The great staycation

From left to right: Carys Richards, Kate Williams, Zoë Arnold, and Kailey Setter at “Trees for Bees 2” in June 2016. It’s so sweet to “bee” a part of this crew! (Photo by NCC)

From left to right: Carys Richards, Kate Williams, Zoë Arnold, and Kailey Setter at “Trees for Bees 2” in June 2016. It’s so sweet to “bee” a part of this crew! (Photo by NCC)

August 17, 2016 | by Kate Williams | 0 Comments

Why migrate only to return home? Monarch butterflies find the same oyamel evergreens in Mexico each winter, and I unfailingly return to Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) as a Conservation Volunteer (CV). This summer is different however, because I am not romping about Alberta as a volunteer. Instead, I am buzzing about with my co-pilot Zoë Arnold as Alberta’s Conservation Volunteers assistant! Here is a bit about my transition from volunteer to staff and why Alberta is an incredible place for a “staycation migration.” Read on for a self-inquiry exploring this journey, or listen to it on the podcast. I hope you enjoy!

Kate Williams and Zoe Arnold (Photo by NCC)

Kate Williams and Zoe Arnold (Photo by NCC)

Where are you from?

In case you were wondering, butterflies are not technically “bugs” like hemiptera (including stink bugs and cicadas), but are of the Order Lepidoptera. Both bugs and butterflies are insects, and I think both are awesome!

I was born in Devon, Alberta (near the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary!) but have lived in Drayton Valley, Calgary, Aberdeen, England, Victoria and Invermere. I love to travel and did my undergrad at the University of Victoria in Latin American studies and environmental studies. I feel most grounded in Alberta but when the right opportunity arises, the travel-bug* is back and I’m off like a monarch to Mexico!

When did you start with NCC?

I love the diverse groups that come out to CV Events! From children to snake expert Kris Kendall, we all were “Searching for Alberta’s Leopards” at the leopard frog biological inventory, August 2011 (Photo by NCC)

I love the diverse groups that come out to CV Events! From children to snake expert Kris Kendall, we all were “Searching for Alberta’s Leopards” at the leopard frog biological inventory, August 2011 (Photo by NCC)

I began as Alberta’s Conservation Volunteers assistant in May 2016, but started as a Conservation Volunteer in April 2011 and was seriously stoked about stewardship. Guided by NCC’s mandate to promote biodiversity and conservation, each volunteer experience allowed me to connect with people of every demographic. The lessons learned at these events have trickled down to every aspect of my life! Aside from being the platform for the Conservation Volunteers program’s awesome volunteer community, conservation properties do wonders for the Earth (and our) well-being, from carbon sequestering to groundwater filtration.

What motivates me to volunteer for NCC?

In Ecuador, Cuba, and the San Juan Islands, I studied the relationship of humans with the land. Wildlife observations and sustainability courses have equilibrated harmoniously with NCC volunteerism. But without this summer position with NCC, I’d have far less appreciation for (bravura) Alberta.

My first event, the “Boardwalk Break-Up” in April 2011! This summer, volunteers including Denise Harris and Josefine Singh still return without fail. The CV program began in Alberta in 2006. (Photo by NCC)

My first event, the “Boardwalk Break-Up” in April 2011! This summer, volunteers including Denise Harris and Josefine Singh still return without fail. The CV program began in Alberta in 2006. (Photo by NCC)

I remember driving up to Coyote Lake with Kailey Setter (now the conservation engagement program manager in Alberta) on April 28, 2011 for a volunteer event. It was an early morning, but we began studying a list of bird calls for a volunteer trip in the Amazon I’d be doing in May, and were soon impersonating red-billed toucans and discussing conservation! Once at the property, I found myself enamored by the icy lake, early spring buds and zealous volunteers. Although I was the youngest by perhaps two decades at the event, today I notice more and more university students coming out to enrich their studies with hands-on stewardship experience.

I returned from the rainforest to a hot August and signed up for the Wildflower Seed and Sow. We saw rattlesnake skins and deer bones and were guided by admirable Conservation Volunteers Assistant Julia Frohlich and NCC prairie expert Rob Gardner! The opportunity to learn from experts was also what got me hooked on volunteering.

Do NCC volunteers keep coming back for the stewardship activities, the diverse and lively company, the educational field experts, or something more personal?

For me, actively conserving what I love keeps me going. Like recycling, composting, biking or growing veggies at home, it feels good to put myself to work at volunteer events rather than despair about pollution or loss of biodiversity. There is a lot of uncertainty when people start thinking about climate change, but with NCC, I feel assured that I am making a tangible difference as a land steward.

Does being a CV assistant mean you get to go to every volunteer event?

Yes! I was hesitant to apply for the position, because it seemed too good to be true.

Could going to every event in the summer oversaturate love of conservation?

You never know what you’ll find at CV Events! Stoic Albertan treasures at “Wildflower Seed and Sow” in August 2011. (Photo by NCC)

You never know what you’ll find at CV Events! Stoic Albertan treasures at “Wildflower Seed and Sow” in August 2011. (Photo by NCC)

The answer is, not yet! Every event adds a piece to the monkey puzzle. Curiosity is never ending!

The good news is…you can be a part of this picture! The fleeting summer only allows for so many events. In the winter volunteers and staff rest their weary muscles and plan for the next field season. When we begin to care for the land we stand on, conservation can take root in our daily lives, in every place and season.

How does volunteering with and working for the Nature Conservancy of Canada change your perspective?

Volunteering and working for NCC refreshes my senses with native parkland, grassland, wetlands and boreal groves. I see how much people really do care about conservation. I feel inspired by the collective efforts of the Nature Conservancy of Canada and dedicated Conservation Volunteers. I trust that meaningful, hands-on work at NCC properties will continue thanks to dedicated volunteer efforts and key partnerships.

Where is home for you now?

Waterton butterfly count in July 2014. I am in the middle at the back as a Conservation Volunteer (Photo by NCC)

Waterton butterfly count in July 2014. I am in the middle at the back as a Conservation Volunteer (Photo by NCC)

I’ll answer this with the help of my four-winged friends. A monarch butterfly seems ephemeral, but is also a continuation of a great migration. Although my position with NCC is short-term I feel honoured to continue the work of previous interns.

For me, home is whenever I am concerned with what is happening around me and caring for my environment in a meaningful way. Whether one stays or goes, it is this attention to where we are at and what we are doing now that matters most.

You can learn more at www.conservationvolunteers.ca and sign up for an event near you.

About the Author

Kate Williams is a former Conservation Volunteers assistant with the Nature Conservancy of Canada Alberta region.

Read more about Kate Williams.

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