Friday, May 31, 2019

An Invitation to Come Walk With Us


The two of us are passionate about nature, hiking, photography, birding and of course exploring new places. In the past year we have left our jobs, sold our house, donated our possessions and beginning on June 1st 2019 we will begin walking 24,000 km across Canada on The Great Trail, formerly the Trans Canada Trail, from Cape Spear Newfoundland to Victoria British Columbia and then trek from Edmonton, Alberta to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories to learn more about Canada’s landscapes, its wildlife, and its people. For us this journey is about connections - people to people, people to nature, communities to communities, past to present, and coast-to-coast-to-coast. We strongly believe that taking a few minutes each day to get outside into nature, disconnect from the digital world, and spend some time with our thoughts or talking to other people helps us all connect with ourselves, our families, our communities, and our natural environment.

We are walking with the hope that we can spark a sense of enthusiasm, wonder, and concern for the natural world in those we meet. As we cross this vast country of ours, we would like to engage with as many people as we can, to hear your stories, and to share our message about the importance of connecting with nature. We strongly believe that disconnecting from the digital world and spending a few minutes in nature each day helps us all to nurture strong connections to the natural world, to local communities, and to ourselves that are important for developing healthy bodies, minds, and spirits, especially in youth. We would like to inspire more people to trade some of their Screen time for Green time and discover the social, mental, physical, and emotional benefits of getting outside.

In an effort to give back to the communities we pass through, in collaboration with Bird Studies Canada we are walking to raise awareness of the importance of conserving migratory birds and their habitats such as the Boreal Forest, and to promote the many opportunities that are available for people to participate in conservation initiatives and become Citizen Scientists in their own neighbourhoods. As we walk we will be passing through more than 15,000 communities and 132 Important Bird Areas and countless other areas which are essential to wildlife conservation and scientific research. En route we invite you to join us in learning about their significance and the opportunities they offer for exploring, enjoying, and protecting birds and the natural world. Whether you are interested in learning more about our journey, curious about Canadians and their cultures across the country, interested in how you can become involved in the conservation of birds and our natural world in your own region, whether you have a story of your own to tell us, or even if you just feel like going for a walk, we invite you to COME WALK WITH US.
From 2019 until 2021 we will explore Canada, its trails, its wild spaces, and its birds together.

See you on the trail...

A few notes of Thanks!

Tomorrow our trek commences, however, before we begin, a few notes of thanks....

Any decent scientist will admit, while there are often fascinating discoveries made on a regular basis, little is achieved on your own.  Our accomplishments today are built on the shoulders of the giants who came before us and the efforts of well staffed laboratories.  Our year of preparations and the successes of this trip are no different. We certainly could not have prepared, planned, coordinated, designed, trained and organized much of our trek without the help of a lot of people.

Wonderfully we have had assistance from so many people and organizations!  Thank you so very much!

Thank you to those people who continue to help us refine our message, who designed the digital classroom, kept us on track, raised our spirits, and those whose sponsorship and donations have proved to be the invaluable difference transforming this project from being just ‘a neat idea’ into being ‘a wondrous reality’.

A huge thank you to Mr. Steven Price, the president of Bird Studies Canada who was willing to listen to an out of the box proposal over 12 months ago and who encouraged his staff to follow their interests and in the process innovate how conservation agencies facilitate their outreach and education programs. Thank you for your faith in us!

Thank you to my parents and grandmother, James and Sylvia Richmond and Eva Pfeil.  They sat horrified throughout 2018 as their daughter proposed the impossible, set aside her career and convinced organization after organization to support her plans.  I’m sorry raising me hasn’t been easy, but it is because of your help and faith in me that I was able to do so much for so many years.  And the best is yet to come.  Thank you for your continued support.

Thank you to my graduate supervisors Dr. Erica Nol of Trent University and Dr. Jay Malcolm of the University of Toronto’s Forestry Department, who struggled for years making me a better scientist and who challenged me to inspire others.  Your advice and support have mattered so much to me throughout everything.   All of my best ideas came from your classes and all the mistakes are my own. Thank you.

Thank you to some of our biggest sponsors and collaborators like Clif Bar Canada, and Briden Solutions of Calgary Alberta for your support and encouragement!

Thank you to the James Baillie Fund and Bird Studies Canada for the professional support which has enabled us to continue moving forward to connect youth to nature through birding.

