University of Calgary

Long-serving Biogeoscience co-ordinator receives Emerald Award

UToday HomeJune 18, 2013

Mike Mappin received an Emerald Award on June 6, for his individual commitment to showcasing environmental leadership. Archive photo by Riley BrandtMike Mappin received an Emerald Award on June 6, for his individual commitment to showcasing environmental leadership. Archive photo by Riley BrandtMike Mappin says it’s not easy to measure the effects of 25 years’ worth of teaching schoolchildren about science by touring a field research station.

But as Mappin, co-ordinator of the Biogeoscience Institute (BGS), collected his Emerald Award for environmental leadership on June 6, he had a couple of encounters with former students that helped do just that.

“Two people came up to me at the awards ceremony and said I was in your program and I am now in such and such environmental science program, pursuing my masters,” he says.

The Emerald Awards, which celebrate and showcase environmental leadership in Alberta, recognized Mappin in the “Individual Commitment” category. Mappin is BGS’s co-ordinator of experiential education programs.

“When the award was announced, I was surprised,” he says. “The other finalists had great projects that had very inspiring environmental outcomes, whereas education programs usually do not have an obvious immediate impact for the environment.”

What started in 1988 as a program for school field trips to BGS in Kananaskis Country for students from kindergarten age through Grade 12 has grown to an integrated research outreach program that has connected thousands of students and their teachers with scientists and their research.

“Exploring a forest or a river is not quite as neat and tidy as studying ecosystems from a textbook — fieldwork is a lot messier and authentic experience,” he says. “We have people in their 30s come back to visit and they say, ‘That experience was pretty important in making my decision in what I was going to do in university.’ ”

Mappin says the program would not be possible without long running partnerships with Kananaskis Country and various school boards. He credits the BSG’s “inspiring location” and the “connection between people and place” that the location inspires.

He also credits the dedicated staff and researchers at the BSG for making students and teachers feel welcome at the Barrier Lake Field Station. “They help make everyone feel at home and love sharing what it is we do at the field station.”