Muddy Boots is our internal blog where our staff members share experiences getting their boots muddy with on-the-ground conservation research! You can find our contributions to external blogs and Op Eds here.
On a late summer afternoon in Whitehorse, Hilary Cooke was sorting through the mail not really looking for anything in particular, when she came across an interesting hand written letter. It isn’t too often that we receive hand written letters, and almost never coming from a community school. She opened it diligently, and inside to her surprise she found a hand written cheque addressed to the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada for $450 addressed by St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction. With some digging around, the Whitehorse-based field office discovered that students from grade 8 had organized a bake sale to raise funds for wildlife research and the conservation and preservation of Yukon’s wild spaces. St. Elias Community School is a small northern community school within the Yukon First Nations School Board with approximately 142 students from Kindergarten to grade 12.
Down the hall – St. Elias Community School
We were so thrilled that these students wanted the proceeds to go to wildlife conservation, that we started conversations with the teacher for an opportunity to visit the class. With students on summer break, teachers changing classes, and navigating our own field seasons and other commitments, our opportunity didn’t come until this February, but nevertheless, our excitement was still HIGH!
The day finally arrived, and a few members of the Northern Boreal Mountains (NBM) and Western Arctic team were ready to make the close to two-hour drive from Whitehorse to Haines Junction. Luckily, the roads were clear after a heavy snowfall, and even a couple of coyotes made a quick appearance along the way. Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle, Conservation Planning Biologist and Co-Director of the NBM program, and Maya Chartier, Arctic Wildlife Technician for the Western Arctic program planned a presentation for the students of the class. Chrystal showcased the NBM Canary in a Gold Mine field video and highlighted a Weston Family Boreal Research student’s contributions on the Yukon River Chinook Salmon. There even were some videos of bears doing their best back scratch and booty bear shake that was captured by trail cameras in the field as part of a research study on the impacts of human development on species at risk. Maya played some marine mammal audio clips from hydrophones in the Arctic, and showed a few videos of field work tagging ringed seals in the Arctic and drone footage from the Arctic team field site. At the end of the presentations, students were given an opportunity to ask some questions. One of the students really wanted to know what classes they needed to take in order to be a Marine Biologist and if we needed any volunteers!
The drive to Haines Junction, Yukon
At the end of the presentation, students were given some WCS Canada swag and left with a better understanding about the work that we do and an impression that they truly did make a difference with their kindness and warm gesture. And just by chance, some maybe were left with a spark that may bring them one day into the incredible work that we do for wildlife research and conservation.
The next generation of conservations scientists, Ella and June (middle) were the organizers of the bake sale, with their teacher, Albert Surroca (far right). From WCS Canada, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle (and her two kids, Aurora and River who came along for the ride), and Maya Chartier.
The two students that arranged the bake sale were asked why wildlife and conservation are important to them.
“[Wildlife and Conservation] is important to me because I spend a lot of my time outdoors and with wildlife and I feel it’s really important for ecosystems, because we learn a lot of that in school, and if we don’t have wild places, the world wouldn’t be a beautiful or happy place.” - Ella
“Wildlife and Conservation[ is important because if there are animals that disappear, the whole ecosystem becomes out of balance.” - June
Photo credits: Banner | Lila Tauzer © WCS Canada