An American bumble bee and yellow bumble bee, found in Alderville, ON. Photo: Hayley Tompkins

by Hayley Tompkins, 2017 Field Biologist, Bumble Bee Recovery

When I first started university, I wanted to be a teacher. In fact, I never imagined myself as anything but a teacher. I certainly didn’t think that I’d end up in the field of wildlife conservation, let alone working with bumble bees! I think that’s the case for most people, though. You go to school for something you are interested in, but along the way you have so many new and amazing experiences, that by the end of it all you figure out where you’re meant to be. And for me, that meant starting a career in conservation.

Deciding what I wanted to do was the easy part; the tough part was getting there. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Geography with a minor in GIS and Environmental Analysis from the University of Guelph, and am also a graduate of Seneca College’s Environmental Technician – Sampling and Monitoring program. I was fortunate enough to be employed in a position related to my education after I graduated, but it wasn’t the dream job I wanted. For many young conservationists, it’s extremely difficult finding opportunities at the start of our careers. Even after completing a degree or diploma (or both in my case), it’s tough to find that great first job. But all you need to start your career is one opportunity, and just one person willing to give you a chance. For myself, that opportunity was because of a leadership development position sponsored by LoyaltyOne, and because the Lead Biologist of the Native Pollinator Initiative decided to take a chance on me.

Northern amber bumble bee on spotted knapweed. Photo: Hayley Tompkins

During eight months of the 2017 field season, I was employed as the Field Biologist for the Native Pollinator Initiative’s Bumble Bee Recovery Program. Working for Wildlife Preservation Canada was more than just a job for me – it was a unique and rewarding experience, one I will not soon forget. I’ve explored areas of Ontario I’d never been to, carrying out research on declining bumble bees. I even became a mom for the first time – a “bee mom” that is! I’ve learned what it means to collaborate with other scientists, volunteers, and citizen scientists, and the role education and outreach plays in saving at-risk species. Most importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself – my strengths and weaknesses, what I am passionate about, and what I want to do in my future career.