A passion for the Arctic

As global attention on the arctic heats up, Ashley Tufts is all the more eager to return home to Iqaluit.

Her passion is protecting the delicate ecosystems and uniqueness of Arctic life, says Tufts who grew up in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, located on the south coast of Baffin Island.

While outsiders may shudder at the minus 40 Celsius cold and barren vistas, Tufts says she loves the endless horizon of newly fallen snow, pristine stillness and strong community ties.

“Some of my best memories are of getting up at 4 a.m. and jumping on the back of the snowmobile with my Dad to go caribou hunting.”

A Canadian Merit Weston Loran Scholar, Tufts is graduating from the Global Resource Systems program in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems where she focused on environmental studies within the Circumpolar North.

“I would like more than anything to work towards ensuring we maintain the integrity, serenity and pure beauty the Arctic has to offer,” says Tufts, who aims to find a position with the federal government, either Environment Canada or Indian and Northern Affairs.

“A changing climate will inevitably alter the balance that has been in place for centuries.”

This past December, Tufts’ firsthand knowledge of Canada’s north stood her in good stead when she traveled to Copenhagen. Selected from applicants across Canada, Tufts co-led the Arctic team as one of 30 Canadian youth delegates at the 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

“I would really like to see our federal government enforce stricter environmental regulations within the Northwest Passage, while making it internationally known that the Northern arctic archipelago and all waterways in between are internal waters,” says Tufts.

“This would allow us to regulate the number of ships entering and determine whether or not they pose a significant threat to the marine ecosystem.”

Tufts’ present poise and confidence would have surprised her younger self. She admits coming to UBC was a bit intimidating at first, especially given the size of the Vancouver campus.

“There are more people at UBC then there are in all of Nunavut.”

However, Tufts quickly found her feet and began to thrive especially after getting involved as a resident advisor for UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services.

“It is not only the academics here at UBC that have prepared me for what I want to do following graduation, but it was the learning experiences and opportunities that have really enabled me to grow as a person.”

Tufts’ advice for other UBC students is never to settle for anything less than what they truly want to do.

“It makes a world of difference if your heart is into everything you are working towards, and whether it takes you four, five, or six years to graduate, you will be that much more passionate at the end when you know you have spent your time working towards something you love!”