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.

Valedictorian David Hale says college is more than good grades and graduating

david-haleWhen David Hale enrolled in the Ecosystem Management Technician program, he entered Fleming College’s Frost Campus with the mindset of earning good grades and graduating as quickly as possible. But after making connections with people and learning more about the natural world, his point of view changed on what he wanted from his college experience.

“The Frost Campus community was awesome, from the front desk workers to the cafeteria staff, the teachers and the students. I found it incredibly unique and I think this is mostly because we all have a common interest: to work in the outdoors and preserve the natural environment,” David explained. “The community is very tight knit and you get to know students from a number of different disciplines as well as your own.”

David decided to take Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program after realizing he could turn his passion for the environment into a career.

“When I exited high school I thought my passion for the outdoors was only a hobby, but after taking an unrelated program in university I decided to try and turn it into a career,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about what I was passionate about.”

Over the past two years, David learned plant identification, ecosystem classification, soil and water sampling techniques, and how to design research studies. He also developed personal skills, such as leadership and teamwork.

David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated
David with a 6.5 tonne elephant being relocated

“My most memorable experience from my time at Fleming was, without a doubt, being able to spend my final semester abroad at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa,” said David. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We saw the most incredible things on a daily basis and we got to meet the most amazing people. While there, we also got to further develop all of the practical skills we learned in Lindsay.”

David graduated from Fleming College this month and served as Valedictorian for the School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences on Friday, June 1 at convocation.

“I hope that people feel a sense of pride after my valedictorian speech,” he said. “Fleming College is very well recognized and being a graduate is a great accomplishment.”

The Class of 2018 graduate said he would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to anyone wanting to gain practical knowledge and skills in the environmental field. He credits the program with placing a huge emphasis on preparing students for their job search, including resume building and interview techniques, as well as covering academic topics and research skills.

“Personally, I found that the best part of the program was the faculty; as long as you work hard, the teachers will do anything to make sure you get everything you wanted out of the program and then some,” said David. “The fact that you can compete to spend a semester in South Africa is just one more thing that makes Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program unlike any other!”

Next year, David plans to attend Trent University for Conservation Biology. His ultimate career goal is to work abroad in conservation.

“Frost Campus is a special place and I know I’ll be carrying it with me as I move on in the future,” he added.

Madison Penton heads to Washington with Ecosystem Management Technology class

groupMadison Penton and her 31 Ecosystem Management Technology classmates boarded a bus to Washington, D.C., on January 22 for the Science, Business, and Education of Sustainable Infrastructure: Building Resilience in a Changing World conference.

The conference, which was presented by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), is a component of the Urban Ecosystems and Ecosystem Health courses. The event gives students the opportunity to see how a conference is organized and brainstorm ideas for their own conference, which they will host on March 24 at Fleming’s Frost Campus.

Madison and her Urban Ecosystems course team also presented a scientific poster at the conference, which is one of the project options in the Fleming College course. Her team presented on How to play with fire and not get burned: an evidence-based approach to wildfire risk reduction in California.

washington“I think one of the biggest things I gained from this experience was confidence,” said Madison. “During the conference, we really had to put ourselves out there, push past our comfort zones and take chances. Presenting a scientific poster on an international stage was nerve-racking but rewarding. Although it was scary when scientists and professionals approached us, we felt confident enough to answer their questions. Also, because the conference topics were so relevant to our learning, I felt confident to talk to anyone!”

While the conference gives students the opportunity to listen to scientists and environmental professionals discuss topics they are learning about in the classroom, the Fleming College group also had the opportunity to explore the history and culture of Washington.

“I had a great experience in Washington. Not only was the conference an incredible opportunity for networking and professional gain, but having the opportunity to explore an amazing new city was equally worthwhile,” she said.

Madison chose to take Ecosystem Management Technology at Fleming College after completing the Ecosystem Management Technician program, as she said the extra year will benefit her educational pathway to Trent University.

“My experience in the Ecosystem Management program has been nothing but rewarding. I have gained so much knowledge and passion for the environment I live in,” said Madison. “The opportunities I have had through field trips and out-of-classroom experiences, like the Washington trip, have been incredible for my personal gain. These experiences also provide opportunities for team building and have provided me with an opportunity to build friendships that I will treasure forever.”

City of Mississauga Forestry Inspector uses Fleming education every day

leah-skinner-webCanada Day was extra special this year for Frost Campus graduate Leah Skinner. The Forestry Inspector for the City of Mississauga planned and created a Canadian flag flower bed as part of the Canada 150 celebrations.

This is just one of the many cool responsibilities Leah has at the City of Mississauga. She manages contracts and budgets for boulevard grass maintenance and horticulture, inspects and creates work for City-owned trees, and works with councillors, management and residents to help answer questions and provide feedback.

