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In memory of Gilles Gagnier

Gilles Gagnier was a force. He was ultra-competitive and a voracious consumer of information, diving deeply into any topic that grabbed his interest — from business management to the circle economy to poker and so many things in between. Gilles was also incredibly passionate about the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, where he was chief operating officer, and Canadian Geographic, where he was publisher. His untimely death from a heart attack on Sept. 10, 2021, at the age of 51 leaves a gaping hole at the very core of both organizations.

“He has been more than just a colleague and organizational leader; he was a dear friend and an incredible mentor,” said Society CEO John Geiger, following Gilles’ passing. “He has been a crucial part of the success the RCGS has enjoyed over recent years and he devoted his working life to the Society and Canadian Geographic.”

Gilles began his career with the organizations in 2000, hired to oversee Can Geo and the Society’s emerging websites. Over the next 21 years, he held a variety of increasingly senior roles — including director of new media, vice-president of content creation and vice-president of strategic partnerships and custom content — before ascending to the role of publisher of Canadian Geographic in 2014 and COO of the Society a year later. He held a deep knowledge of all aspects of the organizations, working seamlessly with the print, education and business teams. That knowledge was rooted in a deep understanding of both organizations’ institutional history.

Under his leadership, the custom publishing arm of Canadian Geographic Enterprises posted record revenue year-over-year, and the philanthropic performance of the Society hit a new high in its latest fiscal year. Beyond these outstanding business achievements in a challenging publishing realm, Gilles will be remembered for his focus on the shared mission of the Society and Canadian Geographic to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world. The enduring success of this mission will be his legacy.

Gilles was instrumental in the Society’s move to its prestigious home at 50 Sussex Drive, Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration, in Ottawa. He was a driving force behind so many of the organization's initiatives, from the landmark publication Canadian Geographic’s Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada to Canadian Geographic's recent forays into film, culminating with his credit as a producer of the acclaimed new documentary Returning Home. He helped oversee the dramatic growth of Canadian Geographic Education, the Society’s educational arm. He guided the success of Can Geo Education’s popular Giant Floor Map initiative. And he delighted in the excitement and animated discussion generated by Canadian Geographic’s recommendation for a national bird in 2016, following an influential campaign for which he planted the seeds. These are just a very few of Gilles Gagnier’s lasting achievements. 

He leaves behind his beloved wife Nancy, parents, siblings, his loyal friend Blix and a broad community of friends.

He will be greatly missed by all.

In tribute


We are grateful to so many members of the RCGS community sharing their thoughts and memories of Gilles. Here are just a few of the many kind words said about this loss. 

“Our friend, Gilles Gagnier, left this world suddenly yesterday for a journey that all of us are destined to make one day. May we all meet again in the next life to lift a glass together in a toast to love and friendship.” — Jett Britnell, RCGS Fellow

“There are so many emotions still stirring within regarding Gilles. Sorrow for his spouse Nancy Kelly and their family and friends, and sorrow for my personal loss of a friend who believed in me and opened so many doors in my photographic journey. Without Gilles I would not be a Photographer-in-Residence for Canadian Geographic. This is a position I hold in honour and with a sense of duty to fulfill the mandate and it all stems from Gilles.” — Scott Forsyth, Photographer in Residence

“Magazines Canada sends deepest condolences on the sudden passing of Gilles Gagnier FRCGS to everyone at The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic. On behalf of our Board, on which Gilles served as Treasurer, our members and staff, we grieve alongside you.” — Magazines Canada

“The loss of my dear friend & colleague Gilles Gagnier came as such a shock & I’m heartbroken for his wife Nancy, his family & all who had the honour of knowing him. Make no mistake, Gilles was a driving force & visionary behind reconciliation at RCGS and CanGeo. We are devastated.” — Charlene Bearhead, Director of Reconciliation

“He was a leader with great intellect, insight, curiosity, and commitment, and he will be terribly missed.” - John Wright, RCGS Fellow

“Gilles was a true gentleman. Kind, considerate and reflective. My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues RCGS and CanGeo.” - Paul Van Zant, Chair, Canadian Geographic Education

“Gilles's values of integrity and respect always came through.” - Meg Beckel, CEO, Canadian Museum of Nature

Trebek Initiative grantees

Two iconic organizations. One common goal.

Building on their individual legacies, and a shared history of excellence in storytelling, exploration and education, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) and the National Geographic Society (NGS) have reinvigorated their longstanding collaborative efforts to create this initiative. 

In 2021 the Trebek Council committed to funding eight outstanding projects. They include:

The projects

Christian Stenner: The Mount Meager Glaciovolcanic Cave Project — awarded $39,732

The Mount Meager Volcanic Complex is Canada’s only currently active volcano. The 2016 discovery of fumarolic ice cave openings emitting volcanic gas has been of great interest and concern to researchers. Christian Stenner and team will continue exploration of the cave system while equipped with lifesaving equipment, to survey the extent of glaciovolcanic caves at the complex, locate the fumarolic gas emissions and assist with deployment of a NASA rover originally designed to study icy bodies in the solar system. 

Jessica Kolopenuk: Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society Research and Training Program — awarded $50,009

Science and technology fields have contributed to building colonial societies whose troubled histories in turn shape modern fields today. Technoscience fields’ efforts to repair relationships with Indigenous peoples must be understood through this historical context. Jessica Kolopenuk’s Indigenous Science, Technology, and Society Research and Training Program is committed to building and supporting technoscience projects that are both Indigenous-driven and Indigenous-controlled. 

Kehkashan Basu: Empowering Children and Youth as Environmental Stewards through Education — awarded $49,526

Environmental education is missing from most of the Ontario education system, but a 2018 UNESCO report espouses the need for integrating this education in school systems, specifically through multidisciplinary perspectives. Using a unique learning delivery model through ‘Green Hope,’ Kehkashan Basu will demonstrate how to effectively implement environmental education into education systems and transform students into environmental stewards.

Patrick Kane: The Fight for Healthy Food in Canada's North — awarded $45,993

Through a photo essay, Pat Kane will explore food insecurity and its impact on the people living  in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, connecting land, food, water and cultural identity. 

