cycle.

Another library event is in the planning stages for April 14 to coincide with Earth Month, as a lead-up to a big event to be held the following Friday. The main event is called Fry Day [as in salmon fry] Earth Day on April 21 from 3:30 to 5 pm at Willingdon Beach.

“Our event will be focused on salmon and salmon preservation,” said Dunning. “It will be a chance to learn about salmon in our community and children will have the opportunity to release salmon fry back into the creek. We’ll have some games and activities and some other organizations are going to set up booths. It should be a lot of fun.

“We are developing resources to show how salmon are such an important species. They are a keystone species and there are 130 other species depending on salmon. Salmon are super important to our ecosystem and our lives. They really affect so much of our landscape and our world.”

Each fall, Powell River Salmon Society collects eggs from female salmon and milt from male salmon to fertilize the eggs. In all, the society releases about two million juvenile salmon back into the Salish Sea.

“It’s a huge amount of salmon,” said Dunning.

She said the educational process around salmon is important and she talks to people in the community who remember going to the hatchery as young students to learn more about the life cycle of salmon and the importance of the resource. This year’s salmon expo at the society’s hatchery featured several different community organizations that came together to supplement the salmon society’s teaching efforts.

“It’s amazing to see how the expo has grown in the past couple of years,” said Dunning. “We are trying to expand our education program even further. We are hoping to run some summer camps in July and August, which is really exciting. It’s still in the planning stages. It’s fun and educational at the same time. Kids will learn about the coastal ecosystem and about the importance of salmon.”

While the busyness of the annual egg collection has passed, Dunning said society staff and volunteers are active, helping to feed and make sure salmon are growing.

“It’s great to see how the community comes out and shows up for the society,” said Dunning. “There are so many people who support the cause and the salmon.”

Following a passion

Dunning comes from a background in outdoor education and experiential learning for the past five years. After completing her degree in environmental geography from Simon Fraser University, she followed her passion for the outdoors by working with several nature-based adventure programs around the world, such as Outward Bound UAE in the Middle East and the North Carolina Outward Bound School in the United States.

After spending several years leading outdoor educational programs abroad, she arrived back in BC, where she took on the role as a forest school instructor at a North Vancouver Nature School, where she developed fun and creative ways to teach the BC curriculum in an outdoor setting.

Making the qathet region her new home, Dunning is excited to dive into salmon education and awareness.

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