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Women for Nature – Cara MacMillan
Featuring Women for Nature member Cara MacMillan. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Tracey Mosley.
T: What inspires you to your work and life? Were there childhood experiences or interests which have stayed with you into adult life?
C: As a proud Canadian, I am glad to be a citizen of a country which tries to be respectful. I am in awe of the power of nature. I was quite young when I read “Roughing it in the Bush” by Suzanna Moodie for the first time. Recalling that story of people coming to Canada with nothing allows me to reflect on the importance of community especially when we live in a country where nature is so expansive.
I was the kid who often brought home wounded animals. I can still recall rescuing a turtle, a frog and several birds. I never wanted to keep them. I wanted to heal and release them. As a child, I lived near an acreage of marshland. Walking through it, I always found that there was something needing care. The marshland has long been developed into a shopping mall. I remember watching the front end loader demolish the creek and I wanted to do something. I promised myself that one day I would.
Those early experiences inspired me to work with companies that are passionate about adapting to climate change in the belief that environmental stewardship and social justice has the potential to reverse the negative effects of that change.
T: If you were to be remembered for something, what would it be?
I am very proud that my husband and I can see a personal legacy in our children, who have grown up committed to follow their own unique mission. We are pleased that they have developed their own intentions to give back to the world.
Professionally, I am proud that my company Halcyon Consulting Group became a Certified B Corporation in July of 2017. B Corps is an international community of leaders who seek to use their businesses for social and environmental good. Those who accept B Corps certification do so knowing that they can be scrutinized to ensure they meet the standards of the certification, with observers able to vote on whether we meet those standards. I am pleased to say that Halcyon has received high votes for “economic empowerment for the underserved” as well as “civic engagement and giving”.
T: You have an interest in the wellbeing of the Canadian environment as the home of First Nations who live on the land. Can you share how this interest has helped shape your personal or professional development?
In 2016, I drove almost 8 hours, by myself, to reach the Cree Nation of Waswanapi to deliver blankets, quilts, clothes, toys, craft supplies, household linens and art, donated by St Maurice Catholic Church in Ottawa. I fell in love our northern landscape.
I observed a serenity and joy in the Waswanapi community elders that I had never before seen in any person. One of the leaders of the community cooked a moose heart stew to celebrate Moose Week. I am a vegetarian but I have to say it was of the best meals that I have ever eaten. The Cree respect the moose in a way that we have lost. I lost my way by referring to “natural resources” instead of “nature”.
I believe that we in the urban south have a moral responsibility to invite our First Nations women leaders to the table; to give them a voice and a network. Together we can build an interdependent Canada.
T: Given that the mission of Women for Nature is, “To protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature”; what personal values do you draw upon in approaching that mission?
C: I try to live by three rules that I have taught my children: respect yourself; respect each other; and respect what we have been blessed with. If you respect yourself, you will take care of yourself and that which nurtures you. If you respect each other, you will be able to hear a quiet voice coming from the distance. You will speak out when someone is poisoning your water source or hurting someone else. If you respect what we have been blessed with, you will take note of your place in nature. We each need to speak up and be accountable for the earth we share.
T: Who were your mentors? What education or experiential choices did you make as you developed career goals?
C: When I was a young adult, I believed that career was fluid. I began my career in the mailroom of IBM, where I quickly learned that I would have to gain more education if I wanted to progress. I was able to transfer to a research and development lab, where I loved to listen to and speak with the scientists who worked there. It was so many years ago, but those scientists were already concerned with the environmental impact of electronics and the environmental impact of the end-life of computers. That was 25 years ago! The scientists sparked my love of learning. My commitment to lifelong learning brought me to a MBA and now my DBA. My research and work is in strategy and innovation.
Ann Dale, our Women for Nature co-chair, is my mentor. Ann is a Dean and Professor at Royal Roads University, researching and teaching in the area of environment and sustainability.
T: Can you reflect on lessons learned or problems solved that you can see might be the basis of guidance for young women? Have you any specific suggestions for how young women can keep from feeling defeated?
C: We need to recognize that we benefit and learn as much from the mentoring process as do those whom we mentor. I learned by observing Waswanapi elders who guided, but did not seek to control. If we want to be guides we need to respect the spark inside each other. We need to commit to never diminish each other’s spark as we guide and work together.
Everyone has dreams, regardless of status and background, and everyone is told “No.” So you have the choice to respect yourself or fail. You may have been given a dream because the world needs you to act on it. If you walk away from your dream, we all lose.
Women for Nature – Elizabeth Kilvert
Featuring Women for Nature member and business owner of The Unrefined Olive, Elizabeth Kilvert. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese.
Sharolyn:You are currently the successful business owner of The Unrefined Olive stores in Ottawa, but you came from a diverse background of international development studies, natural history museums, marine biology, organic agriculture, sustainable fisheries, and Environment Canada. How did such a diverse experience coalesce to sell olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and specialty foods?
Elizabeth: I have always had a passion for food but I wanted my business to be rooted in my core values as well. I wanted to sell products that were sustainable, nutritious, delicious, fair and equitable to the farmer; and food that was not harmful to the environment.
I was working for Environment Canada when I took the leap six years ago. I was passionate about that too; but when you see government policy contravening with what you hold dear, how can you work for an institution that doesn’t resonate with what you believe in. When you go into business for yourself, you can align your beliefs and values with your actions.
S: And now you’re really enjoying what you’re doing.
E:I do. I feel very enriched by my business. It reflects my values of giving, sustainability, biodiversity, and compassion; and we are fortunate because these are also the types of customers we attract. I also get to engage with individuals and organizations in our community. People are looking for more transparency when buying products and they are looking for sustainable business practices.
S: How do you include sustainability in your business practice?
E: We use recycled paper packaging, almost no plastics, and a local potter makes our dishware. Our furnishings are made from ash wood from trees that were felled by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.
S: Why was it important for you to have "unrefined” in your store’s name? What were you trying to tell your customers?
E: Unrefined means unprocessed, which is better in the food world. We only carry Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil and never an olive oil over a year old. All of our olive oils are third party tested and I have done training to recognize taste profiles and faults in olive oil.
S: What is the added value?
E: Studies have shown that up to 75% of olive oil is rancid, expired, and blended with other nut and seed oils. Olives are a stone fruit, like a peach, and should be pressed when at a certain ripeness and ideally within hours of picking. When the olives are too ripe or have been sitting around too long before they go to the mill; the oil that is made smells and tastes awful.
S: Should we care about our food in terms of how it is grown, and processed before we eat it?
E: Absolutely. Look at the rates of diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer. We are a society full of inflammatory diseases as well. When we invest in good food we invest in our health, sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and a sound economy. We also satiate ourselves without snacking and lead healthier lives. Health and nutrition go together and should be a major investment of our monetary budgets. Food can promote healing and disease prevention. It is also the way we socialize, comfort ourselves, entertain, and express ourselves. Good quality ingredients are as different as eating a grocery tomato in January and a freshly picked one from the garden in the summer. It’s a completely different experience.
