Spotlight on Young Nature Leaders: Kelsey Nicholls
Kelsey Nicholls is a Young Woman for Nature mentee who works at ReForest London as its Community Engagement Coordinator.
Originally from Sudbury with a family background in mining, Kelsey grew up watching ecological restoration at work as forests were revived in nearby areas ravaged by mining operations. In 1978, the City of Greater Sudbury launched a greening program which has succeeded in turning desolate landscapes with blackened rocks to healthy forests. Kelsey remembers picking blueberries among rocks blackened due to pollution as a child. Due to the acidity in the soil from past mining operations, the blueberries were abundant.
Motivated by the regreening she witnessed around her, she pursued a degree in Restoration Biology from Laurentian University. She later moved to London to attend the University of Western Ontario to enroll in a Master’s Degree in Environment and Sustainability to expand her experience in community engagement in environmental issues. Following completion of her graduate degree, she worked in community outreach for the City of London’s Environmental Programs Department.
Now at ReForest London, she works as its Community Engagement Coordinator. Her position involves engaging volunteers and the public through digital communications, outreach events and presentations, to promote improving both environmental and human health, through the benefits that come with a healthy urban forest.
Among the many events she runs, the Celebration Forest project is particularly special to Kelsey. The project, in partnership with the Parkwood Hospital in London, allows family and friends to come together to plant trees in honour of their loved ones. The trees are planted once a year in a tree planting ceremony where over 400 friends and family gather to plant native trees in the Celebration Forest. The Forest is adjacent to the Westminster Ponds, an environmentally significant area and provincially-designated wetland. Together with her team of 40 volunteers, Kelsey organizes the annual event which has resulted in the planting to date of a total of 1,600 trees. As a whole, the organization had planted a total of 422,021 trees by the end of 2018 since beginning its Million Tree Challenge in 2011.
For the Women for Nature mentorship program, Kelsey was paired with Janet Kasperski, the former CEO of the Ontario Psychological Association. Kelsey said while she went into the mentorship thinking it would help her better define the direction she wanted her career to take, that topic was only a small part of the knowledge she gained from the program. Janet helped Kelsey see that there are a greater variety of opportunities as well as helping her work through current challenges at work.
A couple of key pieces of advice she received from her mentor were to “recognize the opportunities around you and look to learn more” and to “be warm, wonderful and always prepared”. Kelsey describes her mentorship experience as inspirational, motivating and reflective and has strengthened her skills and resolve to engage more citizens to protect and restore our ecosystems.
Thanks to Nature Canada’s Women for Nature and our funders for investing in the people powering nature protection nationwide.