Rhiannon Khirton: Comparing Historic and Current Cervid Population Estimates in the Shuswap Nation Territory — awarded $49,801

Rhiannon Khirton seeks to reassess ungulate populations in the Columbia Valley, primarily using camera traps to estimate abundance and density. This data will be compared to historical data to make comparisons about wildlife management efforts to date. The team will provide recommendations that increase ungulate abundance and benefit the owners of the land. 

Sara Hylton: Water as a Sacred and Scarce Resource among First Nations Reserves in Canada — awarded $51,504

Through photos and videos, Sara Hylton will document water as a theme across four Indigenous communities in three provinces, recognizing the importance of — and reliance on — water, as well as the ongoing scarcity and contamination of water in these regions. 

Shelly Elverum: Kinauniqput ammalu Arvangniaqtiit: Exploring Inuit Identity and the Influence of British Whalers — awarded $61,190

In working with Arctic Inuit youth, Shelly Elverum will reshape the Arctic exploration story. These youth, under her direction, will discuss the impact of modernization efforts and explore the strong connections to the 19th-century British Arctic whaling trade and the Inuit of Baffin Island. 

TJ Watt: Exploring and Documenting B.C.’s Endangered Ancient Forests — awarded $17,000

TJ Watt uses photography to document the endangered ancient forests of B.C., to highlight their incredible grandeur and unfortunate destruction. The goal is to raise awareness among people across the world to help ensure the preservation and protection of these spaces.

Save the dates


OCTOBER 21: Can Geo Talks with Adam Shoalts. Don’t miss this exclusive opportunity to hear RCGS Westaway Explorer-in-Residence and bestselling author Adam Shoalts recount stories from his new book, The Whisper on the Night Wind. Purchase tickets here.

NOVEMBER 16: The AGM will be a virtual event again this year on November 16 at 2pm EST. More details will follow.

NOVEMBER 17: VIP Event featuring Adam Shoalts, preceding the Fellows Show. 6:30 p.m. EST. Tickets will be on sale Oct. 1. For more details in advance, please contact Development Associate Norman Osman at osman@rcgs.org. 

NOVEMBER 17: The Fellows Show is a virtual festivity again this year, accompanied by an online auction. The Show will be live on YouTube at 8pm EST that evening. More details will follow. 

New Explorer in Residence: Emily Choy

An Arctic scientist and educator, Emily Choy has contributed tirelessly to research on climate change and its effect on the Canadian North.

Emily Choy’s work studying the impacts of climate change on Arctic marine predators — from belugas to murres and kittiwakes — has taken her to many remote locations across the Canadian Arctic; from the High Arctic on Cape Vera, Devon Island, Nunavut, to Kendall Island in the Northwest Territories, and seabirds cliffs on Coats Island in northern Hudson Bay, Nunavut.

“It is a tremendous honour to be named an Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and as the first female scientist!” says Choy, who added that she hopes her appointment will inspire youth from diverse backgrounds to develop an interest in wildlife issues in the North. 

Can Geo Films documentary Returning Home to premiere at Canadian film festivals

Canadian Geographic Films is thrilled to announce its first feature documentary film, Returning Home, will make its international debut at several Canadian film festivals this fall. 

Directed by Secwépemc filmmaker Sean Stiller, the film follows Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Jack-Webstad on a cathartic cross-Canada educational tour as her own family struggles to heal from multigenerational trauma. In the midst of a global pandemic and the lowest salmon run in Canadian history, Returning Home explores how a multi-year federal fishing moratorium is tearing at the very fabric of Secwépemc communities and traditions.

By observing the trauma experienced by Jack-Webstad and her family, Returning Home holds a mirror to the trauma experienced by the natural world, too. For the Secwépemc, healing people and healing the natural world are one and the same.

Leading up to Canada’s first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, Returning Home will have its world theatrical premiere at the Calgary International Film Festival on Sept. 29. It will also premiere at the Edmonton and Vancouver International Film Festivals that same week and be available online for pass holders of the Lunenburg Doc Fest beginning Sept. 26. 

Canadian students compete at the 17th iGeo

From August 10-16, 2021, four Canadian students competed virtually at the 17th International Geography Olympiad (iGeo), a competition for the top geography students in the world. Team Canada members Akib Shamsuddin and Nikita Serikov earned silver medals, while Ryan Sharpe and Matthew Woodward both won bronze. Medals are awarded for overall performance in the competition based on scores from three rounds of testing. Canada finished 14th overall among 46 countries. Next year’s iGeo is set to take place in Paris, France. Four students will be selected through their participation in the Level 3 component of the Canadian Geographic Challenge. For more information on the upcoming Can Geo Challenge, visit the Challenge website. 

Mary Simon appointed Governor General of Canada

Mary Simon, an Inuk leader, is the country’s first Indigenous Governor General. She spoke in both Inuktitut and English during the press conference announcing her appointment. 

“Let me convey in the strongest possible terms that I am honoured, humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General,” said Simon. “I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada.”

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society awarded Simon its Gold Medal in 1998 to recognize her many accomplishments. She is also a Fellow of the Society.

“We are both honoured and excited to have a Fellow of the Society appointed as Governor General,” said RCGS Chief Executive Officer John Geiger. “Her Excellency’s historic appointment will bring unique knowledge and guidance to Canada.”

Kamookak Medals awarded to Elizabeth Dowesdell, Gurdeep Pandher and Sylvain Voyer

This summer, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society honoured three separate individuals with its Louie Kamookak Medal, named for the Inuit historian and educator and recognizing a person or organization that has made Canada’s geography better known to Canadians and to the world.

On July 29, 2021, the Society presented the medal to the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Society Vice-President Wendy Cecil, Treasurer John Hovland and Governor Janis Peleshok joined Society CEO John Geiger for the presentation at Her Honour’s office at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Geiger also presented artist Sylvain Voyer his Kamookak Medal on August 9. Voyer, best known for his rural landscape paintings, has works in the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Council Art Bank and numerous corporate collections. An independent group of art historians and artists in Alberta selected him as one of the top 10 “artists of the century.” He co-founded Edmonton’s first artist-run gallery, was a leading force in Alberta’s provincial art collection and was a founding member and the inaugural president the Canadian Artists Representation.