S: Why is it worthwhile to buy quality food as a consumer?
E: We all choose where we want to put our money. Investing in Farmers Markets, local shops, local producers, farmers, butchers, bakers, and cheese makers [...] is investing in sound agricultural practices, food that is nutritious, and producers who are employing people locally. You are voting for a sustainable economy.
S:How did you come to appreciate Nature?
E: I’m from Halifax. I grew up on a dead end street surrounded by a lake. There was also a bog and a stream. I grew up being outside, paddling canoes, and catching frogs. It was always a struggle to get us kids inside. My parents were also active outside. We would go cross-country skiing, skating, walking in the woods, hiking, spending lots of time on the beach; and they were big gardeners.
S: Why did you choose to become a "Woman for Nature"
E: I spend the majority of my time working in, and on, my business; in the food world, with my business community, with my industry, and with organizations in the community where I live and beyond. I have always taken a multi-disciplinary approach and wanted to connect with a broader circle of academics, politicians, artists, business and non-governmental leaders in the environmental and biodiversity field. I also want to connect and demonstrate how small business has a role to play in leadership through best practices, the social economy, and industry standards in the environmental and biodiversity realm. That is why I chose to become a Woman for Nature.
Helping Nature One Plant at a Time
[caption id="attachment_18250" align="alignleft" width="146"] Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, Women for Nature Member[/caption]
Featuring Women for Nature member Susan Gosling. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese. Sharolyn: Before I start the interview, I have to know if you are related to Ryan Gosling, the actor.
Susan: Oh, God, I wish! No, we don’t exchange Christmas cards.
Sharolyn: Now that I got that question out of the way, let’s start. It is very impressive that through the Gosling Foundation, you led the creation of the Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation (GRIPP). Why is nature so important to you that you felt you had to fund your own vision of nature?
Susan: I grew up in a small northwestern Ontario town on the edge of Lake of the Woods, so I always spent a lot of time outdoors and had a strong connection to nature. My earliest memories are of playing outside, and of my Mother’s garden and the lilac hedge that grew in front of our house. Even now …. many... many years later…whenever I smell fresh cut lilac flowers I instantly go back to my childhood when every spring my Mother always had a big bouquet of fresh lilacs in a crystal vase on the dining room table and the fragrance just filled the air. I guess I would say plants have always been a part of me and in my soul. I can’t imagine a world without plants…. and how sad it would be if future generations were not to experience what I have.
[caption id="attachment_35049" align="alignleft" width="150"] Susan Gosling, Women for Nature member[/caption]
GRIPP was created to help save threatened and endangered species. My husband aptly said “we can despair or we can do what we can while we can,” and that is our mission. The institute has the capability to clone a plant, cryopreserve it, and when needed, take the tissue out of liquid nitrogen and propagate the plant to how many number of plants are needed to reintroduce the plant back into the environment. GRIPP has the capacity to back up all the plants in Canada.
We call this process CPR: Conserve Propagate Redistribute.
CPR as a model has already been demonstrated successfully with several species and this year for Canada’s 150th year anniversary, GRIPP together with Parks Canada, reintroduced Hill’s Thistle which has been designated as a species at risk. In June, there were 150 Hill’s Thistles planted in six locations around Tobermory and then monitored to check survival rates. The results were very good and the plants not only survived but thrived. A second planting was also done in July a few weeks later to confirm the results of the first planting, and again the Hill’s Thistle did well…other than those that were nibbled by deer. I think it is safe to say that plants can be successfully reintroduce into their former habitat. (Click here to read more)
[caption id="attachment_35056" align="aligncenter" width="834"] Hill's Thistle - Wikimedia Commons[/caption]
Sharolyn: Is it similar to the reintroduction of Albertan wolves to Yosemite Park?
Susan: Not quite. The climate is changing. Plants have the ability to adapt but sometimes not as quickly as needed and so they may need a little assistance before they disappear forever. Our goal is to help nature by giving it a fighting chance. What we have seen is that the plants which are reintroduced into the environment are very healthy and vigorous because they came through the process of tissue culturing using optimal growth factors and conditions and this seems to provide a reserve for the new plants to get established and do well…. a kind of head start.
We prepare the plants in the lab much like athletes are prepared for a performance. The process begins with deciding which plant needs the help and then developing a protocol to clone it…cloning is like photocopying because you can produce as many new plants as you need and each will be the same as the others.
The second part of the process involves placing the plant’s living tissue into liquid nitrogen which is at minus 196 degrees Celsius. The tissue can remain there indefinitely or until there is a need to reintroduce this plant at which time the tissue will be unfrozen and then propagated again through tissue culture procedures.
As far as we know GRIPP is the only lab in Canada that cryopreserves (freezes) growing buds. Most labs cryopreserve seed. While this is good because seed will preserve the genetics of the species, but the disadvantages are that the progeny may not be identical to the original and the germination rate of cryopreserved seed can be low. If the technology is optimized well, cryopreserved buds can be warmed up and multiplied in high numbers to reproduce as many identical plants as needed.
We call this process CPR….Conserve-Propagate -Redistribute. Parks Canada is very interested in this model because they can see how it can be applied in many situations.
Sharolyn: That sounds like an appropriate acronym, given the circumstances.
Sharolyn: With climate change underway, how do you think plants are coping?
Susan: Not well. They have mechanisms to adapt but with rapid climate change it is sometimes difficult for the plants to make changes as quickly as they need to.
Sharolyn: I heard that the last stand of elms is in New York Central park, and the only reason they avoided Dutch elm disease is because of the barrier created by all the high-rises that surround them. When I was there 2 years ago, it was hot, and I thought the trees looked sick.
[caption id="attachment_35060" align="aligncenter" width="834"] Elm Leaves - Photo by Scott Mattoon Flickr(CC BY 2.0). Photo Cropped.[/caption]
Susan: It is not only the elms that are having a having a hard time. Here, at the University of Guelph, there is a centurion elm tree that survived when the others did not. Old pictures show it was one of many trees that were there at one time. Scientists are investigating the connection between the virulence of the fungus and the fungus being able to turn off the trees’ natural defences.
Sharolyn: Any words of wisdom as to how all of us can do our part to help?
Susan: We need to put more pressure on governments to enforce, and prosecute people who violate the laws. Trees and shrubs should be protected, not cut down for a subdivision and then stick in a token tree later. Most people have no concept that you can’t replace an ecosystem with a few isolated trees. What are needed are corridors that interact with each other. An isolated tree here and there does not work. Sadly, people don’t understand how important trees are. They think existing trees are in the way of progress.
