by Matt Burnes
For anyone involved in activism, there is always that special moment when you realize an issue is worth fighting for. Whether it be environmental, social or another form, everyone has an inspiration. I am still in high school and have a lot to learn about environmental activism. I am certain that I will stay committed to my cause through the inspiration that I had in the summer of 2016. It was the death of an animal that inspired me to embrace the importance of outdoor experiences in nature and the essential need to protect our environment in any capacity that I could.
The hunt started on a hike with my family on an island in Lake Huron, a common activity for this group of outdoor enthusiasts. As we finished our hike and packed the boat, my father and I spotted a buck. It was on the other side of a long beaver dam that connected to the trail we had just completed. My interest was piqued. My father is an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Given the opportunity, I wanted to hunt with him to experience why he was so attached to this activity. Once everyone had returned to the cottage, my father handed me a pair of binoculars as he set up his bow. We again went out in the boat and travelled across the lake to the hiking trail
The island near Parry Sound where my father and I went hunting together.
After disembarking from the landing boat, my vision was focused on the ground to avoid stepping on leaves or sticks that might scare off any nearby deer. My cautiousness was rewarded, as it soon became clear that the binoculars were not needed to find the buck in question. After walking only about ten meters around a corner with my dad, I raised my head to look for signs that the deer had crossed the beaver dam. This is when I realized that the deer was in fact standing only a few feet in front of me, frozen by an invisible pair of headlights. I could only mirror the deer’s reaction, frozen in fear of scaring the animal away. From behind me, the whistle of my father’s arrow ended the short moment I had alone with the animal. As the deer was pierced directly through the lungs and out the other side, it could only run ten paces before collapsing among a group of birch trees in the forest.
Once we had brought back the carcass of the animal, ready to be sent to the butcher, I had not yet fully understood how much I had gained from my first hunt. A lesson in the importance of seizing opportunities, a new passion for a yet inexperienced activity, and the close bond over the hunt that I had made with my father. After reflecting on the experience, and knowing how the short time I spent on that hunt made such a strong impact on my life, I grew to adopt the views I now have on the environment. It is a method of learning, of experiencing new things, and of beauty. My inspiration from that hunt has always stuck with me, and I am confident that it will continue to do so in the future.
by Monica Seidel
#1. Using Facebook Strategically
I have had a Facebook account since 2010 (yikes), which means over the years, I have “liked” tons of pages and “joined” many groups. All those have value, which I’ve only recently started discovering. When I recently re-started my job search, I created a mental list of “dream” companies that I would like to work for. Once I created that list (your list may not be companies, but dream job titles, job locations, etc.), I began following them on all platforms. I started commenting on some of their posts and messaging them with questions. Why? To get noticed. Even when those companies weren’t posting new job opportunities, I wanted them to see my name, contributing to positive and intelligent discussions, or asking smart questions. That way if and when I applied to a position in the near future to that company, I could potentially be recognized by someone there. Facebook is also the place where many companies post jobs and training opportunities first, so it can make your time online feel productive if you have a specific goal in mind (comment on one post today, find a new local company doing work you love, etc.).
#2. LinkedIn challenge
Throughout university, I tried updating my LinkedIn page on a regular basis, but honestly, it took a backseat to everything else that was going on in my life. Once I had a full-time job, I didn’t think that I needed to update it regularly because I was happily employed (sigh). I’ve smartened up since then. I set a goal for myself to find relevant articles to my field of work and share them with my LinkedIn network every day. I included relevant hashtags because I’ve recently read online that this is an upcoming way to let potential employers find you. While I only have a basic LinkedIn profile (the free one), I do get notifications that someone outside of my network is finding me in searches and viewing my profile. And for now, those are wins for me.