With a smile as infectious as his Bhangra dance moves, Gurdeep Pandher brings joy, hope and healing to newsfeeds across Canada and beyond. Using the natural and geographic splendour of the Yukon as a backdrop, Pandher dances Bhangra — a traditional dance from Punjab that takes inspiration from the movements of Punjabi-Sikh farmers. The dance celebrates connection to the land and to nature — and Pandher has used the dance form to spread positivity and showcase multiculturalism in Canada.

In July, Pandher was recognized by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society with the 2021 Louie Kamookak Medal for the national impact he has had by bridging cross-cultural divides, promoting inclusivity and spreading optimism and joy during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catherine McKenna named an Honorary Fellow of the RCGS

Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and former Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna has been made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in recognition of her public service and commitment to environmental conservation. McKenna was welcomed into the ranks of the Fellowship with a special event at Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration in Ottawa on August 19. 

John Geiger, CEO of the Society, said throughout her career, McKenna has earned a deserved reputation as a skilled negotiator, a tenacious community builder, and a champion for her riding of Ottawa Centre, which she served as Member of Parliament for six years. 

“As an organization that calls the nation’s capital home, we are impressed and appreciative of your efforts to secure federal funds for cleaner city transit and the new central library; to make local buildings more energy efficient; to create new green jobs for youth; and to protect the Ottawa River,” said Geiger. 

McKenna originally hails from Hamilton, Ont. Prior to her entry into politics, she trained as a lawyer and co-founded and served as executive director of Level, a charity that helps Canadian law students and firms do pro bono work in developing countries. She also served as a senior negotiator with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor. 

Coming soon: New exploration film grants

Coming soon to a screen near you! The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which has championed exploration since its inception, is about to embark on a new journey of discovery. The Exploration Film Grant Program will see the Society team up with Mountain Equipment Co-op to provide a launch pad for the next generation of filmmakers intent on telling the stories that will change our world for the better. 

The collaboration affirms both organizations’ commitment to supporting emerging visions that inform, inspire, capture or reveal a personal journey through Canada’s majestic landscapes. This new grant program will encourage the next generation of explorers to tell stories from the field: stories that explore adventure and scientific discovery, diversity and inclusion, truth and reconciliation. The grant program is open to submissions from independent filmmakers, production companies or groups.

Indigenous Guardians documentary series - Guardians of the Earth 


The Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI) and the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (RCGS) have partnered to develop a series featuring Indigenous Guardians from across Canada. This project will highlight voices and perspectives of Indigenous peoples leading conservation over their lands and waters. These stories will demonstrate the transformative power of Indigenous Guardians programs at both an individual and collective level. Both the ILI and the RCGS are committed to implementing this project in a manner that is consistent with Indigenous principles of respect and reciprocity and this will guide the entire project.The documentary series will feature an Indigenous director, stunning landscape imagery and relay first-hand stories of Indigenous Guardians programs across Canada and their role in supporting and advancing Indigenous-led conservation, connecting youth with Elders and providing training that prepares young people to become the next generation of their community’s educators, ministers and leaders.

There are many achievements to be celebrated, and many places in Canada where the hard work of reconciliation is succeeding, and there is perhaps no better example of the embrace of new models than the Indigenous Guardians programs. The work they have historically done and the work they’re doing today represent important steps in helping to ensure a healthier planet for generations to come.

This developing series will also include a supporting educational program and editorial content in Canadian Geographic. 

Can Geo Education virtual summer conference

On August 19, 2021, Canadian Geographic Education held its first-ever virtual summer conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Geographic Literacy: The Power of Storytelling”. The conference featured exciting keynote speakers, such as Métis artist and educator Jaime Black, RCGS Westaway Explorer-in-Residence and adventurer Adam Shoalts and Canadian Geographic cartographer Chris Brackley. The full-day conference also offered more than 20 workshops covering an array of educational content and focused on providing 

Energy IQ fall workshop series

This fall, Can Geo Education will be hosting a series of five energy-themed workshops. These workshops are designed to provide educators with a variety of resources, connect them to experts in the field, and offer opportunities for them to discuss with other educators about best practices when it comes to teaching energy topics in the classroom. These workshops are open to any K-12 educator in Canada and will be approximately one hour in length. Each workshop will also include exciting prizes! Learn more about the workshop series here.  

Featured Fellow — Richard Wiese

The Explorers Club, an international society dedicated to promoting scientific exploration and field study, has welcomed many famous explorers over its 116-year history. A look through its membership reads like a who’s who of adventurers — Roald Amundsen, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, to name a few. 

The most recent past president of this storied club is Richard Wiese, a world-renowned American explorer and scientist best known for the television series Born to Explore. In 2002 at age 41, Wiese was the youngest person to become president of the Explorers Club. It was his accomplishments and dedication to the environment, wildlife, exploration and Indigenous Peoples that also led him to be named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2019. Canadian Geographic spoke to him about his life of exploration.

On his mentors and role models

Growing up, I had two really great mentors who pointed me in the direction of science. The first was my father, Richard, who was the first man to fly solo over the Pacific Ocean in an airplane. My fondest memories as a kid were standing on our lawn talking with him about celestial navigation or weather patterns in the sky. When I was 11, he took me to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which kicked in the exploration bug. My other mentor was my uncle, Richard Lanza, who is a nuclear engineer at MIT. When I was a little kid playing with dinosaur toys, he would talk to me about everything and anything about our planet. To this day, both men are still strong advisers in my life and I owe so much to them.

On discovering the Explorers Club

One of the things I liked about living in New York as a young man was going to really great lectures on all sorts of cool topics. Sometime in the 1980s, I wandered into the Explorers Club. The lecture was on the black bears of northern New Jersey and I remember thinking, “Wow, I’ve found my people.” Speakers talked about Mount Everest and the bottoms of our oceans and other fantastical things that seemed so magical.

