“The path may not always seem so straight and forward, and the bumps along the way can matter as much as the final destination.”
Roberta Tesar, identifying Plains Rough fescue seeds at Deep Lake prairie

What is your title and role as a Parks Canada team member with Riding Mountain National Park?

I am a Resource Management Officer with Riding Mountain National Park. On a busy day in the summer, I can be found anywhere from the townsite dealing with a wildlife or visitor safety call to standing in the middle of a park grassland collecting seeds or monitoring species. Our days are varied and often unpredictable. The quick change of pace is one of my favourite things about being in my position. I most enjoy monitoring the vegetation around the park from grasslands to forests, that is my primary focus.

Do you have a favourite spot in Riding Mountain?

I have a few favourite places in Riding Mountain. One would have to be Whirlpool Lake in the fall because the crowds have left for the season and the waters are calm. The fall colours are out and the pace seems to have slowed right down. I also quite enjoy the oak forests on the east side of the park. I was married in a similar type of forest, so the area holds special memories.

What is the education and career path that led you to your current position?

I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Forest Ecology from the University of Winnipeg. My main interest at the time was to work on sustainable forestry practices at a community level, but those plans changed when I joined Parks Canada. I started as an Interpreter at Riding Mountain National Park in 2010 and worked in a few different functions before joining Resource Conservation in 2015. And now I get to work on the conservation and monitoring of trees and forests, and also grasses and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants) in grassland areas. In my role as Resource Conservation Officer, I am still able to engage with partners and stakeholders regarding vegetation, allowing me to combine my original career goals with my current career path.

Was there an event in your life or a role model that influenced your decision to pursue a career in science?

I can’t say there was one defining moment in my life that set me on a path of science, but maybe it was the idea of discovery. As a child, I recall being fascinated with marine life. I would visit family on the east coast and spend hours playing and observing all that I could in the tide pools. I grew up in an inner-city area and knew that I wanted more from life, without really knowing what that was. I knew education was the key, so I went through university where I discovered forestry and that is how I ended up here. Growing up, I loved to spend time outdoors, exploring my surroundings, and question why and how things work.

What is your most memorable ‘in the field’ experience?

This year I’ve been monitoring two Species at Risk here in Riding Mountain: Plains Rough Fescue and Milkweed (Monarch Butterflies). During this field season, I was able to observe the caterpillars throughout their life stages in relation to milkweed plants. It took almost the entire season, but I was able to witness two Monarchs emerge from their chrysalises. Finding the chrysalises was tricky enough, but then being able to watch the butterfly emerge was something else! I don’t think I’ll forget that anytime soon.

In the next 5 to 10 years, what do you hope to have accomplished in your career with Parks Canada?

In the next five years, I want to establish a seed harvesting program for our more sensitive species so that we can use them in restoration projects in the park. I also hope to establish some plant beds to draw plugs from. This will not only assist with species that we struggle to source outside the park, but I also see it as an opportunity to involve our partners and stakeholders in this endeavour. Over the next 10 years, I hope to be in contention for Resource Conservation Manager or the lead on a large scale restoration project in the grasslands or forest.

Outside of your daily work, do you have any passions or hobbies?

I have two young girls that occupy my social life and one of my main hobbies includes teaching them about the spaces that surround us. We love to garden together. We go mountain biking together. I also enjoy road biking and will hopefully open my daughters’ eyes to this past time when they are a bit older. My partner and I recently bought a house and we are looking to restore some of the lawn to native grasslands over the next few years, as well as embrace some changes to vegetation options and plant some new tree species that would normally do well to the south. I belong to a local book club here and that is always enjoyable times! I also love to travel. Hopefully, my husband and I will be able to plan some fun trips in the future and experience new places with our daughters.

What are your favourite nature-related books or films? What do you enjoy about them?

I have recently read the book, The Overstory, and enjoyed parts of it. As of late, I have been focused on reading books about restoring forests or sharing books about insects with my kids. We have taken an interest in bees and bee hives this year. I enjoy sharing my love of reading with my kids, opening their eyes up to our natural world. I also love to read books on the history of things and traditional land uses and practices.

Favourite wildlife species? If so, why?

I tend to route for the underdog so I think my favorite species at the moment would have to be Lepidoptera species (an order of insects including butterflies and moths). Not that they are underdogs, just less traditionally exciting and not the more charismatic megafauna that most might enjoy. I have enjoyed studying the monarchs in the park this year and am excited to see what happens from year to year. I also like River otters, they are so playful and fun to watch!

What would you tell a 10-year-old girl about science?

I would start by asking if science interests her, ask what sort of hobbies she enjoys, then go from there. I’d let her know that there are many possibilities out there and that even if she feels it is not something she could do, that there is always a way. I would encourage her to find the area she’s really interested in and focus on finding a way to make that her career. The path may not always seem so straight and forward, and the bumps along the way can matter as much as the final destination.