Learning Through Volunteering: Experiencing the “field” firsthand with NSNT

01 Mar 2023

As part of an Experiential Learning course that Myles McNaughton was taking at Dalhousie University, it was required he gain volunteer experience with a local biology or nature-based organization. After some research, Myles came across the Nova Scotia Nature Trust and reached out, and we were happy to find him a spot on our Stewardship Team as a volunteer for the fall 2022 semester.

“It was great to not only get to complete my course required volunteering, but to also gain valuable experience out in the field,” says Myles, age 22. “I was actually able to go out with the stewardship team and see so many interesting spots; a lot of marshes and wetlands – in fact, when you’re out there you really realize how much of the province is covered in wetlands.”

Completing over 80 volunteer hours over the semester, Myles joined the stewardship team on numerous outings to monitor and care for our conservation lands. Using the Landscape app they would locate and mark points of interest, such as required photo points, abandoned infrastructure or special areas of concern, or other stewardship focal areas. The team would ensure the properties remained untouched, checking for things like newly developed hiking trails or hunting blinds.

One of Myles’ particularly favourite areas of the Nature Trust’s is where he went for a solo monitoring visit: Lawlor’s Point, along the coast north of Dartmouth.

“It was awesome going out solo and bushwacking through these untouched places, especially when nobody else is out there and nothing is around, listening to the trees and the wind. It’s super peaceful – but kind of creepy too,” Myles jokes. “One day I was eating my lunch near the coast and the sun was out, and I remember just taking it all in – moments like that were the best.”

An initial attraction to the Nature Trust was getting to volunteer out in the field, but Myles also connected with our mission to protect our province’s natural legacy through land conservation.

“I respect that the Nature Trust both acquires land and does the work to conserve it, that they protect it themselves. It’s essential to have these separate, almost “third-party” organizations working to protect our natural areas rather than the responsibility lying solely with government groups.”

Myles has had an interest in the natural world since he was a kid. Growing up in Ottawa, Myles and his family would spend weeks at a time at their cottage on Bob’s Lake near Kingston. They’d spend most of their days outdoors, swimming or snorkeling, fishing, and exploring the nearby woods. “This is when I realized the outdoors is where I’m supposed to be.”

Myles moved to Halifax in 2018 to study marine biology at Dalhousie University, and recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in December 2022. He still loves the outdoors and enjoys free diving and scuba diving, hiking and camping. Since coming to the east coast, he’s discovered some treasured “secret outdoor spots”, which he jokes will remain secret. “Near Peggy’s Cove is one of my favourites that’s great for diving, where a lot of the local divers enjoy – there’s a little inlet with a nice sandy beach perfect for a quick dip.”

Looking back on his time spent volunteering with the Nature Trust, Myles was quite happy to help with our Stewardship Team.

“I would definitely recommend volunteering with the Nature Trust – it’s great for anybody who wants to get out there and help conserve nature, while also getting to enjoy everything that our outdoors has to offer,” says Myles. “We’re not making any more land, right? There’s only a certain amount that can be protected and we’re only expanding as a population, so the more protected areas that exist and the more we do to conserve them, the better.”

Please join us in thanking Myles as our recent Volunteer of the Month, and for bringing his skills and expertise to our Stewardship Team! To find the best Nature Trust volunteer opportunity for you, visit nsnt.ca/volunteer or email Christina Nunn at volunteer@nsnt.ca.

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