Nature Canada

Get to Know the 2021 Charles Labatiuk Scholarship Winner: Amanda Dickson!

The Charles Labatiuk scholarship is awarded each year to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting Canadian natural spaces and species. 

This year’s recipient is master’s student Amanda Dickson! Amanda has a BSc in Anthropology from the University of Calgary and is working towards completing her Master’s Degree in Geography. She is passionate about the study and promotion of the peaceful coexistence between humans and coyotes. 

Conservation Experience

Amanda has had many meaningful experiences working with nature. She spent over six years volunteering at the Calgary Zoo, where she worked to improve current data collection methods in an effort to study and save the endangered Whooping Crane in Canada. 

During her time at the zoo, Amanda also worked towards improving the quality of life for animals in captivity. This included monitoring the pregnancy and nursing behaviour of western lowland gorillas, observing black bears and hippopotamuses for signs of stress, and designing a research method for volunteers to monitor the responses of Japanese macaques towards enrichment programs.

In 2019, Amanda was involved in the Prairie Dog Project, which worked to reintroduce the black-footed ferret into Saskatchewan grasslands through the study of its primary prey: the black-tailed prairie dog.   

Passion for Nature and the Environment

Amanda’s passion for nature and the environment has also led her to participate in global research opportunities. 

Through the University of Calgary, she was able to research the diet, behaviour, movement patterns and rainforest ecosystems of howler monkeys in Belize. She later continued her passion by pursuing primatology research with the university in Ghana. 

In Ghana, Amanda studied the unique check-pouching behaviour present in Mona monkeys. This project required her to work alongside the local community, where Amanda witnessed the importance of understanding and valuing human impacts on conservation. She was inspired to generate research to promote sustainable ecosystems through conducting interviews with the locals and traditional ecological knowledge. 

A Strong Connection to Nature and Conservation

With the fast-paced way of life we all live today, it’s so easy to feel like we’re alone. “We’re a species separated from each other by many arbitrary divisions. But this isn’t how nature works”, says Amanda. “Nature takes these differences and makes them beautiful.” 

Amanda finds nature to be a solid source of connection. She believes that nature takes chaos and lets everything fall into its perfect niche. “It works so well that everything in nature is interconnected, and this interconnectedness is why we thrive.” 

Nature conservation is of high importance to Amanda. Her reasoning? Simply put, we cannot survive without nature, and its importance cannot be measured just by the value it provides to people. 

“I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by nature, and between befriending bugs and watching birds in my backyard and spending weeks discovering Canada’s diverse habitats – the fierce and ancient Rocky Mountains, the echoing call of a loon across a densely wooded lake at sunset, a bright red crab holding its own against the wind in a salt-encrusted tidepool on the West Coast and the gentle expanse of pure gold extending forever towards the prairie horizon – I was enamoured.”

Amanda hopes to pursue her Ph.D. and continue her research and educate the next generation of environmentalists.  

“I cannot imagine a world without the diverse beauty provided by nature, and I hope that future generations will have the chance to experience these moments of wonder for themselves as well.”

Plans for the Future

Amanda says she grew up with an “unquenchable love of learning and a burning desire to explore everything [she] could about nature.” While she’s definitely open to exploring new research opportunities and conservation experiences as they come along, she feels her contributions lie best in a university environment where she can continue to conduct research, share her passion for nature with students, and develop public education programs that will encourage others to develop a passion for sustainability and life on Earth.

“A large part of me loves being in the field, surrounded by the lush perfume released by tropical flowers during a morning rainstorm or the heady scent of sage on the prairies. [..] And then there’s the other half of me that loves sharing this little bit of wonder I’ve been so immensely lucky to experience with the world.”

A Thank You and Next Steps 

Amanda would like to extend her gratitude to the Charles Labatiuk family for their generosity and for allowing her to focus on her studies while maintaining her involvement with conservation organizations like the Calgary Zoo. 

“I feel that this award helps to kindle hope for a better world as it brings students together from diverse backgrounds to build a future where humans, animals and ecosystems can thrive, and everyone can experience the beauty and peace of the natural world.” 

We look forward to Amanda’s next steps in the conservation world and value her passion for nature. She’ll be sharing her research experiences and knowledge through a science communication and travel blog: Although her blog is not yet quite ready for launch, she’ll be sharing updates on Instagram. Stay tuned! 

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