After waiting patiently for two years, Stephanie Winton, Canada’s 31st New Noah, is finally on her journey to Mauritius. Stephanie’s first stop is the 3-month long Endangered Species Management course at the Durrell Conservation Academy in Jersey, UK. She will be sending us monthly updates, so stay tuned to our social accounts to follow along.

Before Stephanie left we sat down to chat about what the opportunity means to her. In honour of International Day of Women & Girls in Science on February 11, we wanted to share some of our conversation with Stephanie about her childhood and the path that led her to her career as a scientist.

Stephanie learning about conservation during her undergraduate work in Uganda.

First job conducting frog surveys!

1. When did you first know you wanted to work in science, or with animals?
I have always been interested in science and animals for as long as I can remember, but I probably first considered a career in wildlife conservation after volunteering on a conservation research project during a summer break from university. The project involved long, hard days searching for a threatened frog species in buggy wetlands and all kinds of weather, but I loved it! The volunteer position eventually turned into my first “real” job, and I have been working in conservation ever since.

2. When you were growing up, were there any particular female scientists that you looked up to as role models?
Throughout the years, I’ve looked up to and learned from many inspiring women in my own life. Teachers, professors, fellow students, supervisors, colleagues, and professional mentors have all shown me the amazing things that women can do in science. Early on in my career, I was fortunate to be part of research teams that were led by and composed of mostly women. Not only was it super fun to spend time with them in the field, but it was also very motivating and inspiring to work alongside passionate and dedicated women doing important conservation research.

3. For others looking to work in wildlife conservation, what advice do you have for them?
Given the complex and sensitive nature of the work, wildlife conservation can be difficult and often comes with a lot of frustration and even failures, so it is important to be committed but also adaptable and open to change. Wildlife conservation is also much more than just working with animals or conducting research, so cultivating a broad range of transferrable skills is very helpful.

4. What motivated you to apply for the New Noah opportunity?
Connecting with previous New Noahs and hearing their enthusiasm for the program and stories of their experiences, both during and after, encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring. Much of my experience is in ecological research and I am looking forward to learning more about different facets of conservation and work with people at the forefront of endangered species recovery in other countries.

Stephanie with a massasauga rattlesnake as part of her research.

5. With the progress that has been made in gender equality in the sciences, do you think it’s still important to celebrate female scientists that have paved the way?
Yes, now more than ever it is important not only to celebrate the contributions of pioneering female scientists, but also recognize and value the contributions of other underrepresented or historically excluded groups in science. Women like Jane Goodall and Rachel Carson challenged the status quo and changed our perspectives. Indigenous people around the world have been protecting and caring for the environment for generations and scholars like Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer are sharing wisdom and knowledge. Youth are making their voices heard for the future of the planet. This is why we need to encourage and uplift young scientists and those paving the way in new or different directions today so we can learn and improve.

6. What are the top 3 animals you are most excited to see in Mauritius?
There’s no way I can narrow it down to only three! As a rattlesnake biologist, I have a keen interest in reptiles so I’m looking forward to seeing and learning about conservation activities taking place with different reptile species like giant tortoises, geckos, sinks, and, fingers crossed, the round island boa. I’m also very interested in seeing some of the flagship bird species that have recovered from the brink of extinction like the Mauritius kestrel, echo parakeet, and pink pigeon.

7. What are a few essentials that you are bringing with you as necessities in the field?
A really big hat!

Stephanie is setting off for her big adventure with this big smile on her face.

Follow Stephanie’s journey as Canada’s New Noah.

Check back often for new blog updates. In the meantime, check out the other great work being done by WPC to save some of Canada’s most endangered species.