Lusicich Estate (Photo by Brent Calver)

Lusicich Estate (Photo by Brent Calver)

Linking landscapes and families: creating a culture of service at any age

Newton and Molly making faces at the wildlife cameras, photo by NCC.

Newton and Molly making faces at the wildlife cameras, photo by NCC.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” –  Mr. Rogers

A world full of complex problems can be overwhelming, but one of the best ways to deal with the fear and uncertainty is to take action. If you look closely all around you, you will find people of all ages and abilities taking action and helping. Volunteers are incredible helpers, taking action to share their time to make the world a better place. Here at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), volunteers are a vital part of our community, and we rely on them to support many areas of our work, from on-the-ground stewardship, to database management and everything in between.

In late 2020, NCC and the Miistakis Institute partnered on a wildlife monitoring project in southern Alberta called Linking Landscapes. In order to collect data on the movement of wildlife in the Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor (JPWC), they put a call out to volunteers in the Crowsnest Pass to help check on the cameras, retrieve data and tag  images of wildlife over the next three years. Over the past year, volunteers have contributed more than 500 hours and tagged 112,288 photos.

Through this Linking Landscapes project in the Crowsnest Pass, we have discovered entire families, with children ranging in age from five to 14, who are not only contributing their time to a collaborative wildlife monitoring project, but who are also inspiring a culture of service in their children — teaching them that even small actions can have a big impact.

The Marios family began volunteering in December of 2020 because their daughter was taking a wildlife class through online schooling. They felt it would be beneficial for her to see some of the wildlife that live near their home. They home school their six children (ages 5–14), and they all volunteer with the Linking Landscapes project. Their youngest children head outside to find the cameras and help check the batteries, and their older children assist with tagging individual photos with appropriate descriptions once the images are downloaded from the cameras. Despite their age differences, they all love scrolling through the images and seeing the wildlife that live right under their noses. With their first-hand experience, the children finally believe their parents when they say, “They could walk right past an animal and never know it!”

Cougar (Photo by Reconyx Wildlife Cameras)

While he initially began volunteering as a way to get outside during the pandemic, Chris Morris also uses his time volunteering to foster a love of exploring and nature in his children, eight-year-old Newton and five-year-old Molly. It’s a fun adventure for the kids to search for cameras and they love adding their own funny faces to be captured among the wildlife images. Both kids look forward to seeing more images of animals, especially bears, as they continue to help with the project. They may not be fully aware of it, but their involvement in the project helps strengthen the community and also contributes to the conservation of wildlife and habitat in Alberta.

NCC is happy to support families getting outside to connect with nature and learning about the wildlife around us. Volunteering is an incredible way to get involved, and we appreciate the support we receive each year from dedicated volunteers of all ages. We are constantly surprised and inspired by the passion and generosity of our supporters. We could not do projects like Linking Landscapes without them.

Don’t have time to volunteer? Join an event near you by visiting our website. From February 11 to 27, you can take part in the Winter Wildlife Tracking event, hosted by Hands on Alberta and NatureLynx. Participating in this province-wide citizen science project is a great opportunity to get outside with your family and find out more about the wildlife that calls your community home.

Interested in volunteering? Contact ab.volunteers@natureconservancy.ca to learn more.

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