British Columbia: Conservation in Action

Submitted by Content on Thu, 2006/12/14 - 3:06pm.
Blair Reilly
Regional Investigator
Alberta Environment
Brenda Boye de Perez
Park Worker
Greater Vancouver Regional District
Tawnya Hewitt
National Park Warden
Banff National Park
Laura Sampson
Baja California Sur, Mexico
Cameron Stooshnoff
Hydrology Technician
Jean Wai Jang
Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network
Robyn Worcester
Urban Wildlife Coordinator
Stanley Park Ecology Society
Tyler Ross
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Andrew Appleton
Restoration Ecologist

Blair Reilly

My name is Blair Reilly and I was born and raised in Powell River, B.C. I graduated from BCIT in 2004 with my Fish, Wildlife and Recreation diploma. Since then I have moved across the Rockies to Alberta for the “Alberta Advantage.”

I am currently living in Spruce Grove just outside of Edmonton however in the past three years I’ve been moving around from Hinton to Lethbridge for school and employment.

After I graduated from BCIT I was able to take a job with Alberta Parks as a Conservation Officer. After one summer I decided that I should probably go back to school and get my degree. I attended Lethbridge Community College and obtained my Bachelor of Conservation Enforcement. During the summers I would go back to Parks and work as a Conservation Officer. In the January of 2006 I was offered a full-time position with Alberta Environment as a Regional Investigator. When I received the Investigator position I was honoured to be the youngest Investigator in all of western Canada. This position usually goes to inspectors who have ten or more years of experience. I successfully won the position with three years experience.

As an Investigator I deal with environmental crime and large-scale investigations. The majority of my work deals with the dumping of hazardous waste, releases of chemicals and products into the environment, and regulating industrial activities.

I enjoy the diversity of the work. One day I could be walking through a huge oil sands facility and the next day dealing with a motor vehicle rollover. My district spreads across the province and I get to see everything from Rockies to flatlands.

If you think you want to work in Conservation Enforcement you are going to have to want it more then anything. You are going to have to sacrifice well-paying summer jobs for no-paying volunteer work and over-educate yourself just to be noticed. Remember, on any competition there will be 1,200 applicants. You have to stand out.

Brenda Boye de Perez

BrendaMy name is Brenda Boye de Perez and I live in Surrey British Columbia. I was born in Brampton, Ontario but at the age of six my family moved to Palm Springs, California where I grew up on a 4 ½ acre estate. This is where my passion for nature started. After high school I came back to Canada to see what it was like and fell in love with the beautiful scenery. I went to CDI College in 1995 where I received a diploma in Computerized Office Administration. The office career that followed was exciting at the time and I climbed the corporate ladder fast. Due to the pressures of my career I was not around when my father died in September of 2000. I had been too busy working twelve hours a day, six days a week at the office that I missed the things that were most important to me: family, friends, nature, and freedom. That was when my eyes opened and I decided to make a change. I was ready for a career that I could love and put my heart into; money was not the ultimate anymore. After much thought I decided that I belonged outside (where I spent any free time I had), in nature, and needed to share the beauty of nature with people.

Before I would be accepted to BCIT I had to upgrade three prerequisites in night school, and became a community volunteer. With Surrey Parks and Recreation I helped out with many of the Environmental Extravaganza Events, Releaf Plantings, and Tree Well Restoration Projects. I helped to set up and supervise the Earth Day and Salmon Homecoming Events. Surrey Parks honored my volunteer work in the Summer ’04 Partners in Parks Newsletter, and again in 2006 with an award. My volunteer work has also been with the Burns Bog Conservation Society and the Central City Community Volunteer Patrol. In 2006 I received the Gold Fledgling Chick award from the Burns Bog Conservation Society for Celebrating Women and the Spirit of the Cranes. With the Green Timbers Heritage Society I became a board member where I coordinated (and still do today) the website, I have also coordinated the annual Green Timbers Arbor Day Celebration since 2001.