Sharolyn: What happened in your life that made you passionate about nature?
Susan: There wasn’t just one particular event. Nature has always been a part of my life. I have always observed it and enjoyed it. I have tried to impart my excitement of nature to my son who at times did not even realize how much he was learning.
My favourite story is of a female mallard duck who laid eight eggs under a juniper which grew close to my house and could be easily seen through a large picture window on the floor above. My son named her Mabel and the first thing he did when he woke up was to check on Mabel and as many times throughout the day as he could. He found Mabel fascinating and discovered many of her secrets like when she would leave her nest to feed and drink, she came and went by different routes. He even observed that she rotated her eggs with her feet and not her bill, which I would guess many birders would not have known for sure. I think he knew a lot more about nature than he realized. I think this is how it should be…an interest and a curiosity to observe and an emotional connection.
Sharolyn: How do you incorporate nature in your life?
Susan: I love that question. I connect with plants inside and outside. I always have plants growing and flowering in my house which is particularly wonderful in the winter but I love my trees and shrubs growing outside. I plant many native trees and shrubs which attract birds and every so often we see something special. It may be a bird passing through on migration and we feel privileged that this bird spotted our place and wanted to stop.
We also have a pond, in fact several ponds with a rill, and to our delight and enjoyment we have toads that like them too. Each spring we can’t wait to hear the thrill of the trill of courting toads…which is surprisingly loud and can wake you up in the middle of a sound sleep! A short time after the chorus ceases there will be ribbons and ribbons of toad eggs and then hundreds…or even thousands of toadlets which eventually grow legs and walk away.
Another joy is to grow Cardinal flowers and have the hummingbirds come in to feed…every time I see those little guys I think how amazing they are.
Lastly, I have an extraordinary event occurring on my property…I have ant disturbances which I have decided…to a degree…to coexist with since they are not that close to the house but what is extraordinary and to my amazement is that I have witnessed crows, in fact several of them, land on top of the ant disturbance and literally spread-eagle on top to maximize the surface area of their body to the ground with their wings outstretched. The first time I saw this I thought the crows were injured but then after a while they got up and flew away. I saw this repeated many times and for several years. I think the crows want the ants to crawl over them and get rid of their parasites like an ant bath. How clever.
Sharolyn: That sounds like a similar relationship that the sharks have with remora fish. I did not know that!
Susan: Neither did I, until I saw it!
Sharolyn: You have a scientific appreciation of plants with your foundation, but you also recognize the spiritual contribution of plants. How do plants connect science and spirituality?
Susan: I have to think about that. It is about how plants make me feel inside. It is unspoken, and a part of my soul. When I go for a walk, I find peace. I find early mornings are particularly magical and peaceful and often when there is dew on the plants there is a certain stillness and calmness in the air. I also think plants provide for our well-being with food, medicine and shelter.
Science is learning in a concrete way, and spirituality is in the soul –an emotional connection. Absolutely I see a connection between science and spirituality.
Sharolyn: Does spirituality allow scientists to see the bigger picture?
Susan: Yes. You don’t just have to see numbers to believe something is there. It is the philosophy of the lotus plant. The more our mind is open to what is out there, the more we will see even if it is on another level. It does not always have to be tangible to make an impact.
Sharolyn: What appealed to you about Women for Nature?
Susan: I was impressed with such a diverse group of women who want to make a difference. I want to ensure future generations can see and experience what I have.
I say, if man has been responsible for much, and most of the problems... let women be part of the solution! We want our children to have the beautiful world that we’ve enjoyed. We’re like-minded, and we have the will to do something. We’re like a cluster of light that forms a beam in the darkness.
Sharolyn: Thank you, Susan.
Susan: You’re welcome, Sharolyn.
Get to Know “Wild” Woman for Nature Jennifer Haddow
[caption id="attachment_13592" align="alignleft" width="130"] Caroline Casselman, Women for Nature member[/caption]
Featuring Women for Nature member Jennifer Haddow. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Caroline Casselman.
[caption id="attachment_33430" align="alignright" width="150"] Jennifer Haddow, Women for Nature member.[/caption]
Jennifer Haddow is the owner of Wild Women Expeditions, an outdoor adventure travel company for women. She has led public engagement programs for a variety of environmental and social justice non-profit organizations, including Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Environmental Network. Jennifer is a passionate advocate for protection of wild spaces and promoting the value of women's leadership in the outdoors. She is based in Quadra Island, British Columbia.
As part of the Women for Nature blog series, I asked Jennifer how her environmental activism has changed over the course of her career.
Growing up in Newfoundland, what influenced your decision to become a global citizen and environmental activist?
At 18, I had the opportunity to join the Canada World Youth exchange program. I lived for four months in Egypt, which opened my eyes to global issues around poverty, social justice, race relations, community development and the environment. The experience changed my perspective on what I wanted to accomplish in my life and my career. I studied international development at university and began my journey to becoming a global citizen. I worked for 15 years in the not-for-profit world, as well as in government on the International Campaign to End Landmines.
That is a major life change. Was there anything in particular that influenced your decision?
[caption id="attachment_33434" align="alignleft" width="300"] Jennifer Haddow, in nature.[/caption]
Like a lot of conservationists, I was extremely passionate about protecting the environment – almost becoming a martyr to the cause. Eventually, though, I became frustrated by some of the armchair activism we see in the movement. Lots of statistics and talk about saving the environment, but not enough on-the-ground experience or in-depth knowledge about the threatened places we were trying to save.
We also talked about having a balanced relationship with the natural world, but we didn’t have much balance in our own lives. I myself was working too much and losing my connection to what we were all fighting for – I call it the unhealthy saviour complex. I became frustrated and burnt out.
And then I became sick. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) 10 years ago, a terrifying wakeup call. I decided to re-orient my life toward the natural world. I travelled to the Himalayas and trekked to the base camp of Mount Everest. It was incredible to wake up in a tent in the snow and watch the sun rise over the world’s highest mountain.
From then on, the compass of my life tilted toward fresh air, sunshine, being active and healing. I had gone on a few Wild Women expeditions and loved them so much, I bought the company when the owner announced her retirement. Intuitively, I felt I was meant to be the next owner.
How does the mission of Wild Women Expeditions align with the Women for Nature campaign? Is this what inspired you to join?
Yes, I think it is important for all of us to get out into the wilderness and get dirty! We need to engage in a physical way in order to fall in love with the natural world, otherwise we won’t really fight hard enough to protect it. That’s the premise for Wild Women Expeditions. We want to bring women into this supportive experience so they can fall in love with the natural world and do the necessary work to conserve it.
