Back to School -- for a Wildlife Technology Diploma!

6:51 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Just thought I'd share this with Trailspace, because you guys have definitely been inspirational.

Here are some of the classes I'll do in this two-year programme:

Ecosystem Ecology, Environmental Citizenship, Habitat Assessment, Silvics, Remote Sensing, Geographic Information Systems, Forest Surveying, Fish and Wildlife Biology, Field Navigation, and Wilderness Survival. (Must be a bummer to fail the last two! :) )

Each term has an extended field camp. Here's some of the "required equipment" list:

Compass (Suunto MC2), axe, chest waders, "Thermarest" (has this become a generic term, like Kleenex?), hiking boots, "good quality raingear", neoprene gloves, sleeping bag, snowshoes, and "flashlight" (I have my Tikka XP2, thanks Trailspace!). "Snowsuit" is also on the list, but I think I have my winter layering system down pat (thanks again!). Oh, and a bug jacket, which is listed as "optional". I doubt it!

Students are also required to have the following outside certification before they can graduate:

  Canadian Firearm Safety Course / Hunter Education
  Paddle Canada - Introduction to Lake Canoeing
  Coastal Navigation Certificate
  Pleasure Craft Operators Card
  Restricted Operators Certificate (Maritime) DSC Endorsement
  ATV Safety Training
  Wilderness First Aid
  Trapper Education Certificate

Fifteen years ago I was an English Lit major. I wrote my essays in a tent whenever possible, spent Christmas and 'spring' break on snowshoes, and summers working for Parks Canada. So I think I'm going to like my new school. :)

I want to thank everybody at Trailspace (and not just for the help with gear!). Many of you have reinforced the idea that wilderness can be not just recreation, but a calling. Here's hoping that in a couple of years I find myself in a position to help protect it!

7:01 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Congrats. Where are you taking instruction? It definitely matters. A life in the outdoors is a life well lived.

Sometimes the equipment list will include things like climbing skins for x-c skis, trappers gloves for working in stream with snow and ice, a rifle, a hardhat, snow machines, ATVs, helicopters and a whole pile of technical stuff. I hope you are still young so the vibrant and demanding life in the field can be a long-term career. At 63 I still backpack but could not stand the pace today doing what we used to do for a living.

7:18 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Incredible! You already have more experience than many people. but all those courses sound like they could add an extra dimension to anyone's skills. 

Go for it, and have a great time. 

7:33 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks ppine and Peter!

I'll attend the College of the North Atlantic, a technical college/trade school loosely allied with Newfoundland's Memorial University. This two-year diploma would also count towards a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies, if I chose to go that route later. But the practical experience and on-the-job training (there's a work term at the end) sold me on the college diploma.

In those 15 years after the BA degree, I worked a 9 to 5 job in Nova Scotia. I went to work on Fridays with my backpack and camped out Friday night to Sunday night, pretty much year round, and took far too much unpaid leave in addition to my vacation time, just to be outside.

I've been back in Newfoundland for a couple of years now, happily unemployed, but it's time to find an income. I thought, instead of working in a city and vacationing outdoors, why not work outdoors and vacation in the city?

8:47 p.m. on August 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Wildlife Technology - somehow that conjures up an image of robotic animals. Guess we need something to replace all the wildlife being exterminated by our overpopulating the Earth and contaminating it {8=>O]

But great for you! Going into a career that you enjoy!

That's a lot of course-work to get into a couple years.

I agree, per your comment, that the "bug jacket" would be MANDATORY, given some of the insect clouds I have encountered up your way.

Hmmm ... I don't see bear, moose, and muskox safety on the list??? I have never had a threatening bear encounter in my decades in the woods and hills, but have been faced down by a couple of meese ("meese" is plural for "moose", like "geese" is plural for "goose"), and have some friends who were chased away from their camp on Baffin Island by a muskox.

instead of working in a city and vacationing outdoors, why not work outdoors and vacation in the city

Indeed! Have fun and enjoy!

10:51 a.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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There is wisdom in your words regarding vacationing in the city. I had many field seasons with outdoor work comprising 60-70 percent of my time. On vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was pack up and go outdoors again. 

