Dr. Sonya Richmond, Sean Morton are promoting and enhancing conservation awareness via a love for birds and their natural habitat
More than two years after embarking on a cross-Canada hike, Trent alumni Dr. Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton are a testament to the natural wonders that await those who bravely venture from behind their desks.
“We were beginning to feel like the digital world was taking over our lives and those of our family members…that we were becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, ourselves and each other,” says Dr. Richmond of the motivation for Come Walk With Us, a four-year 24,000-kilometre hike across the country via the Trans Canada Trail.
“I'm trying to share my passion for environmental conservation and birds, and inspire people to connect with nature through birds and citizen science. Birds are free and fun to watch, and they are accessible to everyone. No matter where you live, it is impossible to leave your home and not hear or see at least one bird.”
“One of our core messages is that nature is for everyone. We are encouraging people of all ages, physical abilities, cultural backgrounds, genders, orientations and identities to explore Canada, to reconnect with nature as well as become part of the conservation about conversation.”
The pair’s epic journey began June 1, 2019 in Cape Spear, Newfoundland – the most eastern point of Canada – and is scheduled to end in 2023 in Tuktovaktuk in the Northwest Territories. In late October, they entered Alberta from Saskatchewan.
However, the seeds of their adventure were planted in 1998 when she met Morton at Trent where both were in residence at Otonabee College. Morton was working on his MA in Political Science while Dr. Richmond was attaining her HBSc in Biology and Environmental Resource Science. When not studying, they frequently camped and kayaked together.
“One of the aspects of Trent University that originally drew both of
us to it was the value and emphasis placed on diversity, inclusion and
social justice,” says Dr. Richmond, making specific reference to the
value of her time as a volunteer research assistant studying the effects
of forest management on songbirds in Algonquin Provincial Park.
Dr. Richmond makes particular mention of three Trent mentors “who shaped my career and this trek” – Dr. Erica Nol, Dr. Stephen Bocking and Dr. Roberta Bondar, Trent’s Chancellor at the time of her 2006 graduation with her Masters in Watershed Ecosystems.
“I remember her (Dr. Bondar) shaking my hand, congratulating me and asking what I want to do next,” recalls Dr. Richmond.
“When I told her I wanted to explore Canada, her answer was simple,
encouraging and profound. She said ‘Go for it.’ On the most challenging
of days, when others doubt my goals and my ability to achieve them, I
think of her plainly spoken advice.”
While this journey is very challenging, Dr. Richmond, an environmental conservationist, and Morton, a freelance writer and landscape photographer, have prepared very well. In 2016, and again the following year, they undertook 700 kilometre-plus hikes from France into Spain. In 2019, they walked the length of Portugal.
Hiking an average of eight hours daily, covering between 25 and 35 kilometres, Dr. Richmond and Morton have experienced “extraordinary moments. We have learned so much about the country, met so many amazing people, and enjoyed so much time in nature.”
To follow their adventure, visit this page for updates.