Thank you those at organizations such as Nature Newfoundland, Nature Nova Scotia, PEI’s Island Nature Trust, Nature New Brunswick, Bird Protection Quebec, and of course the staff of Bird Studies Canada for your diligence in organizing so many of our early talks and presentations!

Thank you to Hayden Watters of the CBC who helped us to get our plans and message out early.  In addition our thanks goes to reporters and editors such as Conrad Collaco of the CBC, Kristine de Abreu of ExploreWeb, Cassandra Bielas of SiriusXM, Matt Leblanc at Norfolk Radio, and of course Ashley Taylor of the Simcoe Reformer.  Each of you have helped us talk to a wider audience about our #Hike4Birds and the need to protect migratory species across Canada.  

Thank you to members of the Canadian Explorer’s club, who justifiably believe that the world needs more explores in it and that engaged youth are the key to discovery!  These intrepid people encouraged us, provided us with invaluable advice, and opened a world of opportunities to us through their experiences.  I hope we can do you and the organization justice by striving to inspire the next generation of scientists, innovators, and explorers.

Thank you to the backpacker and hiker online venue, The Trek, who are hosting our blog this year and whose resources we have relied upon throughout our planning.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to showcase the world’s largest pathway, Canada’s Great Trail to outdoor enthusiasts around the world!

A huge thank you to Patriq Chenier of The Great Trail!  Patriq has worked tirelessly over the past few months with us offering suggestions, advice, helping us get our message out and building Trail Nation!

And finally, Thank you to the countless others including Mel Vogel, Dana Meise, Andrew Cuoturier,  Liza Barney, Jody Allair, Lenora Sawyer, Eva Dickson, and of course Brittany Trusler.....for all of your inspiration, advice, hours of work and dedication to this undertaking.  I cannot possibly thank you all enough. 

The best is yet to come....
See you on the trail....

Explore Canada, it's the natural thing to do!

Perhaps the clearest argument every put forward by a great Canadian to get out and explore the nation, and enjoy its natural spaces comes from Rick Mercer!  For years he has been a source of humour, human interest, and Canadiana in my household.  In 2015 he visited Bird Studies Canada highlighting the wonderful work done in Long Point and other bird banding stations across the country.   I thought that today I would take a moment to share (what to me) is one of his best rants and pieces of advice (as well as one that profoundly influenced me).  Rick Mercer’s Last Rant.

“…. the best part? … Hands down it’s the travel. I don’t know if we are the greatest country on Earth, but I know this—we’re the best looking.

And I also know in my heart of hearts, we would be better, stronger, and more unified if more Canadians could make it their business to see more of Canada. And I know it’s not easy. Not everyone has the resources to travel to see the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia or the foothills of Alberta; or to go up the Saguenay River in Quebec. And if you don’t, if you can’t make the big trips, make the small trips in your own backyard. I guarantee you, it is awesome.

And if you do have the means, either now or in the future, skip the trip to Florida, explore a part of Canada you’ve never seen or better yet, promise yourself that you will stand above the tree line before you die. You will not regret it.

We all know we’re a great country. But it’s not enough to just know it. Do yourself, your family, Canada a favour. Go out there and see it.”
Rick Mercer, Final Rant, April 10, 2018

On June 1st, we intend to follow Mr. Mercer’s advice, and go see Canada….all of you are of course invited to follow along online, live our trek across the country, bask in its vastness, and fall in love with its natural beauty. But more than that, we hope to meet as many of you as possible when we are out there over the next three years, whether on the trail, talking in your school, or online….

As Canadians we are a very fortunate people in a beautiful country…

Remember this is YOUR country, so get out and see it!

See you on the trail…

A HUGE thanks to Nature Newfoundland!

Thank you to Nature Newfoundland for hosting a forum last night at Memorial University in St. John's and giving us a chance to introduce ourselves to the region before heading off on our three year #Hike4Birds across Canada on The Great Trail.

Congratulations also to Travis Heckford for being awarded the 2019 Wild Things Scholarship for his volunteer work in Newfoundland, including his promotion of nature to youth and the public across the province, and his work on the Nocturnal Owl Survey program for Bird Studies Canada.

We were also fortunate enough to meet the amazing Lori McCarthy of – a forager and chef - who talked about sustaining the bonds between local food, family ties, regional stories, and tradition as well as showing off some of her amazing meals! 

A Great night!

Looking forward to the Kick off Event Cape Spear with Parks Canada on June1st, 2019 at 10 am!!