Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Research Under the Sea

Erin Collins
Published July 12, 2012
Kelsey Johansen
Kelsey Johansen

To say Kelsey Johansen is well-travelled would be a vast understatement. Her numerous excursions include multiple destinations within Europe and the South Pacific, where she researched protected area management and historical, military, and dark tourism (tourist destinations involving death and tragedy like European castles and Ground Zero).

She's also visited Micronesia and Palau where she spent most of her time scuba diving. While many might equate this trip with the ultimate vacation, Johansen was in fact conducting significant research which has the potential to benefit coral reefs and other underwater environments.

An experienced scuba diver, Johansen's research was motivated by a passion for the sport as well as a concern for the critical impact divers can pose to marine environments. "If you're diving and accidentally break a 10-inch piece of coral, you've destroyed a decade of growth in an instant. I wanted to develop an educational paradigm that would better inform divers of these issues and encourage them to behave more sustainably."

Consequently, Johansen set out to interview diver tourism operators and observe underwater diver behaviour. She then developed a model of diver education that advocates for a curriculum which will heighten environmental consciousness and emphasize the responsibility of divers to take ownership of their actions.

Aside from these major projects, Johansen has taken part in several recreation- and tourism-based initiatives; she’s investigated the potential benefits of marina development for the town of Red Rock, and served as a research assistant on a SSHRC-funded research project studying insect conservation and management.

Currently, she sits as the publicity director and social media coordinator on the Voyageur Trail Association’s Coordinating Council, volunteers on the Kinghorn Rail-to-Trail project, teaches at Lakehead as a sessional lecturer, and is preparing to give a presentation in Sweden at the 6th International Conference on Monitoring and Management of Visitors in Recreational and Protected Areas.

Having completed Master of Environmental Studies in May 2011, Johansen looks forward to applying to several PhD programs and taking the next step in what is proving to be an exciting and important field.

"Recreation is a huge part of our lives and is fundamental to the enjoyment of our daily life,” she explains. “Through recreation and tourism, we connect with and develop peer groups; we learn new ways to understand our community, our culture, and our place in the world."

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