Oct. 5, 2017

Meet Niki Wilson, Host of the 2017 Jasper Dark Sky Festival

Whether teaching in the field of science communications, writing an article for Canadian Geographic or hosting events at the Dark Sky Festival, Niki Wilson always finds ways to maintain a close connection with the natural world around her.

In 2011, Jasper was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Every October, Jasper celebrates and preserves this status with the annual Dark Sky Festival, a celebration that Niki is both very proud and very excited to participate in each year.

As a scientist, storyteller and outdoor enthusiast, Niki enjoys sharing new discoveries and creating compelling written pieces to contribute to meaningful conversations about science, art and nature. As a fifth generation Jasperite, Niki understands the significance of living within a national park, and believes the Dark Sky Festival is a fantastic way for visitors to experience the park’s natural surroundings in an unconventional way.

We decided to sit down with Niki to ask her about what inspires her within Jasper, and why she thinks the Dark Sky Festival is such an important step forward for the future of science education.

What do you love about Jasper?

I’m a pretty avid outdoors person, I love hiking and I love that we have access to thousands of kilometres of trail [...] A big part of my own mental health and spirituality is having quiet time in the natural world. I’ve definitely chosen to live somewhere where that is something I can have regular access to.

Cory Johnn

Cory Johnn

Cory Johnn

How does your emotional connection to nature fulfill you?

Whether it’s for an hour, a day, or three days. I think that opportunity to really slow down, get perspective and disconnect from how busy we are is really important. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence that it is necessary for our wellbeing – to the point where there are some research communities trying to look at what dose of nature we need to be well. For me, that is where I get a sense of meaning and my place in the world. It’s not just about us.

How do you see your family interacting with the natural surroundings of Jasper?

I love that I’m raising my son in a place where that sense of wilderness is woven into the fabric of his skin. He’s growing up in that environment without having to think much about it, and I think that connection is really important to human development.

It really struck me the other day, we had some friends visiting from out of town and he stopped by some plant or something and he gently pushed the bud towards me and said “isn’t this beautiful mom?” and to me the fact that a 12 year old boy would do that is really kind-of magical – that he would notice it amidst everything else that was going on – so that made me happy.

Can you tell me about your role and involvement in the Dark Sky Festival?

So I am on a yearly basis thrilled to be invited back to work with the Dark Sky Festival. Here I am in a small town as a science writer and a science enthusiast and this festival is right on my front step. So that blows my mind and I’m pretty invested in it continuing to be awesome – it’s just an amazing festival.

I work with the team at Tourism Jasper to help choose content, and I use some of my connections in astronomy science writing, as well as my connections to physicists and other people in the field to recommend speakers. Any kind of content that has a science angle, I consult on.

My other role is to host the main stage and that’s been a real thrill and terrifying – both. Since the festival has grown so much in the past couple years too, it’s been an honor to be given that responsibility on behalf of this organization, and it’s been an amazing opportunity to meet some wonderful people backstage, and to be a part of making something we’re all pretty proud of.

What is the importance of the Dark Sky Festival?

I think the Dark Sky Festival really highlights the fact that we are a Dark Sky Preserve, and that’s a big deal in a world that’s increasingly light polluted. I think just raising that awareness and that appreciation with visitors is important. I also think science tourism is a growing field and I think people want to travel and want to have a vacation experience, but it’s also really cool when visitors can interact in a meaningful way with that place.

I think even when we’re not having the Dark Sky Festival, it really speaks to what is possible in the future here. It’s one of the most beautiful places, and so I think there’s all sorts of opportunities to do these kinds of programs where tourism intersects with learning, or provides benefits to people that are really enriching.

Jeff Bartlett

Jeff Bartlett

Catch Niki Wilson hosting this year’s Jasper Dark Sky Festival presented by Rocky Mountaineer from October 13-22, 2017.  Learn more →

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