On past explorations and expeditions in Canada

I’ve been lucky to have been invited on a lot of terrific cutting-edge expedi- tions. I have been to the Yukon, filmed in the Torngat Mountains, tracked polar bears in Arviat and explored B.C.’s Rainbow Range, to name a few. With all these experiences, the most memorable aspect has always been the people I have met along the way.

Fellow from History — Rosita Forbes

Rosita Forbes (16 January 1890 – 30 June 1967) was an English travel writer, novelist and explorer. 

During the First World War she drove an ambulance in France, and then after the war, she travelled in North Africa with little money to her name. The result was her first book, Unconducted Wanderers, published in 1919. The next year, she disguised herself as an Arab woman named "Sitt Khadija" to visit the Kufra Oasis, the first European woman — and only the second European — known to have seen that location at the time. 

In 1937, Forbes was the second Westerner and first Western woman to visit places from Sahara to Samarkand — today Libya to Uzbekistan — committing during her travels to live and bond with the locals, despite regularly being the only woman on the journey. 

She appears in 17 portraits, housed at the National Portrait Gallery.

Fellows in the News

Angelo, Mark

The upcoming illustrated children’s book, The Little Creek that Could; the story of a stream that came back to life by RCGS Fellow Mark Angelo will be released in October. 

Based on a true stream restoration story that unfolded over the past 50 years, the book is an inspirational tale about how nature can heal itself, if only we give it a chance. The book will be available through all retail outlets and its website and teaser trailer can be found at https://www.thelittlecreekthatcould.com/.
 
Birchall, Jeff

Recently, Sarah Kehler and Jeff Birchall (Fellow ‘19) from the University of Alberta published an article on social vulnerability and climate change adaptation, in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Policy. This article takes a novel approach, exploring social vulnerability through an urban planning lens, and highlighting both the urgency and complexity of addressing climate change within this context. 

It is well understood that planning policy will play a key role in ensuring the adaptations necessary to navigate future risk; however, the authors argue, to do so requires a critical assessment of planning approaches for adaptation policy. To this aim, the authors draw attention to the socio-political barriers that persist in the current adaptation paradigm, rendering adaptation policy ineffective. 

Emphasizing the importance of moving beyond a focus on technocratic solutions, the authors shed light on the importance of collaborative approaches, with particular focus on social, economic and ethical components of vulnerability to climate change. The authors conclude that addressing social vulnerability is essential to adaptation to climate change: Planning policy can enable adaptation by building communities that are diverse, resilient and healthy.

Kehler, S., Birchall, SJ. 2021. “Social vulnerability and climate change adaptation: The critical importance of moving beyond technocratic policy approaches” 

Brosha, Dave

Photographer Dave Brosha’s follow up to Northern Light, Southern Light: Photography of Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands accentuates the beautiful, fragile, and remote landscapes of Earth’s southernmost regions.

Antarctica is a strong candidate for the most remote place on Earth. It’s a remarkably isolated place, with some of the harshest weather systems on the planet, and is both prohibitively expensive and logistically challenging to travel to. Despite this challenging persona, Antarctica features some of the most stunning beauty on the planet, with an abundance of thriving and diverse wildlife populations, and incredibly dramatic landscapes.

In this collection of photographs from Antarctica and its geographic neighbours, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands, respected nature and portrait photographer and writer Dave Brosha, turns his attention to documenting one of the “ends of the Earth” in the hope of bringing attention and focus to one of our world’s most pristine and beautiful areas.
 
For more information about Southern Light: Photography of Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands click https://rmbooks.com/book/southern-light/.

Burn, Christopher

Chris Burn is the lead author of the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences' Statement on Climate Change published in mid August. The statement is the endorsed position of the Federation, the national umbrella organization for 14 Earth Science societies in Canada, including the Canadian Association of Geographers and the Geological Association of Canada. 
 
The statement reviews some of the essential geoscience evidence related to anthropogenic climate change and highlights the critical roles that geographers must play in the more practical aspects of adaptation and mitigation by Society. It is available as an open-access article at www.geosciencecanada.ca/burn_48-2.pdf.
 
Butcher, Marlis
 

RCGS Fellow Marlis Butcher joined the board of directors of the Royal Botanical Gardens in March 2021. This appointment provides Marlis opportunity to further her interests in environmental conservation and support the RBG’s new 25-year Master Plan.
  
Clarke, George Elliot

George Elliott Clarke has had a jam-packed, authorial year. Again! His monograph on E.J. Pratt, entitled, The Quest for a "National" Nationalism: E.J. Pratt, Epic Ambition, "Race" Consciousness, and the Contradictions of Canadian Identity, was published by Breakwater Books in April 2021. 

Thatscholarly squib was followed by Clarke's memoir about growing up "Negro, Coloured, and Black" in 1960s-1970s Nova Scotia: Where Beauty Survived:
An Africadian Memoir
appeared from Alfred Knopf in August 2021.  
 
But the poet completed two other books, both poetry, during the summer:  "White" is due from Nova Scotia's Gaspereau Press in September, while "J'Accuse (Poem Versus Silence)”—a meditation on the damage wrought by 'Cancel Culture'—is due out in November from Toronto’s Exile Editions. Clarke was appointed a Life Member of The League of Canadian Poets in June 2021.
 
Croal, Peter
 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action led two friends, RCGS Fellow Peter Croal and Saulteaux Cree lawyer Patricia Stirbys, to create a special reconciliation venture, the National Healing Forests initiative.  
 
The National Healing Forests initiative invites communities, citizens and institutions to create Healing Forests where survivors of the Residential School
legacy, along with all Canadians, can come together to heal, do ceremony, reflect, talk or meditate. Each Healing Forest is community and grassroots planned and created.

To date, there are nine Healing Forests in Canada, with several more in progress. The latest Healing Forest is part of a Knowledge Keepers’ Path created by the students and staff at Riverside Public School in Cape Breton. Take a peek at what Riverside School and Mi’kmaq elders have done as part of their reconciliation and educational efforts by reading this recent CBC article.