In May 2006 I graduated from BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program in Burnaby, B.C. This program has opened the door of a new career for me. During the summer of 2005 I worked as a crew member for the SSNAP team through Surrey Parks, and during the summer of 2006 I worked for the Greater Vancouver Regional District as a Park Worker. I love every day of my job working in parks. The best parts of the job are being outside and making sure people are safe in our parks. It is my hope that I can live a two-tiered life: half here working for the GVRD, and half down south where I want a property for horses and an eco-tourism business.

What has been the most memorable moment or event in your career?

The most memorable event in my new career so far has to be fighting bog fires. There were two instances where I saw smoke and was the first response to the fires during my first year with the GVRD. It’s hard work putting out fires with a backpack sprayer!

The most memorable moment would be after a Releaf Planting for Brownies and Beavers. They sang me a “thank you” song for helping them plant trees and shrubs.

Who or what has been a major inspiration to you?

During my senior year of high school I met a teacher named Philip Ferranti ( One day during class he looked at me and said, “You’re outdoorsy, aren’t you? To which I replied “yes” because up to this point I had had hundreds of pets and spent most of my time horseback riding. He invited me to go hiking with the Coachella Valley Hiking Club, and when I went it opened my eyes to a whole new world. One filled with vibrant colors, clean air, soothing sounds, and serenity. From the very first day I knew that I’d be hiking until the day I die. Philip gave me new life and inspiration at a time when I really needed it.

In your opinion what is the biggest challenge facing the world today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing the world today is making people see that we are all interconnected and interdependent on each other and our planet. There is more to life than money and we have to stop raping and pillaging the Earth. Sure, time brings change to our planet and has since day one but humans are changing the climate at a faster-than-natural rate. I can remember scientists warning about climate change back in the 1980s but they were dismissed. Today it is still happening. How can we possibly think that we can destroy this planet and just get another one?

What kind of collaboration would you like to see between your country and people in other countries?

It would be nice to be able to go anywhere in the world and work or live. My dream is to buy land and I would love to go to Mexico, Central or South America and have an ecotourism business. I would like for governments to support eco-friendly investments in their countries.

What message would you like to pass on to others and particularly young people considering a career in conservation?

When choosing a career you must follow your heart and your dreams. Only when we find the career we love is it worth all the time and energy we put into that career. I can think of no better career to be in than conservation because I am helping to change the world.

Tawnya Hewitt

Tawnya on her horse

My name is Tawnya Hewitt and I am originally from Burnaby, British Columbia. I now live in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, where I work as a National Park Warden. I did an undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University with a minor in biology, and then attended BCIT and took the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation technician diploma program. As part of my coursework at BCIT, I undertook a trail inventory in Gulf Islands National Park on the west coast of B.C. and I met a Park Warden there who encouraged me to apply for the park warden job. I had never really considered that career before. I looked it up on the Internet and the qualifications seemed to match me perfectly.

I love my job because every day is different and I never know what to expect. I also get to work with really great, supportive and knowledgeable people, and I get to be outside in the beautiful Rocky Mountains every day, rather than in a building looking out the window.

Sometimes I feel like I live in a National Geographic video. I get to see such amazing acts ofTawnya on her lunch breaknature. For example, I have seen a cougar take down a deer; I have watched three grizzly bear cubs play with their mom; I have seen a wolf chase cyclists down a road. Seeing Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, and deer are an everyday occurrence where I live. I ride my bike a kilometre to get to the office, and I breathe fresh air every day. It is great.

In my opinion, overpopulation, which brings with it pollution and climate change are some of the big problems in our world today. Karsten Heuer, a park warden, is one person who is making a difference. He started the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative and tried to bring awareness of the sensitive caribou breeding grounds that are slated to be drilled for oil.

People interested in a career in conservation should pursue it. We need as many people out there trying to change the world as possible. Just remember that you need to be persistent, and patient. Mitigating the effects of the damage humans have done on Earth is going to take time but it can be done. Stay positive!

Laura Sampson

My name is Laura Sampson and I am a biologist living in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I am currently enrolled in the Master’s program at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine Science in La Paz, studying the feeding habits of two species of devil ray. These are elasmobranchs, cousins of the giant manta ray; they are plankton feeders and possibly migratory. There is a great lack of information about these species and I am currently working on trying to fill that gap.

