Spotlight on young nature leaders: Alana Tollenaar
With Saturday being International Honey Bee Day, we would like to highlight an inspiring success story from one of our Young Nature Leader bursary winners who has taken our $1,000 grant and run with it, collaborating with the Edmonton and Area Land Trust to build up their grassroots project “Bee the Change.” These hands-on workshops aim to provide a space for residents of Spruce Grove, Fort Saskatchewan, Saint Albert and other surrounding areas to help pollinators on their own properties.
Alana is a 21-year-old student at the University of Alberta, currently studying Environmental and Conservation Science, and in 2017 she decided to seek out opportunities to get work experience in her chosen field.
She discovered her internship position with the EALT through the Government of Alberta’s Serving Communities Internship Program and has returned to work with them for three summers. Since the start of her internship, she has helped out with and had an interest in their pollinator conservation program that began in 2016 – only a year prior to her work with them.
The “Bee the Change” workshops are typically one and a half to two hour events with a smaller guest list (to keep the noise from construction to a minimum), and take place in two parts. The first portion is dedicated to presentations outlining the ins and outs of constructing the “bee hotels,” as well as information on pollinators and the role that the hotels play in their conservation.
After the information session concludes, guests are given their construction kits and, armed with electric drills that they bring from home, begin to construct a bee hotel of their own with the provided supplies. The structures are built out of pine wood, a material that is natural for bees to build nests in, with a generous volunteer having cut the wood and prepared the construction kits in advance.
The workshops are “for anyone to enjoy and all skill levels,” with smaller kits made available to children who can easily participate and learn. Alana’s estimate is that it takes approximately one hour to complete a bee hotel.
After her application was selected, Alana used the money to buy supplies for 100 construction kits, with the same volunteer happily agreeing to help prepare them. As a pleasant surprise, there were enough additional supplies that they were able to also prepare 100 children’s kits, with 36 that have yet to be given out and built.
“Lots of people want to support nature conservation, but they don’t have enough money or time to do it. Building bee hotels is a great way [for them] to help in their own backyards.”
They have been able to organize eight workshops, with the last grant-funded event happening on August 21st. Most event outreach happens internally within organizations and groups that are interested in hosting, and the EALT is continually working to expand into the outer-Edmonton communities.
Bee the Change will continue through EALT even when Alana finishes her internship. She believes that this this is a project that will last a long time, “There are always more people to empower, more people to make a change in conservation and in themselves, and more people to give the tools to make a difference.”