Marine Program Lead
Jenn Burt Marine Program Lead © Jacqueline Sinclair

Our People

Jenn Burt

British Columbia Marine Program Lead

Canada

  • AREA OF EXPERTISE

    marine science, community-led conservation

  • Recent Publications

    Enabling Coexistence

Biography

Jenn Burt is a passionate marine ecologist, facilitator, and communicator with expertise in kelp forest ecology, resilience and adaptation in coastal human communities, integrated marine planning, and resource management in linked social-ecological systems. Prior to working at Nature United, she was working on a PhD focused on understanding the ecological and social transformations that are occurring as sea otters return to rocky reef ecosystems in British Columbia. This involved scuba-based surveys and experiments to study how subtidal invertebrate and kelp communities are affected by sea otters, and also working with coastal Indigenous communities to understand how they are adapting to the profound shifts in food security, socio-cultural interactions, and resource management that accompany sea otter recovery (see www.CoastalVoices.net). 

She has been involved in multiple coastal planning initiatives (marine protected area network design, integrated marine planning on BC’s north coast, and an ongoing proposal for a UNESCO biosphere region), which contribute to her interest in how communities, governments, NGOs and industry can work together to achieve better ecosystem-based management. Prior to her PhD, she was the Marine Planning Coordinator at the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society where she worked to strengthen protected area planning, encourage science-based management, and advance many regional marine planning processes. Before that, she obtained a Masters degree in Pacific salmon ecology from UBC, and coordinated marine biology and conservation education programs at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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Where did your love for the ocean begin? 

The pivotal moment for me was when I started volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium. I fell in love with everything they were doing and got a job in the education department. I’d pull sea cucumbers, urchins and crabs out from a bucket and got people to touch them and learn about them. People left connected and inspired. 

How did you go on to develop your passion for marine life? 

After the aquarium, I did a master’s degree. I joined a salmon science lab because salmon are emblematic of the connections between food, people, culture, economics and ecosystems. I went on to study kelp forests and connected human-ocean systems on the British Columbia coast. 

What are you most proud of in your work? 

Along with doing cool underwater science in many remote kelp forests that only a handful of people have dived before, I am really proud of my work with the Coastal Voices project. The project was designed to elevate Indigenous voices and perspectives on the recovery of sea otters post-fur trade. Sea otters have huge impacts on the shellfish they eat, the kelp that shellfish eat, and the human communities that rely on both shellfish and kelp. It’s a complex social-ecological system. I will always love measuring kelp and counting fish, but my strengths are in convening people and finding innovative ways to tackle complex resource management issues. 

What drew you to Nature United? 

All of my Ph.D. research was a collaboration with First Nations and coastal communities. I learned the value in asking, “What do you want to know? What’s the relevance to you and your seascape? How should we approach this project? How can we work together?” That’s how Nature United works, as well: starting with an invitation to work in partnership and achieve shared outcomes. The two pillars that aligned for me were that Nature United values science-based conservation and that they partner with Indigenous and local communities, including fishers, farmers and businesses. That was the real value match. 

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