[caption id="attachment_33433" align="alignright" width="300"] Jennifer Haddow, on a kayaking trip.[/caption]
That passion and commitment is what I identify with in the Women for Nature campaign. And while I believe we need to physically engage in these issues, I also believe in the power of storytelling. We always read outdoor adventure stories about men but we need to promote the value of that experience for women. We need to connect the dots between outdoor adventure, protecting wild spaces and promoting women’s leadership in nature. The next issue of our Wild Women Magazine features Jane Goodall – the quintessential wild woman!
How is your health now?
I’m in the best health I’ve ever been. I consider myself to be in remission. I have a chronic condition but I am not sick; I am afflicted but not affected.
I am at my happiest being a mother to my 5-year old son and when we are home on Quadra Island, we spend lot of time taking hikes and communing with nature. But I want him to be a global citizen too. We visit incredible places – from the jungles of Costa Rica to the Egyptian desert and the elephant sanctuaries of Northern Thailand.
Any words of wisdom or advice you want to share with future Women for Nature?
I believe I had a physical, emotional and spiritual breakdown because – like a lot of women – I had too much stress and not enough space. And we need that space in order to balance our lives, maintain our health and be our authentic selves.
So I can’t emphasize it enough. Go outside, get dirty and connect to the natural world. And, share your stories of what it means to be a wild and adventurous woman – for your health, your spirit and for the environment.
To learn more about our amazing Women for Nature, please visit www.womenfornature.ca.
Who are the Women for Nature? A conversation between Dr. Dawn Bazely and Maggie Romuld
[caption id="attachment_22309" align="alignleft" width="150"] Maggie Romuld, Women for Nature member[/caption]
Featuring Women for Nature member Dr. Dawn Bazely, Professor, York University. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Maggie Romuld.
Though Dawn Bazely and I have “known” each other on Twitter for several years, it wasn’t until I interviewed her about her involvement in Women for Nature that I felt as if I’d made a new friend. Animated and enthusiastic, she made me laugh as we chatted about all things Nature Canada – with conversational asides that ranged from growing Brussel sprouts, to rodents, to the Gunning-Fog readability index.
[caption id="attachment_33096" align="alignright" width="150"] Dawn Bazely, Women for Nature member[/caption]
Dawn joined the Biology Department of York University as an Assistant Professor in 1990, and became a Full Professor in 2012. She is an ecologist by training, studying grassland and forest management, climate change impacts on ecosystems, invasive species and science policy. Widely published, she is also active on social media as she attempts to inspire her students and the public to become more aware of the natural world. Dawn truly believes that scientists must work hard at being excellent communicators and she practices what she preaches. Her excitement was infectious when she discussed joining the Adventure Canada Resource Team as a naturalist on an Adventure Canada expedition cruise in 2016. She and other expert resource team members shared their knowledge about regional biodiversity, history, and culture along the route of the “Mighty St. Lawrence” cruise from Quebec City to St. John’s, NL.
Dawn doesn’t have enough time to pursue her many hobbies, but she is passionate about making time for gardening and canning, a skill she said she picked up because of a personal and professional interest in sustainability. An aspiring locavore, she started preserving food as a natural extension of using local, seasonal bounty. For seven years, one of Dawn’s roles at York was directing the University’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability. On Earth Day this year, her commitment was recognized when she was awarded the York University President’s Sustainability Council Leadership Award.
When asked to choose her favourite garden food, Dawn replied “rhubarb” with no hesitation whatsoever. Sweet desserts, savoury dishes, you name it, she loves it. And Dawn is crazy about guinea pigs. Allergies in the family prevented them from having more traditional pets, so she said she has become “ridiculously attached” to rodents. Her oldest daughter obviously shares that love, fostering three guinea pigs from the Kitchener Guinea Pig Sanctuary, this past academic year, and bringing them to the family home for Christmas vacation. (The guinea pigs even had their own Instagram account!)
[caption id="attachment_32797" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Photo of fostered three Guinea Pigs.[/caption]
What inspired you to become a Woman for Nature?
Dawn first heard about Women for Nature from fellow York biology faculty member, Distinguished Research Professor, Bridget Stutchbury. After talking with Bridget, she became a founding member of Women for Nature in 2014, because she feels it is important to support a national approach to nature advocacy. She thinks that Canadian conservation groups are more fragmented than those in the UK and USA, with less of a central national voice, and impact. Dawn believes that by coming together under national umbrella and backbone organizations, the reach of local groups will expand, and the cumulative impact will lead to greater awareness of environmental benefits and issues, better funding and measurable outcomes.
[caption id="attachment_30094" align="aligncenter" width="402"] Dave Reid, Heidi Langille (with whom Dawn worked on the Adventure Canada Arctic Explorers trip), Dawn Bazely, Darwin the Owl and his handler.[/caption]
Who were your mentors and what books have inspired you?
Dawn said she was lucky to have had many influential mentors in her life, both men and women. She singled out Kathy Martin, Professor in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, who gave her excellent career advice during her undergrad and graduate student years at Toronto; and Judy Myers, Professor Emerita in the Department of Zoology, UBC, whom she met while pursuing her doctorate at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, with Professor Lord John Krebs.
According to her Wikipedia bio, Myers was at the “forefront of Canadian post-secondary education's efforts to recruit more women in STEM fields during the late 1980s and early 1990s, when she was Associate Dean of Science at the University of British Columbia.” In 2003, Myers and Dawn co-authored “Ecology and Control of Introduced Plants” (Cambridge University Press), which was selected as an American Library Association CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title in 2005.
Dawn confesses to being a “big reader,” but with all the essays she has to read, she has developed a fondness for audio books. Right now, she is reading “The Invention of Nature” by Andrea Wulf. Calling it inspiring, she said that “everyone should read it.” After such a spirited endorsement, I felt compelled to learn more. This award-winning book “reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today. Though almost forgotten today, his name lingers everywhere from the Humboldt Current to the Humboldt penguin. Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age.” Inspiring indeed!
What advice would you give to future Women for Nature leaders?
Dawn’s first piece of advice to future Women for Nature leaders is to build networks and seek out many mentors. Ask them about their lives and careers; ask them to pass on the knowledge they have gained and the experiences they have had.
Dawn also emphasized that young leaders should understand that leadership is a set of skills that can be learned and developed, adding that women still tend to think they shouldn’t be taking the lead. According to Dawn, the best leaders are “able to be coaches who find people’s strengths and create a platform for others to succeed.” Young women should embrace opportunities to learn about leading, and then get out there and do it. “Everyone has something to teach and contribute,” she said. Wiser words were never spoken.
[caption id="attachment_32804" align="aligncenter" width="402"]Dawn on Beechey Island, Nunavut, when she was the resident Botanist on the Adventure Canada Arctic Safari trip 2016. (photo Andre Gallant).[/caption]
Get to know Women for Nature member Bridget Stutchbury
[caption id="attachment_16443" align="alignleft" width="150"] Eleanor Fast Executive Director[/caption]
Featuring Women for Nature member Bridget Stutchbury. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Eleanor Fast.
