Story of Water Symposium kicks off Science Rendezvous 2024 

April 30, 2024 by Alyx Dellamonica

A series of art workshops, hands-on demonstrations and talks on stewardship and respect for natural water systems will take place in the McLennan Physical Laboratories on the St. George campus this Friday, May 10th. The Story of Water Symposium will serve as prelude to the UofT's Science Rendezvous activities, a chain of events held across Canada on Saturday May 11th, intended to invite potential students and the public to broaden their scientific literacy and consider futures in STEM.A cartoon graphic advertising science rendezvous 2024

The Story of Water offers participants an opportunity to look at water through new eyes. It explores ways to unify Indigenous knowledge with Western science, transforming humanity’s relationship with water so it is seen as sacred by everyone, rather than a mere commodity or resource to be exploited. Presenters at the event reflect this theme, from Indigenous artist Jackie Traverse to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Director of Indigenous Science, Dr. Myrle Ballard, who will discuss Three-Eyed Seeing and Anishinaabe stewardship laws.  

The Story of Water will feature the following speakers and talks: 

  • Jackie Traverse, Capturing Nature through Indigenous Art - Inspiration and Technique. Registration link!
  • Prof. Myrle Ballard (University of Calgary, Director of Indigenous Science, Environment Climate Change Canada), Three-Eyed Seeing: How Can We Learn from Mino-Pimatisiiwin, Natural Law and Water. 
  • Dr. Mark Jones,  Microfibers and Microplastics in Water: How Searching for Yooper Lights Got Me Looking At Water in Different Ways. 
  • Dr. Marzieh Baneshi (Cape Breton University). "Burning Questions”-Exploring the Science and Sizzle of Biochar from Wood and Crustaceans.
  • Dr. Erik Kremer (Nuclear Waste Management Organization) The NWMO’s Journey: Learning from Water.
  • Prof. Sue Chiblow (University of Guelph) - Indigenous Worldviews on N’bi (Water): Responsibilities, Relationships, and Declarations. 

In addition to the art workshops and lectures, the symposium will offer hands on demonstrations and citizen science activities Friday afternoon—one on “Lighting up Microplastics” from Mark Jones, and “Biochar to the Rescue” from Marzeih Baneshi. 

Science Rendezvous is a cross-Canada outreach with events scheduled in six provinces and the Northwest Territories.  Founded at the University of Toronto by Professor Dwayne Miller in 2008, it highlights the importance of valuing science, while demystifying scientific careers.  

The events on the St. George campus will include an interactive art exhibition, a coding camp, a science-based obstacle course and a traditional science fair.  (The schedule at UTM has yet to be posted.)

“If someone says they are a doctor or a lawyer, people know what that’s like,” says Miller. “If they say they’re a scientist, on the other hand, people imagine a wild-haired and obsessed person in a lab coat, trying to destroy the world. Where in fact, scientists universally are trying to save the world - make the world better by better understanding all that mother nature can teach us.” 

Anyone familiar with rogue scientists in entertainment media will know that those lab coated agents of technological chaos tend to be male. In the real world, women have traditionally faced barriers in seeking careers in STEM. Miller noted that Science Rendezvous takes place annually on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. With that timing in mind, organizers are always looking for ways to make the event especially inviting to women and girls who might be interested in scientific careers.  

This aligned well, this year, with the Symposium of Water speaker’s list. In many Indigenous cultures, responsibility and stewardship of water is the almost exclusive purview of women, an essential and oft-overlooked relationship which has led sources like the APTN to call calls for increasing participation by Indigenous women in water management in Canada.

Funding for the Story of Water Symposium was provided by the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, and the Vice Dean for Research at the Faculty of Arts & Science. Myrle Ballard will be delivering a talk at 10AM on the same day, May 10th, as part of the Department of Chemistry’s Colloquium series.