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Joanna Tucci is a biologist, animal lover and eco-friendly advocate who wants to share her passion for the environment with others to inspire change. She completed her BSc and MSc in Environmental Biology where she conducted research focused on the use of native plant species to improve water quality in wetlands. Currently, she works for a conservation authority contributing to ecological restoration and community outreach. Her dream is to help conserve ecosystems and protect wildlife through direct field work, data collection and public outreach. A former Ocean Bridge ambassador, Joanna continued her journey with Ocean Wise and joined Ocean Pathways. She spent three months protecting whales with Cetus Research and Conservation Society‘s Straitwatch Quadra Team. Read below about her journey of growth in ocean conservation. 

Three Months of Protecting Whales with Cetus 

It’s dawn, the air feels crisp on my face and the wind blows through my hair as our boat transits out of the bay. The ocean is still and peaceful, like glass, and the surrounding mountains look like a watercolour painting spread across the horizon as the sun starts to creep over them. I hear the faint sound of blows as I spot clouds of breath emerging from the water in the distance. I smile and soak it all in as I embark on a new day protecting BC’s whales.  

That was exactly how I started my day for three magical months. 

How it All Started 

Let’s rewind a little bit.  

Growing up I always admired wildlife and felt connected to nature. I dreamt of working with animals and protecting our planet once I was all grown up. Because of this passion, I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental biology and have pursued a career in the environmental field educating community members and helping plant forests rich with native trees and shrubs. 

In 2022, I participated in Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program which provided me with an amazing community full of likeminded, passionate, and knowledgeable environmentalists who wanted to make a difference in the world. In doing this program I realized that I wanted to do more, make a bigger impact, take direct action, and continue following those dreams I had when I was a little girl. Months later, I was over the moon when I was accepted into the Ocean Pathways program and placed with Cetus. I was ready to turn my goals into reality and have amazing experiences along the way. 

A Day in the Life of my Placement with Cetus

Three Months of Protecting Whales with Cetus

Cetus Research & Conservation Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting at-risk marine mammals from anthropogenic disturbances through education, monitoring and direct intervention. Human interference such as acoustic and physical vessel disturbance largely impact the behaviour and well-being of whales and is considered one of the primary causes of killer whale endangerment.

As a data crew member, I collected data on the type, number, location, and behaviour of the whale(s) as well as the recreational and commercial vessel distribution within 1km. I also gained experience taking photos of humpback dorsal fins and flukes using a telephoto lens and comparing our field shots to catalogs for accurate identification of individuals. Additionally, I would help with public outreach by educating boaters and ensuring they are aware and up to date on the Marine Mammal Regulations and Be Whale Wise Guidelines. The work that Cetus does is extremely important in the protection of whales around British Columbia, and I feel so grateful to have been a small part of their team this summer.  

A Journey of Growth 

Throughout this journey in the Ocean Pathways program, I was able to undergo both professional and personal growth.  

joanna tucci ocean pathways

Professionally, I gained a lot of experience working in a new environment, with a new team, doing new things. Coming from Ontario I had never seen a whale before, nor had I spent any time around the Salish Sea. Luckily, this opportunity gave me the chance to learn more about cetaceans and the ocean while also giving me hands-on experience that will contribute to my career and professional goals.  

Personally, I spent three months living completely out of my comfort zone. Living in a different province across the country with complete strangers, working with animals I had little knowledge of, and isolated on a very remote island. Challenges were faced, but in the end, I am extremely grateful to have been surrounded by west coast beauty. I built genuine connections with people I now consider friends and got to protect one of the most majestic animals on the planet. I have also come to love the charming community that is Quadra Island.  


I would like to thank Ocean Wise for this incredible opportunity that has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. You gave me the courage to jump out of my comfort zone and provided me with a steppingstone that will help advance my career in the environmental field.  

Thank you, Cetus Research and Conservation Society, for believing in me and allowing me to be a part of your team this summer. The Straitwatch Quadra team presented me with an abundant amount of mentorship, knowledge and valuable experience that will help build my career. I am truly honoured to have gotten to know everyone within the Cetus community, and grateful to have made lasting memories with my new Straitwatch Quadra friends.  

This whole experience was an extraordinary rollercoaster, and something that is hard to put into words. I finished my placement with a newfound love and appreciation for the ocean, orcas, humpback whales and Quadra Island. I wish I could do it all over again.

Posted March 5, 2024 by Alex Leroux

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