Ziya Tong is a television personality and environmental advocate based in Toronto, Canada & New York, NY. Ziya is of Chinese and Macedonian descent, born in London, England, and has also lived in Hong Kong before coming to Canada. She has hosted several series, including ZeD on CBC television, Island Escapes on CTV, and Wired Science on PBS. Currently, she is the co-host of Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet show, and is working on the new season of NOVA for PBS. Ziya brings her love for science, technology, and travel in her role as one of the judges for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s youth-oriented video contest “25@25: Canada’s Future with Asia.” This contest is an opportunity for individuals ages 18-35 to submit a short video discussing issues they believe affect Canada’s relations with Asia. Nisha Sikka, a project intern for 25@25, asked Ziya about her love for science and travel, and upcoming projects.
What motivated you to go into the industry that you are in?
Ziya: To be involved in science broadcasting has been a life-long dream of mine. I have a love for national history and technology, and really want to see more women in science. The best part of my job is interviewing and learning from bright and brilliant people.
You were involved in the science and technology show Wired Science, and more recently, the travel show Island Escapes. Have you always been passionate about these two things?
Ziya: These shows are a few years old but are the foundation of my love for culture and technology. As of right now, I am working for NOVA and Daily Planet. I love traveling, which led me to explore over sixty different countries. I spent last summer traveling through the Amazon, the Galapagos and through Los Roques in Venezuala. I have a huge passion for experiential learning and value its vitality. I see learning through travel as a gift.
What is your most memorable experience as a tv host?
Ziya: This is so tricky because there are so many memorable experiences. Everyday I am so fortunate to learn a minimum of twenty different things from testing out toys to greeting walruses. Everyday is stunningly different. I am also really excited to head to Hawaii for NOVA, and look forward to the new experiences I will encounter.
How has your home environment (i.e. how you were born, raised) influenced the projects you have chosen to take on?
Ziya: My grandfather, who has now passed, had a huge influence on me. He was a revolutionary leader in Hong Kong throughout the riots in 1967. Being a blend of two different cultures, Chinese and Macedonian, you’re kind of forced to have a planetary outlook. By nature, it’s given me the opportunity to look at things from different perspectives, and obviously it makes it pretty hard to be racist or overly nationalistic.
What projects are you working on now?
Ziya: As of right now my main focuses are on Daily Planet, which airs daily on the Discovery Channel, and NOVA, which allows me to go on various expeditions. I just finished judging the Planet and Focus film festival, and now, I’m gearing up to judge 25@25 in early 2010. This contest gives individuals ages 18-35 an opportunity to make a short video on an issue affecting Canada-Asia relations for a chance to win $5000.
(Click image to play video.)
Can you tell us more about the video letter you made for 25@25?
Ziya: As a diver, I love being in the ocean. It’s a region that is so biodiverse and so abundant with life. However, we’re seeing a lot of changes these days. A lot of ocean life is disappearing quickly but the problem is that it’s invisible—out of sight, out of mind. The ocean is a vital link between Canada and Asia. Since there are no borders in the ocean, the problems there will spread to affect everyone—everywhere.
Do you have any advice for those planning to enter this contest?
Ziya: Be passionate!