Brittney St. Amant was named one of three winners of Ocean Wise’s Innovator Labs competition and will produce a documentary on ocean plastics to motivate change. (Photo submitted)

Brittney St. Amant was named one of three winners of Ocean Wise’s Innovator Labs competition and will produce a documentary on ocean plastics to motivate change. (Photo submitted)

Tofino ocean scientist inspiring change through Ocean Wise Innovator Lab

Brittney St. Amant working on plastics documentary dubbed Along the Mountains and the Sea

A Tofitian ocean scientist’s passion for fighting plastic pollution has earned her a top-3 spot in Ocean Wise’s inaugural Innovator Lab competition.

Brittney St. Amant, 28, was delighted to receive funding and mentorship as part of her award winning submission to produce a documentary highlighting the impacts of plastic pollution in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation territory.

“I was shocked and very, very, excited that I got awarded one of the top three places for this project and now I can actually start bringing it to life. Having the recognition and the title behind it also is just a huge honour for me. I feel like all the hard work is finally paying off,” St. Amant told the Westerly News.

“I want to show what’s happening, bring awareness, have people educated on this topic and then feel motivated to do more and be very aware of that through their own practices and lowering their own ecological footprint… To be a part of Ocean Wise is an amazing opportunity for me so I’m super happy and very grateful.”

She added the roughly 20-minute documentary, dubbed Along the Mountains and the Sea, will highlight the impacts of plastic pollution through the eyes of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation.

“I think it’s a very interesting look into Tofino. I think a lot of people from around Canada and even around the world see Tofino very much as the surf capital, which it is, but my whole documentary focuses on these ocean changes through the eyes of the Tla-o-quiaht First Nation,” she said. “I think it will be a very interesting perspective of what’s going on here today.”

She added the project will include community outreach through educational booths and shoreline cleanups.

“I’m excited to get the community involved,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to create something here. Tofino is absolutely my home and I see a lot of things that I can do research on here that aren’t necessarily being focused on. It’s been kicking around in my head for a while and this Innovators Lab allowed me to take steps to bring it to life.”

She said work on the film is underway and she hopes to host a local screening in September that motivates and inspires change.

“I feel that with a lot of documentary filmmakers, especially when it’s around climate change and our oceans, there’s a lot of doom and gloom around it so people leave feeling a bit heavy and perhaps helpless,” she said. “I want this to be very empowering. I want the facts to show what is happening, but have people very empowered because there are a lot of things we are doing in our community and a lot more things we can do as well. I want people to feel motivated to do more and feel really light and ready to tackle the issues at hand.”

She said raising awareness of ocean plastics and inspiring change is vital to reversing the waves of damage being done.

“We need to already be pushing past all these barriers now in order to protect our future and future generations. It’s something that’s going to keep building unless we find the solutions now and deal with the problems at hand now,” she said. Anybody interested in getting involved in the project is encouraged to reach out to St. Amant at brittney.stamant@hotmail.com.

“I always need extra hands so I would be super happy to have anybody interested on board,” she said.

Ocean Wise introduced its new Innovator Lab as a project-based competition open to youth 13-30 in an effort to boost young voices through mentorship from leading ocean health experts and entrepreneurs and funding for the top three submissions.

“We were absolutely delighted to launch it this year…Young people are certainly concerned about ocean health and climate change. There’s been reports and we’ve seen in our own work the really significant increase in climate anxiety and, more broadly, eco-anxiety from youth across Canada and internationally. What we hear from teachers and educators is that young people are quite concerned about this, but they’re also looking for ways that they can take action to actually improve the state of the ocean’s health,” Ocean Wise’s director of Ocean and Climate Literacy Scott Bohachyk told the Westerly News.

“When we’re talking about youth and young professionals, they’re not only the leaders of tomorrow, they are leading change in their homes, schools and communities right now. It doesn’t take long to really recognize the huge contributions that young people are making.”

He added St. Amant’s submission was selected because of its potential to make an inspiring impact towards a healthier environment as well as its focus on Indigenous voices. “We know how powerful and important storytelling can be in terms of motivating people’s behaviour,” he said.

“We were really moved by Brittany’s project proposal to create a documentary Along the Mountains and the Sea which would document the impacts of plastic pollution on the unceded territories of the Nuu chah nulth First Nations.”

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