Farm Fresh Cooking

On every Fresh Roots farm this summer, children and youth are harvesting fresh veggies and cooking up a feast! So what are we cooking? 


Salad Mondays

Or any day! We love a hearty ginormous salad to kick off our week. Sometimes we make it in a bowl, other times in a tote bin the size of a small bathtub. Add in heaps of salad greens, swiss chard stems, chopped hakurei turnips, and sprinkle on edible flowers. Then we top it all with our Fresh Roots Famous Salad Dressing. Bon appetite!


Snack Attack

We love our snacks. It’s hard not to snack as you farm. Throughout the week you’ll find us in an indoor or outdoor kitchen whipping up batches of beet brownies, flower fritters, pesto, and the well-loved smoothie. 


Community Eats

After cooking all morning, nothing beats sitting down to a fresh meal with friends. Every week there is a new community eats menu. We’ve had tacos, chana masala, soba noodles, and more!


Test out the black bean taco recipes for your next group meal!


Science Odyssey 2022 Recap

We were excited to be back participating in Science Odyssey this year, Canada’s biggest celebration of STEAM. Led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science Odyssey brought together hundreds of fun and engaging activities across the country from May 7 to 22, 2022.

Check out our Sky, Sun, Seasons & Shadows workshop and Spotlight on Scientists interviews from our 2021 Science Odyssey events:

Social media links:


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci


A week of science odyssey in review

by Jaimie Rosenwirth, Suwa’lkh Environmental Education Program Lead

This year, we held the workshops in the Suwa’lkh Healing Forest. We had 5 classes participate in the Exploring and Understanding Native Plants workshops over 3 days, May 16, 18 and 19th. 

The students worked their way through 3 stations, removal of invasive plants/planting natives, a forest walk, and ecosystem web/plant in a jar.

Station 1: Removal process. students remove Japanese knotweed, blackberries and English Ivy. These are all invasive plants that we have been removing from the forest on an ongoing basis. After they had removed the invasive plants that had the chance to plant native plants. They helped plant salal, sitka spruce, lingonberry, common camas, evergreen huckleberry, thimbleberry, snowberry, red flowering currant and stonecrop. They removed lots of Himalayan blackberries, Japanese knotweed and English Ivy. 

Station 2:  The forest walk. The students went on a walk through the forest and were identifying which plants we have. They were able to identify salal, salmonberry, thimbleberry, Indian plum, red flowering currant, cottonwood and skunk cabbage. 

Station 3: Ecosystem web/plant in a jar. During the ecosystem web each participant is given a new identity. They temporarily become something that is a part of our forest. We connect to each other using string. Students would have to say how they are connected to each other; blue heron is connected to salmon because they eat salmon. We continued making these connections until the web got complicated and more difficult to connect to someone they have not yet connected to. Plant in a jar activity takes your sight away. The leaf of a plant is placed in a jar with a sock over it so you are unable to see inside. The next step is to draw what you are able to feel. 

During the break we made tea for the students to try. We made different kinds with what we have available to us, mint as well as mint with sage and salmonberry leaves.

Thank you to the Suwa’lkh School, iHub Secondary School, Centennial Secondary School, Maillard Middle School, and Rochester Elementary School for joining us for this year’s Science Odyssey at Suwa’lkh!

Native plants information page – coming soon!

Stay tuned for the launch of our native plants resource page on our website.


What to do this Earth Day?

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Hip hip hooray for Earth Day! On April 22nd, over 1,000,000,000 people around the world will take action to protect the planet. This 52nd annual Earth Day is a reminder to treat the planet with respect, kindness, and care for our current and future communities.

There are many ways to participate in Earth Day (and every day) digitally and in-person:

Great Worldwide Cleanup

Like Hansel and Gretel, humans leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the form of trash. It’s a very material reminder of our collective impact on the planet. All around the world, neighbours get together on Earth Day to clean up beaches, parks, rivers, and more. Or, try “plogging”, the popular new exercise started in Sweden of picking up trash while you jog. Bonus: you help clean up plastic pollution. Double Bonus: you get added stretching and strengthening.

Cleanups Near You


Restore Our Earth Lessons

Calling all teachers: Learn about restoring our earth while restoring our hope! This is a great learning resource created by the Earth Day Network covering, five opportunities for restoration over five days. The lessons include the topics: ecosystem services, carbon cycle, food sustainability, ecosystem restoration, and civic engagement. There are activity suggestions for elementary and secondary grades.

Restore Our Earth Education Lessons


Letters to the Earth

What world are you dreaming of for your future? What are your fears and hopes? Letters to the Earth offers community and education toolkits to create your letter in whatever way feels powerful to you, then share it with those who need to listen. Their education toolkit includes prompts, science experiments and drama activities to help classes get started. Send your letters out in a letter-writing campaign to politicians to let them know why they should care, what you want (like a wishlist), and what they should do now. 

