The Kamloops Naturalist Club recently landed a huge grant, provided by the Lawson Youth Foundation, to start up a new program called Next Generation Naturalists. The program is aimed at teaching and developing young leaders of Kamloops in the conservation of nature.
The skills learned will be those used by naturalists to identify the different species of plants, animals and fungi in the ecosystems around Kamloops; those used by leaders to find sustainable solutions to problems and those used by conservation biologists to manage and plan the best ways to protect nature around us.
The Dean of Science at TRU, Tom Dickinson, tells The Omega that the connection between the university and the club is one that really involves people who “share the same mindset and values” of those in the naturalist club.
“The connections between the university and the naturalist club are really important. We help with the establishment of some citizen-science that they do, so we have had this connection to the university through our members of the faculties and the club crossovers, it is an important set of values of things that we share,” Dickinson said.
“Matt Reudink in the biology department helps with the understanding and maintenance of about 400 mountain bluebird boxes that are put up in the countryside around here”, he continued. “The bluebirds were declining in numbers and it was correctly thought that it was because they were losing their nest sites to more aggressive species like starlings.”
Dickinson says that there was an amazing opportunity that arose last fall to apply for a grant that would benefit both students and the naturalist club. The program would allow high-school and university students alike to work together to develop a knowledge of nature and leadership skills.
“We got a grant of $245,000 from a foundation in Ontario, that is focused in on this idea of youth leadership and conservation,” Dickinson said. “The naturalist club in town was one of only three in Canada, and the only one in British Columbia, that was able to get an award to work on this idea of developing young people with the skills necessary to be leaders in the area of sustainability and the environment.”
It is a program for young leaders aged 17-22, who will be taking a series of workshops and courses that will be delivered on campus at the university. There will be up to 35 young people in this new program, and there will be “lectures that are brought in and local experts in these sorts of areas,” according to Dickinson. There will also be field trips that students will be able to participate in.
“In addition, we will be going out on field trips to learn more about the natural environment we have, particularly the plant and animal communities of flora and fauna that make this part of British Columbia so unique,” he said. “We’re going to train people in some identifying of the important pieces of our biodiversity, we’re going to talk to them about the methods of working within groups to come to solutions regarding some of the toughest environmental problems we’ll be faced, we’ll be looking at learning from Indigenous communities about the ways in which they understood how the land worked and was healed after trauma like the fires and other sorts of things, and some of the stories of the land from them as well.”
The program just started up recently, on March 16, and the meetings will be every first and third Saturday of the month. It is a three-year program, with eight modules in total.