Charlotte Whitney is no stranger to the many channels, bays and inlets that stretch along BC’s North Pacific Coast.
Her family operated a sailboat-based tour business on the Central Coast and Haida Gwaii during the 1980s, and were involved in supporting early conservation efforts that ultimately led to the collaborative agreements to protect Gwaii Haanas. That meant much of Charlotte’s early childhood was spent traveling these interlocking waterways.
“During my time at university, studying conservation and ecology, I began to gravitate back to these areas,” says Charlotte. “At the same time, I also started to recognize that ecology and natural science often leaves out some key social aspects—the people and culture—that are really important for creating positive change.”
So, after taking some time off during her Master’s degree in salmon ecology to sail back up to Haida Gwaii, Charlotte decided her future education and eventual career would focus more on the social science aspects that influence fisheries and marine management, and how that intersects with conservation issues.
While completing her PhD on climate change adaptation and marine planning at the University of Victoria, research had brought Charlotte back to the coastal areas of her youth and eventually to collaborative work with Central Coast Nations. She worked directly with CCIRA and the Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations, conducting interviews with stewardship leaders, fisheries managers and other community members to discuss their perspectives on climate change adaptation planning.
Although she’s made a lot of connections and built solid relationships along the Central Coast, Charlotte says there’s still so much more to learn. “It’s a complex and dynamic work space,” she says, adding that to succeed in this kind of work, it’s important to be open, honest and in some
cases vulnerable. “If you want to bring people together and find consensus, you have to listen, acknowledge history and look for common ground,” she says. “I always try to remember—it’s not about me, it’s about improving the bigger picture.”
Working for more than a decade in fisheries science and management, Charlotte has already applied those strategies with positive results. Prior to joining CCIRA, she contributed to salmon conservation and management with the Salmon Watersheds Program at the Pacific Salmon Foundation, building key partnerships with coastal and interior communities along with the way. And she’s already bringing that proven knowledge to the table here, seeking out new funding opportunities for salmon research and conservation efforts along the Central Coast, specifically focused on habitat restoration and First Nations catch monitoring.
As she continues to settle into her new role, Charlotte is keen to advance the stewardship efforts of Central Coast Nations as much as possible. “It’s a really an amazing space to be working in,” she says. “Reconciliation and conservation are both so important, and the great thing about CCIRA is that it’s really tying those together in exciting and important ways.”