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Alan was born in Trinidad in the West Indies of Canadian parents in 1939. He and his family moved back to Ontario, Canada where Alan spent most of his young formative years in small towns on the north shore of Lake Superior. He attended the University of Toronto, McGill University, Cornell University and the University of Miami in Florida, completing his PhD in 1968. His scientific specialty is marine biology. He pioneered in direct observation underwater at night on coral reefs and in fresh water. He was among the first to dive under the ice in the Arctic. He has led expeditions to the Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. He has been a research scientist with the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario, professor at the University of Toronto, Curator and Sciences Coordinator at the Royal Ontario Museum, President of the Canadian Museum of Nature, one of Canada’s four national museums, and has been the governor, president, or director of many scientific organizations. He has received numerous awards for his work.
Throughout his research career he has been interested in communicating with the public and has appeared on hundreds of radio and television interviews and has been the subject of, technical advisor for, or written over 150 television shows for CTV, Discovery, and the CBC.
Large research museums have literally millions of specimens spanning billions of geological years of earth’s history both geological and biological. Preserving this immense heritage, and discovering and sharing the knowledge and understanding hidden in these treasures so that the community can make informed decisions about themselves and their future, is the main mission of these types of museums. At the Canadian Museum of Nature, where he was president for 13 years, he began to integrate the complete spectrum of museum skills and responsibility into a unified programs-based guided conversation with the community. Programs ranging from research to exhibits and informal education opportunities brought the visitor into the work of the museum allowing them to present their informed opinions to politicians and industry leaders.
He has always recognized the value of indigenous knowledge and has worked with indigenous people in many of his expeditions. He established the Centre for Traditional Knowledge to encourage cooperative research using both western science and traditional knowledge of the natural world. He taught for five years at the Banff Centre emphasizing the use of traditional knowledge in environmental assessments.
After leaving the museum in 1996, he set up his own company and has continued to work on sustainable development, museum consulting, and interweaving indigenous knowledge in development projects, especially where environmental assessments are involved. Most recently he is developing his skills as a nature documentary filmmaker, photographer, and writer while living on a 100 acre property surrounded by temperate field, forest, and swamp.
He has published nearly 100 scientific, technical, and popular articles and books spanning subjects from marine biology to the management of academic organizations.
KIVU Nature Inc. was established in 1997. At the time I started it to find a way to do great things with my hobbies and pay for them. The name evokes the major lake in Rwanda and indigenous peoples and captures the idea of Knowledge, Imagery, Vision, and Understanding in the acronym as the means by which the ideal of carrying out projects that sing the praises of environmental responsibility and sustainability. Part of the emphasis is on the relationship of people to nature and acknowledges the power of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.
Most recently he has established KIVU Films as a division of his company KIVU Nature Inc. This is a new venture based on years of related and direct experience. The purpose of this division is to produce documentaries with a special emphasis on celebrating the natural world and exploring our human impact on it. His extensive experience in television documentaries as a subject specialist, technical advisor, and script writer combined with his international experience as a researcher specializing in marine biology in remote locations, his work with indigenous peoples, his visionary work as a leader of one of the national museums in Ottawa Canada, and his work in sustainable policy development gives him a unique ability to undertake documentary projects. His use of both photography and films in his research has made the learning curve for producing independent documentaries much less steep that it would otherwise have been.