Past winners reflect on impact of Nature Inspiration Awards
by Alex Quesnel
Nothing is more fulfilling than being recognized for your hard work.
This is something past Nature Inspiration Award winners can attest to, having benefited in many ways from the national exposure and prize money they received.
With the 2016 application process underway, the Canadian Museum of Nature caught up with last year’s winners to hear how the award impacted the work they do in connecting people with nature.
Meredith Brown and Ottawa Riverkeeper: Preserving a watershed
Meredith Brown, leader of Ottawa Riverkeeper, has spent the last year building her volunteer support network both in size and spirit. Brown received the 2015 Nature Inspiration Awards for Adults.
“We’ve built this network of about 80 volunteer Riverwatchers throughout our watershed,” she explains. “We train them to do citizen science and monitoring. They’re like our eyes and ears on the river.”
Thanks to the award money, Ottawa Riverkeeper has acquired new resources for its staff to use when patrolling the river.
“What many of them are interested in is the physical monitoring of the water quality through observations of the river,” says Brown. “We have some tools to help them do that, but the money from the award basically puts more test kits in people’s hands.”
The organization is also focused on technological innovation, with new digital tools being developed for volunteers to use in the field.
“We’re working with some IT folks on an app that will let Riverwatchers share information easily and in real time,” explains Brown. “Any data they collect can be put into this app for others to see.”
This mobile app is slated to launch this spring, and Brown is confident the funds received from the Museum of Nature will facilitate in training its users.
ACAP Humber Arm: Marine science for schoolkids
In Newfoundland, Sheldon Peddle, Executive Director of ACAP Humber Arm, also has big plans for 2016. He expressed his gratitude for winning the not-for-profit award, which will be funneled into many new projects.
“The award money will be invested to purchase new oceanographic and marine science equipment for our Grade 8 marine science program, Trading Books for Boats,” says Peddle.
This program has been so successful that Peddle is also trying to implement an ocean technology or water quality monitoring program at the high school level.
Moreover ACAP Humber Arm will be expanding its boundaries for the first time since it was incorporated in 1991.
“This will allow us to reach a larger percentage of the population here in Western Newfoundland,” says Peddle. “Our programs – which have traditionally been marine-coastal based – will turn to freshwater issues as our expansion pushes us further upstream.”
Homegrown National Park Project: Greening a community
The impact of the award is also reverberating in Toronto, where the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project is preparing for a new season.
Sarah May, Development Coordinator, Leadership Giving, is excited about initiatives like the Community Canoe project, which aims to remind Torontonians of the rivers that run beneath their city.
“It will be expanded this year with more canoes in Toronto,” says May. “We fill an old retired canoe with pollinator plants, which creates habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinators. It’s then put in either a park or schoolground—some kind of public place where it enhances the green space for the community.”
Furthermore the Homegrown National Park Project is preparing its #gotmilkweed campaign launch this spring.
“Milkweed provides habitats for monarch butterflies, says May. “They’re iconic—people really want to support them. We try to get people to plant milkweed in their own backyards, since it’s something easy they can do.”
All things considered, the Nature Inspiration Awards help individuals or organizations broaden the scope of their initiatives while providing monetary boosts for other programming. If you or your company is eligible for an award, or if you would like to nominate a deserving recipient, apply up to April 22 at nature.ca/awards.