Welcome to our Q & A series with staff meant to help you get to know us better. Colleen Turlo is a Policy Advisor and focuses on marine protected areas and shipping in the Arctic. She earned a master’s degree in marine management from Dalhousie University and lives in Halifax, N.S.

Q: How long have you worked for Oceans North and what does your job entail?

I joined Oceans North in September 2018. I primarily work on marine protected areas and Indigenous-led conservation in the Arctic, including doing public education and supporting research projects. The Arctic species I’ve focused on the most is walrus. My job involves working on-site with communities and listening to their concerns and desires, as well as interacting with government, academics, non-governmental organizations, industry and scientists. My role is often to determine how the goals and research needs of Oceans North, coastal communities and other groups align, and where connections can be made. Sometimes I feel like an octopus as I try to work with, and connect, everyone!

Q: Describe your job in three words.

Listening to people.

Q:  What do you like most about your job? What are the biggest challenges?

I like meeting new people and learning about their realities, whether that’s getting to know my colleagues at Oceans North, who have a wealth of knowledge, or spending time in communities in the Arctic. The community I work with the most closely is Coral Harbour on Southampton Island in Nunavut. One of my favourite moments in this community was in 2019. I had just disembarked from a research vessel that was circumnavigating the island. There was a dive team on board who were shooting photos and videos of the undersea life. I was able to show these photos, in some cases taken just the day before, to the high school science classes. The students’ eyes lit up as I showed them these incredible photos of sea stars and kelp forests and urchins. They couldn’t believe that the photos were actually from their waters. It was incredible to showcase the marine biodiversity to youth who had no idea such life existed there.

One of the challenges of my work is that trust and relationships take a long time to develop. It’s a process that can’t be rushed. And when you don’t live in a community, it’s harder to understand the local politics and other nuances of the culture. I try to stay humble about what I don’t know. Another challenge is ensuring that projects become self-sufficient. That means training local staff and organizations to take full ownership at some point.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like to hike with my partner and my eight-year-old Goldendoodle, who still acts like a puppy. I also enjoy diving (mainly in warm water), and earned my first certification in Thailand and my second certification in the Philippines. I do yoga, and enjoy cycling as well. I bike to work every day and recently did a three-day cycling trip in South Korea along the Nakdong River.

I play guitar and used to be in a folk-rock band in Korea where I lived for a few years. And one of my biggest passions is photography. My father is a photographer and gave me my first film SLR camera when I was 11 or 12 and I haven’t gone anywhere without a camera since, though I gave up film a decade or so ago.

Q: Where’s home?

I grew up in Toronto in North York. I moved to Antigonish, N.S. to go to university and met my partner who is from there. I also lived in Busan, South Korea for five years where I taught English as a Foreign Language and taught at the Korea National Maritime University. And now I live in Halifax, N.S.

Q: What is something surprising about you?

I co-hosted a weekly marine affairs radio show in Busan, South Korea called “Maritime Wave.” My love for radio began during university when I worked on the campus radio station—where I also met my partner! And last year, I co-hosted a podcast for Oceans North.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for the long haul?

I find little bits of inspiration in lots of different places, from collaborating with others to talking with youth, academics or hunters. I like listening to stories from hunters and elders and learning about animal behaviour, or hearing about connections with the land and ocean. I get energy from traveling to new places, and meeting new people. I always assume I have a lot to learn from different cultures.

Ruth Teichroeb is a regular contributor to Oceans North and is former communications director. 

Related Content