The Alphabet Soup of conservation: Learning to speak a different language

Alphabet Soup (Photo by Wikimedia Commons, strawberryblues)

Alphabet Soup (Photo by Wikimedia Commons, strawberryblues)

January 16, 2014 | by Andrew Holland

As a communications person and someone who doesn't get out into the field often, I consider myself fortunate to work with very bright and talented people within the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). They are certainly dedicated and committed to protecting our most important natural areas across the region — and in all corners of the country. I can appreciate where being out on our sites, whether it be doing a bird inventory and improving hiking trails for nature enthusiasts to enjoy, can be refreshing and rejuvenating and a reminder about why our role is so critical.

The "nature" of the work these biologists, foresters and stewardship staff do is specialized, quite scientific and can be rather formal and technical. They are also driven to detail and highly conscientious in their work — which I quickly discovered is carried out in a language that is different and took me a while to learn and adjust to. In fact, it has been over two and a half years since I have been with NCC and I am still learning new things.

Each day, these conservation professionals dutifully ply their trade and routinely refer to a bunch of things that sound like a can of Alphagetti I used to put in my little boy’s thermos for lunch (Please don’t judge! It was one of the things he would at least eat for his mom and dad!). But I digress.
Without further ado, here is just a spoonful of my Alphabet Soup of conservation:

As a former sports broadcaster and a huge sports junkie, for a long time I thought ERA stood for Earned Run Average. Here in NCC World, they had never heard tell of Earned Run Average before. They know it to be ecoregional assessment.

Another thing I would occasionally hear was ESA (which stands for environmentally significant area). I actually thought they were referring to somebody who must work at NCC’s national office named Isa (like Isa the Iguana on the children’s program Dora the Explorer. Yes, all those characters were burned in my brain from when my kid used to watch that program. The reason why things burned in your brain is because Dora has a tendency to be very loud and repeat everything three times!)

I always felt a reference to the PM would mean the Prime Minister. Not in NCC land, who have a PM or pogram manager in all provinces.

Our field staff often return from their monitoring visits with stories about how they learn from their excursions and adventures in nature. But there are many adventures in language here in the office too!

Andrew Holland (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Andrew Holland is NCC's communications and government relations director for the Atlantic Region.

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