Her thorough Fleming College education has come in handy with all of her job duties, she said. Leah is a four-time Frost Campus graduate, completing the Ecosystem Management Technician (2009), Forestry Technician (2010), Urban Forestry (2011) and Arboriculture (2011) programs.

leah-skinner-web“Basically all my education at Fleming has been useful in my career choice,” she said. Leah listed tree identification, climbing and safety, disease and pest identification, soil testing, and knot tying as some examples of applicable skills.

“I found continuing my studies would provide a more progressive and more specialized portfolio schooling-wise, completing the programs I chose to do,” she said. “I was unsure at the young age of 17, when I started school, of what I really wanted to be when I grew up. So I started to specialize once I understood what I had my passion for.”

Leah decided to come to Fleming College after attending the Frost Campus Open House. “I felt a sense of ‘coming home’ when I walked in the front entrance. The atmosphere was warm, welcoming, inviting and simply perfect,” Leah explained. “I had been to many other colleges and universities for their Open Houses, and Fleming was the last and final one. I knew from stepping in the building that this was going to be my school of choice.”

She describes her college experience as “enlightening” and “uplifting,” and said she learned a lot about herself during that time.

“I started school as a shy introverted student who sat in the front-right of the class, and didn’t say much and just did my work with my head down; to graduating and accomplishing many different things, such as being the Director of Student Activities and Affairs on the Student Council,” said Leah, who credits Fleming College with transforming her into an extrovert who felt comfortable asking questions in class.

She also volunteered at every Fleming Open House event during the six years she spent at the college. At the event, Leah shared her love of the campus, its programs, and encouraged women to pursue careers in the male-dominated Arboriculture industry.

She encourages everyone to attend Fleming College for their post-secondary studies because of the positive environment and faculty support.

“The professors are 200% invested in their students and it shows every day in class. The teachers would extend their office hours if a student was in need of help, they would stay late after class to help students study… and these are only a few things they did,” she said. “The college in general has a welcoming atmosphere where no one is judged. […] Everyone is simply kind in person and in soul at Fleming and it shows.”

Ecosystem Management Technician students can study in South Africa

askari-blogEcosystem Management Technician students will soon have the opportunity to spend a semester of study at Pidwa Wilderness Reserve (PWR) in South Africa. Fleming’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences signed a Letter of Intent with Pidwa to partner to deliver a semester abroad beginning in winter 2018.

“Askari is thrilled to have secured a new agreement with Fleming College to begin a semester abroad program,” said Katie Rooke, Manager, Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme. “We have been working with students from the Ecosystem Management program for six years on a two-week placement, which has privileged us to experience the high calibre of students coming from the course. Their prior knowledge, theory, enthusiasm and hard work ethic continue to make their work on the reserve invaluable. To have a team with us for 12 weeks is a fantastic prospect; we will be able to complete longer term and more specialized projects by having the students on board. The Askari team, staff and owner of Pidwa Wilderness Reserve are extremely excited to be moving forward with this extended support from Fleming EM students, all working towards our wilderness vision.”

PWR is a 17,500 hectare wilderness reserve committed to restoring the lowveld ecosystem through monitoring, research and active management studies, while Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme supports the conservation of wilderness at Pidwa. The most recent cohort of Fleming students just returned from Pidwa, where they participated in a habitat restoration project as well as species relocation.

“I am very excited that we are taking this partnership to the next level. Fleming students will now be able to contribute to the vision of the Pidwa Wilderness Reserve through the two-week field placement or the 12-week semester abroad experience in South Africa,” said SENRS Dean Linda Skilton. “The School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences has been increasing applied learning experiences in all of its programs, including international opportunities such as this one in our Ecosystem Management program. In the past six years over 40 students have completed their field placement course at Pidwa and have described their experience as a life changing.”

Ecosystem Management students travel to Costa Rica

costa-rica-blogEcosystem Management Technician students are in Costa Rica for their International Field Placement! The students are sharing their experiences helping the Parismina Turtle Conservation on the Destination Conservation blog.

In the post “More Challenging Than Expected…More Rewarding Too” by Devon Hennessey, Devon writes about the difficult hours of patrols (patrol shifts are either from 8 p.m. to midnight, or midnight to 4 a.m.) “I knew coming here it would be a lot of work for all of the members of our team, but I don’t think anyone understood how much work it would really be,” writes Devon.

“The point of our project is to not only help the turtles but to help the people of the town as well. This has been such an amazing opportunity for me. I am so happy I was able to partake in this team,” Devon writes. “Anyone who is thinking about coming to Costa Rica to help, I urge you that it is so worth it to make the trip, you won’t regret it. I know I won’t.”

Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program has three organized placements. Two are international placements in South Africa and in Costa Rica, which enable students to gain a global perspective on conservation; and a placement in Moosonee, in northern Ontario, which offers the opportunity for students to obtain experience in an Aboriginal community. Students who participate in these organized placement experiences are selected based on a rigorous screening process.