Ecosystem Management graduate stands up against plastic pollution

Rochelle Byrne, Fleming Ecosystem Management Technology graduate (Class of 2012), is proud to stand up for what she believes in. To raise awareness of plastic pollution, Rochelle stand-up paddleboarded 430km across Lake Ontario.

“I wanted to do this stand-up paddle to raise awareness of plastic pollution because, after doing hundreds of litter clean-ups along the shores of Lake Ontario, I found that plastic was the most common thing being found,” said Rochelle. “Some of it is coming from unexpected sources and a lot of it is completely preventable.”

Rochelle is the founder of A Greener Future, a non-profit organization that promotes environmental preservation through organized litter cleanups, educational programs and events. This includes the Love Your Lake series, comprising 100 organized litter cleanups along Lake Ontario. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, A Greener Future was not able to host this event series in 2020.

Still committed to raising awareness about pollution in Lake Ontario, Rochelle decided to use her stand-up paddleboard and document her journey on social media to help educate others.

“I saw raw sewage in the lake, there were some smelly areas and dead fish,” said Rochelle, who spent 92 hours stand-up paddleboarding. “I’ll be sharing the full paddling journey through my personal Instagram (@rochellebyrneagf) over the coming months.”

While Rochelle always cared about nature and animals, it wasn’t until her experience at Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences that she developed a passion for the environment.

“I took Fleming’s Ecosystem Management program and that’s where I became aware of the impact I have on the environment. Before attending classes at Frost (Fleming’s Lindsay campus), I really didn’t know the impact I had,” Rochelle explains. “That was really a starting point for me on protecting the environment. It also gave me the opportunity to network and meet like-minded people.”

Rochelle is a proud Fleming College graduate and welcomes any like-minded people to volunteer at A Greener Future. To apply to volunteer, please visit A Greener Future’s website.

Ecosystem Management is an international adventure for Celeste Thompson

Celeste Thompson’s Fleming College experience has been an international adventure. From field work in Lindsay, Ont., to conservation initiatives in Costa Rica and a conference in Washington, D.C., Celeste is busy building her resume while making memories to last a lifetime.

“My experience at Fleming so far has been more than I could have dreamed,” said Celeste, who was born and raised in Orangeville, Ont. “The Ecosystem Management professors have made a world of difference in making the three years the best school experience of my life.”

Celeste chose the Ecosystem Management program because she loves being in the natural environment and wanted an environmental career. “The Ecosystem Management programs tie in all ends from wildlife to trees and soil and protocols. It allows for graduates to branch off to many different career paths,” she explains.

After accepting her offer to Fleming College, Celeste attended the Fleming College Open House to explore the Frost Campus before starting classes. She said it helped prepare her for college and recommends the event to future students.

“This gave me a perspective on what I was going to be getting into. I feel attending the Open House motivated me and got me more excited to attend college,” she said. “I recommend these events to students thinking about coming to Fleming.”

Celeste is happy with her program choice and loves the close-knit Frost Campus community, which she describes as supportive and feels like family. Her favourite place at Frost Campus is the back forty, the main location for class field work, which Celeste credits as the perfect space for environmental students. 

“With full confidence I would recommend the Ecosystem Management program to others. This program has made me the person I am today, and I am positive all students will leave with a special place in their hearts for EM,” said Celeste. “I am convinced the work I have done in this program will ensure my success in future endeavours as we cover a wide variety of topics to a professional and high standard.”

One of Celeste’s favourite Fleming experiences is the two-week field placement in Parismina, Costa Rica during her second year. Students who participate in this organized placement experience are selected based on a rigorous screening process. 

“That experience is something that I will always be appreciative of and drives me to follow my goals,” said Celeste, who volunteered to support Leatherback sea turtle conservation initiatives.

The Ecosystem Management adventures continued in 2020, kicking off the new year with a trip to Washington, D.C. for the National Council for Science and the Environment Conference.

This conference is organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment and features presentations on new research, innovation, and shows the power of collaboration. It engages more than 800 leaders from the sciences, education, government, policy, business and civil society to foster dialogue on environmental policy.

This experience was a nice way to start our final semester in this program,” said the third-year Ecosystem Management Technology student. “We gained lots of experience communicating with experts in the environmental field. It allowed us to grow into young professionals who are confident in our work and background.”

In addition to the conference experience, Celeste also enjoyed site-seeing in Washington. She and her peers visited the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum and the Lincoln Memorial.

Celeste plans to graduate from the Ecosystem Management Technology program in June 2020. After graduation, she would love to travel and do contract work in her field. Since Celeste believes in lifelong learning, she may return to Fleming College to continue her education journey and earn other diplomas in relevant fields.

Fleming graduate explores coastal habitats aboard Leeway Odyssey science vessel

Ecosystem Management graduate Paul McCarney had an adventurous August on the Leeway Odyssey science vessel with Oceana Canada and the Nunatsiavut Government.

Paul, who is the Research Manager at the Nunatsiavut Government, went on a 10-day expedition to explore the coastal habitats of Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador.

“This is an area that is important to Inuit communities in this area, and the marine environment is so important,” said Paul on the culturally and ecologically significant habitats. “We do a lot of science work, but there’s not a lot of science work at the bottom of the ocean—there’s not much exploration done there and that’s the base of the whole habitat. Through this expedition, we’ll get a better sense of this area, monitor changes, see the species, and get a better understanding of the ecosystem and what’s going on in these areas.”

The team collected data and used cameras to record the habitats in coastal bays and fjords, including kelp forests, rocky reefs and open water areas surrounded by seasonal sea ice. Watch this video filmed by Fleming Environmental Visual Communication graduate Caitlin McManus for a glimpse of what they discovered.

