Nature Canada

Spotlight on Young Nature Leaders: Gillian Johnson

Gillian Johnson grew up hiking and camping as a young child, but she feels she truly connected to nature through her “learning in nature” activities in her teens.

During a high school co-op placement, she was fortunate to participate in trail maintenance and bird banding at the University of Guelph. 

In grade 10, she was also part of a community leadership program in Guelph and her curriculum involved learning outside for most of the semester.  As a group, she and her fellow classmates taught other younger children about taking action for the environment. She also participated in a school program that used art to share messages to younger children about the environment and how to encourage changes in their lives. 

It was these experiences which she wholeheartedly believes sparked her interest and desire to work in the conservation sector. 

It was her teacher during her co-op placement that encouraged her to apply to attend Ontario Nature’s Youth Summit. She then received a scholarship from the local nature group, Nature Guelph to do so.  During her time at the Youth Summit and later on the Youth Council, she was very active in promoting Pollinator Cities.  She participated in two pollinator events in Guelph and at Trent university doing outreach awareness about bees and native plantings.

Given her volunteer leadership with the Youth Council, she was nominated to participate in the Nature Canada’s Young Nature leader mentorship program.  Gillian thought it would be an excellent opportunity to widen her scope of understanding of career opportunities and develop a stronger network. 

She was paired with Women for Nature member, Prof. Dawn Bazely who as a mentor has shown her how to relay her knowledge, communicate it effectively to engage others, which helped build her confidence.  Through their discussions, it solidified to her that she is passionate about environmental issues facing the Arctic and she aims to be part of the solution possibly through a future career in Arctic research.  Her goal short term is to complete her schooling while doing speaking presentations about the need to protect our North and experiences with Students on Ice.  She has also been inspired to become more involved in her new community in Peterborough while maintaining volunteer work in her home town of Guelph.

Photo by Students on Ice

Gillian recently participated at Nature Canada’s 80th anniversary celebrations and loved the experience, talking with so many like-minded people with a shared passion for nature.  On reflection, it reinforced to her that she has truly found a home in the nature conservation community.  And she believes that “more youth should be involved with learning in nature experiences to shape a stronger connection, understanding, and spur more active participation in environment solutions.”

Thanks to Nature Canada’s Women for Nature and our funders for investing in the people powering nature protection nation-wide.

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.