Letters to the Earth Toolkit

Celebrate with Food, Art & Activities

Celebrate Earth Day with experiential activities created by Fresh Roots. Try our famous salad dressing, learn how food and climate change are connected, contribute to scientific research, and create art with food waste.

Fresh Roots Earth Day Activities & Recipes

Feel Empowered by Soil

It’s stressful and scary to learn about and experience climate change. Looking for a shimmer of hope? Some of us at Fresh Roots have been learning more about sustainable agriculture practices that care for the soil ecosystem. The neat added benefit? Healthy soil sequesters (removes) carbon dioxide from the air and stores it. Scientists estimate that if more farmers care for their soils with sustainable practices, climate change can actually be reversed. Care for the soil, and it will care for you!

Soil Carbon video by Soil Food Web School

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day today and every day?



A Day at Camp Fresh Roots

Fresh Roots campers come back year after year to join us in games, veggie snacks, learning activities, and caring for the diversity of plants and animals on the farm. Here’s a glimpse into what a day at camp is like:


Good Morning!

After camp check-in, we start the morning together. We may start with a game to get to know one another better. Or, we may begin with a morning stretch, song, or colouring activity.


Caring for the Farm

The farm feeds us, so we nourish it with time, attention and care. You can find us planting seeds, watering sprouts, and weeding. We learn how to use tools big and small to get the job done! This time often turns into discovery and observation of the critters calling the soil home. And yes, we love to get messy in our exploration! 


Run and Play

It’s hard to stay still when there is so much room to play! We love playing games together. During our games, we pretend to be fruit salad, decomposers, or plants chased by farmers.


Lunch and Munch

After a busy morning, we all sit down together for lunch. We love to read stories while we eat. Wait until later this week when we all prepare a lunch meal together, dessert included!


Art and Imagination

The farm is full of inspiration for arts and crafts. We may make a bug hotel for our little friends, a collage, paint a pot for our new little seed. Each day we create something different. 


Snack Time!

What’s the best part of farm camp? Getting to harvest fresh vegetables and turn them into delicious snacks, all in the same place! We learn how to harvest plants, and only take what we need. Camp staff lead us through how to cut, chop, measure, and mix ingredients together into a colourful meal. Washing up is faster when we all lend a helping hand. 


Closing Circle

That’s a wrap on a day at Camp Fresh Roots! We finish like we started: together as a group. We close off camp with circle games and sharing our favourite moments of the day. 


Join Us for a Summer of Fun!

Every day at camp is a little different, with new critters to discover, games to play, and veggies to taste.  Click here to learn what past campers have enjoyed the most!

Will you join us at Camp Fresh Roots this summer?

Registration opens February 18th at


Here’s an example schedule of a week at Camp Fresh Roots:

A table describing activities campers participate in at Camp Fresh Roots. Each column is a day of the week, from Monday to Friday. The rows describe the activities throughout the day, listed from morning to afternoon. On Monday, the activities are: Opening Circle; Welcome Games; Make Snack; Lunch; Farming (planting); Arts & Crafts; and Closing Circle. On Tuesday, the activities are: Opening Circle; Farming (weeding); Arts & Crafts; Lunch; Games; Make Snack; Closing Circle. On Wednesday, the activities are: Opening Circle; Arts & Crafts; Farming (insect observation); Make Snack; Games; Closing Circle. On Thursday, the activities are: Opening Circle; Make Snack; Games; Lunch; Arts & Crafts; Farming (harvest veggies); and Closing Circle. On Friday, the activities are: Opening Circe; Cook Lunch (appetizer, main and dessert); Eat Lunch; Digging; Games; and Closing Circle.

Note: our 3-day sampler camps do not participate in a field trip


We hope to see you at camp!

-Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead


Science Literacy Week: C is for Climate (September 20 – 26, 2021)

Hey Vancouver youth! Take action about climate change with this workshop from Fresh Roots with CERBC as a part of Science Literacy Week.

About Roots of Change

In recognition of Science Literacy week, Fresh Roots, in collaboration with Climate Education Reform BC, and Dave Robinson, a Timiskaming carver and educator, is hosting two community, youth-focussed workshops. Join an engaging, hands-on, 1.5 hour workshop exploring our relationship to climate change, regenerative agriculture, food systems through storytelling and connecting with the land through cedar carving. Open to youth in grades 8-12.

  • September 21st from 4:00pm-5:30pm at David Thompson Secondary (sign up here)
  • September 23rd from 4:00pm-5:30pm at Vancouver Technical Secondary (sign up here)

This year’s Science Literacy theme is climate. They are partnering with Environment and Climate Change Canada and organizations from across Canada to offer content that will inspire you! Check out more events on their website.

Follow @freshrootsfarms on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for information leading up to the event!