It can be disorienting at first, to combine your vocation and your avocation. I believe you are the right kind of person to take on a wildlife career. I have worked with lots of wildlife biologists over the years. They are a dedicated lot. In order to compete, it will important to do things like volunteer to band birds, build water enhancements, and the like. Anything wildlife related will help your resume.

12:18 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Wildlife Technology - somehow that conjures up an image of robotic animals

I know! It's my new favourite oxymoron (replacing 'civil war').

I hope it means I'm about to become familiar with things like bear collars, moose autopsies, scat analysis, and bird bands. (Okay maybe especially the bird bands. I'm all over that. Now that library of bird guides might be justified!)

ppine, thank you for the kind and very wise words.

It can be disorienting at first, to combine your vocation and your avocation. 

You speak truth, I had to think about it. Walking in the woods to (for example) map and analyze a set quota of beaver poop, is not going to be like hiking. What decided me in the end was the possibility that, somehow somewhere, a wild creature might end up better off because of how I'd spent my time. I owe them quite a lot.

1:51 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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This is an inspiring post in its own right....How exciting!

Adult education can be tough and it's not a small decision for most folks to go back to school. I wish you the best in this endeavor and please keep us posted as you go.

4:05 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Congratulations, Islandess; this is great news. I have been a big supporter of education at all levels, in Canada and abroad. In fact one of the best things we can do for ourselves is learn about the world around us.

I enrolled in University at the young age of 40, finishing up with a BSc in Biology. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, especially considering I didn't finish high school, but also one of the most rewarding.

We have a similar thing up here called the Environment and Natural Resources Technology Program which is offered at the local colleges. Students spend a lot of time out on the land learning winter survival, navigation, trapping, marine emergency duties (MED 3) etc. as well as indoor classes in wildlife management and ecology.

Good luck with your studies; I am sure you will now have stories to tell from both sides of the trail.

7:16 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Cool! glad you can make your love your work. good luck!

10:07 p.m. on August 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Oh! To be young and free to pursue something like this. Congratulations, Islandess!

9:48 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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"A male moose is called a bull, a female moose is called a cow, and a young moose is called a calf. A group of moose is called a herd. The plural of moose is "moose" (such as: There was one moose in the forest / There were two moose in the forest.)." Source: Wikipedia

Never heard of 'meese', unless you're just pulling our legs, Bill. 

When I started spending a lot of time in the mountains with serious responsibilities, instead of just for recreation, I found that the 'wow factor' of being there began to fade away. However, new knowledge gained from the courses I was taking gave me a new interest in what I was seeing around me. It was different, but it renewed my enthusiasm.

11:44 a.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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"I love meeses to pieces." Bullwinkle J Moose.


I have great hopes for you. Part of your pay will be in sunsets. Part of it will be knowing that you are helping critters and their habitats. No one gets into wildlife jobs for the money.


I like your words also. You always show a lot of self-awareness in your writing. I heartily agree that some of the emotion fades after awhile. It is replaced with knowledge and a depth of understanding. Familiarity breeds affection with some ecosystems. I still have very close relationships with some places after spending many weeks studying them.

After awhile it is possible to know what you are looking at from the truck from a 1/2 mile away with binoculars, as in the species of vegetation, soil type associated with it and the critters it supports.

12:58 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Here is the official word. {8=>D]

When you said:

When I started spending a lot of time in the mountains with serious responsibilities, instead of just for recreation, I found that the 'wow factor' of being there began to fade away.

I really began to wonder about you. At my 7+ decades, the "WOW!!!" factor is continuing to intensify.  There are some places in the mountains, hills, deserts, rain forests, and jungles that I have returned to dozens (and in some cases hundreds) of times, and they are still exciting. I keep working on my "Bucket List" and continuing to discover places that are new to me and returning to some places I have visited many times, only to discover new aspects that add a new "WOW!".

4:06 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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"Here is the official word. {8=>D]"

Sorry, but Urban Dictionary is just one person's (ill-informed) opinion. 

