Rooting myself in restoration

All smiles after a full day in the field at the Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve, cutting back sumac and prickly ash to improve the habitat quality for eastern loggerhead shrike. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

All smiles after a full day in the field at the Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve, cutting back sumac and prickly ash to improve the habitat quality for eastern loggerhead shrike. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

July 13, 2020 | by Samantha Ceci

My career in the field of ecosystem restoration has begun to sprout, thanks to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

It all began with an email last year, where I inquired about volunteering for NCC. I was interested in shifting gears in my career, to begin working in the field of ecosystem restoration. That email initiated the experience of a lifetime. I quit my full-time job in another industry and began volunteering for NCC under the supervision of Ali Giroux, conservation biologist for central-Ontario east.

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Using the extractigator to help remove noxious weeds. (Photo by NCC)

Using the extractigator to help remove noxious weeds. (Photo by NCC)

I spent five weeks in November and December of 2019 helping with any and all of the projects that I could. That’s one of the many incredible things about volunteering for NCC: they offer a variety of experiences based on your interest or specializations. I am forever grateful to Ali and the organization for making me feel like part of the team during my time with them. They even bought me lunch on my last day as a thank you!

Some of my favourite projects that I assisted with during my time as a volunteer include:

  • Hand-sowing an agricultural field in the Brighton Wetlands with rye and wildflower seeds, to restore it to a grassland ecosystem. This ecosystem will serve as a habitat and refuge for the threatened bobolink.
  • The bird cages used in NCC’s eastern loggerhead shrike recovery program at the Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

    The bird cages used in NCC’s eastern loggerhead shrike recovery program at the Napanee Plain Alvar Nature Reserve. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

  • Conducting invasive species removal of European buckthorn at Milburn Creek and the Taylor Nature Reserve. This plant should be listed in the dictionary under the definitions for “resilient” and “stubborn.”
  • Monitoring hiking trails at the Milburn Creek and Mary West properties. This was a unique experience where I learned about one of the socio-environmental issues that NCC faces: unauthorized motorized vehicle usage on pedestrian-only trails.
  • Crafting and running a stewardship activity for a Grade 8 class field trip to the Mary West property. I worked with Ali to create a dichotomous key (a tool used to help identify species based on their visual characteristics) that identified a variety of trees on the property. Mary West was once a pine plantation, which NCC is working hard to restore to a mixed forest. Ali and I worked with what nature had provided us at the time, being that it was the end of the field season. We used leaves and needles from the property to create the dichotomous key. Sugar maple, American beech and white pine, oh my!
One of the trail signs we hung for the new recreational trail at the NCC’s Mary West property. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

One of the trail signs we hung for the new recreational trail at the NCC’s Mary West property. (Photo by Samantha Ceci)

During my volunteer experience with NCC, I rooted myself within the field of ecosystem restoration. I developed knowledge and skills that I have carried with me as I begin to grow my career in the field. I have recently begun working on riparian ecosystems as an ecosystem restoration technician in Nova Scotia.

I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the great team at NCC and the unparalleled work that they do. This spring, I am in the process of becoming an NCC property steward for the Deep Cove property in Nova Scotia. I hope to continue to volunteer with NCC throughout and beyond my career. NCC truly does inspire others, and their conservation efforts make a difference in everyone’s lives.

Editor's note: In light of the current situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and in an abundance of caution, all in-person events, including Conservation Volunteers, are postponed until further notice. Check our Conservation Volunteers page for the latest update.

Samantha Ceci

About the Author

Samantha Ceci is an environmental profession in training working in the field of ecosystem restoration, specializing in coastal ecosystems.

Read more about Samantha Ceci.

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