As part of the Women for Nature blog series I had the great pleasure of chatting with Bridget Stutchbury, a founding member of Women for Nature.
[caption id="attachment_12842" align="alignright" width="150"] Bridget Stutchbury, Women for Nature[/caption]
Bridget is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology at York University, Toronto. She studies songbirds and follows their migrations to South America and back to understand their behaviour, ecology and conservation. Bridget is a leading researcher on Purple Martins (a species that Nature Canada is also involved in protecting). She is author of the bestselling book Silence of the Songbirds and is a frequent media spokesperson on conservation issues.
Bridget’s amazing research and public outreach work is truly inspirational and it was wonderful to have the chance to learn more about her research and passion for communicating science – as well as finding out what’s on her birdwatching wish-list! This is a summary of our conversation.
Eleanor (E):How did your career begin, why did you choose to study birds?Bridget (B): I fell into bird conservation by accident. During my 3rd year of university at Queens I did courses which involved weekend field trips to study limnology and basic ecology. During these weekends I got hooked on field biology and was encouraged to seek out a summer job in ecology. So I did, and was hired for the summer to do a Tree Swallow study. At the time I had no bird identification skills at all – I could recognize a Canada Goose but that was about it! I really enjoyed the research and went on to study Tree Swallows for my undergraduate and Masters theses. Then for my PhD I went to Yale and studied Purple Martins. Throughout my studies I was interested in how cavity-nesting species fight for limited nest sites. There are a lot of parallels to human behavior, for Purple Martins persistence pays off and the young bird without a nest just has to keep at it – they go back to the nest sites day after day after day until one of the older birds who control several nest sites will give one up to a younger bird. It’s fascinating.
E:What is the most surprising research finding you’ve had in your career?B: Being able to track bird migrations has led to some really surprising and exciting results. We were able to tag Purple Martins in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and we have learned that they over-winter on Islands in the Amazon. We didn’t know that before so it is really important to have the tracking technology as now we know which areas are the most important for conservation.
E:What is your favourite bird and why?
[caption id="attachment_32921" align="alignright" width="394"] Bridget’s favourite bird – the Scarlet Tanager[/caption]
B: I’m fascinated by the Scarlet Tanager – it’s a beautiful bold coloured bird, yet in the forest it is so subtle and hard to find. It also has fascinating social behaviour with males doting on their females who are frequently begging for food handouts (I think this helps females judge a male’s parental ability when it comes time to feed the chicks).
E:What bird would you love to see in the wild but haven’t yet?B: The Kakapo, it’s a flightless giant parrot from New Zealand – the world’s largest parrot. There are only 125 left in the world, but it is a “conservation hero” success story with millions of dollars each year spend on their conservation on small islands where dangers such as cats and rats have been eliminated. It was once thought to be extinct but one small population was discovered and rescued.
E:As well as being a scientist, you are also an author. Probably your best known book, Silence of the Songbirds, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Prize – quite an honour! Does writing come easily to you? How do you go about translating your research into a popular book?B: I was surprised to find that writing comes quite easily to me. Before starting my first book I read books on how to write books! The advice was always to let your natural voice come through, and when I took that advice to heart I found writing to be fun. I find that the teaching part of my job as a professor helps a great deal because when I’m giving lectures to undergraduate students (the vast majority of whom will not pursue a career in conservation) I need to find interesting ways of engaging them for 50 minutes at a time while also conveying rigorous scientific concepts. It’s a similar challenge to writing a book, how can I portray complex ideas in unique and interesting ways. I actually find that all kinds of science outreach whether it is teaching or writing or speaking with the media require similar skills and the approach is transferable.
E:Are you working on any books right now?
[caption id="attachment_32924" align="alignleft" width="241"] Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury[/caption]
B: Yes, I’m writing a book about conservation triage – about how we make decisions on which species we should be investing resources on protecting. For example, $3-5 million is spent each year on conserving the Kakapo in New Zealand. For the same investment, we might be able to protect several species. How do we make those decisions? Of course, we need more investment in conservation, but even then we won’t be able to save everything. I hope it will be a tool for getting people to think about endangered species and what can be saved but also the extinctions that will happen if we do not invest more. It will be a book for reading at the dock at the cottage but also relevant for policy makers as well. I’m still writing it and it doesn’t have a title yet but I’m hoping it will be published in a year or so.
E: Apart from your own, what book related to nature conservation do you think is a must-read?B: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. That book has had a profound impact on environmental education and is an important message for everyone. Nature Canada does such great work in encouraging children to get outside into nature and that’s something that is so needed these days. People have to experience nature and enjoy it, then they will start thinking about conserving it.
E: You’ve also been on TV, and were featured in The Messenger documentary. How does it feel to be a movie star?! B: I enjoy doing all kinds of outreach, whether it is TV, radio, writing, or documentaries. As a scientist, it is important to write scientific papers and advance knowledge, but I find it is increasingly important and satisfying to me to get the message out to the general public in all kinds of ways.
E: What is your favourite TV or film experience?B:SOS Songbirdswhich was a Nature of Things episode. I advised the producers and directors from day one and so it was exciting to see their years of hard work featured on such an iconic program. It is a good length at 40 minutes and delves into about the right level of detail for the general public, I think.
E: What inspired you to become one of Nature Canada’s Women for Nature?
B: Being part of Women for Nature is such a great opportunity to work with a unique and diverse group of women to help Nature Canada’s nature conservation work. There are so many interesting women involved, and I bought a couple of friends to the amazing Nature Ball last fall where I met some Women for Nature – it was so inspirational!
E: You’ve had, and continue to have, a big impact on nature conservation. What is your proudest accomplishment?
[caption id="attachment_22359" align="alignright" width="319"] American Goldfinch[/caption]
B: I think my biggest accomplishment was writing “Silence of the Songbirds”. It was my first book – I didn’t know I could write before that, and to have it shortlisted for the Governor General’s Prize was amazing. And Margaret Atwood was involved in promoting the book, seeing posters in bookstores and in Toronto subway cars of her holding my book was a huge honour. The experience made me realize that outreach is really important to my scientific career, and looking back I realize that I wouldn’t have had such a fulfilling career if I hadn’t embraced public outreach in such a big way.
E:As a scientist how do you feel about the future? Are you concerned or optimistic?B: Both really. It’s hard not to be concerned about the future with all the evidence we have of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss. I don’t have grandchildren yet, but with the rapid rate of biodiversity loss in what is being called the Anthropocene extinction I often worry about what kind of wildlife will be around for my future grandchildren.
