Martin Kastner, of Montreal, was selected to take part in Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Canada’s New Noah Program 2013-2014. He introduces himself here.
Thanks to my parents’ inspired if unconventional decision to reject television ownership, much of my childhood was spent outside where, along with my sister, I investigated the alleyways of our neighbourhood. I wholeheartedly took to this lifestyle of exploration, and, as my friends can attest, I have to this day an aversion to any length of time spent indoors. The remainder of my time was spent with my head in a book, learning about the members of the animal kingdom that could not be found in downtown Montreal.
My undergraduate biology program had a generous offering of lab and field courses, and I engaged in these enthusiastically. At McGill’s campus in Barbados, I spent three glorious weeks learning applied tropical ecology. As a member of the Canadian Field Studies in Africa program I spent several months variously chasing or being chased by a diversity of wildlife species. I also learned to conduct social and biological research and, most importantly, began to grasp the links between development, health and the environment. These experiences allowed me not so much to step out of my comfort zone, but rather to broaden it considerably.
After graduation, aiming to bolster my prospects for a career in conservation, I supplemented my degree with courses in GIS and biostatistics at Concordia University. I then spent several months as an intern with a locally-run sea turtle conservation project in a remote village on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Acting as an intermediary between the local staff and the mostly foreign volunteers, I balanced nightly patrols searching for nesting leatherbacks with capacity-building and coordination duties during the day. I continue to be humbled by the risks faced and sacrifices made by the members of that organization in their continuing effort to save a remarkable species.
Informed by a trip volunteering on an invasive-species control project in the Galapagos Islands, I have come to believe that a critical aspect of endangered species-recovery work in the future will involve the restoration of disturbed habitats. I have spent the past three years researching meadow restoration as part of a Master’s degree at the University of Waterloo. I also spent time studying the socio-ecological impacts of a variety of wildlife reintroduction projects, notably that of elk in Ontario. My department’s strong emphasis on interdisciplinary and cutting edge sustainability theories has enriched my understanding of modern environmental issues. Excited as always at the opportunity to work with wildlife, last summer I took a hiatus from thesis writing to monitor prairie dogs and recently-reintroduced black-footed ferrets in Grasslands National Park with the Calgary Zoo’s Centre for Conservation Research. It was fascinating to see so many of the theories I had learned about throughout my education applied in practice.
I am incredibly thrilled at having been chosen as Canada’s 25th New Noah. What a privilege to be given the opportunity to learn about my favourite topics from some of the greatest experts in the field, and on a beautiful tropical island to boot! Acknowledging that I will be representing not only myself, but all the other qualified individuals who applied as well, I am highly motivated to make the most of this award.