Working for nature

Leigh Gustafson (Illustration by Jacqui Oakley)

Leigh Gustafson (Illustration by Jacqui Oakley)

By Leigh Gustafson, NCC engagement intern

I have had two completely different, yet equally wonderful, internship experiences with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The first was in 2017 as a Conservation Intern on Prince Edward Island, where I had my boots on the ground and saltwater breezes blowing through my sun-bleached hair. It was the first summer I had ever spent on this little red island, and it is not one I will soon forget. Not only did I fall in love with all the amazing work NCC was doing to conserve and protect natural landscapes, I also fell in love with all the quirky characteristics and hidden gems of this cute little island.

One of my favourite places to explore was Thomas Island, part of the Murray Harbour Archipelago. The property had just been chosen to become a Nature Destination, so my colleague and I jumped in our boat for a quick day-trip to putter around the island and take a few photos for the upcoming announcement. The skies matched the deep blues of the ocean, the sun was beaming and curious harbor seal pups were bobbing in the water, watching as we walked along the shore. The day was nothing short of picture perfect.

Fast forward two years and I found myself working with NCC again, but this time with the national conservation engagement team. I helped develop the visitor management framework, which helps guide staff when developing all of NCC’s Nature Destinations in Canada. While on the surface this position might not seem like my previous role, it was just as exciting to be on the other side of conservation work. Every day I got to discover all of these outstanding and unique properties from all across the country.

There’s a Swahili word, kuumba, which encourages us to always do what we can, how we can, and to leave our community better and more beautiful than when we inherited it. I am proud to have worked with an organization that practises this lesson and am honoured to have had the opportunity to help connect Canadians with nature through NCC’s Nature Destinations program.

This story first appeared in the summer 2019 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. Donors who contribute at least $25 or more per year will receive four issues of the magazine.

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Funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada