It’s December 13th, which marks the end of my contract with Wildlife Preservation Canada. I had the privilege of covering Andrea Geilens’ maternity leave. When I started back in November 2018, I had big shoes to fill, and I look back on the many things I learned while following in her footsteps. 

During my time working with the Fraser Valley Wetland and Taylor’s Checkerspot recovery programs, I have:

  • Given super fun native species conservation presentations to elementary school children (one of which answered the question “give me an example of an amphibian,” with “a cat!”) and high school children (who were too cool to answer any of my questions).
  • Been stressed, excited and mosquito bitten (sometimes all at once).
  • Cultivated our Endangered species technician’s, Michelle, up and coming conservation career with detailed and precise training and guidance like: How many crickets do I feed the frogs? You know, some. And, Will animal/thing/event be OK if we do this? Yeeeeah, shoooooould be fine.
  • Wondered if it would be appropriate to interrupt Andrea’s maternity leave and ask that she come in to kill a giant spider in our conservation shed (I mean, she did say “call if you need anything”).
  • Been discouraged from bragging about B.C. winters to other WPC staff who live in more winterly provinces (It’s a WET cold in B.C., OK!)

But most of all, this year I have felt supported.

Thank you Jessica. I’ve felt as supported as these caterpillars you’re carrying for release.

This job was slightly above my skillset when I started, but it was the perfect learning opportunity for me and I really felt that WPC was with me every step of the way. Without the help of WPC and our many other partners (shout out to Greater Vancouver Zoo, Precious frogs, Coastal painted turtle project and many more) I really would have been running all three of the programs alone.

The shoes I had to fill while Andrea was gone weren’t just big. They were gold plated, rocket, rainbow jetpack shoes that spontaneously produce puppies. And they weren’t going to fit, no matter how many pairs of thick socks I put on. 

There have been many times this year where I have been asked something that Andrea could have easily answered – with background information at the beginning, the answer in the middle, and a funny joke at the end – but all I could say was “huh?” But through all of it – my knowledge gaps, my tendency to dive head first into things – all of my coworkers have been patient and kind. I have learned so much. Things that were scary last year, would be much easier for me now.

I can only hope I’ve contributed to WPC as much as they have contributed to my personal and professional growth. And I hope I’ll have the chance to work with the animals again some day.

But for now it’s thank you and good-bye. Until next time ;

-Maja Hampson

Could you imagine if these were real? There would be so many puppies at work.