Written by Shannon Marshall

When it comes to summer jobs, working for The Nature Trust of BC on their South Coast Conservation Field Crew is about as good as it gets. I started on the crew in June of 2022 and finished the season at the end of August.

I am currently in the middle of a dual degree Master’s in Biology and International Nature Conservation from Göttingen University in Germany and Lincoln University in New Zealand. With all that travel, I was looking forward to spending my summer back home in BC and gaining career experience while I was at it.

2022 South Coast Conservation Field Crew in the Fraser River Estuary

In the summer of 2021, I worked for The Nature Trust in their Communications department. I had a great experience learning about the inner workings of an environmental non-profit, meeting hard-working, talented people, and gaining experience in the marketing world. As much as I enjoyed this aspect of the organization, much of my time was spent behind a desk. I would write articles about our various Conservation Field Crews and their exciting, hands-on fieldwork. I have to admit, I was a bit jealous. I knew that if I returned next year, I needed to try to get on one of those crews.

Left: Shannon in the field. Right: A day in the field with the South Coast Crew.

And that’s exactly what I did. I know it sounds corny – because it is – but I have never loved coming to work before this job. I hated work, I tolerated work, and sometimes I “liked” work, but this was the first time I was excited to turn my alarm off at 6 am and hop out of bed. Knowing I would be spending my day with wonderful people outside, contributing to conserving what I care about most – wild things. It’s a special thing to be able to nuture the little kid inside you who loves to look at bugs and frogs and run around in the woods.

My work days were spent in the beautiful BC wilderness. It was always gorgeous, whether it was Hope, Squamish, the Sunshine Coast, Savary Island, or anywhere in between. I learned how to conduct wildlife surveys and identify plants, animals, insects, birds, fungi, and anything else we found in our conservation areas. We restored habitats by removing invasive species and waste. We maintained properties to ensure the public could enjoy them and hosted events to allow community members to get involved in our work.

Meanwhile, I was working alongside my knowledgeable crew mates and crew lead – all incredibly kind, passionate, intelligent women. I learned so much from each of them as everyone had different perspectives and strengths they brought to the job. Sammy Penner, our crew lead at the time, was exceptionally inspirational as she had been working with The Nature Trust for seven years. She was a real role model, encouraging us to always stay curious and soak up every opportunity to learn more about the environment around us.

A few South Coast Conservation Field Crew team members

Not only did we learn from each other, but Sammy ensured we had opportunities to work with other conservation organizations in and around the Lower Mainland. From working alongside bear experts to helping invasive species crews to conducting water sampling with the Hope Mountain Center, we got to assist and learn about many facets of conservation in the province.

Working in the field of nature conservation can be really disheartening at times; it’s not easy when it feels like you’re trying to win a battle that often feels already lost. However, this job reminded me that so many brilliant people are working to protect our province. Working for The Nature Trust of BC was exactly what I needed to continue my Master’s in the fall with a renewed sense of hope, passion, and curiosity.