Ziyuan ‘Kurt’ Guo, BSc
Master of Environmental Toxicology Candidate
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
I like nature. My story with nature started with my father, a former coach of the Chinese National Orienteering Team. The players in orienteering games compete, usually in mountainous wilderness regions, to reach all the checkpoints on a map. When I was a kid, my father would let me join the orienteering trainings during my school breaks. I enjoyed the sense of freedom running on mountain ridges and through valleys. Nevertheless, there were some harsh memories. I remember vividly that in the early days, I was often overwhelmed by confusion, loneliness, and fear when disoriented in forests where trees blocked out the sun and bushes impeded my way. Silence dominated the surroundings, with only occasional bird sounds being heard. Sometimes a wild goat ran into my sight, which somehow drove away loneliness and eased my discomfort a little. Fortunately, I always managed to orient and find a way back, in the midst of confusion and fear. Although these incidents were scary at the time, when looking back, I always found myself appreciating the opportunities nature granted me in such situations, being completely alone and honest with myself. While nowadays I rarely get lost in the mountains thanks to improved map-reading skills, spending time alone in nature to find myself has become part of the way I live and thrive.
Once during an orienteering exercise, I was running through a valley when I became shocked by the scene: the floor as well as the slopes were coated with a white material with little vegetation. I wondered what had happened here, so I tracked the pollution, which seemed to come from a mountain pass. I hiked up and figured out that the contaminants were leakage from a mine tailing. I was sad about the destroyed forest, and, at that moment, I felt the urge to do something to protect forests. My passion for the wellbeing of the environment has continued to emerge since then and has grown, as I have witnessed many more incidents of massive pollution over time.
After completing my undergraduate studies at Trinity Western University majoring in biology, I started a new journey at Simon Fraser University pursuing a master’s degree in environmental toxicology. Currently, I am involved in a research program on the impact of road salt on pacific salmon success. My part is specifically looking at the effects of sporadic salt exposures on key salmon preys during winter salting events. I am excited about this project and hoping the findings will be useful in promoting stricter scientifically informed regulation of road salt and consequently help the salmons to survive better the challenging environment.