#3. Free Professional Development
Along with making a list of my dream companies, I made a list of key, unique phrases to help me hone in on relevant jobs during my search. I want specific jobs in specific cities, and I don’t want to spend hours looking for them. While I’m looking for another great job in my field, I want to stay on top of upcoming trends and desirable skills, even if I am under- or un-employed. This means I have to find professional development opportunities myself. I’ve found that once you have your list of ideal employers, you can more easily find opportunities than just Googling into the wind. Is National Geographic one of your ideal employers? Try checking out their free online courses in education outreach and learning. I also found the Jane Goodall Institute had a really great free course focusing on effective service learning, which is applicable even if you aren’t a teacher. The important thing with these free courses is they are often only offered once or twice a year, so make sure to either check back on the website frequently, write it in your agenda, or sign up for emails from them to make sure you don’t miss that free enrollment period.
Constantly updating your resume and sets of marketable skills is no one’s responsibility except your own. Whether you are employed, under-employed, or un-employed, there are ways to make sure you’re always learning and showing initiative. Online courses can give some structure to your day even if you’re not working, and online networking is seriously never a bad idea, even if you have a full-time job. You show potential future employers important marketable skills by constantly working on yourself, all while learning about things you are passionate about, a true win-win situation!
by Luca Masetti
That said, it is apparently extremely difficult to NOT get a selfie with the newly found, cute looking baby owl. Or at least one, because you have to make sure you get the right light. I also understand how easy it is to get attached to rescued animals, but comparing a crow found just hours before to your child still sounds a bit weird to me. You might think I am exaggerating a bit here, but these situations actually happened. Like that one person that brought us a bat, but demanded to check our intensive care unit before entrusting it to our care. This same person phoned one day later to complain about such a reasonable request being denied (despite us still taking the bat in). Or those several people that tried to keep a newborn animal in their own house, only to realize months later that the deer/crane/groundhog did not suddenly turn into a pet, at which point they were forced to ask for our help.
I get it, I do this job because I love animals. I understand how every single one of them is unique, special and worth remembering. But at the same time, in the very same word ''wildlife'' there is a strong suggestion about how we should keep that delicate life we decided to take care of.
by Sara Mak
This is part two of an article series by Sara Mak. Please view the last ELB blog post to read part one.
By 2020, Canada aims to complete 19 biodiversity targets—it’s ambitious, but achievable! These targets vary widely in terms of their scope, difficulty, and level of detail. Just to give an example, here are Targets 6 and 1:
Target 6: By 2020, continued progress is made on the sustainable management of Canada’s forests.
Target 1: By 2020, at least 17 percent of all terrestrial areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.
In addition to preserving and enhancing biodiversity within the country, these targets also ensure long-term environmental stewardship and participation from all Canadians. Examples of this include the incorporation of biodiversity into the school curriculum as well as the adoption of more ecosystem-based approaches in agriculture and aquaculture.
Another aspect to the success of the biodiversity targets is the involvement of Indigenous groups. While they may only make up 4.9% of the national population, they possess the traditional knowledge and skills Canada needs moving forward. As for current involvement, Zurba et al (2019) describe a few fundamental roles including consultation, management, or governance. Indigenous involvement in the management of Canadian ecosystems isn’t limited only to the completion of the biodiversity goals. Over the years more opportunities have been made available for Aboriginal groups. Through the First Nations Land Management Act, funding is available for establishing land and managing the environment and natural resources within it. This collaboration is ideal not only for Canada’s ecosystems but also as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the Government and First Nations groups.
As a member of the UN’s CBD, Canada is required to regularly submit national reports summarizing their progress with regards to the adoption of the Convention. For the last few years, these reports have also detailed the progress made on each of the biodiversity targets. And with 2020 just around the corner, Canada seems to be on track to accomplishing most of its goals. The 6th National Report tells us that (good news!) most of the targets are moving along with steady progress. Some of the targets are seeing slower progress but there are renewed efforts to pull through during this final stretch.
Steady progress: As of spring 2019, 11.8% of Canada’s land and freshwater is conserved, according to the Canadian Parks Council. Photo from the Toronto Star.
Canada has acknowledged that Indigenous knowledge is invaluable and that the success of the biodiversity targets is dependent on meaningful collaboration between all levels of government and Indigenous groups. As such, their contributions are spread amongst all of the goals. In addition, of course, to the two dedicated to the improvement of Indigenous rights to the environment (Targets 12 and 15). Representatives from First Nations, Inuit or Métis peoples also participate as members of the Canadian delegation during meetings with the CBD and directly influence current and future plans as advisors.
