A love of conservation from New Zealand to Nova Scotia

01 May 2023

After completing a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Biodiversity from Victoria University in Wellington, NZ in 2020, Gemma Burns’ original plan was to take some time for travelling the world but was only two weeks into her adventure when the Covid-19 pandemic was declared. Although her globe-trotting was temporarily delayed, she put her time to good use and completed a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology, working on a project that focused on habitat restoration for freshwater sponges.

Fast-forward three years, and Gemma has now resumed her travel plans and is visiting Nova Scotia with her partner, a native Haligonian.

“During my working holiday in Canada, I wanted an opportunity to stay connected with conservation and environmentalism through volunteer work, and it didn’t take long before I found the Nature Trust and reached out for an opportunity,” says Gemma.

Over the recent winter and spring months, Gemma has been researching and writing profiles about important representative species that are found on Nature Trust conservation lands. It’s been a great way for us to share short tidbits of important information about birds, plants or other wildlife through our newsletters or social media, and has also been a great way for Gemma to become more familiar with the different species found in Nova Scotia.

Gemma’s passion for nature started early. “My entire upbringing was outdoors! We were always hiking – even on holidays my family’s tradition was to be hiking together in the forest somewhere, and eventually my connection to the outdoors grew into a deeper interest in conservation and environmental issues,” says Gemma. “New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of the importance of protecting nature and the environment. There is a lot of bird awareness in particular – we have many endangered bird species and they are closely tied to our national image – we even have a Bird of the Year!”

Gemma’s love of birds and the environment fuels her interest in conservation. “There has been so much damage to our environment already and we need to act now. Conservation is so important because more damage is looming. By protecting species and ecosystems now we’re protecting ourselves and our cultural history too.”

Gemma remains hopeful about the future and understands the importance of helping kids learn more about conservation and environmentalism and is spending time working in British Columbia with an environmental outreach and education program for kids, and will be returning to Nova Scotia in June.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time as a volunteer with the Nature Trust and look forward to more writing projects when I return. It’s a great way to provide real support for the organization, and perhaps my story will inspire others to support too.”

We’re so thankful for Gemma’s generous contribution of time and talent as a volunteer writer. You’ll see her species profiles across our social media pages and in our monthly newsletter “Landlines”. If you would like to learn more about any of our volunteer opportunities, please contact Christina at volunteer@nsnt.ca.

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