Director of Aquatic Research and Stewardship
Around UINR Shelley Denny is known to be active in many aspects of marine biology, but ask anyone what Shelley is most passionate about in her work and the answer is EEL! The eel represents to Shelley much more than a creature to be studied, she recognizes its spiritual, cultural and historical signifiance to the Mi’kmaq people.
It’s no wonder that Shelley ended up working with the inhabitants of the Bras d’Or Lakes–both the creatures and the people! Her first job as a student was to sample lobster and snow crab and she continued her studies to gain a Masters of Science in Biology in fisheries ecology from St. F.X. University. Her continuing education includes courses in open-water scuba diving. An avid reader, Shelley is a self-confessed Student-of-Life and listens to the voice of Mother Earth and the teachings of our Elders. Shelley learns by listening to people in the communities she serves.
“There are so many things that I find rewarding. I am passionate about the Bras d’Or Lakes and all she nourishes. I really enjoy working with our communities. When we open ourselves to the communities, we open ourselves to valuable teachings. These teachings give me direction for my role at UINR.”
You could break down the work Shelley does at UINR into three areas:
- Research– “We use science and two-eyed seeing to address questions relating to marine and aquatic issues.”
- Technical support– “UINR can act in an advisory role for Mi’kmaq communities on environmental concerns, fishing and potential effects of development.”
- Stewardship–“Gathering information is fine, but our Elders are frustrated when no action is taken to address the problems. Stewardship is a way we can change behaviour that harms the environment. It helps us re-establish our interconnection with nature. We are responsible for Mother Earth. Let’s take our responsibility to action.”
Shelley’s activities and accomplishments range from enhancing the Bras d’Or Lakes with artificial lobster habitat to developing a management plan for Mi’kmaq traditional use of lobster, and using traditional Mi’kmaq knowledge and scientific approaches in studying eels. Her knowledge on marine water quality helps us understand the environmental water quality in the Bras d’Or Lakes and what areas and issues that need to be addressed.