Climate Education Reform BC is a student-led movement advocating for climate change education in British Columbia. Our organization mobilizes students, parents, and teachers toward a common goal of climate justice literacy and empowerment, centring on the Reform to Transform campaign, which outlines 6 specific Needs for change directed at the Ministry of Education.


Additional links:

About Dave Robinson

David Robinson is an Algonquin artist from the Timiskaming First Nation. Robinsons ‘style can be understood by the way he considers time, space and ways in which the sculpture form is created. Although Robinsons’ contemporary sculptures bring to mind visionary sculptors Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and traditional First Nations carvers, Robinsons’ work is not fashioned directly by their works. However, Robinsons sculptures share a way of exemplifying the simple forms that reflect archetypal representations of their subject matter.

In juxtaposition to elements of sculptor Constantin Brancusis’ pieces, Robinsons’ work shares the aspect of direct carving in such a way that the carving out of the forms make known their concealed truths.  Brancusi said, “The artist should know how to dig out the being that is within matter” Brancusi’s work was fueled by myths, folklore and primitive cultures modernity and timelessness.  Brancusi meticulously polished pieces for to achieve a gleam that suggested infinite continuity into the surrounding space. Robinson shares in the close attention to his own technique of rigorous polishing the pieces but where Brancusis’ technique intends to integrate the surrounding space, Robinson further develops a departure from Brancusi as the space informs the piece but is not intended to permanently set in the space. 

In juxtaposition to elements of Henry Moores’ pieces, Robinsons’ work shares the aspect of understanding important structural principles that contribute to the balance and form of the piece. Henry Moore said, Bones are the inside structure that nature uses for both lightness and strength…so in bones you can find the principles which can be very important in sculpture. Robinson shares in the adherence to the inside structure, however Moore fashioned the sculpture from objects in nature such as for the bones of animals, for Robinson there is a strong emphasis on directly using the knots. Moores’ surface treatment often revealed the wood grain and Robinsons’ pieces reveal the wood grain in a unique way that reminds one of the way time is revealed in the language of nature.

In juxtaposition to elements of traditional First Nations pieces, Robinsons’ work shares and understanding of the relationship of nature all living beings and the need to acknowledged the land and the people who inhabit it. As traditional First Nations carving employed mythical figures and ceremony, Robinson also pays attention to their relationship. Robinson regards his pieces as contemporary sculptures that are imbued by his First Nations philosophies. 

Robinsons’ current public art sculptures located in Vancouver include John Oliver Secondary –Many Beings 2016, UBC Indigenous Garden – Thunder Child 2016, UBC Pondersossa Building –Dancing Flames 2017, Vancouver School Board – Medicine Bowls 2020, Lord Byng Secondary -Great Whale 2021, Kilala Lelum Health Center – Alter 2020, Bean Around the World – Bench 2020, East Vancouver Education Center – Emergence 2020, Medicine Wheel Puzzle Project 2020, UBC Longhouse – Bench 2020, UBC Farm – Benches 2020, Red Cedar Heartwood River – Lord Byng 2020, Medicine Snake 2020, Beaver 2020, Ecole Jules Quesnel Elementary – River Bed 2021, UBC Robert Lee Alumni Building – The Protector 2019

Check out these articles about Dave’s work:

About Science Literacy Week

Led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Science Literacy Week showcases the many ways kids and families can explore and enjoy the diversity of Canadian science. From September 20 to 26, 2021, libraries, museums, science centres, schools and not-for-profits are coming together to celebrate this year’s theme, Climate. They are highlighting the books, movies, podcasts and virtual and in-person events that share exciting stories of the science, discoveries and ingenuity shaping our lives. Feed your curiosity and explore science from across the country and within your region. 

Consult the full list of Science Literacy Week activities.

Social media links:


Twitter: @scilitweek

Hashtag: #SciLit


Campers say Camp Fresh Roots is “Really Fun”

By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Experiential Learning Manager

We’ve heard from a number of Experiential Learning staff this year about their experiences on our team. This month, I thought we should turn it over to the most important members of the team: the kids. I interviewed campers during our EcoWonders camp at David Thompson, and here’s what they had to say:

What do you think about Camp Fresh Roots?

“It’s really fun.”- Multiple campers

“It’s very enjoyable.” – Age 9

“I never knew we would be cooking this much and I really like cooking.” – Age 7

What’s your favourite part?

“Cooking. We made curry and rice and brownies.” – Age 8

“The brownies.” – multiple campers

“The Curry. It had swiss chard, potatoes, and carrots.” – Age 10

“My favourite part is that we get to make food and harvest and learn all the types of plants” – Age 7

“We do lots of different games and fun things”. – age 6

“I like the games. My favourite is Fruit Salad. That’s all you need to know from me.” – age 6

What is Camp Fresh Roots about?