But on the other hand, there is lots to be optimistic about too. There is a lot of interest about conserving the environment and organizations such as Nature Canada are leading what I hope will be an environmental revolution with people putting the environment as a high priority in daily lives and eventually elections. We’ve seen a lot of social revolutions in my lifetime already around religious rights, gender rights, sexual rights–why not an environmental revolution?
E: What advice do you have to young women today who want to make a difference and protect and conserve nature?B: Follow your passions! I think a lot of people today are trying to assess the job market and make decisions based on where they think they can get jobs, instead of focusing on what they enjoy.
I never worried about whether I would be able to get a job, I just followed what I found I loved to do and am having a wonderful career. Today there are so many opportunities in field ecology and nature conservation, if someone is very passionate about it they can find a way.
I think role models are very important – 50 years ago there were few female field researchers, but now it is normal for women to be working in remote field camps, or leading research groups, I hope that the visibility of women in these roles will show young women that they can follow their passions.
To read or hear more about Bridgets passion for songbirds, check out these stories below:
Ottawa Sun- Songbirds now report their locations as they fly
Bridget Stutchbury Sneak Preview - The MESSENGER Documentary
A passion for Monarch Butterflies
[caption id="attachment_18250" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese, Women for Nature Member[/caption]
Interview of Woman for Nature Laren Stadelman, MBA, FCMC, President of Stadelman Consulting Inc., management consultant, and coach by Woman for Nature Sharolyn Mathieu Vettese.
[caption id="attachment_26495" align="alignright" width="150"] Laren Stadelman, Women for Nature Member[/caption]
Sharolyn (S): A few years ago, you successfully nurtured a Monarch butterfly from egg to adulthood. What was that like?
Laren (L): It was exciting, and I got more out of it than I expected. I had grown up with Monarchs at the cottage, and they were quite plentiful when I was young. I’d been seeing fewer and fewer of them so when I read an article about raising Monarchs, I decided to give it a try. I got to see firsthand all the stages of metamorphosis from egg to butterfly and it was really quite fascinating.
S: Were you surprised by the experience?
L: Yes. I was surprised by how quickly caterpillars grow and much they eat. Over the course of about two weeks, my caterpillar grew from the size of an eyelash to the size of your little finger. Caterpillars only eat milkweed and after the first few days, mine was eating about 2-3 milkweed leaves every day.
S: Wow! That means even one insect needs a large habitat. Then, one caterpillar needs a cluster of milkweed plants to provide enough food since it will eat at least 30 leaves.
L: Yes. You can see why the availability of milkweed is so important for the Monarchs.
S: Did you see your caterpillar get to the chrysalis stage?
L: Yes, she did. I had never seen a chrysalis before and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was - emerald green with tiny golden dots. It looked like a tiny piece of jewellery.
[caption id="attachment_32746" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Photo of a Monarch caterpillar[/caption]
S: How did you know when the butterfly would emerge? Did you see it?
L: I had read that butterflies usually emerge in the morning and that proved to be the case. I knew it was going to happen soon when the chrysalis changed from green to and orange to black and I could see the shape of the butterfly inside. Gradually the chrysalis split open and the butterfly emerged. It was amazing to watch!
S: I guess they emerge in the morning so that they have the best chance to find flowers for their first meal.
L: Yes, that would make sense. I let mine go in that afternoon in a field with plenty of wildflowers. Because she was born in late summer I knew she would be migrating all the way to Mexico - a long journey for a small creature. It was hard to say goodbye.
S: You’ve called your Monarch ‘Charlotte’. Was that from Charlotte’s Web, the spider story?
L: No. I called her Charlotte after a dog I met in British Columbia.
S: What was the connection between a dog and a Monarch butterfly?
L: Charlotte was a small dog who got picked up by an eagle and carried away. Her owners thought for sure she was gone, but a few days later, she returned. I wanted my Monarch to be a survivor, just like Charlotte.
S: How did you know she was a female?
L: I didn’t know for sure until she emerged. Male Monarchs have a telltale black dot on their hind wings; Charlotte didn’t.
S: How long did the whole process take?
L: From egg to butterfly was about 5 weeks. I found plenty of good information about raising Monarchs on the internet and I should mention that if anyone is considering it, they would be wise to check first with their local wildlife authorities. Ontario has regulations for raising wildlife, and the other provinces may have them, too.
[caption id="attachment_32745" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Photo of a Monarch chrysalis[/caption]
S: Was it after you released Charlotte that you decided to go to Mexico to see the Monarchs’ winter habitat at the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa?
L: Yes. Looking after Charlotte for 5 weeks, I developed a very strong interest in her well-being and I was curious to see where she would spend the winter. I went there this past February. I like to believe I saw some of her great-great-great-grandchildren.
S: What was that like seeing the Monarchs in Mexico?
L: It was magical - just magical! I was lucky enough to visit on a sunny day when the butterflies were quite active. At first, there were only a few, but the numbers increased as we got closer to the top of the mountain at the overwintering site. At the site itself, the trees were weighted down with huge clusters of butterflies and there were hundreds of butterflies flying everywhere. The most magical part of the experience was that if you were really quiet, you could hear the fluttering of their wings!
[caption id="attachment_32757" align="aligncenter" width="365"] Charlotte emerging from the chrysalis. Photo from Laren Stadelman[/caption]
S: It sounds like gently rustling grass. I remember that sound from when I was there. Which sanctuary did you go to?
L: I visited the El Rosario Sanctuary. It is high up in the mountains northwest of Mexico City, and home to one of the 14 Monarch butterfly overwintering colonies. It lies within Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site.
S: We went to El Rosario, too. Are the farmers still cutting the trees? We saw farmers with donkeys around the sanctuary burdened with chopped wood, and small trucks hauling trunks of trees.
L: Not that I saw. I found that the people in Angangueo, the town where I stayed, seemed very aware of the Monarchs. They told me that local communities have a butterfly festival every February that celebrates the Monarchs.S: What did you take away from the Monarch Butterfly’s migration from birth in Canada to overwinter in Mexico?
L: Getting to know Monarch butterflies has heightened my awareness of the challenges they face as a species. I now have a much greater appreciation of the milkweed plant as a food source for the caterpillars, and the need to protect the oyamel forests in the mountains where they spend the winter. In December of 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) up-listed the Monarch from ‘Special Concern’ to ‘Endangered’. Hopefully this will lead to greater conservation efforts going forward.
[caption id="attachment_32762" align="aligncenter" width="365"] Monarch Butterflies on trees in Mexico. Photo by Laren Stadelman[/caption]
S: How do you incorporate Nature in your everyday life?
L: I believe that the more time we spend in Nature, the more we appreciate it; and the more we appreciate it, the more we recognize the need to protect and steward it wisely.
S: What does being a Woman for Nature mean to you?
L: I find it a very interesting group and I am excited by the variety and potential impact of the initiatives that we have under development. I’ve been involved in two – one related to mentoring young leaders and one focused on promoting dialogue about the importance of biodiversity. It’s been a real pleasure to meet other like-minded women and I think that collectively we can accomplish a lot.
