A life-long interest in Africa takes Samuel Davison to Fleming College

Samuel Davison grew up watching movies and documentaries about Africa, in awe of the incredible biodiversity and ecosystems, and the flora and fauna there.

When he started researching post-secondary schools, Samuel discovered that Fleming College’s Ecosystem Management Technician program includes a mandatory two-week field placement– and one of the three organized placements is in South Africa. 

“It called to me as soon as I researched the Ecosystem Management Technician program,” said Samuel. “I knew that is where I wanted to be before I was even accepted into the program.”

And when it was his time to apply for the South Africa field placement team, Samuel leaped at the opportunity.

“I was all over it,” said Samuel on the highly competitive, rigorous screening process. “I wanted the experience, I wanted to see everything that I have been dreaming of since I was a kid, and the opportunity was right there in front of me so I thought, ‘why not?’”

After submitting his cover letter and resume, completing a fitness test, studying handbooks and project aims, and completing a written test, Samuel was selected for the 2019 Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme team.

Life-changing adventures in the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme

The Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme gives volunteers the opportunity to contribute to the management, research and monitoring activities on Pidwa Wilderness Reserve. The goal is to secure, increase and improve wild habitats.

During his field placement, Samuel assisted with:

  • Reserve management and data capture, such as birds of prey identification and monitoring, and cheetah monitoring.
  • Sensitive tree protection, habitat rehabilitation and invasive plant control.
  • Darting and relocation of herbivore species and radio telemetry tracking of various species, including elephants and cheetahs.
  • Daily vehicle and equipment checks and fence maintenance, along with data recording.

“This whole experience is a once in a lifetime,” said Samuel. “I don’t mean to sound cliché, but being in South Africa on a conservation reserve surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, wildlife and people is truly breathtaking.”

One unforgettable experience Samuel had in South Africa was assisting with sable antelope darting and relocation with world-renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr. Peter Rogers, veterinary nurse Janelle Goodrich, and the Askari team.

“You really learn to appreciate an animal when your hands are wrapped around its horns supporting it, feeling the heat and the life within it, your adrenaline pumping but somehow feeling at peace all at the same time. It’s a state of euphoria,” Samuel explained. “Getting this hands-on experience and education from professionals with wild sable was unforgettable and one of the fond memories I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

Samuel said his field placement experience in South Africa developed his interpersonal and teamwork skills, strengthened his work on scientific methods, and helped him make life-long connections.

“I have always been passionate about conservation and the environment, but getting this experience to me was like throwing gasoline on a fire; it completely ignited this passion that was burning inside me,” said Samuel. “It showed me where I wanted to be in the future and what kind of person I want to become. This is an experience of unbelievable value, and something that I will cherish and use to continue driving me forward in my future.”

The Ecosystem Management Technician student is especially grateful to faculty members and trip leaders/organizers Barb Elliot and Mike Fraser, who he describes as role models.

“I can confidently say that these two people have changed my life. Their combined knowledge, wisdom and outright positive and driven attitude do not go unnoticed by anyone that comes across them. They have driven me to be the best person that I can be, academically but equally as a human being,” said Samuel. “They work incredibly hard and expected the same from us, which tells me they really do care about the outcome of what kind of people we are graduating from Fleming College.”

Dean Brett Goodwin (back row, second from left), faculty members Barb Elliot (front row, centre) and Mike Fraser (front row, second from right), and the field placement team.

He was also excited that Brett Goodwin, Dean of Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences, joined his group in South Africa.

“It’s not often you get to travel with your professors, let alone the Dean! It’s inspiring to see someone you wouldn’t normally get to meet getting back into science and into the outdoors with the students,” said Samuel.

He “whole-heartedly” recommends the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme, adding that the experience, skills and work will make an impact.

Fleming’s Ecosystem Management Technician program is the right fit for Samuel

Samuel discovered Fleming College through a friend, who endorsed Fleming based on its strong reputation as an environmental school. Samuel researched the College and was intrigued by the Ecosystem Management Technician program, which featured a mandatory field placement and opportunity to travel abroad.

To ensure Fleming was the right fit for him, Samuel attended the Spring 2017 Open House event before starting school that fall.

“The Open House gave me the opportunity to get a feeling for the faculty, the school and the environment. I needed to make sure that I was investing a piece of my life to somewhere that was going to invest in me and my future as well,” he explained. “I found having students and faculty present at booths, providing information and experiences in each program and service, were key in my decision to feeling like the program and school was right for me.”

Samuel describes Fleming’s Frost Campus as his “home away from home,” a close-knit, small campus community full of caring people.

“The faculty here at Fleming College go to the ends of the earth for their students and continue to do so. They have made my experience over the past two years unforgettable, but so incredibly valuable,” he said. “This program is full of wonderful, dedicated and passionate students who are like-minded but provide many different perspectives, and that is something truly amazing.”

Samuel will attend Fleming College for an additional year to complete the Ecosystem Management Technology program. After that, he would like to pursue Fleming’s Environmental Visual Communication graduate certificate at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. He eventually wants to study conservation and biology in university.