Cecilia Wong - Protecting Ecosystems: We’re in it together

“The work-life balance is a challenge but at the same time, making sure my kids can enjoy the great world that I live in is so important to me. I see it as less of a challenge than as something I need to do.” As a Senior Ecosystem Information Scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, Cecilia provides analysis, interpretation and information-sharing on the Salish Sea Ecosystem and Mackenzie River Basin.

“Research is important to understand what changes are happening, what’s causing these changes and to better identify what we can do to address these changes if they’re moving in a negative direction,” she says. “Without a better understanding of the challenges, it’s difficult to take appropriate action.”

Cecilia’s connection to environmental science was originally driven by her curiosity of how things work and why. In university she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and then a Master’s in Resource and Environmental Studies.

“I’ve always been a curious person. My number one passion has always been to understand what’s happening and why, whether in biology or psychology. The environment happens to be the focal area where it all comes together,” she says.

Cecilia entered the public service as a co-op student at Environment Canada. “That gave me the opportunity to explore how to apply what I learned in school. And after completing my Master’s degree, I was able to compete for a full-time position.”

Environmental issues are, by nature, a team effort, and Cecilia’s work requires continuous collaboration, bringing scientists, researchers, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous people and others in the community together to figure out what’s happening in the ecosystem and what can be done to address the issues. And because the Salish Sea Ecosystem is shared by the U.S. and Canada, Cecilia also works very closely with colleagues across the border.

“I feel strongly that we’re in this together,” she says. “How we do things on one side of the border may be different from how things are done on the other side of the border. But access to clean air and water, the health of our species and habitat, and the link between ecosystem health and human well-being are common needs for people on both sides.”

To Cecilia, being a good scientist also means being a good communicator. She believes that you need to be able to collect information and to analyze it accurately, as well as interpret and communicate the information in a way that makes sense to others. Spreading good science leads to informed debate and, ultimately, to helping inform good public policy.

As challenging as protecting delicate ecosystems can be, Cecilia takes pride in knowing her work is making a difference.

“This is my home. It’s also home to over 7 million people in the Salish Sea north and south of the border. My family is here. My kids are here. I feel strongly about working to ensure the sustainability of the Salish Sea Ecosystem for many generations.”