What better way to combat extinction than by increasing biodiversity? Through the UN’s CBD, the international community is committing to a more sustainable and hopeful future by working towards improving global biodiversity levels. As the country with the second largest landmass and a reputation for natural beauty, Canada has its work cut out. Deadline aside, we need to look further than just the completion of the targets. Securing Canada’s environmental future will take long-term planning — some of which was established through the targets and commitment, as well as partnerships with Indigenous groups. After all, Canada has a lot to protect. It will take a lot of work to adapt to the changing environment, but our future depends on it.
McCall, R. (2019). Human actions are putting the survival of a million species on the line. IFL Science. Retrieved from: https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/human-actions-are-putting-the-survival-of-a-million-species-on-the-line/
Schuster, R., Germain, R. R., Bennett, J. R., Reo, N. J., & Arcese, P. (2019). Vertebrate biodiversity on indigenous-managed lands in Australia, Brazil, and Canada equals that in protected areas. Environmental Science & Policy, 101, 1-6.
Wilson, K. (2019). Indigenous-managed lands have the greatest biodiversity, says UBC-led study. The Georgia Straight. Retrieved from: https://www.straight.com/news/1281011/indigenous-managed-lands-have-greatest-biodiversity-says-ubc-led-study
Zurba, M., Beazley, K. F., English, E., Buchmann-Duck, J. (2019). Indigenous protected and conserved areas (IPCAs), Aichi Target 11 and Canada’s pathway to Target 1: focusing conservation on reconciliation. Land, 8(1), 10.
Sara’s love of animals and the environment is what led her to study Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo, and as a recent graduate, she hopes to further pursue her passion in wildlife conservation. In her free time, she loves stargazing, hiking and exploring the great outdoors (preferably with her dogs)!
by Sara Mak
We are in the midst of a mass extinction event.
And unlike the five previous mass extinctions (which were caused by large-scale natural phenomena such as widespread volcanic activity or a huge chunk of space rock colliding with the earth’s surface), this one is on us. Throughout history, humans have fought to control nature and use its resources for human advancement. Indeed, no other species in Earth’s 4.3-billion-year history has ever had such a significant impact on the planet in such a short amount of time.
As the name suggests, a mass extinction event occurs when many flora and fauna species are at risk of being wiped out. In fact, the United Nation’s 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that one in four (or approximately one million) species is facing extinction — 1,000 to 10,000 times more than natural background rates (Wilson, 2019).
Vancouver Island marmots are the most endangered mammal in Canada. They, alongside countless other species, are on the verge of extinction. Photo by Jared Hobb.
Time is running out. Now that we are able to see the damage (both because of modern advances and because of the exacerbated effects of climate change), we need to take immediate action. Mass extinction is not something that can be reversed with a simple “ctrl + z”, however, since we were the catalysts, perhaps we can be the solution as well.
What’s the plan?
First and foremost, the contribution of the international community is key. In 2010, the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) created the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which comprises of five strategic goals:
Second, and perhaps just as important as the leadership of the international community, is the participation of Indigenous communities. A study by Schuster et al (2019) found that lands managed or co-managed by Indigenous communities had the highest levels of biodiversity. Compared to other methods, Indigenous land practices tend to be less exploitative, which means less deforestation and land degradation, as well as more sustainable forest use. Currently, one-quarter of Earth’s land surface is designated Indigenous land. With their help, we can apply the environmental stewardship demonstrated in these areas on a global scale.
Thaidene Nëné, a protected-area zone co-governed by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in the Northwest Territories. Photo by Pat Kane.
By Dieta Jones-Baumgardt
Why go green? Everywhere you go people are talking about ‘going green’ and how it impacts the planet. Sometimes being green is tough, especially in our everyday lives.
Every day there are opportunities to reimagine how future choices can merge with creating a greener planet. Sometimes we forget to translate this to our own life practice and forget some of the many reasons of how to go green. When we start to consciously think of what we can do, whether it takes form in small actions like reducing our plastic consumption, or larger steps, like supporting politicians who support measures that protect biodiversity; both highlight the different levels of implementing strategies and policies that keep the environment in mind.
