Opportunities that shaped my view on conservation and the environment

Wetland assessment in Riding Mountain (Photo by NCC)

Wetland assessment in Riding Mountain (Photo by NCC)

November 18, 2019 | by Stephanie Murray

In June 2018, shortly after graduation from the University of Winnipeg, I began my first internship with the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Manitoba Region as a stewardship intern. The next year, I was fortunate enough to come back and take on a different position, as the communication and engagement intern for my region.

As a stewardship intern, my main tasks were to complete wetland and riparian (riverbanks and the habitats near them) assessments, note the dominant grassland and forest species and provide a baseline inventory of the different species, including both plants and animals, found on several properties throughout Manitoba. At the beginning of my internship, I had very little knowledge of plant species, invasive species and species at risk in my province.

Grey grey owl on an aspen tree (Photo by NCC)

Grey grey owl on an aspen tree (Photo by NCC)

That summer, I had the pleasure to work alongside Ashley Greenley, a botanist and conservation biologist with NCC’s Manitoba Region. Ashley demonstrated tremendous patience with me while I was learning to identify a variety of species. Without her patience, continuous encouragement and passion for the work she does, I would have not developed the interest and excitement I have today for species identification.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks” - John Muir

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As a stewardship intern, I had the chance to be fully immersed in nature, from the temperate grasslands of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, to the towering black spruce forests of Riding Mountain. This internship not only gave me my first hands-on work experience in the conservation field, it allowed me to travel throughout rural Manitoba and experience landscapes I never would have imagined could be found in my province. I had the chance to appreciate nature and its intrinsic value, and I came to understand what nature truly has to offer us.

Nature is beautiful, harsh and full of surprises. Wandering through a thick cover of hawthorn, wading through a bog and hoping the ground beneath you doesn’t sink in, and realizing the only path you can take to reach your destination is through a patch of stinging nettle are the unpleasant but unique experiences I will never forget. Identifying plants under a black spruce forest, with flickering rays of sunlight filtering through the canopy, laying in a field underneath a blanket of big blue stem, hearing the sounds of a natural spring flowing down a riparian area, and the distant calls of a pair of sand hill cranes are moments that will remain with me for a lifetime.

This year, as the communications and engagement intern. I was excited and keen to learn about NCC's work from a different perspective. My main project was to run summer day camps in Manitoba’s Tall Grass Prairie with Tyra Bodz — a summer student working with the rural municipality of Stuartburn.

Camper with clouded sulphur butterfly (Photo by NCC)

Camper with clouded sulphur butterfly (Photo by NCC)

My time working at camp stirred up many  emotions and memories from when I was a child. The nostalgia hit me particularly hard when we would take the kids out to go bug catching and critter dipping (skimming the water for aquatic insects). The children were always enthusiastic to be outside. I realized how important nature was to the kids when I saw how happy they were to run through a field with their butterfly nets in hand, get their feet muddy near a pond while looking for frogs or simply climbing up a hill. I learned a lot more from them than expected from those few weeks. In watching them interact with each other, I immediately recognized the lack of judgement they had toward each other, their creativity, heightened awareness of their surroundings and how present they were at each moment — qualities that I think tend to lessen as we get older.

My opportunity as the communications and engagement intern took me from a science-based focus toward nature and conservation, and it completely expanded my intentions and what I wanted to accomplish in my future. I developed a strong relationship with nature in my stewardship internship, and I knew I wanted a future career where I could build, enhance and learn more about nature through conservation and sustainability. It wasn’t until I began my job as the communications and engagement intern did I realize how important people and community are in playing a role in initiating change.

I am excited and eager to continue my education and seek out opportunities where I can to interact with the environment while encouraging others to do the same. One day, I hope to make a lasting impact by connecting people with their natural environment.

Stephanie Murray

About the Author

Stephanie Murray is an assistant conservation biologist for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Manitoba Region.

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