“It’s about plants and games and arts & crafts and fun.”- Age 7

“It’s about the environment and helping” – Age 8

“It’s all about nature and plants and learning about them. There’s lots of nature here.” – Age 7

Well, that about sums it up. Camps will be over for the year in just a couple weeks, but we’re already gearing up to welcome field trips in late September and October. After a much needed rest!

Oh, and that brownie recipe the kids all love? It’s easy, vegan, made with zucchini, and extremely delicious. You can find it here:


Spotlight on Scientists: Sarah Nersesian & Natasha Vitkin

By Andrea Lucy, Experiential Learning Program Lead

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


Interview with Sarah Nersesian & Natasha Vitkin

Headshot of Sarah Nersesian in a lab coat, black shirt, disposable gloves. Behind Sarah is a shelf full of lab equipment, including Erlenmeyer flasks
Sarah Nersesian (she/her) is a passionate researcher who loves to share scientific knowledge through illustrations and other visual communication strategies. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Bio-Medical Sciences at the University of Guelph before moving to Kingston to obtain a MSc in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Queen’s University. Sarah is currently completing her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Dalhousie University focusing on exploring the impact of immune cells on tumour development and treatment responses. With her unique expertise combining scientific communication strategies with illustration and graphic design, Sarah founded Designs that Cell (DTC) in 2017. DTC has grown to a team of talented post-graduate, graduate and undergraduate students who hold advanced degrees and have experience in graphic design, science communication or illustration.

Headshot of Natasha Vitkin in a black shirt, grey cardigan. She has curly blonde hair and is smiling at the camera. Out of focus in the background is a white building and some deciduous trees.
Natasha Vitkin (she/her) obtained her MSc in cancer immunology at Queen’s University, Kingston in 2018 and completed her MPH at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby in 2020. She is passionate about using visual knowledge translation strategies to promote equity and improve population health. She is an evaluation analyst at Cathexis Consulting and a co-owner and senior communicator at Designs that Cell (DTC).


















We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

Sarah: I feel like I’m just going to say my favourite vegetable, which are brussel sprouts. They’re quite sturdy, and I feel quite stable today.

Natasha: When I used to attend Sunday school, we watched VeggieTales, and I loved Bob the Tomato. I even have a Bob the Tomato bookmark! So, I would say a tomato.


Can you describe your work? 

Sarah: We’ll start with the oncoimmunologist. It’s a cross between looking at cancer and looking at how it works with our immune system. My research looks at how a particular immune cell, called a natural killer (NK) cell, functions and helps when our body starts developing cancer. NK cells are one of the very few cells in the immune system that can recognize cancer. Therefore, I think it’s a really promising cell to look at. I’m trying to figure out what features of an NK cell would make it a good immunotherapy. Immunotherapies are different strategies that we can use to activate or enhance a person’s natural immune system. It works differently from traditional chemotherapies which have harmful side effects. I specifically look at ovarian cancer, one of the most deadly cancers in women. The women who get treated for it undergo long chemotherapy treatments that end up being very harsh on their bodies. I’m trying to find an alternate treatment by focusing on the immune system to reduce those side effects so that women can continue living their lives while they’re also getting treatment for their cancers.

Then we’ll flip over and talk about science illustration. As a scientific illustrator, I work on different projects every day. I usually communicate with scientists all over the world, sometimes clinicians, doctors, companies as well. My job is to take complex scientific ideas that they’re trying to communicate and draw it out in a way that is accessible to everybody. It’s a really cool job because I get to essentially learn about all the different types of research that is happening around the globe. It spans from looking at phytoplankton in the sea, to mushrooms and fungi, to illustrating things about cancer and very specific pathways within the cell.

Natasha: I’ll start off with evaluation! In evaluation, our goal is to make other organizations and programs run better so that they can make a difference in the communities they’re serving. I work and consult with different nonprofit organizations and government organizations at all stages of the evaluation process. Sometimes organizations are just starting a new program and they want to see what will make the most impact for their clients. Or they’re applying for funding, and they want to demonstrate the impact they’ve made in peoples’ lives, but this can be hard to do without appropriate data. In that case, I could conduct consultations with program staff and their clients to see what the program’s impacts are. As an evaluator, I’m empowering other organizations to change for the better.

In terms of science communication, I’ve always loved sharing information and giving presentations. When I was in grade six, I volunteered to give a presentation of my report even though it wasn’t a requirement! When I was doing my Master of Science degree in cancer immunology, I was trying to connect two different protein pathways that weren’t traditionally connected. I found it very helpful to have an animated diagram to show the interaction of these pathways. It was then that I started really becoming interested in communicating science. That’s also where I met Sarah. We were doing our Master’s degrees in labs next to each other. I think a diagram, tweet, or Instagram video is an innovative way to communicate science. Through Designs that Cell, I’ve continued developing my illustration and communication skills. Specifically, I focus on communicating information with lay audiences as opposed to scientists.