By taking a personal ‘bio-pledge’, one becomes more aware that daily environmentally-friendly initiatives - no matter the size - can result in a larger contribution and help sustain our planet! A ‘bio-pledge’ is a conscious reminder with the goal of taking small initiatives in our daily lives to commit to taking action to be a greener citizen.
Be aware of your power to make a difference. By taking a stand to use natural resources more consciously and create less waste, you not only enhance your life but also spread the idea of environmental justice far and wide.
Currently, our natural resources are being consumed at an accelerating pace. These resources are required for the survival and well-being of humans and can range from objects, materials, creatures or energy found in nature that can be used by humans. If our rate of use does not change, many resources will not be sustained for future generations. As scientists complete ‘stock checks’, it is evident we are stretching our resources to their limits and non-renewable resources will not remain after the next 100 years.
The ‘bio-pledge’ goal is to highlight the need for the pursuit of environmental sustainability. This practice combines the needs for our natural resources of today with those of the future. It focuses attention on reducing impacts on the environment and urges for smart consumerism. Together, we must use the planet to a safe threshold such that resources can be reestablished.
With this in mind, the pledge is aimed at changing every day consumerism to foster environmentally friendly actions. To be sustainable in our modern society, one must remind themselves to think of their decision and the impact it has on the environment and natural resources.
By joining in this pledge, you become a part of the movement to maintain a healthy world. The pledge is a means to incorporate greener practices and choices into your life that will grow into your everyday lifestyle.
Actions to be more environmentally sustainable:
The above list of actions is just a few of the ways to join the pledge and reduce your impact on the environment so that everyone’s future will be green. Although these actions may not be the easiest choice or may require thinking about a task before following through, these are the first steps we can take to solve our natural resource problem. Without these actions and help from everyone, our natural resources are in danger. The pledge is a great start for individuals to build awareness on how easy it is to make everyday sustainable actions!
By Kianna LaBine
Studying abroad is the first thing I think of when anyone mentions travelling while in school. It is a popular program in universities across the board; and honestly, sounds like a great time. The University of Alberta --where I went for my degree, offers many programs in tons of countries, including a South Africa field program. Once I investigated more, I realized that this was definitely something I could not afford. At the time the summer program was $15,000 for the International student fees alone, plus flights and living expenses.
I began looking for international internships and volunteering in basically any country that had animals. Since I had never traveled alone before, I wanted to go through a reputable third-party group to ensure I was in good hands. Some of the larger organizations that I was looking at were Volunteerhq.org, gvicanada.ca and goeco.org. My search began with each website, time commitment, price, duties, requirements, and the countries average temperature at the time (I really did not want to spend weeks outside in 40+ weather). I weighed the pros and cons of each opportunity and ended up with my choice – Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa offered by Goeco.org. I applied and right away they reached out to me to get more information as well as see what my expectations were. They helped with planning flights, pick-up from the airport and settling my nerves. I also managed to get a leave from work because it was beneficial to my education.
It was my second year of university; I was still living at home and when I told my mother I wanted to go to South Africa she almost fainted. After a lot of convincing, she decided I could go but she would be joining. She had contacted Goeco to see if she would be allowed to volunteer for a short time as well, and they said yes. So that’s how my mother and I ended up in South Africa together. We explored some of the country for a couple weeks before the volunteering began. Once we got to the town where the Cango Ranch was, we were picked up from the airport and transported to the home where we were to live --the beautiful home of the Ranch owners, it even had a pool! There was someone cooking for us and cleaning up after us too; honestly, it was a dream situation. We spent our days feeding and cleaning enclosures of many of Africa’s animals, including large cats, lemurs, meerkats, bat-eared foxes, and fruit bats! After 2 weeks my mother had left, and I was moved into a different house where I lived with 8-10 other people of similar age. We had a blast; we were going out to bars in the evenings and exploring the country on the weekends. At 19 years old my body still functioned on no sleep. This was a very luxurious volunteer experience to say the least.