Laura SampsonI was born and grew up in Colombia, South America. I completed my undergraduate degree at Concordia University, Montreal in 1999 and acquired some much needed practical skills at BCIT. I graduated from the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program in 2004. I went on to work for Parks Canada and was also involved in several ecology projects with the University of British Columbia. I then decided to pursue what has always been my passion, namely doing research in the field, and I decided to focus on manta rays. My most memorable moment was when I first saw a four-metre-wide manta ray when I was snorkelling alone in Colombia; that was the moment I decided to study marine biology, and if possible, to study these amazing animals.

The work of conservationists like Jacques Cousteau and David Suzuki has been a source of inspiration for me. I believe that educating the public and conservation should go hand-in-hand. One of the biggest challenges facing the world today is the overexploitation of fisheries resources, especially the overfishing of sharks and rays. Elasmobranchs are generally very long-lived species, with a low reproductive rate and late age at maturity. This makes them extremely sensitive to fishing pressure and makes it very hard for populations to recover once they have been overexploited. There are many marine species that migrate between countries in South America and North America; collaboration between the various countries regarding conservation and the study of these species would be very helpful. I encourage anyone who has an interest in a particular species or in marine biology in general to pursue your passions, do what is most interesting to you and never give up on your dreams.

Cameron Stooshnoff

My name is Cameron Stooshnoff. I was born and raised in North Delta B.C., and still reside there. I am a hydrology technician working mainly out of the Lower Mainland (Fraser Valley and Surrounding Area). In my work I mainly do pre-engineering work for Independent Power Projects or “Run of the River” Power Generation Projects. I have also been involved with BC Hydro and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans doing water level monitoring in regards to fisheries studies on the Fraser River. In the winter months my work mainly involves measuring the snow pack in B.C. This involves measuring snow depths and water equivalency or density of the snow pack for use by BC Hydro and the Ministry of Environment. The thing I love most about my job is the opportunity to travel around the province via helicopter. This gives me the opportunity to see places where few or no people have ever been. It gives me a chance to see my beautiful province from a whole new perspective.

Educational Background

I was a graduate of the Natural Resource Forestry program in 2003, and continued on with the Natural Resources Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program in 2004.

Most Memorable Moment

I would say that the most memorable moment in my career would be coming face-to-face with a beautiful cougar up in Sloquet Valley. We had a staring contest — and I won, thank goodness for that. Also graduating with two technical diplomas from BCIT is up there, and I look forward to furthering my educational background in the near future.

Major Inspiration

My major inspiration came from a family friend who worked with for the Ministry of Forests in Likely, B.C. Lindsay Scott showed me what it’s like to have an outdoors job where I can enjoy my surroundings without hearing a copy machine in the background. Also Danny Catt furthered my interest in parks work with his great stories and amazing photos, and to this day I would still like to become a Park Ranger working for B.C. Parks or Parks Canada.

Biggest Challenge

The biggest challenge facing the world today isn’t global warming or climate change, it’s that people don’t know enough about the places they live in. Even though some people live in a super city, there are still areas of environmental significance right on their doorstep. We need to educate the people around us and around the world of their surroundings so that they know how sensitive these areas are to pollution, carelessness, and development, and that they can make a difference.

Conservation Message

A career in conservation isn’t just a job to collect a pay cheque; it ensures future generations have something to enjoy. It has more benefits than just dollar figures. It will give you a chance to travel, to see things most other people would dream of seeing, and most of all it will give you a chance to do something for the place you live in to make it BETTER.

Jean Wai Jang

Jean Wai JangMy name is Jean Wai Jang. I was born and raised in Vancouver where I currently live. I’m working for the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network through the Canada Wildlife Service compiling nominations for areas that are important to amphibians and reptiles. You can learn more about nominating an area in Canada by checking out the CARCNET website: Another project I’ve just started is with Environment Canada’s Pacific Region Contaminants Atlas. I’m reviewing publications pertaining to environmental contaminants dealing with a wide spectrum of media: birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, atmosphere, water sediment, soil, and vegetation. The final product is a database/area atlas showing the scientific studies that have been conducted and will be accessible to the general public.

