Q & A with Marine Biologist, Julia Whidden

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1. What is your day job?

During the day I mostly work on the non-profit organization that I’m developing, called The Terranaut Club. We’re a science and nature exploration program for girls that offers engaging hands-on experiences in Nova Scotia and Miami, Florida. When I’m not doing that or having a blast working at APL, you can find me working as a server at a French and Korean restaurant here in Toronto.

2. What do you love most about your work? 

With The Terranaut Club, I love inspiring girls to step outside of their comfort zone, explore science, and connect with nature. Our programs focus on working with endangered species in threatened ecosystems, which takes the form of sharks, mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass in Miami, and Atlantic sturgeon, skates, and salmon in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. It’s incredibly rewarding for me to know that our programs form a lasting impression on our participants; one that we hope will encourage them to care about the environment and consider pursuing STEM careers! I’m also a very creative person, and love that there’s really no limits to what we can do with The Terranaut Club. I love dreaming up new programs and having them come to life!

At APL, my favourite part of the work is interacting with the kids. It’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm and engagement in our science and art projects, especially watching their faces when we do our volcano eruptions!

3. What inspired you to get into your field?

When I finished my Masters in Biology, I knew that I didn’t want a traditional job in science. While there are many traditional careers that can be exciting and rewarding, I knew that I wanted to combine my passions for education, STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), art, the environment, and working with kids. One of my favourite quotes is “create something that you wish existed.” I was looking to join an organization that worked in these fields, but couldn’t find one that offered what I was looking for. So… I created one! While it’s definitely a challenge and I feel overwhelmed most days, when I get to meet our participants and see them react so positively to our programs, I know that what I’m doing is worthwhile.

4. What inspires you creatively?

This is an easy question - nature. One of my favourite things to do is go snorkelling, and while I can’t do much of it in Toronto, I try to do as much of it as possible when I’m near the ocean! I’m inspired by the patterns, textures, colours, and sounds of the natural world around us. And I absolutely love that there are always more incredible plants and animals to learn about! My new favourites are a group of animals called nudibranchs. They hardly look real!

5. Who is your favourite artist? 

Now this is a more difficult questions. I love Norman Rockwell, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frida Kahlo to name a few. More recently I’ve been very inspired by the beautiful, colourful work of Mexican artist Lourdes Villagomez.

6. Who is your favourite scientist?

I have so many! As I’m developing a science and nature exploration program for girls, I’ll focus on a few female scientists that I think have contributed amazing work to their fields. Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Eugenie Clark, and Sylvia Earle are some of my favourites. I admire their passion and determination in the face of discrimination, and the way they continue to inspire girls like myself to pursue science and care about the environment.

7. What do you love about science and art?

One of my favourite questions to ask is “what if?” What if we mixed these solutions together, what if I used these materials instead, what if I let my paints all mix together? So I think the short answer is curiosity. I love to learn, and I love to create, so science and art are perfect subjects to do just that.