For me, Bill, the difference was that I was so over-exposed to mountains that I was no longer awed by their magnificence. I remember taking a group of ten people on a tour from the southern parks to the northern ones - ten days, ten mountains. I clearly recall coming around a corner to be greeted by a spectacular view, and realizing I was so busy think about the logistics of the trip that I was no longer excited by the scenery.

I found that I was starting to treat the experience as 'just a job', but the courses I was taking showed me new things to wonder at, and led me to look closer at what I was seeing. As a result, I regained some of that sense of awe by gaining a new perspective. 

I sincerely hope that Islandess gets the same kind of excitement from what she learns. 

4:28 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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I emphathize with you. I was working on an archaeological survey once with a PhD scientist with 35 years of experience. The weather was hot, it was our 8th day in a row and the artifacts were standard stuff. He turned to me and said   "I sure hope we don't find anything."

There is a major difference between recreating in the outdoors and making a living out there. I have always been willing to trade some of the excitement and wow factor, for a life in the outdoors.

4:42 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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As much as I love caving, I would not want to be in a cave week-in and week-out.

I go to the outdoors for peace and soul searching, not for a pay check.

Having said that, I am still looking for a wealthy benefactor who would pay me to do my hobbies. ("Oh, you want to read that book? Here's $50." "Testing a new hammock? Here's a grand to use.")

7:32 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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What does a Newfoundlander call a moose? "Luh!"

What does a Newfoundlander call a baby moose? "Awww, luh!"

What does a Newfoundlander call a moose that's running away? "Luh-luh-luh-luh-luh!"

I'm not sure if that translates, try it with an Irish accent maybe. :)

It's been interesting to read what everyone has to say on the work/life balance. If I have anything to compare it to, it's what happened with that English Lit degree. I liked poetry. A lot -- the good stuff gave me goosebumps. So down the PhD Trail I went. I spent four years (into a Master's) analyzing, categorizing, labelling and theorizing, and saw how, at 'higher' levels, it all turned into academic politics. We were a long way from goosebumps at that point. It was nice to go back to just reading it.

When it comes to outdoor work, well it's probably a good thing I had a rural childhood, helps me know what I'm in for! I was fortunate to have parents that let their girl like what she liked (I got a little hatchet for my sixth birthday!). If I chose piling firewood onto a komatik at -10C over staying home to help with laundry, or eight hours of berrypicking in a bog instead of making jam, that was fine. Chores were chores.

As far as I was concerned, if outdoors was an option, it was always the better choice, even if I was covered in spruce gum, swallowing blackflies, and the only 'view' was stunted alders. I'm still like that. Those years in the city just convinced me. :)

9:05 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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hmmmmm... I guess you haven't read many of my posts, or maybe missed the "smiley", or don't have a sense of humor honed by Rocket J. Squirrel, Bullwinkle (Canadian Moose), Dudley Do-Right (Canadian Mountie extraordinaire), and Dudley's nemesis Snidely Whiplash.

"Life is too short to be taken seriously"

10:54 p.m. on August 20, 2013 (EDT)
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{8=>D] I'd wondered what that was, Bill. 


4:30 p.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Congrats Islandess, sounds like a great course.  I hope it brings you some fantastic experiences and opportunities. 

Beware though, turning a hobby or something you love to do, into a career so to speak, risks ruining a good hobby.

My wife's doc says the same thing about his job.

Just to correct your Canadian grammar:

Ox- oxen

Moose- moosen!


6:11 p.m. on August 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you Sage!

Every time I look at that course list, I get excited. I can't wait to learn all that stuff. Every little bit I learn about wilderness and wildlife just makes me want to know more.

Some of this is because I've become so interested in birding over the last five years. I have seen birds here in Nfld that, according to all the guides, have absolutely no business being here (Hooded Warblers, for example). Climate change! How are they fitting in, what's going on with our regulars, what will happen?

I don't know if you saw my post a while ago about hiking into a cove full of asbestos (old mine), but it left me full of questions. Many uncommon birds, but not a single moose or bear track, and what about the fish?

There's a self-guided research project near the end of this course, I think I already have a couple of topic ideas!

I do hope to find work afterwards, but really, if I never work a single day in the field, I'll still think this was time and money well spent, and I feel very very fortunate to have the opportunity.

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