SEATTLE—The Wilburforce Foundation announced today it is presenting one of four 2022 Conservation Leadership Awards (CLA) to Dr. Justina Ray — President and Senior Scientist of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada — for her ongoing work on science-based conservation policy and partnerships with First Nations across northern Canada.
“Justina sets a powerful example for bringing science to policymakers in compelling, accessible ways that leads to conservation of critical areas,” said Paul Beaudet, executive director of the Wilburforce Foundation. “Her humble leadership has made a difference in the literal landscape of the northern regions and across Canada.”
Established in 2000, the Conservation Leadership Award recognizes groundbreaking leaders protecting wildlands and wildlife in North America. The CLA comes with a cash award for both the individual winner and their organization they represent.
Dr. Ray has led WCS Canada since its founding in 2004 as a Canadian organization. with a long affiliation with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Conservation Program, starting as an intern in 1987, followed by years of research in both African and Asian tropical forests. Since being established, WCS Canada, has become a leading resource for conservation efforts that have impacted millions of square kilometers across the country.
WCS Canada strongly supports Indigenous-led conservation, and Dr. Ray has been a strong advocate for conservation through reconciliation.
In recent years, WCS Canada science has had positive impacts on land-use planning throughout western Canada, as well as in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of northern Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec, where peatlands hold critical storehouses of carbon, which if developed could release significant amounts of carbon and methane, contributing to consequential climate-warming.
A powerful voice for conservation in Canada, Dr. Ray served for almost a decade as a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), responsible for assessments for terrestrial mammals, and has been on numerous governmental science advisory panels.
Her vision and service also extend across the globe, including membership on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Taskforce on Biodiversity and Protected Areas. Additionally she’s worked with the Canadian delegation to the Convention of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which supporters hope will culminate in a successful and transformative new agreement for nature and people at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December.
The author or editor of three books, Dr. Ray has also contributed significantly to research and conservation of wolverine and caribou, while also mentoring the next generation of conservation scientists as an adjunct professor at both Trent University and University of Toronto.
“I am humbled to receive this recognition of my work, but more importantly, recognition of the work of our amazing team at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada,” Dr. Ray said. “We’ve outgrown the muddy boots we started with almost two decades ago, becoming a force for conservation action home and abroad, with more than 50 staff across the country, a growing community of research fellows, and a devoted network of thousands of regular Canadians who support our science simply because they love wildlife and wild places. We are also part of a powerful global family of WCS country programs with a shared and wonderful purpose: to continue setting the bar for wildlife science, conservation action, and education.”
“This is a critical moment for nature conservation, and a critical moment for us as a species to reconcile our fractured relationship with the natural world. I am grateful to the Wilburforce Foundation for helping elevate what we at WCS Canada — and all the other awardees — are doing for nature. We all do what we do out of love for our communities and for this planet, and it’s that love that will sustain us, and make us successful,” she said.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Canada’s mission is to save wildlife and wild places through science, conservation action, education, and by inspiring people to value nature. WCS Canada plays a unique role in the conservation landscape of Canada. We work at the nexus of biodiversity, climate change, and health in priority landscapes where we have had a long-term field presence, and where there is great potential for durable conservation gains. We have strategic national programs to complement and expand our geographically focused work that addresses issues of Canadian and global concern such as Key Biodiversity Areas, climate change, and mentoring the next generation of conservation scientists. WCS Canada is a member of the global Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) working across the globe in more than 60 countries to save wildlife and wild places.
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Wilburforce Foundation is a private philanthropic organization that supports land, water and wildlife conservation efforts in western North America. We invest in natural and social sciences to advance conservation, working with our grantees to defend and use policies that protect our natural world.
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Conservation Communications Manager, WCS Canada
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Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada