#SFTop25 finalist 2017 - Denise Lee

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Age: 17
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia

Give her an endangered species, she’ll advocate; give her a vast expanse of the polar region, she’ll work to save it. Whom might we be referring to? Denise Lee of Vancouver, of course!

There’s no question that when her curiosity peaks about the world around her, Denise will take action to learn more, share more and protect the environment, no matter how close or how far.

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Her earliest days of advocacy began in the Vancouver Aquarium, where Denise volunteered and learned about different aquatic species and taught what she learned to her community around her. Her turning point from a volunteer to a leader was when a particular species of marine mammal, the porpoise, caught her attention.

So little was known about this animal that her curious and driven attitude led her to working with the Porpoise Conservation Society. As a founding member and research assistant, she contributes to a local study of population abundance and outreach efforts. This was not just an initiative to share more information but to use it as a platform to mobilize thought and care within her community about this and other endangered species. Now it is an organization that stretches internationally, with members from different countries reporting on this rare species.

When she attended the Vancouver School Board Sustainability Conference, Denise became inspired to join the board. Now chairing this organization, she introduced the 2017 theme of “Crossroads: Intersections in Sustainability”. It welcomed discussions surrounding history, society, the economy and government in the context of the environment. She saw no limitation to the power of the platform, establishing positions in school districts throughout greater Vancouver.

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It’s no surprise that when Denise returned from the 2016 Student On Ice expedition to eastern Canada and the Greenlandic Arctic, she saw an opportunity to advocate for those she had met there. She knew that if she could make a change for the porpoise, what was to stop her from mobilising change anywhere she saw fit?

That’s when the Our Poles, Our Planet organization was born with Denise Lee as its co-founder. There may have been several obstacles in her way, however Denise had the drive to make up for each loss the organization experienced. By the time Canada’s 150th anniversary came around in March 2017, they ran a polar campaign with events reaching across five cities. The outreach events surmounted to reaching hundreds of youth, an exciting exemplary event of what we can expect from future initiatives.

Each feat greater than the next, each achievement more far reaching than the last, Denise Lee will take on the challenge and go the distance. With her parents values guiding her to a more sustainable lifestyle, and many words of wisdom from an impressionable social studies grade 8/9 teacher, Denise’s dreams can become a reality one campaign at a time. Her inspiration will light the torch for each follower she guides into environmental leadership, making her a perfect fit for our Top 25 Under 25 at The Starfish Canada!

This article was sponsored by Vancouver Aquarium. Here’s what they have to say about Denise:

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Vancouver Aquarium volunteers are passionate people who are dedicated to the environment and to the conservation of aquatic life. This couldn’t be better exemplified than by Denise Lee. We are very proud of Denise for this accomplishment and hope that her story is as inspirational to Canadians as it is to our team and visitors alike.