Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Youth Rooting to Tackle Invasives and Transform Communities

Beetle Boogie: Youth Volunteers dancing with the giant Japanese Beetle, ISCBC’s invasively scary but beloved mascot. Photo Credit: Katrin Faridani

By Veronica Panama | March 7, 2024

With passion and purpose, youth from across Canada recently gathered in Ottawa for an inspiring three-day national youth summit co-hosted with the Canadian Council on Invasive Species (CCIS). The Rooting for Change Youth Summit aimed to ignite a movement against invasives while laying the groundwork for lasting community impact. 

Day one began with a buzz of anticipation as participants delved into the fascinating world of invasive species identification and management with Kristin Elton from the New Brunswick Invasive Species Council. The evening progressed with laughter, learning, and a surprise visit by the giant Japanese Beetle! (Name yet to be determined!) 

As the days unfolded, some participants turned to their creative sides to navigate the challenging subject of ecological grief under the expert guidance of Wyandot artist and Elder Catherine Tammaro. Through this workshop, youth volunteers exercised their artistic abilities to create moving art pieces depicting their emotional relationship with nature and the state of our environment.  

Meanwhile, youth volunteers at the Canadian Museum of Nature discovered and learned from Canada’s breathtaking landscapes and diverse ecosystems. This visit was an excellent opportunity to increase their understanding of the natural world and access world-renowned research, collections, and innovations!  

Big whale but even bigger ideas: Volunteers enjoyed visiting the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa to learn more about Canada’s natural history and current initiatives to tackle environmental issues such as Climate Change. Photo Credit: Offshore

The focus then shifted seamlessly from looking at the past, including history of the introduction of invasive species with Jen Llewellyn, towards looking at a bright and promising future, with a showcase of volunteer community projects taking place across the country. ISCBC and CCIS volunteers displayed 20 community projects – from saving the bees through introducing native species to urban spaces around the University of British Columbia, to preventing stormwater pollution by installing litter catchments in the drains of the City of Moncton, New Brunswick. ISCBC’s microgrants team added to this uplifting day by encouraging everyone to develop and share their ideas for a project that could create a lasting environmental impact. The Healthy Habitats grant program has allowed many of these projects to come to life! Applications for the program are now closed but check out resources, project ideas and more.

A wall of ideas: Each sticky note contained a community project idea that could contribute towards a
new or existing environmental initiative in communities across Canada.  Photo Credit: Lindsay Barnett 

As if it were not inspiring enough, the event ended with a pivot crucial for turning awareness into action. Ken Donnelly delved into behaviour change, helping participants unpack the necessary strategies for fostering sustainable habits within communities. Armed with newfound knowledge, a shared sense of purpose, and new friends and connections, youth brainstormed innovative initiatives for combating the spread of invasives.  

On their journey home, volunteers, staff, speakers, and everyone involved in the event carried with them not only a deeper understanding of invasive species but also a profound sense of empowerment to drive positive change. The most inspiring aspect of this summit wasn’t confined to these three days but instead expanded into a ripple effect where the seeds of change sown by young leaders will flourish and multiply into environmentally conscious initiatives in communities across Canada.  

Thank you so much again for the opportunity to attend the Rooting for Change youth summit. I had a really great time! I really appreciated the opportunity to network, learn from the presenters, and hear about the youth projects happening across the country. I hope this program will run in future years for other youth volunteers to experience”  

Kassidy Kelly – ISCBC Youth Volunteer 

In collective change and action lies the promise of a brighter, more sustainable future — a future where communities thrive, and ecosystems flourish free of invasive species.  

Rooting for Change! The 2024 National Youth Summit participants on their last day together in Ottawa. Photo Credit: Katrin Faridani 

Veronica is an Events Coordinator at ISCBC. She values working in an inclusive and diverse environment that allows her to connect with people across Canada to discuss environmental restoration and conservation topics. In her spare time, Veronica enjoys spending time in the forest, identifying species she encounters or at the beach with a book in her hand. You can reach Veronica at