Jason Feller and Mariano Sequeira

June 2023

When I stopped by to interview Jason Feller and Mariano Sequeira at their large character house, I was met with a large science exhibit in the middle of the living room. This exhibit, which has been designed by Jason and Mariano as an exploration of fossils, geologic time, and the evolution of life in time, is bound for the Marathon Public Library. The couple was busy painting the display, working hard to get it ready for its new home.

Biology, science, and nature are Jason’s lifelong passions, as you will learn more about in Heather Dickson’s article about the foraging walks he hosts every summer. Mariano shares similar interests and also has an educational background in science from his birthplace of Northern Argentina. He is fascinating in his versatility, as he is also an extremely talented artist, seamster, cook, and crafter. Watching them work reminded me of two mad geniuses collaborating in their lab.

When Mariano arrived in Thunder Bay seven years ago, he was pursuing PhD studies in Biotechnology at Lakehead.

“I did my Master’s in Argentina and I wanted to do a PhD abroad. The ideal way for me to do my studies was to move away from my alma mater so I could experience new things,” explains Mariano. He is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, English, and can speak a little German and French.

He and Jason crossed paths in a few different indirect ways before they officially began a relationship. They noticed one another on the bus, and Jason’s sister-in-law worked at the Madhouse with Mariano and would point Jason out to him. They also shared mutual friends. Eventually, they began chatting on social media and learning more about their shared interests in nature and science.

Jason got out of a long-term relationship, and then he and Mariano would go for dog walks with Jason’s dog Beorn or go grab coffee together. They also recall going on early dates to the Thunder Bay Museum (where Jason worked at the time) and to the conservatory.

“We are both nature nerds,” says Mariano.

Their early days of dating took place right before the pandemic hit, and they made what some may consider a risky decision to move in together to Jason’s mom’s house after only a short period of time.

“The pandemic happened, and we were like, ‘well, do we just not see each other until who knows when?’ or do we just dive in?” says Jason.

“At first, I was worried,” says Mariano. “I just met this guy, and here I am at his parent’s house for a week now.”

Clearly, things worked out as they lived at Jason’s mom’s for about six months, in his childhood bedroom, before relocating to their own space that they are still in now.

In late 2019, Jason started to dabble in the beginnings of what would become the Boreal Museum. The Boreal Museum started as a passion project for Jason, but, as he says, it would not exist as it does today without the help and support of Mariano. (Learn more about this local start-up science museum at borealmuseum.com).

Initially, Jason’s plan was to focus on school programs. He built microscope tabletops to bring into classrooms but ended up getting busy with other obligations.

Then, during Pride 2020, Jason and Mariano made a “Rainbow Forest” display and set it up in the front yard of Jason’s mom’s house on Shuniah Street.

“It wasn’t a money making thing, more of a thing to get the word out so people could drop by and learn about transformations in nature because Pride is transformative,” says Jason.

A year later, Jason and Mariano released take-home science kits for schools before March Break.

“Biigtigong Nishnaabeg in Pic River ordered 162 kits to be delivered all over Northern Ontario. We made that work, and it was crazy. It was awesome.”

After the spring and summer kits took off, Jason started the Forager’s Walks which were really successful.

From there, Jason was able to open up a more permanent space in the Hub Bazaar where he and Mariano could display the exhibits they create. The Boreal Museum will move to a new location downtown Port Arthur later this summer.

“For me, the Boreal Museum is all about accessibility to science education in Thunder Bay. No matter your economic background, you can come and check out what we are doing for free with no obligations,” says Jason.

“I’ve always been obsessed with science and I am doing what I can to make science as fun as I think it is for everyone else.”

On top of being a huge part of the Boreal Museum, Mariano also works as sous chef at the Madhouse and has his own creative side-project where he handmakes clothing, bags, and accessories, often using upcycled materials like burlap coffee bags. His art has been displayed at Def Sup, and a jacket he made out of burlap was displayed at Rose N Crantz Roasting Co. Check out his designs at casadeopalo on instagram.

Cassandra Blair has a Masters of Arts in English Literature and is a regular contributor to Bayview.

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