Every “forest”, whether a giant park or a small garden space, is a perfect place to heal, connect to nature and nurture relationships. If you would you like to initiate a Healing Forest project for your community, please check out our website at: www.nationalhealingforests.com or contact Peter and Patricia at healingforestscanada@gmail.com.
 
Farley, Mike
 

On August 18-19 Fellow Mike Farley organized the inaugural virtual Educators for Animals Conference. The conference drew over 600 educators from around the world who are interested in incorporating animal protection into their classes and school communities. 

Educational institutions have a complicated relationship with animals. Educators teach about topics such as kindness, compassion, social justice, and environmental sustainability, while our schools frequently exploit animals through the food we serve, the dissections we carry out, the field trips we run, and the curriculum we facilitate that largely ignores their plight (among others). Educators are uniquely positioned to open up conversations about these issues. 

The conference featured 4 Keynote Sessions, 18 Regular Sessions, and over 50 speakers. Pictured here (left) is Academy Award-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (The Cove, Racing Extinction, The Game Changers) with Mike during his Keynote Session. Professor Connie Russell spoke about the conference on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air in a segment called “Re-thinking the way we talk about animals and animal welfare in the classroom” (listen here: bit.ly/3iOteBx). For more information about the conference go to www.educatorsforanimalsconference.ca

Freeman, James
 

Like many others, given the pandemic, RCGS Fellow James Freeman has decided to invest more time travelling in Canada. James has long wanted to travel to the Yukon, and took the opportunity with his wife late in July to do just that. With Whitehorse as a main base, he and Sandra did excursions to Dawson City and Tombstone Territorial Park, which is accessible from the iconic Dempster Highway. 

“There were moments on the hikes where one could stand still and hear absolutely nothing. It was ‘too silent to be real’, to quote Gordon Lightfoot.” The highlight of the trip, however, was Kluane National Park and Reserve. From Haines Junction, James and Sandra did three hikes into the Kluane front ranges, with the Sheep Creek hike offering beautiful views right from the start.
 

Honourable mention goes to Kathleen Lake, where James found the red Parks Canada Adirondack chairs perfectly positioned to contemplate the Lake and the King’s Throne. However, to really get a sense for what Kluane is about, you need to take a flight into and over the heart of the Park. This is where green gives way to glaciers, and glaciers give way to icefields, as you work your way to Mount Logan. “I regret not visiting decades ago and will be back,” says James.

Gilardini, Daisy

Daisy Gilardini is thrilled to be part of a special Nikon Magazine issue “The Best Advice – what you can learn from world class photographer” by author Frank Arnold (for now in German only “Der Besten Rat”)
 
From the magazine intro: “Top photographers like Daisy Gilardini, David Yarrow, Delphine Diallo, Joel Marklund, Kadir von Lohuizen, Kristian Schuller, Marie Bärsch, Marsel van Oosten, Matthias Hangst, Robert Bösch or Tali Pelosi fascinate us because they capture magical moments in a unique way—from enchanting landscapes, to a dreamlike animal world, to the elementary events of human life. Their special view of the world, their will to perfection, their passion and perseverance, as well as their courage and entrepreneurship are fascinating and exemplary —in the truest sense of the word.”

“It is as interesting as it is useful to deal with the authentic experiences and insights of real experts. During Frank Arnold's discussions with top photographers on the subject of ‘THE BEST ADVICE’, he was not only captivated by the interesting personalities and their achievements, but it also became apparent that there are parallels to top achievements in other fields. In addition to those already mentioned, these are the tireless will to become better and better, the great dedication and immense commitment that the top photographers show every day anew.”

Hammond, Ian
 

Ian Hammond took advantage of the dry summer conditions to visit the impressive aggregation of fossilized stromatolites that are prominent in the slabs of sedimentary rock on the Gatineau, Que. side of the Ottawa River. 

Considered to be the earth’s oldest fossils, dating to approximately 450 million years ago, stromatolites (or stromatoliths) are the remnants of cyanobacterial activity, and are defined as biofilm structures rather than the more familiar body fossils. Photosynthetic cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are thought to have been responsible for the release of oxygen into the earth’s atmosphere, permitting the evolution of more complex life forms. Stromatolites are still being formed in a few unique ecosystems such as Shark Bay, Australia.

Harris, Richard

Today, asked how the physical environment affects us, we are likely to think about the climate crisis, with its heatwaves, wildfires, rainstorms, and floods. Those are dramatic events, with associated tragedies. Living in cities, however, as most Canadians do, we are just as affected by the urban built environment. The clustering together of people generates a faster, artificial rhythm to life and settings that contain opportunities: for social life and building community; for new ways of thinking and doing things; and for innovations in the economic and cultural spheres. It also creates problems: the curses of congestion, high housing costs, wrangles over redevelopment and, lately, the dilemmas of living in a pandemic. 

Researchers, journalists, and film-makers have had their say on these topics but none has attempted to survey them all. That is what Richard Harris, an RCGS fellow and geographer at McMaster University, does in How Cities Matter (2021). Published in a new series by Cambridge University Press, this concise work takes stock of the social, economic, and political effects of urban living, not only on their residents but only the wider society. It is available as an e-book or in paper.

https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/how-cities-matter/12655E3A559802BA6DD8A7FAF0170D26

Haycock, Kathy
 

Fellow and artist Kathy Haycock has donated a large oil painting, “Dancing Very Close” to the Annual RCGS Fellows Fundraising Silent Auction this fall. The painting depicts two mammoth icebergs in the Davis Strait nudging gently, above and below sea-level.

She is also included in an international juried exhibition at the Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona opening in January 2022. Her painting “Greenland Hare” was selected by Artists for Conservation. Artists for Conservation is a prestigious international organization based in Canada, bringing artists together from around the world to support conservation through their art, pledging proceeds from sales and exhibiting in meaningful ways. She plans to present an illustrated talk there comparing Southwest and Arctic desert landscapes from an artist’s viewpoint. This is the fourth year Kathy has exhibited in Canada, the USA and China with this group.

Jacob, George

RCGS Fellow George Jacob, President & CEO of Bay Ecotarium—the Smithsonian affiliated Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco—unveiled his vision for a $132 million LEED Gold facility at a meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness last month in Kingston, Jamaica. “This is an important step towards our commitment to sustainable oceans, conservation of natural resources, eco-tourism and capacity building,” remarked Prime Minister Holness, as the world leaders prepare to meet in Glasgow for the COP26 UN Summit this Fall.

The stunning design for a world class living museum was inspired by ocean geometry of sea urchins and elkhorn coral formations. An organic cluster of three inverted cones developed will hold a saltwater aquarium with 30,000 animals, an immersive 3D ocean experience theater, solar Belvedere, mangroves and themed exhibits on climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, new technologies and marine protected Hope Spots. This landmark institution with 30,000 animals will attract 2 million visitors, positioning Jamaica as a global hub for Climate resilience and blue diplomacy among island nations.

“The triene of three shells is a symbolic intersection of the land, oceans and the air we breathe. The fragility of our planet deserves our collective resolve, now more than ever” remarked Jacob.
 
Kobalenko, Jerry

Jerry has been editor of the adventure website ExplorersWeb for almost four years. Last year the site was acquired by Lola, a US digital media company with a lot more resources. 

The site has expanded content and is looking to do even more. While ExWeb covers mainly recreational mountaineering, polar travel, etc, the site is also interested in articles from oceanographers, archaeologists, geographers, ethologists etc. whose research, especially field research, has some broader interest — not just social good work but something that stirs a reader's curiosity. 

Jerry welcomes story proposals from RCGS members. Contact jerry@explorersweb.com
 
Lasselin, Nathalie
 

When a piece of land is easily identified from the moon but no one has a clue of how it has evolved underwater since the building of one of the biggest dams on earth (Manic 5 and D Johnson dam), someone needed to check it out!

Nathalie Lasselin went on a journey to explore the dark waters of the Manicouagan Reservoir. It is a long story, which started 214 million years ago with a meteorite impact and even now the territory is still evolving with a 2000km2 reservoir that hides submerged boreal forest. 

The quest of the expedition is not only to document the underwater inner space but also a holistic perspective on our use and relationship with the land and its resources. The first expedition took place in August 2021 and will be followed by a second one in the coming month. 
  
McBean, Gordon
 

In June 2021, Western University released to media a report by Professor Gordon McBean, CM, FRSC, FRCGS, on “Building Climate Resilient Communities”, with 22 interdisciplinary co-authors, to assess the threats of climate change and provide guidance on important actions, including in COVID-19 recovery. 

The heat dome in late June to mid-July motivated media climate interest and Professor McBean did several TV and 20 radio and other interviews. The early August release of the 6th IPCC Assessment Report, declaring “code red for humanity,” also raised interest, and McBean, a lead-author of previous IPCC reports and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, was invited by media for many interviews to speak on the report’s major findings and make recommendations in the context of this summer of extreme weather events in Canada and globally.  

In the past 20 years, McBean has made about 150 presentations to international conferences. For the Paris Climate Agreement, McBean was Chair and Opening speaker, Our Common Future Under Climate Change, Paris, 7 July 2015 and, 2 days later, presented to the Climate Summit of the Americas, Toronto. In August 2021, he gave the Opening Plenary presentation (virtually) to the International Geographic Congress, Turkey which attracted media interest.

McGoogan, Ken
 

A new hour-long podcast out of Scotland looks at the 19th-century explorers John Rae and Sir John Franklin. It features RCGS fellow Ken McGoogan and draws heavily on his book Fatal Passage. Edinburgh-based podcaster Ryan Latto also interviews Anne Keenleyside, archaeologist at Trent University; Douglas Stenton, archaeologist at the University of Waterloo; and Andrew Appleby, president of the John Rae society. The podcast, entitled “John Rae: Blood, Ice, and Glory”, is at https://pod.co/unearthed-podcast/john-rae-blood-ice-and-glory.
 
Nadeau, William
 

In July members from the RCMP West Coast Marine and Indigenous Policing Services (IPS) spent the day with Fellows Charlene Bearhead and BCTF Indigenous Education Committee member Brian Coleman to collaborate on a new initiative to bring IPAC Giant Floor Map kits to the remote north. With this training the participating RCMP members will go on to serve as ambassadors/curators for the resources. They will both transport and introduce these kits into the many remote communities up and down the BC coast. The team was also joined by Snaw-naw-as elder Mr. Jim Bob who blessed the giant floor maps and shared a number of stories describing how his community developed the land around Nanoose Bay.

The initiative was developed by Fellows Bill Nadeau and Charlene Bearhead who saw it as an opportunity to bring the IPAC kits to many of the remote communities that would not normally have access to them. "We recognized that there is a challenge to ensuring all communities across Canada have access to these incredible resources." Nadeau, who also serves on the marine unit saw a solution; "From a logistics perspective, just transporting these educational resources to outlying areas present enormous challenges. We work closely with most of the remote coastal Indigenous communities and we are ideally positioned to help address these challenges."

The team will be launching the IPAC initiative this fall introducing it to educators on Haida Gwaii and supporting the Haida Totem Pole raising event at the Daajing Giids (Queen Charlotte) Detachment.

Newland, David

Your scribe is turning his attention to scholarly pursuits—the pandemic having ended his role as Adventure Canada’s roving ambassador and expedition host, and put a serious damper on his work as a musical performer and public speaker.

David begins the autumn as a graduate student at Trent University, pursuing an MA in English (Public Texts). His proposed research project is to catalogue and consider the colonial street and feature names of Cobourg, Ontario in the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action on Commemoration.

He hopes to continue hosting the Morning Show on Northumberland 89.7 FM, where since December of 2020 he has enjoyed interviewing more than 70 musicians, authors, artists and other figures of note—including several fellow Fellows.

