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Grace Decker

Born and raised in Salmon Arm in the British Columbia interior, geography co-op student Grace Decker has nourished a passion for the environment and being outdoors that brought her to the University of Victoria.

Sustainability through public education

Co-op student Grace Decker is sitting on a wooden fence railing on Sidney Island, wearing a green Parks uniform collared shirt. The beach and the Salish Sea, as well as other small islands, are visible behind Grace.
Grace Decker out in the field on Sidney Island.

The breadth of the field, and its unique blend of studying the earth’s physical processes and history alongside human factors and social science, inspired Grace to make the transfer from earth and ocean science into geography after her first year.

“Geography is all about interactions between people and the environment. One setting where this plays out is in parks and protected areas like Gulf Islands National Park Reserve,” says Grace.

As an interpreter for Parks Canada, she spent much of her time at partner organizations like the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, delivering outreach and educational programs for the public.

The educational programming she delivered as a student interpreter focused on ecosystems within the reserve, as well as the endangered southern resident orca population in the Salish Sea. 

On weekends, Grace could be found roving around Sidney Island, educating visitors about the unique coastal sand dune ecosystem.

“I got to see lots of really beautiful places in the Gulf Islands that I’d never been to before! I feel that geography will help me discover ways that I can make more sustainable choices and preserve all these amazing places.”

Learning outside the classroom

While Grace was helping educate the general public through outreach programs, as a student staff member, she also had the chance to learn more about the parks and their ecosystems during two months of extensive training with her supervisor, including cross-training with other Parks Canada teams, and by meeting with the Indigenous Liaison to better understand relationships between the Gulf Islands and local First Nations.

A summer as a student interpreter also included representing Parks Canada at special events like World Oceans Day and the Pender Islands Fall Fair, and accompanying other teams on fieldwork.

What's next

Reflecting on her co-op experience, Grace appreciates the communication and presentation skills that she developed as an interpreter. “This job helped me make connections—and friends!” she says. Although she’s still not sure what her future career will hold, Grace is excited to continue exploring different roles through co-op. “I really like that geography is so broad and that there are so many different options for careers,” Grace says. “That keeps it more interesting!”