Sarah: Growing up, I always loved art. I grew up in a conservation area, so I was always in the woods. I ended up focusing a lot of my art on natural things that I saw around me. When I applied for university, I really wanted to apply for painting. However, my parents suggested I should focus on getting a science career, and perhaps I could do painting later on. I am happy it worked out that way because I got into research during my university time. When I was trying to communicate my research to my peers or colleagues, I was able to use my art to engage people and clarify the ideas and those complex scientific concepts. From there, I stuck on that path. During my master’s degree, I started Designs that Cell . It turns out that there are quite a few people who also really have a love and a passion for both art and science, and that is who makes up the Designs that Cell team today.

In terms of my passion for research, I, unfortunately, had to grow up watching some family members deal with women’s cancers and the harsh side effects. So, it’s always been a passion of mine to research women’s cancer. I started in breast cancer and then quickly found that ovarian cancer was a very high-need research area. It has a moniker, which is the “silent killer”. It sounds scary because it is. Women don’t end up actually showing any signs or symptoms until the tumour has already spread in the body. At that point, treatment success is very low. We don’t really have any good screening methods and the treatments that we are using are effective only for a few months. We need new strategies and treatments. Something I personally like is a little bit of a challenge, and ovarian cancer is definitely a challenge.

Natasha: I was always very science-oriented. In my undergraduate program, I specialized in cancer research. But as I was pipetting things on my prostate cancer cells for the umpteenth time during my Master’s of Science, I realized I didn’t see that as a long-term path for me. I didn’t feel like it was satisfying my desire to connect with people and help them in a more direct way. Maybe what I pipette onto my cells will lead to something in 20 years, but not in the immediate future. So that’s what led me to pursue a Master of Public Health degree, which I completed last year.

It was during my Master of Public Health degree that I learned about evaluation and took a course on it. My friends were also participating in the Student Evaluation Case Competition run by the Canadian Evaluation Society, and they asked me to join their team. We won the Canadian competition last year and represented Canada at the World Championships . After I graduated, I was looking for a job and thought maybe I’ll throw my hat in the evaluation ring. My current employer, Cathexis , was one of the sponsors of the Case Competition. I remember when I joined the team, my boss said, “I remember you from your Case Competition presentation!”. So that’s how I started in evaluation.



Sarah: With the science illustration, my motivation is being able to continue with my art in a way that is productive. I think the best example right now is in this public health epidemic where we need science communicators more than ever. Scientific illustration, I think, provides a very unique mode of communication that is a little more accessible than perhaps using some complex scientific terms in the text. When you focus on illustrations, it’s really easy to get a point across in a way that people can see and they can act upon. For example, the infographics talking about vaccine hesitancy or talking about the importance of wearing masks, we can show how that is important. We can show things that are hard to describe. We don’t see viruses travelling through the air, but we can illustrate them.

For my ovarian cancer research, I think an important thing for me is constantly engaging with patients. Engaging in activities of public outreach where I get to talk with patients, and speak to them about their experience is the best motivator for me. But I also just love the science. I love the challenge. I think every scientist says this, but I think personally, I’m working on a therapy for women in the future and I really hope that I get to see it implemented.

Natasha: I always like seeing the endpoint of my work. So for instance, at Designs that Cell, an illustration that we had worked on six months ago got published today. I’m often waiting for our images to finally be shareable and to celebrate the achievements of the author. I always enjoy being a part of that story, because often they’re communicating some really cool research.

In terms of what keeps me going in evaluation, I really enjoy working as a consultant. Number one, because it sounds super fancy. Number two, because I get to work with a variety of clients in different fields. They’re all doing really important work, but really different work and it’s an opportunity to see what’s going on. For example, I’m working on a project about STI testing among queer youth. As a gay woman, this work felt especially meaningful to me. At the same time, I’m working on a large project with a cancer control organization. That’s been interesting because I can use a bit of my cancer background and knowledge to inform my role. As a consultant, I enjoy being able to see what’s happening across Canada at different organizations.



Sarah: There are environmental risk factors when we talk about ovarian cancer. There’s also a really strong link between the immune system and what you’re putting into your body and how you treat your body. Something that is always considered in treatment is the state of the patient. We’re not just giving the same treatments to everybody. We have to consider how their body is going to react, how their immune system is.

In terms of scientific illustrations, it always relates to the bigger picture, the environment, and the world we live in. A lot of what we end up illustrating is related to climate change, and the way that the world is changing around us. We’ve done quite a few projects on how climate change is changing the ecosystems that we live in, and how that impacts the organisms that we study. And obviously, that impacts the food we are able to grow, and ultimately affects things like food shortages in the long run. We take this big picture into consideration with our illustrations. Sometimes when we end up focusing on one cell, we forgot that this one cell exists in this much larger environment. The environmental changes can impact that one cell in so many ways.