S: Thank you, Laren.
L: Thank you, Sharolyn.
Get to know Women for Nature member Nora Livingstone
[caption id="attachment_21100" align="alignleft" width="150"] Sandy Sharkey - Photographer and Women for Nature member[/caption]
Featuring Women for Nature member Nora Livingstone. Written by fellow Women for Nature member Sandy Sharkey.
From a young age, our newest member of 'Women for Nature' had a deep love for animals. Nora Livingstone also knew she wanted to help animals in need. Working as a volunteer at the Toronto Wildlife Rescue Centre, Nora's passion for saving animals would eventually become a global initiative. Throughout her travels around the world, Nora discovered that conservation and animal welfare programs had something in common: a deep desire to save animals, and a need for volunteers to contribute to the work.
In 2012 Nora co-founded Animal Experience International, an exciting global organization matching animal programs with like-minded volunteers.
[caption id="attachment_31902" align="alignright" width="150"] Nora Livingstone, Women for Nature member[/caption]
Before a new volunteer experience is added to AEI's programs (there are 25 in total), Nora gets her hands dirty and signs on as the first volunteer. From tagging leatherback turtles in Costa Rica to studying the world's rarest horse in the mountains of Mongolia, Nora's firsthand enthusiasm encourages people of all ages to travel and engage in a truly rewarding, compassionate experience helping animals in need.
Although equally at home protecting orangutans in Indonesia, Nora has never forgotten her roots as a volunteer coordinator at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. It was here that Nora became fast friends with Julia Coey, a kindred spirit, passionate animal lover and writer. In 2015 Julia wrote a book for kids aged 9 to 12 called 'Animal Hospital', a how-to guide for treating, handling and reporting injured, orphaned and neglected wildlife.
Sadly, Julia Coey passed away recently. Nora Livingstone wants to honour her friend in the best possible way: to donate Julia's book 'Animal Hospital' to as many educators and libraries as possible.
I recently had the chance to talk to Nora about this initiative. Here are some excerpts from our chat.
Nora, what was it about Julia that first made you realize, 'yeah.....I want to be friends with this woman'?
Julia had been working at TWC for a few months when all of us office staff decided we should tidy up the office. There was a computer server battery on top of a table that I didn't notice and reached over to pick up some papers. I was wearing some metal bangles and when they made + and - contact I actually got electrified! There was a big spark and while I was fine the whole time, I was shocked (intentional pun for Julia). I was sure I would be fine but Julia insisted she drive me to a doctor. After I was checked out she also insisted I get a milkshake, because hey! I was just in a workplace accident and then needed to go to the doctor! We sat in a booth in North York and drank milkshakes. She then asked if I wanted her to do reiki on my arm. I told her, why not and she got to work. While staring at my wrist and holding my hand I kept on drinking my milkshake. She was pretty intensely staring when her concentration was broken, a young child had walked into the diner and said "Are those girls going to kiss? Cause I think that's fine." We both burst out in laughter and Julia remarked how we did look like we were in an Archie comic. We then talked the whole ride home about LGBTQ rights and how this kid was the future, someone who thought mid-afternoon dates in diners was just fine.
Working with Julia at the Toronto Wildlife Centre, was there one wildlife rescue story that stood out from the others? The most poignant? The most comical?
Toronto Wildlife Centre is such a special place. It's filled with some remarkable people who's dedication and passion is constantly inspiring. The rescue staff, in particular have stories that will make your jaw drop, your heart sing and your belly hurt from laughter. From literally thawing out swans who were frozen into Lake Ontario, to responding to oil spills in Toronto's many rivers, to climbing trees and untangling raccoons from kite strings, they are the guardians our urban wildlife need. I think it’s best though to let Julia do the talking on this one, in her book there are some stories that show off TWC's epic and heartwarming rescues (and releases). She adored the staff at TWC and was so proud to be friends with these superheroines and superheroes.
[caption id="attachment_31901" align="aligncenter" width="455"] Julia Coey with 'Animal Hospital'[/caption]
Did you and Julia travel together for Animal Experience International?
Unfortunately, we never got time. When she wrote her book she wanted to add an international wildlife rehabilitation element to it and I was able to put her in touch with some of my friends and partners of AEI. They, of course, loved Julia and she was able to add their stories to the book. She was very thoughtful and wanted to make sure it wasn't just Canadian animals that were talked about and have readers know there were lots of people around the world helping conserve and protect animals.
Dr Jane Goodall, David Suzuki, Farley Mowat and many others became renowned advocates for compassion towards animals and nature. Who was Julia's mentor?
Julia absolutely loved wildlife and animals but I would say that she was just as proud of being a feminist. She looked up to strong, now so-called 'Nasty Women' and those who didn't take any guff. Julia was a kind woman who saw joy and beauty in many things most of us just see as ordinary, like squirrels, tea towels and tattered book shops. The people and characters who helped all us see the beauty and importance in life also helped Julia follow her passion, in her pantheon of inspiration you would find to name a few: Margaret Atwood, Satsuki Kusakabi, and David Bowie.
[caption id="attachment_31900" align="alignleft" width="224"] Julia Coey and Nora Livingstone[/caption]
Before she passed away, Julia was thrilled that you had become a member of 'Women for Nature'. Together you and Julia had a deep connection out of respect for animals and the living world. As a member of 'Women For Nature', you have chosen to use your voice to honour your friend Julia. Tell us about it.
Julia was one of my biggest fans and I was one of hers. I couldn't have been prouder when Animal Hospital came out. I bought 5 copies because you can never have too many copies of a wonderful book! Julia's passing is devastating and trying to navigate the non-linear path grief takes has been in a word: difficult. I wanted to make sure in all of the tragedies of Julia's death, one would not be that her voice is silenced. I wanted to make sure as many people could read and share her book, as possible. So I wrote on a few message boards that if a teacher, library, animal or conservation group wanted her book, I would order them one for free! Amazingly, I started getting responses from teachers, conservation areas, wildlife sanctuaries, community groups and libraries. I have been able to share Julia with 81 different people who have emailed me and that has been just beautiful.
Julia wrote the book 'Animal Hospital' for young adults. What is Julia's message for the youth of today?
Julia sincerely wanted everyone to see they could make a difference. Julia always loved animals but didn't think she would be able to work with them. She was a writer and a storyteller and an editor of editors. Being so close to animals and being able to tell their stories (and their wacky facts) was a dream come true that maybe she didn't even know she had until after it came true. Being able to work in the same place as people who rescue and rehabilitate foxes, snowy owls, grebes and beavers, she loved going to work and learning everything she could. I think she wanted to tell everyone out there that they could live their dreams, too, even if they don't know what their dreams are yet. She would want people to know the world is beautiful and weird and interesting and important and worth protecting. She would want it to sound more edgy, though.
