From diploma to PhD, Kelly McLean shares her Fleming education pathways experience

A passion for research and asking questions is what drove Kelly McLean on her education journey, earning diplomas, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and now working towards a PhD. But achieving this level of education was not what Kelly had in mind when she started her post-secondary studies at Fleming College.

“I had never planned on doing a master’s, let alone a PhD,” said Kelly. “I struggled academically in high school, and it wasn’t until I started at Fleming and began studying something I was interested in that I began to achieve good grades and consider university as an option.”

Kelly graduated from Fleming College’s Fish and Wildlife Technician program in 2012, followed by Ecosystem Management Technology in 2013, and Fish and Wildlife Technology in 2014.

“My interest in doing a PhD has been a cascading effect from my Fleming co-op, as this project is in partnership with my co-op organization,” said Kelly on her PhD research which is a collaboration between the University of Waterloo and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

After her co-op placement, Kelly worked two summers as a Federal Student Work Experience student with the Canadian Wildlife Service as well as various contract positions, which included conducting crane surveys.

For her PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo, Kelly is researching the spatial ecology and habitat selection of sandhill cranes in Ontario and Quebec under the supervision of Dr. Brad Fedy. Sandhill cranes have grown in population and geographic range in the past decade, after being nearly extirpated from their historical range in Ontario in the early 1900s. Since this species forages in agricultural fields, this increase in population raises concerns of potential crop damage.

Kelly is working with the Canadian Wildlife Service to equip 80 cranes with transmitters to determine fine scale habitat use, migration timing and strategies, and help answer ecology questions. This research will help determine which agricultural fields are more prone to crop depredation, and potentially determine methods to prevent or mitigate crop damage.

“Science is all about asking questions, and I think that asking and answering relevant questions is very important in wildlife management,” said Kelly. “I was once told that in college, you learn what sort of things you can ask questions about; in your undergrad, you learn what sort of questions you can ask; in your master’s, you learn how to ask those questions; and during your PhD, you actually answer the questions.”

After graduating from Fleming College, Kelly used Fleming’s education pathway to Trent University and earned her Honours Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology in 2016. She then spent four months working as a Student Migratory Game Bird Technician for the Aquatic Assessment Unit of Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, followed by another eight months working as a Wildlife Biologist.

This experience working for the federal government inspired Kelly to earn a master’s degree, wanting to open doors for herself in policy and decision-making positions.

For her Master of Science and Forestry at the University of New Brunswick, Kelly studied wetland buffer width and the persistence of black ducks in New Brunswick under the supervision of Dr. Joe Nocera. Kelly worked with the Canadian Wildlife Service Atlantic Region and Ducks Unlimited Canada Atlantic Region to determine the effects of commercial forest harvesting on the distribution of breeding black ducks.

“The field and logistical planning skills that I learned at Fleming were vital to this component of my masters. I had to navigate in dense forest and identify waterfowl daily, just like a typical day at Fleming field camp. It was the kind of position that Fleming excels at preparing students for, except this time I was the one in charge,” said Kelly, who had the help of a Fleming Fish and Wildlife student on co-op placement and a Fleming graduate working as a technician.

“The knowledge I gained at Fleming is a great foundation that I continually build on,” she said.

For those considering an education pathway from Fleming College, Kelly recommends taking the opportunity.

“You do not have to be the smartest person in the class to continue your education. Hard work and a good attitude are just as important as your GPA,” said Kelly. “The pathways program is a great way to effectively and economically get the best of both worlds and be very employable.”

Kim Magee makes a difference as Front Porch Project photographer

As Kim Magee approaches homes in Lindsay, Ont., individuals, couples, families and sometimes even pets emerge from their front doors with a bright smile to greet her. Kim is a Front Porch Project photographer, snapping family portraits from a distance in exchange of a donation. The Fleming College graduate has raised $2,775 in the past four weeks for Kawartha Lakes Food Source.

“It’s fun, people loved it! They get to smile and there’s not a worry on their face in that moment. They’re happy and stress-free for a minute amidst it all,” said Kim, who has photographed 48 families, Caressant Care Long Term Care staff, Queen’s Square Pharmacy, South Pond Farms, Action Car and Truck Accessories, and Kawartha Lakes Paramedics, among others.

Kim is one of many photographers participating in the Front Porch Project, where photographers fundraise to help support their communities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim chose to fundraise for Kawartha Lakes Food Source to help those in need, encouraging financial donations as Kawartha Lakes Food Source can turn every dollar into six dollars worth of food.

She said the experience has been a pleasure for her and has been keeping her busy. In February 2020, all of Kim’s upcoming photography bookings were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. When a friend told Kim about the Front Porch Project, she jumped at the opportunity to pick up her camera again and make a difference in her community.

“It felt good to be out there shooting because I hadn’t been in a while, and it’s that connection with people,” Kim shared. “Knowing we’re all in the same boat right now, it just makes you appreciate the little things more. I’m capturing this moment in time, and I’m feeling the love out there because we all need it right now.”

Kim is happy to call Lindsay, Ont. her home after moving from Emo, Ont., near the Minnesota boarder, to take the Fish and Wildlife Technician program at Fleming College’s Frost Campus.

“I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, which was like a National Geographic Channel-type show. They’d capture and tag wildlife on the show and my favourite was when they went to Africa,” said Kim, who dreamed of being a wildlife photographer in Africa after learning photography in high school. “I found the Fish and Wildlife program perfect for me, because I like to explore fish and wildlife, and it would help towards my dream of being a National Geographic photographer.”

Kim developed many relationships at Frost Campus, including amazing friendships, getting married and starting a family, which is why she decided to stay in Lindsay after graduating in 1992.