With a diploma in Fish, Wildlife and Recreation from BCIT and a degree in Environmental Science from Royal Roads University, there are plenty of employment opportunities available to me. For the past ten years I’ve been working in the Yukon Territory with Chinook salmon habitat enhancement and wildlife projects focusing on building capacity in rural communities in the north. I was recently granted the first President’s Global Externship Field Studies Award from Royal Roads which allowed me to conduct research on olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) in Costa Rica. You can view a photo journal of this project at:

Throughout my career, there have been countless “I love my job” moments. Waking up to the rumbling herds of caribou, drifting for weeks on a boat and looking for wildlife, watching hummingbirds hatch and feed for their first time, watching bear cubs play and then tracing their paw prints afterwards, being surrounded by sea turtles laying eggs to observing rattlesnake at their dens. It’s nearly impossible to pick the most precious moment of them all.

My inspiration is the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Sea turtles have roamed the earth for over ninety million years; the leatherback turtle has essentially remained unchanged. It is capable of diving deeper than 1,200 m and the largest one found weighed 916 kg. But six out of the seven species of sea turtles are endangered. Sea turtles face many threats such as nesting habitat loss, marine pollution, and offshore development activity.

I would love to see more collaborative efforts between Canada and other countries protecting habitat on a large-scale basis. If you have a love for nature and animals, enjoy being outdoors and have an interest in environmental conservation, I would highly suggest following your dreams and pursue the career you’ve always wanted.

Robyn Worcester

My name is Robyn Worcester and I was born and raised in Vancouver where I live now. I recently started a full-time position with the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) after having worked and volunteered there seasonally over the last couple of years. I am the Urban Wildlife Coordinator, and run the Coexisting with Coyotes program as well as the Stanley Park Heron Colony Monitoring Program, Urban Bald Eagle Nest Monitoring Program, and monthly bird monitoring programs.

I started out studying Art History at Langara College but soon found the BCIT Fish, Wildlife and Recreation (FWR) program, which changed my life. I also graduated from SFU in 2006 with a degree in Ecology. My previous experience working with animals and with people helped me get my job at SPES. Ever since my first summer as a BCIT student I have found work that has helped me in this field. I have worked at the Wildlife Rescue Association, as a field technician on sandpiper research, with the City of Surrey SSNAP program, with the Greater Vancouver Regional District as a Park Interpreter, and with SPES as an Eco Ranger volunteer coordinator.

I have always been interested in animals and ecology even though I didn’t always realize it. When I went to Europe to study art history at age nineteen, I realized that there was such a huge difference between the landscape of my home in BC and that in Europe. I saw the effect of many hundreds of years of human activity on the environment, and how polluted and degraded the natural environment can become over time. At that moment I realized that this is what I cared about most. When I got home I found the FWR program by accident on the Internet and it sounded perfect. Ever since then I have tried to work towards conserving nature in my community and help to foster the positive attitude of people in that community to sustain it.

I love my job because it allows me to do what I enjoy: observing birds, dealing with wildlife, interacting with the public and inspiring people to think and care more deeply about the natural world around them. Although I always felt comfortable in nature, my eyes were truly opened to all its details and intricacies when I studied at BCIT. I love to be able to share this knowledge and help other people see the natural world more deeply too.

What has been the most memorable moment or event in your career?

One of the most memorable events in my career was being able to talk to FWR students about urban wildlife issues. This was the same talk that I attended five years earlier as a student, and had inspired me to consider working with urban wildlife as a career.

In your opinion what is the biggest challenge facing the world today?

In my opinion, the two biggest challenges facing the world today are complacency and climate change. I think that it is such a tragedy that we know climate change is happening, we understand it well enough to try and deal with it, and yet we do almost nothing about it. I fear for the future of the planet as we know it, and I wonder how it is that we, as a global community, stay so quiet. We are just too complacent, especially in North America, with the changes we see happening all around us, with the scientists’ warnings, the public forums, and even after seeing movies about it. I am a hypocrite because I have not tried my best to create change, but I feel that we all need to let our leaders know that this is the most important issue in the world today. We will not have anything if we lose the functioning of our precious, one and only atmosphere.