My mother and I with cheetahs after they were exhausted from their enrichment activity
Benefits of volunteering and interning:
Kianna LaBine has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Alberta, and has always had a passion for animals. She is currently working at the Edmonton Humane Society as a Programs & Services administrator; two of their main programs are the PALS (Prevent Another Litter Subsidy) program and the TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) program. The PALS program allows low-income families an opportunity to have their animals spayed or neutered at a discounted price to reduce the community’s homeless pet population. The TNR program helps feral cat colonies by humanely preventing unwanted litters and helping to combat pet overpopulation.
By Meredith Meeker
The snow is melting, temperatures are rising, and spring is right around the corner. Burlington has already scheduled their road closure for the Jefferson Salamander crossing (see more information here). That means salamander and frog call surveys are only a few rainy nights away. Spring ephemerals will be popping up alongside the arrival of early bird migrants.
Living in Toronto and even in the GTA, it can be difficult to find natural spaces to enjoy. My oasis, which never lets me down, is Tommy Thompson Park (also known as the Leslie Street Spit, or “The Spit”). It is a little ironic that where I go to get my nature fix is totally manmade and built on top of rubble and broken bricks.
Sitting on 250 hectares and 5 km long, the biodiversity within the park is staggering. The Spit is relatively young, in ecological terms, and was first constructed in the 1950’s for use by the Port Authority. The forest communities are young and are still dominated by successional plant species; notably Willows and members of the Poplar family. By contrast, the meadows and wetlands are full of beautiful flowering plants, attracting over 50 species of butterflies, 42 species of moth, and 17 species of dragonflies.
There are three main wetland cells, and a few smaller ponds, which make good habitat for many of the invertebrate species. It is also a great place to spot turtles on a sunny day! It is not uncommon to see Midland Painted Turtles, Common Snapping Turtles, Northern Map Turtles, and even Blanding’s Turtles all on the same day. If that isn’t enough to entice you down to the park, it is also home to melanistic gartersnakes, which are usually found around Lake Erie. Running around with all the herpetofauna are many charismatic mammals as well, including mink, beaver, and muskrats, but you will not be seeing many squirrels. This is likely because the park is still early in its forest succession and many nut-bearing trees, a squirrel’s favourite food, have not established yet.
The Spit is also a mecca for birding, with 316 bird species recorded. The long spit makes it an ideal stopover for migratory birds, and many birds will stay to breed. I once left work early because a Tri-colored Heron showed up at the park and I couldn’t miss it. It was totally worth it.
The first time I actually visited The Spit, I was participating in their BioBlitz. It was a fantastic way to get to know the park and I would highly recommend signing up for a BioBlitz in your area. If you have the opportunity to participate as a scientist or citizen, it is a great way to delve deeper into natural spaces around you. Bioblitzes are often lead by individuals that are passionate and knowledgeable about their local patch and are great ways to learn about the local biodiversity.
No matter where you live; whether it be in a concrete jungle, or your own piece of paradise, Ontario has something for you. After all, Ontario is ‘yours to discover’.
Meredith Meeker, B.A.S. is a Biologist and has been working at Cole Engineering Group Ltd. (COLE) for the last three years. She specializes in wildlife monitoring, including breeding birds, species at risk bat habitat and calling amphibians. Her favourite project at COLE has been monitoring two very successful replacement Barn Swallow nesting structures in Townsend, Ontario. Meredith presented on the project at the Latornell Conservation Symposium this past November (2018). Prior to working at COLE, she worked in Wildlife Rehabilitation and graduated from Niagara College's Ecosystem Restoration Graduate Certificate. In her spare time, Meredith loves birding and trying her hand at wildlife photography.
Can’t Land an Environmental Career? Have No Fear! How you can be an environmental leader without working in an environmental-related field.
By Samantha Davies
It became clear during my undergraduate years as an Environmental Studies major that Mother Nature would need all the help she could get. It seemed straightforward – we need a healthy environment for the economy to exist. While the loss of biodiversity is a serious threat to our natural ecosystems, you would think that this means tons of careers and opportunities available within the environmental sector, right?
