Each year, the Mayne Island Conservancy is fortunate to host incredible, motivated, and capable summer staff. Community members who have volunteered and worked alongside past staff might wonder occasionally, where are they now? We’ve checked in with a handful of them to see where they’ve landed, and have had the chance to hear about some amazing projects they’re working on. We’re excited to share what we’ve found with you! From the far reaches of Ontario to next door on Galiano Island, past staff continue to work towards conservation in their communities.

The dedication and ability of past summer staff has been amazing; we are very fortunate. They have played a huge role in the success of the Conservancy’s projects and programs in the past decade.” Conservancy Biologist Rob Underhill

Carly Palmer – 2015

“My time at the Conservancy was really formative for me… working with the Mayne Island Conservancy really showed me the importance of conservation at the local level and the diversity of projects that can be undertaken by local conservation organizations.”

Carly has fond memories of working in the native plant nursery and doing an ecological inventory of Edith Point while working for the Conservancy in 2015. After working on Mayne, Carly went on to work with Parks Canada as a restoration technician at Fort Rodd Hill and with the Metro Vancouver Regional District as an environmental educator. Carly now works for Current Environmental while finishing off a BSc in Geography at the University of Victoria (UVic).

Photo: Sigma 6 Productions

Stephanie Wilford – 2016

Stephanie is currently a PhD student at the University of Northern British Columbia. Her project focuses on the recovery of Indigenous food and medicinal plants after wildfires. Stephanie gets to work on this in partnership with the Nadleh Whut’en and Stellat’en First Nations and the Society for Ecosystem Restoration in Northern British Columbia. In recognition of her contributions to advanced forestry, she is a recent recipient of the Schlich Memorial Prize from the Canadian Institute of Forestry / Institut forestier du Canada.

Stephanie describes working with the Mayne Island Conservancy as one of the best career opportunities she’s had. “Living and working on Mayne Island taught me the value of taking time to observe the nature around you and increased my skills as an ecologist immensely.” Her favourite Mayne Island moments were both noisy (sitting in the Groove on jam night, meeting all sorts of people while walking around Bennett Bay) and quiet (encountering all manner of wildlife, from sea lions to hummingbirds).

Grayson Mortimer – 2016

During his time with the Conservancy, Grayson worked with a UVic graduate student on drone photo mosaic transect work to map eelgrass beds around Mayne Island. This project sparked an interest in GIS as a tool for environmental stewardship, and led him to pursue a post graduate program at Fleming College. Grayson now uses these skills as a GIS-Analyst in Emergency Management with the Canadian Red Cross in St. Catharine’s, Ontario.

Although Grayson has many great memories from his time on Mayne, one particular weekend of working with the Apneist Club of Vancouver to survey eelgrass beds was his favourite. “Seeing a local group travel to the Gulf Islands to support a great initiative and getting to talk to everyone was a fantastic way to spend a weekend. I was also taught a super great salad dressing recipe using nutritional yeast from one of the organizers.”

Abbie Sherwood – 2017

Abbie is currently working with Dr. Tara Martin (UBC Faculty of Forestry) while pursuing a double major in Environmental and Indigenous studies (UVic). She works and lives in the territory of the SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’ speaking peoples. After working with the Mayne Island Conservancy, she finished an Environmental Technology program at Camosun College. She worked in government and private sectors for a couple of years before becoming a research assistant and lab manager for Dr. Martin’s Conservation Decisions Lab, where she works on everything from deer pellet counts to bumblebee surveys.  

“Working with Dr. Martin on cultural restoration projects has cemented the interconnectivity between decolonization and environmental sciences. One cannot reach its potential or achieve success without the other… While working for the Mayne Island Conservancy I was introduced to how real change is made; when working alongside community members who are, most often, inherently driven to create the change that they wish to see within their home community.”

Izaiah Sheerin – 2017

Izaiah worked on Mayne during an exciting time – St. John Point was protected as a regional park shortly following his summer here. That period was a whirlwind of fundraising and community collaboration for conservation. One of Izaiah’s favourite memories was “witnessing the force that was the late Ann Johnston militantly requesting donations to the St. John Point campaign at the Saturday farmer’s markets.”

Working with the Conservancy was a formative educational experience for Izaiah, reaffirming his interest in working in the environmental field. He completed a BSc in Geography and Environmental Studies at UVic and went on to work for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development in Port Alberni. He recently returned to Victoria, where he works as a Project Assessment Officer for the BC Environmental Assessment Office.  

Eleanor Wilson – 2018                          

Eleanor currently works as a Biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Lower Mainland Regulatory Review Unit. She credits her job with the Conservancy with opening her eyes to different and new aspects of the environmental industry. “The diverse experiences and skills that the Conservancy provided me with led me to new jobs and allowed me to thrive in new roles. I am very grateful for that.”

Although Eleanor has many fond memories from working on Mayne, one that really stuck with her has to do with the tiny flying mammals we share a space with. “Learning about and conducting bat surveys at dusk across the island was a phenomenal experience to me. I appreciated working with local homeowners to find roosts and discuss ways to protect the health of local populations. To this day when I am out at night and see bats, I reflect on my experiences and can’t help but share bat facts with whoever I am with!”