What message would you like to pass on to others and particularly young people considering a career in conservation?

The more I learn and the more experiences I have, the more I realize that there is so little that I really know. This is something that inspires me, impassions me, and makes me happy to go to work every day. Even though the work I do may not supply me with all the luxurious things that some people have, I feel that my life is so rich that I really don’t need those things. I get to meet amazing people and have interesting experiences, and this is worth so much more to me. Conservation is the most rewarding career that I could have chosen, but you have to do it because you are passionate about it. It is possible to feel discouraged and pessimistic about the world sometimes but it’s harder to feel that way when you are trying to do something about it, no matter what role you are playing.

Tyler Ross

Tyler RossMy name is Tyler Ross and I’m from Langley (near Vancouver), British Columbia, Canada, where I currently live. I have recently completed two contracts with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) where I was performing stock assessments of coho and sockeye salmon on the Salmon River in Langley and on the Chilko River/Lake in the B.C. Chilcotin. I saw a lot of grizzly bears in the Chilcotin and I also had a couple of close encounters. That’s to be expected when you’re working in an area with 500,000 spawning sockeye. This summer I was working as a Park Facility Operator at five B.C. Provincial Parks in the Howe Sound (near Vancouver) area of B.C. I was mainly responsible for looking after two parks which were on islands and one which I had to live at during the week. During the summer of 2005 I worked as a SHaRP (Salmon Habitat Restoration Program) Team Leader where team leaders, a group of high school students and I were responsible for enhancing salmonid habitat in and around streams throughout Surrey (near Vancouver), B.C. We performed many duties such as invasive plant removal, bank stabilization, and riparian planting. By going to BCIT and taking the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program, it enabled me to have all of these fun and interesting experiences. I strongly recommend the conservation field because not only do you get to protect our environment, you get to work in beautiful places with beautiful creatures.

Andrew Appleton

Andrew AppletonMy name is Andrew Appleton, I’m a Restoration Ecologist living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. My current position is Manager of Stewardship and Restoration Services for the Vancouver office of Evergreen, a national charity. Our mission is to bring people and nature together for the benefit of both. We do this using a range of programs but I’m primarily involved in public stewardship activities such as plantings and invasive species removals. I grew up here in the lower mainland, studied Biology at Simon Fraser University and graduated from BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program in 1999. Soon after graduation I was fortunate to assume a coordinator position with a local community stewardship group. While there, I was exposed to the passion and energy of the volunteer community and the breadth of work that they do. I was hooked on the idea of using my technical skills to support stewardship and have been in this sector ever since. There’s a lot to love about the non-profit world: working with community members and their drive and enthusiasm, the freedom it gives to think laterally and develop your own work plan, and the combination of strategic work and getting my hands dirty! I’ve worked with a lot of amazing people over the years but I’m most proud of being a part of organizing a national gathering of stewards, where representatives from every region in Canada sat down to share their experiences. Although there were plenty of formal sessions, my favourite memories were from a camping trip we took with the delegates (and our early morning evacuation from a disintegrating riverbank!)

In your opinion what is the biggest challenge facing the world today?

Resources — their extraction and use. The planet can no longer support the needs of humans so we face huge challenges in reconnecting ourselves to the natural world, to live within our means on the land.

What kind of collaboration would you like to see between your country and people in other countries?

Would like to see technology used to disseminate positive examples of sustainability, community development, and planning shared with stewards and citizens across the world. And I would like to see developed nations connect with traditional knowledge.

What message would you like to pass on to others and particularly young people considering a career in conservation?

Quite simply, go for it. We need you. It may sound clichéd but the next fifty years or so is a make-or-break time for our environment. There’s a groundswell happening now as new ideas and energy come to the conservation sector — it’s an exciting time to be on the front line. And nothing beats knowing you’ve do something concrete every day to help the environment.