When the job hunt began after graduation, I had to switch gears from searching for an environmental-related job and instead jumped on the opportunity that fell on my lap. I started at a financial technology company called XE.com as a Digital Marketer. This was completely new and outside of my realm of expertise. Since then I have learned a tremendous amount of transferable skills. These skills are in demand by the digital-age, which has no signs of slowing down.
Luckily, XE already encouraged sustainability practices around the office before I started a career there. Tapping into the green energy grid with over 10 years of supporting Bullfrog Power and setting up a local compost service through WasteNot Farms has made me proud to work for a business whose main purpose is not related to the natural environment. That made all the difference to me especially because I did not want my passion and previous education to go to waste.
Through organizing a litter clean up with my co-workers to introducing a straw-ban within the office (inspired by this hilarious “stop sucking” video by Buzzfeed), I am proud that the people I work with are so receptive to green ideas and initiatives. The best part about being a sustainability leader is that we can make an impact through our actions no matter where we end up in our career.
I recommend that in whatever industry you end up landing a career in, don’t be afraid to be your true, eco-nerdy self. One valuable lesson I have learned over the years is that people generally follow by example. Biodiversity and sustainability go hand-in-hand together– the more diverse an ecosystem the more sustainable and resilient it becomes. Celebrate your diversity within a setting that may not seem supportive at first because by showing your true colours, you will eventually make a positive impact wherever you end up.
If you have questions, feel inspired, or want to simply drop me a note, feel free to reach me at my email. Stay green and humble my friends!
Sam is an Environmental Studies graduate who believes in the power of diversity, believing that good ideas come to life through collaboration and positive energy. She is passionate about changing everyday behaviours that lead to more fulfilling and less wasteful lifestyles. From leading her “Litter Loner” series where she inspires others to pick up litter to becoming an avid digital marketer, Sam continues to make a positive impact wherever she goes! You can find her on Instagram @thrugreeneyes.
By Monica Seidel
#1. Smaller Network
The environmental field is often a very close-knit group of individuals and organizations. When you move to a northern community, that group gets even smaller. Within a few months at my job at the wildlife rehabilitation centre, I had the opportunity to partner with many of the leading groups and individuals in the area. Why? In my experience, reaching out with a cold call or email to someone in a smaller community is almost always more successful than reaching out to someone in a big city. This makes sense! There is less competition for their time, and there is often a greater desire to collaborate to increase awareness about both of your small organizations and missions.
#2. More Freedom
The organization I worked for was a very small non-profit. I was the only staff member when I started, which meant I could plan and execute different projects largely as I saw fit. I was given control, again, even if it was only a few months into my time there. It also allowed me the freedom to identify skills or programs that I wasn’t very proficient with and work on them. Not having concrete objectives (or pathways to achieve those objectives) gave me the freedom to essentially build my portfolio as I wanted!
#3. Amazing Outdoor “Work” Space
If you love the outdoors and having literally no one around for kilometres, you need to get yourself up to Northern Ontario. The wilderness and abundant wildlife is amazing, and was the absolute perfect setting for my job. Want to get workshop attendees excited about protecting wildlife? Go outside and explore. Having a stressful day and want to get away from people? Go outside and explore. Want to scope out locations to release animals while also getting some exercise and fresh air? Go outside and explore! Northern Ontario was the perfect setting for my work life and duties, but it also provided me a constant reminder of why I was in the environmental field.
#4. Less Competition
This is by far the most important reason I advocate others to move to a smaller community! There are fewer people living in these cities to start with, and most new graduates don’t want to move hours and hours away for a position. Graduating from university provided me with the perfect opportunity to move wherever I wanted – I had nothing tying me down to one location. If you think a job description perfectly suits you but you don’t love the location, apply anyway! At “worst”, it forces you to work on your application (and maybe even interview) skills. I knew that the position was in my desired field, and I knew how competitive the field was. I was very passionate about the organization’s mission and the job’s duties, and that became the reason for me to stay and find things I liked about the city.
Monica is an Environmental Science graduate from Queen’s University. Professionally she is focused on creating fun and engaging education experiences for audiences of all ages, and marketing using social media and creating videos. Here she is pictured looking for fish and turtles on a biology field course.
Blogs are written by ELB members who want to share their stories about Ontario's biodiversity.