Catching Up with Ocean Bridge Alum: Kareina D’Souza
Kareina D’Souza recently returned from a backpacking trip with her partner that took them to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
Though it was mostly for fun and adventure, Ocean Bridge alum Kareina says she was never able to fully disconnect from the ocean-related issues that grew even nearer to her heart during her year with the 2018 cohort.
She explains, for example, how she heard stories and saw first-hand how seaweed is growing faster due to warming waters and landing on beaches along the coast, which has been negatively impacting the environment as well as tourism.
She was also reminded of the global nature of the plastics problem when seeing how much plastic was used daily during her trip. “I was confronted with the realities of climate change and of life in places where water isn’t as accessible and clean and trustworthy,” notes Kareina. “These bigger changes are happening in Canada, and that’s great, but there are also many countries that can’t do what we can, and [it shows] the privilege we have in Canada and how important it is to take that first step.”
‘Where I want to be’
These days, you’ll often find Kareina piloting new initiatives and running events on campus as Dalhousie University’s sustainability manager.
Efforts include green event certification for the university, a reusable mug program at the school’s library, and an Eco-Olympics contest based on sustainability and waste or water reduction.
“I’m also trying to get a handle on the operational side of things because I have no experience in that – I just sort of figured that I would figure it out,” she says with a laugh. “So I slowly have been.”
She admits she’s come up against frustrating “institutional barriers” to sustainable changes on campus, such as health policies that prevent students from using reusable food containers at the cafeteria, for example.
“In figuring it out, I’ve learned that sustainability is all in the details, operationally,” explains D’Souza, adding that the Office of Sustainability has seen success in a tray-less dining experiment in residence that saw students waste less food and eliminated the need for washing. “It’s hard work to figure out those details, but it can make such a huge difference.”
Kareina performed contract work for the federal government in marine protected area risk assessment, as well as Atlantic Salmon conservation work with The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, before settling into her current role.
“I feel like I’ve been lucky and got a really great job that’s finally the fit I was looking for,” she says. “For the first time, I’m feeling this is where I want to be for now, and we’ll see what happens next.”
Also taking up much of her attention these days is her seven-month old toy poodle puppy, Darla (who you may want to know has her own Instagram account full of pupdates at @thedarlaproject!)
Kareina has been staying up to date with the work of the current cohort, particularly through her good friend Leah McConney, a 2019 Ocean Bridger. The two attended university and worked together, crossing paths multiple times over the following years.
“It’s been really cool hearing about her experience compared to ours."
Kareina says she also likes to keep in contact with other Ocean Bridge alumni through whatever means possible.
“Obviously we [alumni] live across the country, and sometimes it’s hard to even see people in your own city with work and all the extracurriculars. But it’s been cool to stay connected with everyone through Facebook or Instagram, just seeing stories or receiving a quick message. You can still see what everyone is still up to and be so proud of the work they’re doing.”
Kareina seized the opportunity to attend the annual in-person Ocean Bridge Steering Committee meeting in Thunder Bay from June 10-13, 2019. These included four days of discussions, planning and brainstorming about the future of the program.
Also joining in on the conversations were fellow program alumni Matt Miller and Jacob Porter.
Kareina says she got a lot out of the experience, which came right before the 2019 wilderness expedition along the north shore of Lake Superior.
“It was interesting to hear about those long-term goals, five years, ten years from now, from everyone else’s perspective – but also being able to give our opinion on the program,” says Kareina. “You want a really great outcome where you have these really engaged citizens of the world after the program, and having someone listen to your opinion and take it into consideration is always nice.
“Being on the steering committee was a nice way to be like, ‘Yeah, this is the kind of work I want to do.’ I want to help come up with a strategic direction and help execute it, and have goals and plans. I want do something that’s meaningful, and do it well.”