“The friendships I made at Frost Campus, including my friendship with the former manager of the Mary Street Residence, they became my family. They are my family and my son views them as aunts and uncles. I got such a great foundation in Lindsay,” said Kim. “It takes a long time in a new community to set roots and make friends. If I hadn’t had those people around me, I probably wouldn’t have stayed. These people are wonderful and it’s all why I’m still here. Plus, the Lindsay area is also very similar to my hometown. It’s a great place to be!”

After graduating from Fleming College, Kim worked at a mall photo lab and would display her nature photography in the frames to help sell frames. It wasn’t long until shoppers started asking Kim to photograph their weddings, which she denied for a long time (“why would I take pictures of people?” she laughs) until she finally agreed to photograph a wedding for $50. She was hooked and has been in the business for 26 years.

“My Fleming College education has stayed with me my whole life. I know how to work with nature in both my personal life and my career,” said Kim. “And my dream of Africa has never left my head. I’ll save for the big lenses and one day I’ll be photographing big cats in South Africa. That’s the retirement goal!”

UNB master’s student Kelly McLean credits Fleming Education Pathways for achieving education goals

Kelly holding a rare male northern pintail during winter banding with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Chatham, Ont.
Kelly holding a rare male northern pintail during winter banding with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Chatham, Ont.

Kelly McLean credits Fleming College’s strong pathway agreement with Trent University for helping her achieve her education goals.

“The transfer agreement with Trent was key to me achieving my schooling goals because I was able to complete a four year degree in two years. If I had to complete all four years I likely would not have gone to university,” said Kelly, who is now completing her Master of Science and Forestry at the University of New Brunswick.

Kelly is a graduate of Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences and completed the Fish and Wildlife Technician (2012), Ecosystem Management Technology (2013), and Fish and Wildlife Technology (2014) programs.

“When I started at Fleming I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the professors were very inspiring and we were exposed to so many different topics that I was able to explore my interests and begin to build a career that I am very passionate about,” she said.

After graduating from Fleming College, Kelly decided to use the education pathway to Trent University because of the strong agreement between the two institutions. She liked that Trent was also small and environmentally focused, and that some of her Fleming peers were also going to attend Trent to add a degree to their resumé.

“Fleming students were well-known at Trent for our field skills, so we were often called upon by our lab coordinators to lead lab work.”

“It was great to have the support of peers going through the same process,” she said. “Fleming students were well-known at Trent for our field skills, so we were often called upon by our lab coordinators to lead lab work.”

Kelly said the administrative process of moving from Fleming to Trent was “very smooth and seamless” and felt very prepared for university courses thanks to her college education.

“In fact, my thesis supervisor recently commented that I have above average writing, a skill that I attribute to the projects and reports that I completed at Fleming,” Kelly added.

After earning her Honours Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology (2016) from Trent, Kelly spent four months working as a Student Migratory Game Bird Technician for the Aquatic Assessment Unit of Environment Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service, and spent another eight months working as a Wildlife Biologist.

“Having a combined field skill set from college and university has provided me with very employable skills.”

She is now working on a research-based master’s degree at the University of New Brunswick, studying wetland buffer width and the persistence of black ducks in New Brunswick under the supervision of Dr. Joe Nocera. She anticipates completing her Master of Science and Forestry in 2019.

Kelly’s end goal is to work in government science and influence policy around harvested wildlife species. “Having a combined field skill set from college and university has provided me with very employable skills,” she said.

From animals in captivity to Canadian wildlife, Valedictorian Zachary Steele discusses his career change

zachary-steeleAfter 10 years as an animal care technician and maintenance worker, Zachary Steele was ready for change.

“I decided it was time to turn my focus from animals happily living in captivity, to the wildlife and natural resources of Canada,” said Zachary. “I decided to apply to Fleming to increase my knowledge of the outdoors, wildlife and more. I wanted to develop a skill-set that would qualify me to get involved in monitoring and protecting the ever-growing human impact on the natural world.”

Zachary enrolled in the Fish and Wildlife Technician program at Frost Campus, developing skills in wildlife technologies, theoretical concepts behind ecosystem interactions, and his ability to identify various flora and fauna of Canada.

“The amount of knowledge I now have about natural resources has changed my perception of the outdoors entirely. My experience at Frost Campus was one of the most rewarding I’ve ever had,” he said.

Zachary also enjoyed helping fellow students at Frost Campus. He tutored students in the Biodiversity Commons about identifying Ontario trees and shrubs, he tutored in room 232 (“Fish Lab”) about identification of fish species, and he did individual tutoring in the Learning Centre. “I found that teaching others really solidified my own learning and I could learn from them along the way,” he said.

Now that Zachary is graduating from the Fish and Wildlife Technician program, he is excited to be named Valedictorian of this year’s graduating class.

“I’m honoured to be considered for this role, and hope that I can do all I can to embody the best of what Fleming College’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences has to offer,” said Zachary. “I hope people get a sense of everything that we learn at Frost; not just the in-class course-related material, but how we as members of society can better each other and the natural world by sharing our knowledge and experiences, no matter what they may be.”

After the convocation ceremony on Friday, June 2, Zachary will spend his summer at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories working on Species at Risk Research. In the fall, he will return to Frost Campus for the Fish and Wildlife Technology program to continue developing his skills in this field. His long-term goal is to work as a fisheries technician/biologist.

“I would highly recommend anyone interested in the outdoors to take Fish and Wildlife,” said Zachary. “The program provides an incredibly diverse foundation from which to branch out into a career in natural resources.”