Wellington Heights students earn grand prize in national competition

MOUNT FOREST – Students from Wellington Heights Secondary School have brought home the grand prize from Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) national research-based case study competition.

The winning trio earned $500 for their school and the title of Youth Wetland Experts.

The case study competition is a two-week event that sees students who are part of the DUC Wetland Centres of Excellence network find solutions to real-world conservation problems.

Students first present in class, and the top team from each school is chosen to present nationally to a panel of DUC scientists.

“We started the case study competition to encourage students to think critically about conservation problems,” says Mariane Bolla, DUC’s head of national education. 

“It also helps students understand that their local conservation efforts through the Wetland Centre of Excellence program are solutions to broader environmental threats.”

The team from the Luther Marsh Wetland Centre of Excellence in Mount Forest, consisting of Zoë Timberlake, Yuvika Patel and Sydney West, chose to examine the role of salt marshes and dikes in combatting sea-level rise in Atlantic Canada.

Their winning solution was to consider the geography of the coastline. Cities and developed areas would be protected by dikes, while unpopulated areas would be restored as salt marshes.

“It was clear from the very beginning that they’d done their research,” says Jacob Demers, a DUC biologist and one of the judges for the case study competition.

“They looked carefully at the pros and cons, weighing all the options and coming up with a practical solution.”

“We made sure it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Timberlake.

“Where there were coastal cities being protected by dikes, we kept the dikes in place to protect them from flooding. For other areas, we looked at salt marsh restoration as a solution.”

“I was really excited,” said Patel. “I’d learned a bit about sea-level rise in school and this was an opportunity to learn even more.”

“We’re so happy for Zoe, Yuvika and Sydney. They worked hard and delivered a compelling and well-thought-out presentation,” said Jennifer Cork, a teacher at Wellington Heights Secondary School.

“This is a group that always puts their all into everything they do. We’re very proud.”