A hidden paradise
It all started at a young age; I have always had a passion for all aspects of nature. I would spend hours outdoors exploring and discovering the animals and insects around me. When I had to be indoors, I loved watching Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. It is no surprise to anyone who knows me, but as I got older my passion for nature evolved into a lifetime commitment. This path began when I furthered my studies after high school with the two-year Fish and Wildlife technician and one year Fish and Wildlife Technologists program at Sir Sanford Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario. It was here that my childhood passion for those simple things grew into a complex understanding of their ecology and their interactions with the world around them. I soon learned there was so much more to the environment and ecosystem that hosted all the plants, trees and animals I admired.
After graduating from my program, like most young adults starting their careers, I was feeling lost and unsure of where this newfound education would take me. It was while job searching that I came across a posting for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) internship position of a conservation technician on Pelee Island. As I read over the posting, I felt an excitement I had not felt when reading other postings; it was then that I knew I had to apply.
In April 2023, I was offered the intern position of conservation technician. When I first accepted it, I was ecstatic, as were my family and friends. This is it; this is really happening, I thought! All my hard work and dreams of starting a career in the environmental sector were about to start. I could not wait to pack up my car and embark on this exciting new adventure with my cat, Minnow, as my sidekick.
Arriving on Pelee Island, nothing could have prepared me for its vast beauty and biodiversity. It was like nothing I had ever seen before; a place where people and nature seemingly coexisted and respected each other. This hidden paradise is home to an amazing number of rare and unique species, some of which exist nowhere else than on the island.
Arriving on the island during spring migration, I was instantly overwhelmed with excitement by the number of new bird species I saw daily. My new sightings didn’t stop there, since arriving on the island, I have seen species that I have only ever dreamed of seeing, from animals to plants and everything in between.
Seven native species of snail found on Pelee Island: white lipped globe, white-lipped, eastern-banded tigersnail, flamed tigersnail, striped whitelip, broad-banded forestsnail and shagreen . (Photo by Jasmine Eagleden/NCC staff)
One specific group of unlikely critters caught my interest: a small group of native snails that inhabit Pelee Island. Perhaps these new snails reminded me of my childhood. As a child I remember being so fascinated by these small but determined creatures. To my surprise, the snails I saw around the island were different than those that I was familiar with as a child. I will now embarrassingly admit that the common grove snail was the only terrestrial snail I had ever known. I am sure you can imagine my surprise when I found out that species is not native to Ontario. Intrigued by these new but familiar creatures, I quickly learned that there were several different native species of terrestrial snails on Pelee Island and like many of our animals today, they too were at risk. I have since made it my goal to learn all I can about these small but unique critters that inhabit the island. I have been spending my free time learning to identify and attempting to find and photograph the seven more commonly seen species, in hopes of finding them all by the end of my contract this season.
Striped white lip (Photo by Jasmine Eagleden/NCC intern)
As the seasons start to change, spring to summer and summer into fall I cannot believe how fast my time here on Pelee Island has gone by. Working at NCC has taught me so much. It has opened my eyes to not only the beauty of the island but the remarkable biodiversity and the importance of protecting places like Pelee Island for future generations. It is here on Pelee Island that I have discovered myself and where I belong, working to protect and restore habitats for years to come. Throughout my internship I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and gain experience through a variety of tasks such as invasive species control, such as emeral ash borer monitoring, garlic mustard and bog bulrush pulling, and applying a treatment to control white sweet clover and common reed.
I was also able to do invasives species and species at risk monitoring and mapping, plotting points, lines and polygons of where these species exist within NCC properties on the island. Last, but my favourite part so far of my internship, was assisting in Conservation Volunteers events, planting native wetland plugs at the Florian Diamante Nature Reserve and Marianne Girling Nature Reserve. Thanks to the generous support from NCC’s donors, NCC can continue to provide internships that inspire the next generation of conservation professionals like me. A special thank you to Libro Credit Union for their support of NCC’s intern program in southwestern Ontario, including Pelee Island, because without them I would not be where I am today.
The 2023 Conservation Intern Program in Ontario is proudly supported by 407 ETR.