“Being able to see the foundational part of the habitats and the ocean and the world is extremely productive. We were able to see coral sponges, sea stars, kelp habitats… there’s so much diversity and we’re able to see it right from the bottom of the ocean,” said Paul on the expedition.

The Fleming College graduate says he uses his education every day in his role as Research Manager, describing it as key to his career. His understanding of identification and looking at images in quadrants, assessments, social and political impacts, and more, are just some of the skills Paul uses daily that he gained at Fleming.

“What I love about Fleming is that the programs are inter-disciplinary. There’s a focus on science, and then you apply it to the social and political issues,” said Paul. “At the Nunatsiavut Government, we’re not just focused on science, we also protect the Inuit communities, the people and the environment. So that understanding from Fleming is useful.”

Paul believes in the Ecosystem Management program so much that he came back to teach in the program for two years after graduating. “I loved it!” said Paul. “I recommend it to everyone I’ve spoken to. Everyone loves it there.”

Photo credit: Oceana Canada/Evermaven

Meet Social Media Ambassador Hilary Wright

Hilary Wright grew up with a passion for animals and nature, which is why it’s so important to her that future generations get this same opportunity.

“With our current climate crisis, I wanted to do my part to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the wildlife we’ve all had the chance to enjoy,” she explains.

After earning a certificate in Performance Horse Handling from University of Guelph – Ridgetown Campus, Hilary enrolled in the Ecosystem Management program at Fleming’s School of Environmental & Natural Resource Sciences.

“Ecosystem Management not only educates me on how I can make a difference for the animals I care about, I get hands-on experience every week!” she explains. “I love studying Ecology because the more I learn, the more I can see how everything and every action is connected in some way. It’s both incredibly challenging and beautiful to realize how we’re all linked together.”

The second-year student says she loves the hands-on learning opportunities that Fleming College offers, as well as the amazing faculty.

“I love having the opportunity to be in the field practicing the skills I’ll use in my future career,” she said.  “Paired with having the most passionate and experienced faculty who truly take the time to know you… it’s a unique experience!”

Outside of academics, Hilary loves participating in the fun clubs and activities at Frost Campus. As a member of the Foraging and Bushcraft Club, Hilary explores acres of campus land with her club members searching for plants they can eat or craft into tools. She also loves Auk’s Lodge events, such as karaoke night, pub night, and even a Bob Ross-themed paint night.

“There are so many fun things to do on campus!” said Hilary, whose advice to new Frost Campus students is to get involved and try as many things as you can. “Whether it’s operating a drill rig, climbing a tree or trying your hand at Loggersports, there are so many once-in-a-lifetime events you don’t want to miss out on!”

Next semester, Hilary is excited to have another once-in-a-lifetime experience: she is travelling to South Africa!

Hilary and a group of Ecosystem Management students are spending the winter semester abroad through a partnership with the Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme.

“Every year, up to 10 students from EM get to spend their fourth semester living on a wildlife conservation reserve in South Africa,” said Hilary. “I can’t wait to experience this for myself!”

Hilary is enjoying her Fleming College experience so much that she is now a Social Media Ambassador with Fleming’s Marketing Department. She is creating social media content, such as Instagram Story videos and Facebook photos, that highlights her experience at Frost Campus.

“I can’t wait to show everyone the crazy things we as students get to do everyday!” said Hilary. “Whether we’re in the field planting trees, in the lab analyzing invertebrates or enjoying a pub night down in the Auks Lodge, we’re always up to something new and exciting!”

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.”

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.

Ecosystem Management students wrap up Credit for Product projects

Credit for Product group: Kushog Lake
Credit for Product group: Kushog Lake

Ecosystem Management Technology students wrap up their Fall 2016 Credit for Product projects today at City of Kawartha Lakes – City Hall. The Project Closing meeting featured speeches, creation of a word cloud with Credit for Product keywords, and a discussion on the placement experience.

Credit for Product is a unique placement program where students spend one day per week working with a team on a project for an external agency. This is an opportunity for students to expand their network of employment contacts and gain valuable real-world experience.

“Over the past 16+ years, Ecosystem Management students have completed 500 projects that benefit our community,” said Frost Campus faculty member Sara Kelly. “That’s an incredible amount of environmental projects.”

Sara said while the community benefits from the work the students’ complete, Ecosystem Management students benefit from the applied learning experience. “Credit for Product is a mutually beneficial relationship we have here,” she said.

During the Project Closing, faculty member Josh Feltham acknowledged the value of the work Ecosystem Management students do. “You’re providing a capacity to an organization that doesn’t have it,” he said. “Your work has value.”

He added that part of the value of Credit for Product for students is learning from their mistakes. “To anyone who learned something new, was it from doing something perfectly the first time?” he asked the group. “Most learning is driven from challenges you face, not from things running smoothly. That’s where the learning comes in.”

Josh said that employers want to hear challenges students face during placement and how they found a solution. “Challenges make good and interesting tales,” he said.

Credit for Product reports
Credit for Product reports

Fall 2016 projects include: E. coli feasibility and testing of Kushog Lake for Kushog Lake Property Owner’s Association, Boyd (Chiminis) Island shoreline species inventory and disturbed versus reference biodiversity study for Kawartha Lakes Stewards Association, Stoney Creek watershed report card for Kawartha Conservation, stewardship plan for Vimy Oaks woodlot for Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church, state of Leech Lake report for Leech Lake Cottagers’ Association, and turtle underpass site reconnaissance and feasibility study for The Land Between.”