I’ll introduce myself by telling you a bit about how my career as a wildlife ecologist found me, where it took me, and how I would like to take what I have learned to work with others in my community. I’m keen to work with others to resolve complex and challenging problems in natural resource management.
Even though I have always been passionate about outdoor adventures, it wasn’t until I was 27 that I discovered my calling.
In 1990, through a series of random events, I found myself volunteering on a grizzly bear study in the Khutzeymateen. The experience could be summed up as full on bushwhacking, unruly telemetry antennae in hand, to find and read stories left by bears, written in sign (scats, hairs, diggings etc.). Sometimes, we’d even see them. After returning to civilization—defined at the time as a place that I could walk without falling flat on my face every 20 metres or so—but before bruises had faded and devil’s club thorns had worked their way out, I signed up for college. I went on to complete a B.Sc. degree while opportunistically wedging sessions of fieldwork among semesters.
Much of the focus in my career has been on carnivore research, management of bear-human interactions, and public education and outreach in my areas of expertise.
Since then I have worked on research, management- and education-related projects focusing on grizzly bears, black bears, wolverines and fishers. My work took me to a diversity of places in B.C, the Yukon and Alaska—from full on wilderness to intensively developed landscapes. For years, I loved my career and pinched myself regularly. I got paid to do the kinds of stuff that I had grown up reading about in National Geographic and was soon seeing in Imax films. Never mind that I often worked for 10-15 hours per day, for weeks on end, earning less than minimum wage. Enthusiastically, my colleagues and I found answers for many of the questions that attracted me to a career as a biologist and with them more questions emerged.
Finding better ways of moving forward.
In the early 2000s, a few initiatives that I was involved in lost funding and other forms of support. Dejected but undeterred, I spent several years working to move them forward. Looking back, in many areas of my career focus long-term prospects appeared to be getting worse not better. In a large part, visions for natural resource management and conservation in Canada, are now challenged by major and rapid changes—ecologically, socially, scientifically, technologically, economically.
In searching to find better ways of moving forward, I found other professionals that were focusing on the bigger picture of problem solving for complex and challenging issues to secure common interests. Perhaps not surprisingly, other bear experts had already made their way to the same place, an experience that motivated Bear Biologist Mike Gibeau to ask: “Are you playing checkers while everybody else is playing chess? The time has come for all biologists to recognize that while science is necessary, it is not sufficient to solve today’s problems.” By shifting focus from bushwhacking with bears to orienting to problem solving processes, I’m keen to work with others to find acceptable solutions that work.
And so it is that I finally understand that it’s not enough to gather data and report on science. Now my priority is to do more to share science and my knowledge and experiences with a wider audience and to collaborate with others in my community to learn better ways of problem solving for the most stubborn of natural resource management issues.
Gibeau. M.L. 2012. Of bears, chess and checkers. The Wildlife Professional Spring 2012. The Wildlife Society:pp. 239–241.
You can find my list of policy sciences resources that I’ll add to over time here.