Phillips, Jessica
 

This year, RCGS '12 member Jessica Lindsay Phillips, Toronto, Canada, and art dealer Chris Boylan of Sydney, Australia, published an exhaustive study titled Man Who Cannot Die: Phantom Shields of the New Guinea Highlands which features essays by a number of experts in the field, placing the shields within their historical, cultural, and cosmological contexts. A catalog section illustrates 105 examples from museum and private collections in North America, Europe, and the Antipodes, drawn from a research group of some 150 shields, which represent the majority of known examples. 

In the second half of the twentieth century, an artistic tradition arose in the Wahgi Valley of the highlands of Papua New Guinea of painting traditional war shields with the image of the comic book superhero The Phantom. This derived from some seemingly inexplicable intersection of the age-old bellicose traditions of one of the most culturally remote areas of the world and twentieth-century comic book illustration, if not pop art—a phenomenon that art historian N. F. Karlins has referred to as pop tribal. 

Jessica and Chris will be speaking at the end of September on the publication at Tribal Art London
  
Platakis, Darren
 

On August 25, 2021, the official website of the Niagara Peninsula Aspiring Global Geopark was launched. Pictured is RCGS Fellow Darren Platakis - Founder and Co-chair of the volunteer-led organization and founder of Geospatial Niagara, delivering a founder’s note at the official launch of the website. 
 
The event was held at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Balls Falls Centre for Conservation, one of the many Geosites across the Niagara peninsula. The Niagara Peninsula Geopark fosters a strong collective pride in our geoheritage, in all its diverse manifestations—Indigenous, cultural, environmental, industrial and agricultural—amongst all residents and warmly welcomed visitors. 
 
Geo-heritage sites tell the story of our past, and Geoparks help to tell this story while encouraging the development of new, sustainable geo-tourism experiences. More information about geoparks in Canada can be found at the Canadian Geopark Network and globally at Visit Geoparks.
 
Richmond, Sonya
 

The Come Walk With Us expedition left Winnipeg, MB, heading west on the Trans Canada Trail on July 1st, 2021. After walking 1006 km in Manitoba, Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton crossed into Saskatchewan, their eighth province, on August 1st. They are currently traversing Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley, heading towards Regina with hope of traversing an additional 1500 km by year’s end.
 
They began on the historic Crow Wing Trail, which follows the Red River Ox-Cart settlers’s trail used in the 1800s. They followed the 49th parallel west, then headed north to the western highlands around Duck Mountain Provincial Park.  Along the way they explored aspen parkland, tall-grass prairie, the Assiniboine and Red River deltas and valleys, and Manitoba’s escarpment along the edges of the ancient Lake Agassiz. Their route crossed lands that are part of Treaties 1 and 2, within the traditional territories of the Anishinabek and Métis People.
 
During their first 41 days on the Trans Canada Trail, the team shared information, photos, and stories showcasing the natural and cultural histories of the places they’ve visited and the wildlife they’ve seen in 48 blog posts, 24 Instagram and 124 Facebook posts. Their story has been shared in twelve articles, four radio interviews, and one podcast.
  
Rondeau, Rob

Rob is teaching a new underwater archaeology course at Simon Fraser University this fall. It's a first for the university! Rob developed the course from scratch. He doesn't use a textbook and the course will include videos and online articles about the latest in marine archaeology worldwide. Via Zoom conference, students will also get to meet and ask questions of different marine archaeologists working on exciting underwater projects.  For more information about Rob, the course or his projects go to http://www.sfu.ca/archaeology/graduate/grad_students/rondeau.html.
 
Rowe, Peter
 

Peter Rowe’s latest book, Ablaze - Ten Years That Shook The World is being released in October by Pinewood Press. The book chronicles the revolutionary years of 1965 - 1975. It will be available at Amazon, store.bookbaby.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers.
 
Sorby, Sunniva
 

From 2019 through 2021, Hearts in the Ice has connected with more than 100,000 youth globally through interactive calls on a variety of topics related to climate change. As a bridge between science and citizens, through storytelling and sharing the knowledge from experts, Hearts in the Ice is working to empower citizens to engage and corporations to take bold action — NOW.

The team is hosting a community science panel from Svalbard via Facebook live on Sept. 15 at 1300 EST.
 
Kicking off their monthly school calls for 2021-22 is TedX speaker and author Mary Ellen Hannibal, live from an igloo in Norway. Mary Ellen Hannibal is a long-time journalist focused on natural history and literature. Her most recent book, Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction, was named one of 2016’s best non-fiction books by the San Francisco Chronicle. Join the call live on September 24th at 1400 EST

The Sept. 24 call is part of Climate Weekly in NY as a lead up to COP 26, in which Hearts in the Ice will likely participate.
 
Taylor, Eric
 

Eric Taylor’s book Rivers Run Through Us: A Natural and Human History of Great Rivers of North America will be released Oct 1, 2021 by Rocky Mountain Books.

The physical nature of rivers (direction of flow, age, size) has influenced the course of human history whether it be through patterns of development and social change (dams on the Columbia River), the economy (gold rushes, agricultural development), the prosecution of major conflicts (US Civil War), artistic expression (the Hudson River School of landscape art), or international relations (US and Mexico and the Rio Grande). 

Human-river interactions have had great impacts on the biodiversity of rivers (salmon, and other threatened species) and have been the focus of historical and current intense conflicts of values (e.g., water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin system and California 'Water Wars'). 

After outlining the physical and human history of each river, the book explores one issue for each of 10 rivers that illustrates the critical role of rivers in human development in North America. The book is richly-illustrated with detailed maps and a foreword by another Fellow and noted river conservationist, Mark Angelo. More details and a short video description can be found at: https://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~etaylor/riversrunthroughus.html

Thornhill Verma, Jenn

Jenn Thornhill Verma's first film, Last Fish, First Boat has been selected to screen as part of three upcoming film festivals: the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, September 16-23; the Lunenburg Doc Fest, September 23-29; and the St. John's International Women's Film Festival, October 13-17. 
 
The animated short film, co-produced by Verma with illustrator/animator Kat Frick Miller and Canadian Geographic filmmaker-in-residence Matt LeMay, tells the story of the cod fishery collapse of the early nineties, when fisherman Eugene Maloney’s livelihood is yanked out from underneath him. 
 