Natasha: Food systems and the environment connect most directly with my evaluation work. Cathexis has done a lot of evaluations with nonprofits working to improve food security, particularly among low-income people. A project I’m working on now is with a charity that distributes food and harm reduction supplies to people experiencing homelessness. When I work with organizations like these, I’m also indirectly benefiting everyone they serve. My hope is that if I can help organizations gather meaningful data, this will increase their funding and they will be better able to make a difference in the lives of their clients. As well, Cathexis, the evaluation company I work for, is a Certified B Corporation. We’re interested in how our work impacts the environment. Every month as a team, we look at our key performance indicators and one of them is about our environmental impacts. Pre-pandemic, a discussion that we would have is around travel, and whether the pros outweighed the cons of the carbon footprint.



Sarah: I’d just say to follow your passions. Don’t do something because you think it’s going to end up in a career or a job. Just find what interests you, find what you’re passionate about, and find a way to make that into a job. And if it doesn’t exist, then don’t be scared to take a risk and bring it into existence. There was nothing that fit what I wanted to do and so I made a company to do that. Obviously, that’s not something that you might do at a high school level, but eventually, down the road, you could. Follow your passions, take courses and participate in activities that you feel passionate about and that makes you happy.

As a woman in STEM, as a Middle Eastern woman who works in STEM, but also scientific illustrations, there have definitely been some experiences that have made me feel like I’m less than other people who might be sitting at the same table or sitting in the room. Something that I always like to say is that you definitely don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you might think of yourself as being just as capable as anyone else who’s there. You might not have the same inherent knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards having that knowledge. That all comes from confidence and understanding your capabilities, which is something that’s hard to have, especially as a woman, but is really important. Women are one group of that, but then of course, there are tons of other underrepresented groups. If you belong to any of those groups and you feel like you don’t belong, know you do. It’s just you might have a little bit of a taller mountain to climb than some others.

Natasha: My advice for today’s youth is to reduce the pressure you put on yourself. When I was younger, I was the kind of person who felt like if I wasn’t getting 100% on a test, then I had failed. While you should always try your best, you shouldn’t base your self-worth on how well you do on a test or an exam. Especially in my undergrad, I felt I had no time to socialize because I was always studying. But once you graduate, your GPA doesn’t matter too much. It’s more about your experiences, your skills, and how you present yourself. I would advise my younger self and other young people to just try and relax and not put too much pressure on themselves to achieve 100% all the time, because it’s not going to happen and it always comes at the expense of something else.

I would also say to be open to new opportunities because you never know what will come your way and who you’ll meet! This time last year, I never expected to be working full-time at an evaluation firm and to own a small business. Sometimes I look in the mirror and remind myself that I am a business owner. I met Sarah for the first time when I came into her lab to borrow supplies for my experiment. I never would have imagined that years later she would ask me to become her business partner! Keep yourself open to opportunities and put your best self forward because you never know what will happen.



















Click here to see the full list of Science Odyssey activities


Twitter: @Sci_Od

Instagram: @Sci_Od

Hashtag: #OdySci


Spotlight on Scientists: Dr. Annett Rozek

By Vivian Cheung, Operations Coordinator

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


Interview with Dr. Annett Rozek

Dr. Annett Rozek obtained her degree in chemistry from Humboldt University in Berlin and completed her PhD at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Her interest in life sciences led her to join the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In 2003, she started as Senior Scientist at Inimex Pharmaceuticals, leading the Research & Development team in the discovery and development of Innate Defense Regulators. In 2011, she joined Terramera as Chief Scientific Officer, where she leads discovery and Research & Development in the development of Terramera’s Actigate™ Targeted Performance technology. Alongside CEO and Founder Karn Manhas, Annett has launched Proof® and CIRKIL®, Terramera’s initial products.


We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

I picked lettuce for today. Lettuce is a plant that keeps growing new leaves and becomes more and more complex, and since we’re talking about science, science and industry, and science at Terramera, it seemed fitting! We grow new leaves and layers all the time, and what we’re building becomes more complex and more rounded over time.


Can you describe your work chief scientific officer? 

I am leading the scientific part of our Research & Development (R&D) team. I’m also at the management level of the company, focusing on how we work towards our company’s objectives to help change the world. Terramera is very passionate about changing agriculture to be more sustainable and regenerative, and all our different projects in the company flow together towards that goal. 