Kelly Fretwell – 2018

Kelly has a strong connection to Mayne Island, having family history here and having visited the island since childhood. Working with the Conservancy brought Kelly even closer to this special place, and allowed her to visit places that few people get the chance to go. On one of her favourite days of work, she surveyed invasive species on Georgeson Island (accessible with special permission only) with Parks Canada employees and Conservancy volunteers.

Working with the Conservancy “sparked my interest in work that combines education, outreach, and science communication with hands-on research, monitoring, and restoration work in the field.” Kelly has been able to pursue her interest in science communication by working on a media team with the Hakai Institute, a non-profit that conducts long-term research on the coast of BC.

Andrew Simon – 2019

For Andrew, working on Conservancy projects connected him to this community and region: “Working with the Mayne Island Conservancy was a great inspiration to me as an advocate for community-based conservation and biodiversity research.” Bringing people together for science by coordinating a BioBlitz on Mayne and Galiano was a highlight of Andrew’s work term. He also enjoyed getting to know eelgrass and bull kelp intimately through shoreline surveys.

In the past few years, Andrew completed an MSc in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria and co-founded a non-profit society, the Institute for Multidisciplinary Ecological Research in the Salish Sea (IMERSS). He works as an ecological consultant and is a commissioner on the Galiano Island Park and Recreation Commission. Much of his work focuses on ecosystem mapping, rare species inventories, and watershed restoration.

Jill Westby – 2019

Some moments stick with you for the rest of your life. For Jill, she remembers installing a deer fence on Mayne and coming face to face with a giant buck, massive antlers and all. “I will never forget my time working for the Mayne Island Conservancy!”

Jill now works for the Ministry of Environment as a Senior Administrative Assistant in Victoria, where she grew up. She recently was on local news after filming a pod of orcas swimming off the beach at Clover Point, Victoria. She took her few minutes of fame as an opportunity to talk about her marine conservation and education work with the Conservancy.

Joël Lavigueur – 2020

During his time with the Conservancy, Joël was inspired to pursue a career in Geomatics Information Systems (GIS). He enrolled at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where he is completing an Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems. As part of this program, he is doing a practicum with an environmental consultancy (Hemmera Envirochem), where he will be working on database management, environmental mapping, and spatial analysis of ecology projects.

While he enjoys the spatial analysis and cartography aspects of conservation work, he hopes to find a career that combines GIS with fieldwork in the conservation, protected area management and recreation fields. His favourite moments on Mayne were spent on the water. “I love kayaking and really enjoyed seeing the eelgrass beds and kelp forests slowly taking shape on our GPS while we mapped it.”

Charlotte Matthews – 2020

Eelgrass and bull kelp surveys hooked Charlotte on marine conservation. After working on Mayne, she was a marine conservation technician with the Galiano Conservancy Association and then moved to a very different island: Iceland! She lives in Ísafjörður and is pursuing a MSc in coastal and marine management at the University of Westfjords. Her time with the Conservancy encouraged her to continue studying the coastal and marine environment. “I was inspired by my work with the Mayne Island Conservancy, especially during kelp and eelgrass surveys, as I got to know their immense importance to the coastal and marine ecosystem in British Columbia and observe the incredible biodiversity within these habitats.”

When reminiscing on her summer here, Charlotte said, “I have so many wonderful memories while working with the Mayne Island Conservancy from pulling bull thistle, seeing baby frogs sunning themselves on alder seedlings, hiking throughout the Coastal Douglas Fir forests, the arbutus grove at St. John Point, surveying my favourite eelgrass meadow (Blackberry Point), a sunrise bull-kelp monitoring survey and intertidal exploring with local Mayne Islanders.”

Maddy Litster – 2021

Maddy is our most recent summer staff member. After taking four months of leave from her job with the District of Saanich to work for the Conservancy, she returned to Saanich with renewed drive and new depths of knowledge gained from her experiences here. Shortly after returning to Saanich, she took on a new, more senior role as the Natural Areas Practitioner for the Saanich Parks natural areas section.

When reflecting on her summer, Maddy said, “Working at the Conservancy taught me so much more than I could have hoped and allowed me to form relationships with so many incredible people.” Her favourite memory from her time on Mayne (“Can a whole summer be a favourite memory?”) was a board and staff potluck. “Sitting together outside sharing food, stories and music with so many people from different walks of life grew my appreciation for what the Conservancy does. The Mayne Island Conservancy is so much more than just conservation work. It’s about community and inclusion and living intentionally.”

We are thrilled by all that these inspirational young workers have already accomplished in the environmental sector, and we can’t wait to see where they end up next!

1 Comment

Gin Nielseng · January 31, 2022 at 2:30 pm

Thank you for this wonderful update on the Conservancy Interns. It’s great to see where their careers have taken them. I appreciate how dedicated each person is to our Island, and the environment in general.
I wish them all great success in their future endeavours.

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