An enterprising Newfoundlander, Gene turns the end of the fishery into a new beginning: boat-building, a self-taught practice he continues today, in his eighties. It’s an old story, adapted from Verma's 2019 book, "Cod Collapse" and it holds new meaning in the current pandemic, as Canadians find themselves out of work, staying at home and needing to pivot. 

The film was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and distributed by Canadian Geographic and McIntrye Media. Verma is conducting a 15-day research trip in September (to the west coast of Newfoundland and central and southern Labrador) for work on future film projects.
 
Walker, Christopher
 

On June 25th, Christopher Walker had the privilege and honour to speak with Astronaut and RCGS Fellow, David St. Jacques to discuss doing a portrait of the International Space Station. This Zoom meeting was made possible by chief pilot of Vintage Wings of Canada, David Hadfield, brother of former ISS Commander, Chris Hadfield, who put Christopher in touch with a contact at the Canadian Space Agency.  Christopher had painted a portrait of David Hadfield’s historic Spitfire flight across Canada in 2018.

David St.Jacques is extremely passionate about educating the public about the Earth’s fragility and our responsibility as custodians to preserve it. His description of what it is like to be in space was compelling and awe inspiring. He told Christopher that looking down on Earth from space profoundly changes one’s perspective about our planet and how important it is that we work together to preserve it. He went on to say that the ISS looks like new on the outside after its 22 years orbiting our planet.

Christopher is hoping to have the 40" x 27" original painting completed by October of this year. 

Wells, Peter
 

Nova Scotia, Canada’s ocean province, offers a wide variety of fascinating coastal walks. These are especially attractive in this time of COVID and non-essential travel outside of Canada. So last year and this, Peter has been exploring two trails in particular: the 110 km Harvest Moon Trailway in the Annapolis Valley, to the SW of Halifax, and the 92 km Celtic Shores Coastal Trail in SW Cape Breton Island. 

Both offer easy walking on retired railroad routes, through picturesque coastal landscapes, historic towns and villages, with opportunities to learn more about the histories, culture and changed geographies of these parts of the Province. Kiosks provide maps and information on highlights to be encountered. Both trails can be thru-hiked or done in sections, as they have been made quite accessible. They are multi-use too, and very popular with cyclists. Accommodation enroute is easy to find. The inspiration of these walks is that the more we know, and experience, of Canada in our backyard, the more we can tell people about our superb country during future adventures in distant lands.
 
Wong, Jenny

Jenny Wong spent time on assignment in Arctic Bay, Nunavut to capture the brief season when ice and snow retreat. The high Arctic, often dressed in white and tones of blue, was surprisingly diverse and colourful. She encountered scenes that can only be compared to the otherworldly landscapes of folklore, Iceland and Mars-like Utah. 

The landscape came to life with amazing biodiversity, from terrestrial moss, mushrooms, and berries, to flocks of migratory birds; iconic polar bears dotted the coastlines, and the frigid water seemed inviting with the tropical tones of green-blue as bowhead whales, narwhals, and seals passed by. 
 
Wyatt Anderson, Connie

RCGS vice-president Connie Wyatt Anderson has been the lead pen and facilitator of Manitoba’s Treaty Education for the past decade. The education mandate of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, the Treaty Education team has trained over 6,000 of the province’s K-12 teachers, as well as providing training for organizations like the Manitoba Museum, Manitoba Civil Service Commission, and recently CBC.  Piqued by her presentation given to CBC staff, Connie was interviewed by Information Radio Manitoba’s Marcy Markusa on treaty education, treaties in textbooks, and honouring the treaty relationship as a tangible step toward reconciliation. To access the June 16, 2021 interview, visit: https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-29/clip/15849834
 

Wynne, J. Judson

Alas, as of late, Jut Wynne has been relegated to armchair expeditions. Some of the fruits of those labors includes a 56-author paper published earlier this month in Conservation Letters. It’s an appeal to the participants of Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) to more comprehensively address subterranean ecosystems in their conservation planning. 
 
Here’s the link:
https://www.cawl.nau.edu/sciencex_event/conserving-the-subterranean-biome/
 
Yanchyk, Brandy
 
  

Canadian journalist and filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk is currently filming in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Ontario for season three of her travel documentary series Seeing Canada—a travel documentary series exploring Canada's Signature and iconic Experiences.
 
You can watch the first 12 episodes now on CPAC, PBS, Amazon Prime Video, Air Canada and West Jet. The new Season Three episodes will be available in 2022 on public TV stations in the USA including PBS, Create TV and on Amazon Prime Video and many more channels.
 
In the photos you can see Brandy Yanchyk in the forest at Royal Roads University on Vancouver Island where she foraged for ingredients with ethnobotanist Tabitha Jones and Metis Executive Chef Shirley Lang. In the episode Brandy cooks a salmon dish using the ingredients with Chef Shirley Lang.
 
In another photo Brandy Yanchyk is filming with the wild edible seaweed harvester and author Amanda Swinimer from Dakini Tidal Wilds on French Beach Provincial Park outside of Sooke. 
 
For more information about Brandy's series see https://brandyyanchyk.com/series
 
Young, Andrew
 

When RCGS Fellow and 2013 Innovation in Geography Teaching Award winner Andrew Young was told he was the inaugural Alex Trebek Medal recipient, back in 2019, he vowed to live up to Alex Trebek's legacy. 

Immediately, he reached out to Trebek through Sony Television's Jeopardy and received his blessing to ride in BC Cancer's fundraising bike ride on Trebek’s behalf. Young then donated the entire sum of his winnings to BC Cancer, in order to honour Trebek’s battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Although the pandemic scuttled the ride in 2020, this past August, Young completed the BC Tour de Cure ride with his Trebek Medal stowed away in his back pocket. “I was really honoured to have both Mr. Trebek and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society along with me for the ride,” said Young.
Fellows in the News items are kindly organized by Fellow David Newland and are published in the same language they were submitted.
Copyright © 2021 Canadian Geographic, All rights reserved.


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