One of our big goals is to reduce the global synthetic pesticide load by 80% by replacing them with natural products. With our Actigate technology platform, we’ve found a way to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals in pesticide products which are used to treat pests and disease on plants. Developing that technology is the main thing I do every day. We continually apply Actigate technology to natural active ingredients to make them more effective, robust, and reliable. We also apply it to synthetic active ingredients to reduce the dose needed. We do a lot of experiments to further develop Actigate technology and test our hypothesis that Actigate materials help speed up and increase the transfer of active ingredients through cell membranes. We use machine learning and computational chemistry to understand interactions between molecules to predict what products will work best for an application. Then we continue to test and improve the formulation to perform well in the field

Orchestrating this whole thing is what I do day-to-day. I keep working towards my vision of perfecting the Actigate platform and creating products and applications that really help the farmers out there to do their work more efficiently and with safer materials.


What was your path to becoming chief scientific officer?

I was at a pharmaceutical startup company before I came to Terramera. We were designing peptides, the building blocks of protein, very deliberately to fulfill certain functions. Peptides are natural compounds, but similar to synthetic drugs in that they are single molecules. At the time, I’ve always viewed natural products and extracts with a little bit of skepticism because they tend to be complex mixtures of different kinds of things. As I started reading more about natural products, specifically plant extracts, I got really fascinated with what these extracts can do. I was curious about other applications for extracts other than for human medicine. It was at that time that I was starting to think about plant extracts and their use in agriculture. I realized how similar the agricultural field is to the pharmaceutical industry. In some ways, pharmaceutical discoveries foreshadow what is done in agriculture. To this day, I want to make agricultural research and development as sophisticated, effective, and successful as it is in the pharmaceutical industry. I figured out it could be really cool to apply all these fancy things we do in pharmaceuticals towards creating agricultural products. And then Terramera happened. It was almost like it was envisioned, you could say. It crossed my mind first and then I just jumped on the opportunity when I had it.


What motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

The most enjoyable part is actually seeing our products work in the field. Once it gets close to making a difference in people’s lives, that’s when it gets really exciting. When the rubber hits the road, that’s rewarding. There’s a scientific curiosity part too. It’s really fun to do all of this and work with our team. 

As I previously mentioned, it’s also very interesting to see all these parallels from different industries and be innovative. We can say, “they’re doing it like this. I’m just going to apply it here like that” and boom, I solved the problem! We can use the techniques and principles and skills of one industry and apply it to another industry very successfully. There are fundamental things that define success, and we can transfer it to our work at Terramera.


How does your work relate to food systems or the environment?

I’ve always been really conscious about the environment and how we as humans, as a society, affect the environment. We need to be very aware of what we’re doing and that we are doing it sustainably. We can do a lot of damage when we are not aware. There’s a lot of things that we need to repair or at least allow nature to repair. I’ve always been passionate about that, and it’s great that I can feed that into my work. I want to contribute to growing our food in cleaner ways than what we have been doing because it has left its mark on our environment. I’d like to find changes that promote sustainable agriculture and also regenerate where damage has been done. With my work, my main goal is to reduce synthetic pesticides. 

I have really high respect for growers and farmers. They are scientists and have such a wealth of knowledge. I learn from great growers because they really understand, steward, and care for the land. I think the agricultural technology industry and growers should be partners and work together.


What advice would you give to your younger self, or to youth today? 

Advice number one is just finding your passion. If you are aware of what excites you and what keeps you motivated, what’s driving you, or what’s getting you out of bed every morning, then you can always look for ways to work on exactly those things. Invest yourself in that and then life will always be interesting, work will never feel like work. That’s how it is for me. I made that choice early on in my 20s that I will never have a 9-to-5 job that isn’t fun. I said no, it’s 8 hours a day, and I’m going to have fun the whole time. I found what excites me and now work in that area so that I can have fun all day. 

Once you have found that, just keep your eyes on the prize. Sometimes we don’t get to where we envision ourselves right away, especially if we set ourselves big goals. But the road can be rocky, and it may not be a direct path, so don’t be discouraged. Keep your vision and you will find ways. Sometimes you need to take a detour, sometimes there’s a dead end and you have to backtrack, but as long as you keep your vision and your eyes on the prize, you will keep going towards it.


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Spotlight on Scientists: Jacelyn Shu

By Vivian Cheung, Operations Coordinator

Promotional poster for Science Odyssey. The photo depicts a person's head opening to reveal drawn science symbols, such as a rocket ship and atom. The text reads "Science Odyssey. Join the Adventure! May 1-16, 2020" To celebrate this year’s Science Odyssey, Canada’s biggest science and technology festival, we are highlighting amazing scientists from across the country! Young adult staff members at Fresh Roots interviewed inspiring individuals contributing to science, to learn more about their personal and professional journey, career, and what advice they have for youth. These scientists surprise and delight us with their unique topics and backgrounds, and the unexpected ways their work connects back to healthy food systems and a healthy environment. 


