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Spotlight on Young Nature Leaders: Richelle Martin

Richelle Martin’s passion for nature began at a very early age, in fact she clearly remembers growing up in New Brunswick and how “spring was signaled by the call of the spring peppers, summers were spent camping and swimming in the lake, fall brought colourful hardwood canopies, and winter was skating outdoors on the backyard pond.”

Her nature appreciation grew with time to include a passion for stewardship, action and activism. She soon recognized how important biodiversity is for our survival and equally, how we all have a responsibility to steward it.

Richelle’s chosen path to do so included 6 years working at the Nature Trust of New Brunswick helping manage 50 nature preserves across that province and engaging volunteers in the stewardship of these special places.  More recently, Richelle decided to funnel her passion for nature and her work experience into a degree in environmental law at the University of Ottawa.  In 2018, she applied for and was awarded Nature Canada’s Labatiuk scholarship for her studies.  Her hope is to use her environmental law degree to be a stronger advocate for environmental protection.  Given her efforts and emerging leadership, she was nominated to participate in the Women for Nature mentorships.  She shares below her reflections on the benefits of this unique opportunity.

When I first encountered Nature Canada’s Women for Nature at their annual gathering in Ottawa, I was blown away by the caliber of women leaders involved in the program. How could I say no when invited to participate in the Women for Nature mentorship program as a mentee? This was my first formal mentorship experience and the Women for Nature’s thoughtful execution of the program made for a great introduction.  

Caption: Richelle Martin, Young Women for Nature mentee speaking at the 2018 Parliamentary reception.

I moved to Ottawa from New Brunswick in the Fall of 2018 to pursue environmental law at the University of Ottawa. Having a mentor to brainstorm and help navigate during this time proved to be very beneficial at a point in my life where I would need to make many important decisions.

Through the mentorship program’s matching process, I was paired with Christine Leduc, Director of Public Affairs at EACOM Timber Corporation. I admired Christine’s drive and professional achievements to date. Christine asked me to reflect on and write down where I saw myself in 3, 5, and 10 years so that decisions could be made more strategically with these goals in mind. She assured me that my direction may change over time but having a broad sense of where I aim to go is a useful baseline. We also worked towards a more general goal of developing networking skills which I practiced throughout the mentorship and we would discuss my experiences, challenges, and tips. Our regular conversations provided the structure I needed to get in the habit of reflecting on progress towards my goals, perhaps one of the most important takeaways from my experience.

The mentorship was supplemented by informative webinars delivered by panels of inspiring women leaders from the environmental sector.  An important take-away on the topic of effective leadership was to always give credit to the team for successes and not to place blame for failures. A trait I see that the Women for Nature have in common is a willingness to support and lift-up other women. The work of the Women for Nature gives me hope and I look forward to continuing to work alongside these strong women in a shared goal to protect Canada’s nature.

Upon completion of her degree, Richelle hopes to work with both ENGOs and government to develop stronger laws and policies to protect biodiversity.  She wants to ensure that future generations inherit a healthy environment and can be inspired by similar nature adventures as she was as a child.  She also sees herself as an educator, and believes as a lawyer she will have a role to play in educating the public about their rights and empowering grassroots community groups to use the law as an important tool to protect our lands, waters and species.

Thanks to Nature Canada’s Women for Nature and our funders for investing in the young women powering nature and environmental protection nationwide.

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