Thank you so much Nora, you are a true inspiration. Congratulations on your success with 'Animal Experience International' and welcome to 'Women for Nature'! In honour of your dear friend Julia Coey, let's see if we can spread the word and get her book 'Animal Hospital' into as many classrooms and libraries as we can. How do people get a copy of the book?
If people want to get a copy of Julia's book in their classroom, library or community group they just have to email me, email@example.com. I will order them a copy!
Interview with Women for Nature Member Dawn Carr
Featuring Women for Nature member Dawn Carr, Executive Director, Canadian Parks Council. Written by Women for Nature member Rachelle Hansen.
[caption id="attachment_24758" align="alignleft" width="150"] Dawn Carr, Women for Nature member[/caption]
Connecting kids with nature is very important to Dawn. Many of us remember that first experience in our childhood of going for a walk in the forest, following a stream, or picnicking in the park. You will see how life stepped in to connect Dawn to nature and thus fanned her deep desire to share and protect it. Her life’s work has been to provide opportunities for others to grow to love our natural environment.
Dawn grew up in Port Credit, Ontario in a suburban-based area. As fate would have it, a guidance counsellor suggested she apply for the Ontario Junior Ranger Program. For over 70 years, the program provided opportunities for ~78,000 youths to connect with nature, frequently working in provincial parks. Duties included trail clearing, building fish spawning beds, constructing and maintaining public latrines on hiking trails, amongst other things. Dawn said, why not? If that does not work out, she would be a lifeguard at Ontario Place. Low and behold her name was literally pulled out of a hat for the Junior Ranger Program. The summer of 1993 in Killbear Provincial Park changed the course of Dawn’s life. With the support of a maintenance person, she returned to the park the following summers to work. She chose her university programs based on the working in the park. First, Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies followed by Public Administration, Environmental Policy and Community Development. Dawn’s grad work took her to Alberta. Her path was set because of that life-changing chance to learn, work and appreciate the beauty of Killbear. How can others like her be given that opportunity? This is what drives Dawn.
[caption id="attachment_31713" align="aligncenter" width="377"] Photo of Dawn Carr[/caption]
What was your favourite animal or toy?
Since childhood, I always had a family dog. Today, Atticus Finch or Mr. Finch, a black labradoodle, is my trusted advisor. He is at my side in my home office, providing wisdom. Dogs have a unique perspective to ground you.
What are your hobbies?
I have two young children. Maddie, my daughter is ten and Wesley my son, is eight. Right now, my hobbies revolve around my family’s interests. We spend our summers on Georgian Bay, where my husband and I met 20 years ago. As a family, we spend time outside and in the water.
I actually took a snowboarding lesson recently to support Maddie’s interest. I pushed myself to experience something new because of her, albeit with bumps and bruises! Maddie is also fascinated with mythical creatures and believes in dragons. Maddie tells me “Only kids have the ability to see and connect with dragons. Adults lose that.” We will see where this interest takes us!
What TV or films would you be watching, or what books would you be reading, if you weren’t so busy?
If I wasn’t so busy, I would be spending more time with friends and family outside of work. As a family, we are watching the Cosmos series on Netflix. As for books, I am all over the map. For ten years, I have been part of a nine-member book club. In September, each of us comes to the table with two books we must pitch and they are voted on. Over the years, I have read many books across all genres.
What do you MOST want to be remembered for/or achieve in life?
All of us have different roles to play in life. I am on this path of working for nature. I have had different roles and contributed in different ways. I make decisions based on what “feels right” and based on what opportunities come my way. I hope people can look back and know that if you work hard, and make small and large decisions every day, accumulatively you can change the world. Focus on a purpose. For me, it was recognizing the importance of nature, our ability to connect and make a difference for the betterment of our planet. Everyone has the ability and capability to make a difference, especially kids. As the current Chair of The Child and Nature Alliance, I believe that all children and youth should have the opportunity to play and learn freely outside in forests, parks, meadows and mud puddles. Sometimes parents can be too risk adverse and time spent outside is a great way for children to develop important skills and to know they’re trusted and capable.
What inspired you to become a Woman for Nature?
First off, how fun is it to connect with other women? It is exciting to contribute to a movement with other like-minded women who are working to connect Canadians with nature in their own unique way. Women are incredible collaborators and I believe there is a lot we can to together to create meaningful change. This is the only way to succeed no matter what the endeavour. Women in this field have such strength, passion and knowledge. The depth of wisdom across the generations and cultures is impressive. This past year has been incredible for me.
Who were your mentors and what books have inspired you?
Dr. Paul Eagles, a professor in the Parks, Recreation and Leisure program was a mentor in my early days at the University of Waterloo. One of my mentors now is a young woman in her mid-20’s, Chloe Dragon-Smith. Chloe’s approach to environmental protection has named her as an emerging leader in changing parks in Canada. I have learned so much from Chloe.
[caption id="attachment_31715" align="aligncenter" width="377"] Photo of Dawn Carr and Chloe Dragon-Smith[/caption]
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv really inspired me and had a big impact. As a child, I remember reading Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson about this magical world created in the forest. It was an emotional read and I have a vivid memory of the important role that nature played in supporting friendship.
Have any specific events or transformative experiences-situations/organizations inspired you the most?
The Ontario Junior Park Ranger experience inspires me to this day, that kids can connect to nature given the chance. Working with a group of Canadians from across the country to develop The Nature Playbook has also been incredible. This book, which supports the global #NatureForAll movement, inspires action. Chloe Dragon-Smith was the Co-Chair for the book with an inclusive working group (gender, cultures and intergenerational). I am thrilled the book is going global! And creating the Women for Nature grant to empower Young Nature leaders to use the learning in the book is exciting too.
What advice would you give to future Women for Nature leaders?
The advice I would give based on my own experiences is to be open to different perspectives from different ages and cultures. Put yourself in those “uncomfortable” places. So much insight comes from those experiences. You get so much out of them. So broaden the tent!
What are some reflections on leadership lessons that you have learned and would like to pass on?
Learn to trust yourself, listen to your instincts and take calculated risks. This happens more and more over time. When I was younger, I would constantly question myself. Now I listen closely to my instincts and interests, which cause me to move in new directions. In doing this, I landed my dream job and I continue to be amazed at where my own connection to nature takes me. I really love what I am doing!
[callout title="Young Nature Leadership Grant" button="Apply Today" link="http://naturecanada.ca/initiatives/women-for-nature/" buttoncolor="red" ]If you are a youth under 30 who cares deeply about nature and wants to inspire and engage your peers to get outdoors, learn about wildlife and parks and become a voice for nature, please apply for the Women for Nature Young Nature Leaders grant today![/callout]