A job like no other
Joe Schell (Photo by: Doug Van Hemessen/NCC staff)
Working for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is unlike any other job. A day in the field is much more than documenting species or maintaining signage around properties. Some days end with spontaneous whale sightseeing and witnessing 300-year-old trees for the first time. Interns like Joe are always looking for unique moments to share with the rest of the team.
Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Joe is studying biology at Dalhousie University. Interestingly, he was planning on studying architecture at the University of British Columbia before he changed his major to biology. “I began hiking quite avidly and realized I didn’t want to build any more stuff; I just wanted to learn about and help protect the natural wonders I was encountering,” says Joe.
Before joining NCC, Joe volunteered for the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Some of his responsibilities included visiting properties, making reports on endangered species, and helping with cleanup and trail maintenance on Nova Scotia’s south shore. Volunteering allowed Joe to do more of what he enjoys: reconnecting with his province and looking after its beautiful landscapes. Aside from the sense of accomplishment, this volunteer program inspired him to learn more about NCC and apply for a summer internship.
Joining NCC and being able to enhance his skills and knowledge made Joe even more confident in his decision to change majors. “A lot of NCC’s values, like conserving ecologically important land and protecting species at risk across the country, align with my own, which is why I wanted to join the organization,” says Joe. Working in his home province of Nova Scotia makes this internship even more sentimental and significant for him. He has been enjoying the province's natural beauty for over 25 years and appreciates the opportunity to give back and help protect the areas that have provided him with so much joy.
Thanks to his education at Dalhousie University, Joe has used his plant and animal identification knowledge in completing baseline inventories out in the field. Baseline inventories are used to collect data on new properties, document animals, plants and ecological issues, and track their changes over time.
Have you ever seen trees more than 100 years old? Thanks to his days in the field, Joe has observed hemlock trees in southwest Nova Scotia that are nearly 300 years old. “There is not a lot of undergrowth in areas with hemlocks, so you can easily walk underneath these trees and feel like you are inside a canopy,” he says.
Along with seeing interesting species, Joe has been able to discover new places around the province, such as a trip to Spencer’s Island, in Cumberland County. The trip was on spring day at the end of May and consisted of a boat ride and beautiful vistas along the way. The boat ride was not the only highlight of that field day. Once on location, Joe and his team hiked to the top of the island. “We saw the most beautiful view of this pristine old-growth forest with a rainbow passing through. Nothing like I had seen before!” he says.
His summer adventures did not end there. In early June, the team visited the Dr. Bill Freedman Nature Reserve to complete a baseline inventory. While hiking at the top of the nature reserve, the team stopped for a break. “I was looking at the ocean and thought, wouldn’t it be so neat to see a whale right now?” he says. And that is exactly what happened! A white whale breached in the ocean as though saying “hello.” If only Joe had a camera in time to capture this beautiful moment.
If the surprised whale sighting was not enough to make this summer full of adventure, Joe had another interesting encounter with an animal. On a field day to the Pugwash Estuary, Joe’s supervisor, Doug van Hamessen, spotted a barred owl looking straight at Joe. The owl maintained its quiet presence while the team carried on its work for the day. The Pugwash Estuary is the perfect spot for hiking or walking this time of year. Maybe you too will spot an owl while there.
Joe is grateful for the opportunities that the Dr. Bill Freedman internship has provided him with. Summer adventures that will become interesting stories, gaining a new hobby like birding, and learning about the importance of conservation are all treasures that Joe looks forward to appreciating long after his internship ends. NCC would like to thank our private donors for their support in providing paths for young individuals like Joe in pursuing their passion for natural areas around Atlantic Canada.