Lynn Westcott

Bringing Science World to Northern B.C. Communities

For Lynn Westcott, a love of science has always come naturally. The Smithers, B.C.-based entomologist and owner of Westcott Environmental Services grew up on a farm just outside Prince George and recalls rural B.C. as having been one of the world’s great labs. “Part of the land was farmed, but a lot of it was actually still forested, so as a kid I was able to go out and walk around in the wooded areas,” she says. “My mom just said, ‘Well, be careful and watch for bears!’”

Being outdoors all the time made Westcott wonder how the world worked. “I was just curious about everything: ‘Oh, look, there are different kinds of moss’ or ‘What are the insects doing?’” In particular, she remembers being entranced by a creek that ran through the property where she grew up and where her parents live to this day. “Sometimes in the summer we would go out in the evenings and sit on the banks overlooking the creek, and we’d watch the beavers swim around and build their dams. That was really special for me.”

Scientists and Innovators in the Schools

Today, in addition to consulting for various clients — testing samples to identify terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates — Westcott shares her love of science and the great outdoors with the next generation. A volunteer with Science World’s Scientists and Innovators in the Schools program since 2007, she travels to schools throughout northern B.C. to explain what she does, bringing in a combination of live and preserved specimens, with samples often culled from local bodies of water.

She talks to kids from kindergarten to Grade 12 — and many of them have never met a real scientist of any description, let alone a female one. Helping the students make the link between their natural environment and the important work of scientists like Westcott is the central focus of Science World’s classroom program. “A lot of them have never seen any of these little creatures before” — aquatic insects and invertebrates, bees and pollinators — “or didn’t know that they were in the water. And they’re just amazed,” she says. “I always tell them that it’s really important that these little creatures are in there. It’s a good sign, because if there are no insects in the water, then maybe there’s something wrong with it.”

Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists

In addition to her Science World commitments, Wescott also volunteers as the Northern BC Youth Engagement Coordinator for the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, a national organization working to encourage women and girls interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to act on that interest. For her, getting more girls into the field is not just about having female role models — although she acknowledges that’s critical — it’s also about trying to move beyond the stereotypes of scientists in white coats working in a lab. “It’s showing them that science is actually studying plants,” she says. “It’s studying rocks and geology. It’s looking at the insects and understanding what they’re doing.”

The morning we speak, Westcott is going to drive the hour to Houston, B.C., where she will be speaking to students at Silverthorne Elementary. Two days before, she was in Terrace; next will be the village of McBride, where she will participate in an Elders’ environmental outdoor camp put on by the local elementary school. She thinks this community outreach is vital, and she’s encouraged by efforts to democratize the learning ecosystem across B.C., including via another of Science World’s programs, Symbiosis: a B.C.-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and design, math) network of people, resources, and technology that brings vital knowledge and learning to all British Columbians.

“A community like Smithers doesn’t have an actual science centre. Same thing with Houston. Houston is a lot smaller than Smithers. How can we, by building this network, bring the sciences to these communities?”

As Science World at TELUS World of Science celebrates our 30th anniversary, we are connecting with people who have made an impact on our physical space and in the community of science enthusiasts and supporters in British Columbia. We present here a selection of their stories, and hope that their words will inspire you to continue to help us ignite wonder and empower dreams for the next generation of STEAM leaders and the people of British Columbia. If you have a story to share about how Science World has impacted your life in a meaningful way, please share it with us online on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.


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