Growing up just outside Winnipeg, Manitoba, animals and the outdoors have always been a huge part of my life. In keeping with this fascination, I chose to study biology at university where I was drawn to courses in animal behaviour, ecology, and conservation. I completed co-op positions with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Environment Canada where I researched biological control methods for agricultural pests, genetic diversity in livestock breeds, and regulation of toxic chemicals in the environment. I also volunteered with a wildlife rehabilitation centre and a vet clinic, and applied my interest in animal behaviour by fostering dogs for a rescue organisation. In 2008, I graduated with a B.Sc. in Animal Biology from the University of British Columbia and a growing interest in wildlife and environmental issues.
After graduation, I worked as a field technician with the Calgary Zoo Centre for Conservation Research on a project studying the population dynamics of black-tailed prairie dogs in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. I returned in 2009, where as well as working on the prairie dog study, I took opportunities to volunteer with many other projects going on in the park. Since prairie dogs are a keystone species in the Grasslands, I really enjoyed gaining greater understanding of other species which they impact. In October, 2009 the black-footed ferret was reintroduced after more than 70 years of extirpation. I was thrilled to be a member of a release team, and to release a ferret back into its natural habitat. Ferrets prey almost exclusively on prairie dogs, making understanding prairie dog populations very important, and it was fitting to see how science could be applied to restoring balance in the ecosystem. I returned to help with the pilot ferret monitoring effort, and am so pleased that the population continues to thrive!
I love being in the field, and this has led me to a diverse array of experiences from surveying for northern leopard frogs and greater short-horned lizards and mist-netting saw-whet owls to live-trapping Richardson’s ground squirrels, taking blood samples from bison, and even collecting behavioural data on a troop of chacma baboons in South Africa (I love to travel too)! I also pursued my interest in behaviour by working as a behavioural ecology research assistant at the University of Manitoba, and as a canine behaviour counsellor at the Winnipeg Humane Society. Most recently, I completed an internship at the Zoological Society of London where I worked on the Living Planet Index – a tool that uses vertebrate population trends to track changes in global biodiversity.
I am enormously honoured to be chosen as Canada’s New Noah for 2011 – it’s really a dream come true! Upon my return to Canada, I hope to combine all that I learn from this experience with my dual passions for conservation biology and animal behaviour. I would like to pursue further studies in how these two fields can be combined to improve the conservation, captive breeding, reintroduction, and management of endangered species in Canada. In the meantime, though, I can’t wait to share the adventure with everyone!
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