Some people might think that it is strange, but I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a house without cable television. My parents encouraged my brother and me to play outdoors, look at insects and listen to birds. My childhood experiences in the Okanagan definitely spurred my love of nature and, in my teens, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved being outdoors and conserving our "Beautiful B.C."
Having earned an environmental studies degree at the University of Victoria, I am now completing my fish wildlife and recreation diploma at BCIT. I spent this past summer as a conservation crew member for The Nature Trust of British Columbia (TNTBC) for 15 weeks, where I worked with a team of very knowledgeable scientists and conservationists.
The experience was extremely rewarding and contributed to my passion for the ocean, rivers, fish and recreational areas. I learned about invasive species identification and management of wetland areas, and I was able to develop my training in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) using new technology to create an invasive species database.
Much of my time was spent walking around properties to observe and record plants. The most challenging exercise was bushwhacking through properties that are typically visited only once a year, such as Surrey Bend and Gunboat Bay on the Sunshine Coast. This involved carrying tools, an iPad, water and a camera while fighting through spider webs, swatting mosquitoes, trekking in swamps and trying to avoid stinging nettle.
A large part of our day-to-day work also involved removing invasive species. English holly, Himalayan blackberry, Japanese knotweed and yellow flag-iris were the main culprits we dealt with. Invasive species grow more rapidly than native vegetation, altering the habitat quality for wildlife.It is our job to keep them at bay so native vegetation can establish itself and maintain the local ecosystem.
We battled prickly English holly at our Wells Sanctuary property using loppers and saws to cut the plant down at the base. We encountered well established Himalayan blackberry patches on many properties, and would reluctantly put on long sleeved shirts in the 30-degree heat and charge into dense thickets of thorn ridden vines and branches using loppers and shovels to tackle the base of the plants.
With any luck the shaded and damaged roots will not survive and native herbs and shrubs like salmonberry, which also has delicious fruit, can replace them. It was a character-building experience, but I was happy to be in the present moment -- fully aware of my surroundings -- in the wonderful setting of each Nature Trust property.
One of the most important lessons I learned from my experience as a conservation crew member at TNTBC was recognizing the need for heightened environmental awareness in our community. Some of the properties we worked on were littered with garbage by people who enjoyed the land for recreational activities or used the open sites as a landfill. It was sad to see beautiful areas left in this condition. We spent significant time and effort cleaning this up.
British Columbians need to be inspired to be environmentally friendly in their daily lives. People need to learn how to contribute to conservation through everyday activities, such as recycling or composting or donating to a land conservation charity like The Nature Trust of B.C. And we need to consume less and leave a smaller footprint as many in our community do not understand the resources required to support our high standard of living.
For change to happen, I believe people first need to connect more with nature -- for example, go outside for a walk -- or simply spend more time in the natural world. This is not difficult in B.C., and it would definitely help to motivate our neighbours to preserve our environment. We need to feel like we are part of nature rather than just visitors to create a stronger consciousness. If we can realize how our actions can negatively impact our larger home, then we will be more inclined to change our behaviour to make our habitat a sustainable place to live.
Large scale change begins with small steps. The importance of environmental conservation must be communicated to our children -- our hope for tomorrow -- so we can equip them with the tools they need to create a sustainable world.
I want my kids to experience the same kind of joy from nature that I had as a child and have the opportunity to work on a conservation crew at TNTBC. Having traveled the world, I feel B.C. is home to some of the most diverse natural environments on the globe. I am willing to do whatever I can to preserve it. Are you?
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