Interview with Jacelyn Shu

Jacelyn is a biologist and scientific illustrator. She completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the University of British Columbia. She continues to be involved in the Department of Zoology as a lab manager and research technician in the Mank Lab. In addition to her managerial duties to support her lab’s research on guppies and sex chromosomes, her interests in the art and communication side of science has led her to be involved in today’s cutting-edge research through making figures for scientific publications and presentations. For Jacelyn, she enjoys translating complex scientific concepts into simple diagrams and help with turning the gruelling hours of data collection and analysis into a compelling narrative that can be shared with others in a visually appealing manner. See more of her work on her website Jacelyn Designs.



We have a tradition at Fresh Roots of starting our conversations with this question: What vegetable do you feel like today?

Today I feel like a carrot. Stubby and covered in dirt, but could still be sweet.

Doug Fudge
Gosline Lecture, UBC, 2018


Can you describe your work as a biologist and scientific illustrator? 

By day, I wrangle guppies! My lab has about 6,000 fish that I am responsible for taking care of. I also support my labmates in their research, which a lot of the time means helping with their research projects, ordering supplies, doing administrative work, or taking care of the finances.

When all this technical stuff is done, I get to do more of the fun and creative things. I designed my lab’s logo, ran a course on Adobe Illustrator, and produced a bunch of figures for the papers coming out of my lab. I also started freelancing my science illustration services, and have produced figures and illustrations for other scientists as well.

When water contains toxins, these toxins can be taken up by fish at the gills, causing a physiological cascade that results in cardiovascular collapse.
McCormick, S. D., Schultz, E and Brauner, C.J. 2021. Methods in Fish Biology, American Fisheries Society. In Press.


What was your path to becoming a biologist and scientific illustrator?

I started becoming involved in research in my third year of my undergraduate degree, and did an Honours research project in a lab that I would later continue to do my Master’s degree in. After my Master’s, I decided that I enjoyed research and wanted to stay involved but, but didn’t think pursuing academia was the right path for me.

I was very fortunate to find a job as a lab manager/research technician with my current lab and Principal Investigator Judith Mank. I’ve always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes roles, and I like being able to support my labmates with their research, watch it unfold and take form, then help to communicate the final result.

My path to being a science illustrator is a bit less straightforward and is still definitely in its earlier stages. Throughout my degrees, especially during guest lectures or research seminars, I would take notes in the form of doodles to keep myself entertained. I also learned how to use Adobe Illustrator in one of my graduate courses, and spent just as much time making my presentation figures for talks and seminars as I did on the content itself. My Master’s supervisor noticed that I enjoyed drawing sciency things, and asked me if I wanted to make some figures for his lecture material and some of his publications. I agreed, and since then, I’ve been drawing people’s science wherever I can.

(1) An experimental setup used by Yvonne Dzal. The divided chamber allows Yvonne to measure whole-body respiration and ventilation in little brown bats, contributing to her research on the effect of white-nose syndrome. This figure was recently published in a review in Conservation Physiology. (2) Another of Yvonne’s experimental setups, this one used to measure whole-body respiration. You can read more about Yvonne’s work here.


What motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

I’ve always enjoyed nature and biology, and there’s so much about the world we know, but so much we still don’t know. My favourite thing about my current positions as a lab manager/research technician, as well as a science illustrator is that I get to dip my toes into a bunch of different research areas. It’s inspiring and humbling because there’s so much cool stuff happening on the frontiers of science, and I get to play a small part in investigating the big research questions that are being asked and answered in our current day and age.

As a science illustrator, I also see the importance of what I do. I feel like so much cool and current research goes unnoticed by 99% of the population because most of us are not well-versed enough to understand exactly what it means, and there is often so much jargon and background to wade through. Simplifying and illustrating the research is a great way to make it more appealing and more easily understandable.

Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) vary greatly in colour patterns among males. In particular, two main competing selection pressures have resulted in the same colour phenomenon in multiple river systems. Downstream, high predation results in selection against bright colours that are easily seen by predators; as a result, males are duller. Upstream, there are fewer predators, and sexual selection by female choice favours more brightly coloured males. The Mank Lab studies the genetic basis for colour and sexual dimorphism in these guppies.


How does your work relate to food systems or the environment?

No obvious, direct link, but everything is connected somehow! My lab does basic research on guppies and sex chromosomes, so that is less applied than some other research like climate change or food availability, but no less important (we can discuss the importance of basic research another day). As an illustrator, I get to work with a whole bunch of different projects, but so far no food system stuff or environmental stuff yet. Would be fun though!


What advice would you give to your younger self, or to youth today? 

Success in science doesn’t have to follow the three paths of a doctor, professor, or engineer that are so often preached to budding scientists. These are great professions, but far from the only options. I would say don’t limit yourself, try different things, see what you like, and don’t try to rush the process.


from a talk given by Eleanor Caves at Evolution 2019


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Twitter: @Sci_Od

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Hashtag: #OdySci