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2020 Award Winners

The Canadian Museum of Nature is proud to present the winners of the Nature Inspiration Awards.

Lifetime Achievement
Not-for-Profit Organization (Small and Medium)
Not-for-Profit Organization (Large)
Business (Small and Medium)
Business (Large)

Youth Award

Sophia Spencer
11 years old
Sarnia, Ontario
Project: BugsR4Girls
Sophia Spencer loves bugs so much, she wrote a children's book about her passion and why everyone should feel safe and happy to share their interests and joy, even if they are different from what others think is cool. Sophia's interest in bugs began when a butterfly landed on her shoulder when she was only two-and-a-half years old. In preschool and kindergarten, Sophia was thrilled to share what she knew about grasshoppers (her very favourite insect), as well as ants and fireflies. But not everyone understood her enthusiasm, and by grade one, some students began to bully her. Sophia stopped talking about bugs for a while. Sophia's mother wrote to an entomological society looking for a bug scientist to be a pen pal for her daughter. Sophia was overwhelmed by the response: letters, photos, and videos came flooding in. Using the hashtag #BugsR4Girls, scientists tweeted hundreds of times to tell Sophia to keep up her interest in bugs. Sophia is once again proud of her passion and happy to share her love of bugs. Sophia wrote her book to encourage children to discover the natural world around them, and to believe in yourself and never stop loving the things that bring you joy.

Adult Award

Gary Schneider
Stratford, Prince Edward Island
Project: Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project
Described as Prince Edward Island's equivalent of Smokey the Bear, Gary is one of one of P.E.I.'s most respected and committed environmentalists, a champion of biodiversity and a passionate advocate for trees, wildlife habitat, owls and watersheds. An agricultural province, P.E.I. has lost 95% of its old-growth forest. For 29 years, Gary's mission has been to restore the island's endangered Acadian and old-growth forest habitats. He co-founded the education and advocacy organization the Environmental Coalition of P.E.I. (ECO-PEI), a key priority of which has been the Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project, dedicated to the restoration and propagation of the province's native flora. Through his advocacy, consultations and management skills, Gary has made forest restoration a provincial priority, with the P.E.I. government renewing in 2017 the 10-year public-land agreement with ECO-PEI. Over 900 hectares of public-forest land will be restored under the new agreement and Gary has worked tirelessly to get the first block of provincial land, ever, certified under the Forest Stewardship Council—a certification system to demonstrate sustainable forest management and restoration of native woodlands. Along with running educational tours and workshops, Gary developed a forestry-ecology field course for the University of Prince Edward Island, which is now also available at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Father Charles Brandt
Black Creek, British Columbia
Project: River revitalization and return of salmon stocks
Father Charles Brandt was an exceptional human being, teacher, mentor, environmentalist, and role model who devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitat. He inspired generations of volunteers to work together to protect and preserve forests and rivers.

The Tsolum River owes its life to Father Charles: his efforts resulted in the revitalization of the river, and the community is once again able to celebrate the return of healthy salmon stocks to the Oyster River. Father Charles moved to the Tsolum area near Courtenay on Vancouver Island in 1965 and established a hermitage near Headquarters Creek, a tributary of the Tsolum River. He worked on a Pink Salmon study with Robert Bamsin and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans during the period the Mt. Washington copper mine at the head of watershed began leaching toxic copper into the Tsolum River. That this metal poisoning caused the decline of salmon stocks in the riverbed was not identified as the source of the decline until 1984, almost 20 years after the mine was abandoned. In 1970, he moved his hermitage to the Oyster River.

Father Charles was a renowned conservator of books and manuscripts and worked for the former National Museum of Canada as a book/paper conservator for five years. In 1983, he returned to the area to establish a book/paper conservation lab at his Oyster River Hermitage. It was during this time that Father Charles became the leader of the group pushing to have the river restored: the Tsolum River Enhancement Committee of the Steelhead Society, Comox Valley Chapter.

Father Charles became a founding member of the Tsolum River Task Force in 1997, which lobbied government and established working committees to conduct research on flows, habitat, acid-rock drainage and agriculture in the watershed. In 2009, after 27 years of lobbying by the Tsolum River Task Force and Restoration Society, the government of B.C. invested $4.5 million to cover and restore the mine site. Because of the dedication of Father Charles and his team, thousands of salmon return each year to the Tsolum River.

Father Charles believed that human and natural communities must come together as one community. He passed away in 2020 at the age of 97, but his legacy is an enduring one—not only the life in the Tsolum River, but in the hearts and minds of those he touched, instilling a deep reverence for all life, and teaching us to be a more benign presence on the planet.

Not-for-Profit Organization (Small and Medium) Award

International Conservation Fund of Canada
Chester, Nova Scotia
Project: International conservation
Global biodiversity loss is a dire issue and a shared responsibility. The strength of Canada's biodiversity largely depends on the health of environments thousands of miles away. For example, Canada's migratory species depend on tropical regions for wintering and migratory habitat. The core mission of the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) is to undertake conservation action to protect tropical ecosystems that are most under threat. ICFC has now invested over $27 million in 32 countries, with project areas spanning 16 million hectares (160 000 square km)—an area larger than half of the world's countries.

Not-for-Profit Organization (Large) Award

David Suzuki Foundation
Vancouver, British Columbia
Project: The Butterflyway Project
Bringing nature to neighbourhoods across Canada, one butterfly-friendly planting at a time, is the essence of the Butterflyway Project. The David Suzuki Foundation founded this project to create local wildflower, plant and shrub patches that provide food and shelter for butterflies, which are vital to the ecosystem. By 2019, after only two years in existence, this award-winning project had enrolled 255 keen Butterfly Rangers from across Canada who have planted 24 098 plants nationally and established 407 pollinator-friendly patches, including installations at 86 schools and 30 golf courses. It also spawned Butterflies in My Backyard in response to the rangers' eagerness to learn how to identify prevalent butterfly species and explore the relationships between plants and people.

Business (Small and Medium) Award

ULAT Dryer Balls
Parksville, British Columbia
Project: Invention, patent and development of wool dryer balls
ULAT is a 100% Canadian wool dryer-balls manufacturer and distributor, the first wool dryer-ball brand in the world. ULAT dryer balls were developed to provide an environmentally safe way to replace single-use dryer sheets to soften clothes. Many families are looking for ways to reduce their exposure to chemicals. ULAT's innovation has received accolades and attention far and wide; it was the first Canadian company to participate in HRH Prince Charles's Campaign for Wool, an international not-for-profit supporting and educating the world on the natural wonders of wool. ULAT is an eco-friendly company: its use and processes contribute to energy conservation efforts and the reduction of water pollution. ULAT takes great pride in its mission: empowering communities, one dryer load at a time.

Business (Large) Award

Fresh City Farms
North York, Ontario
Project: Fresh City Farms
Around the globe, the food industry has severe impacts on the environment, from deforestation for crops and livestock, to transportation emissions, pesticide use, and waste from packaging. As Canada's largest commercial urban farm, Fresh City Farms encourages a sustainable and locally focused relationship between the buyer and the food. Initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint include an e-commerce platform that predicts demand to minimize food waste, a unique direct-delivery system, energy-efficient vehicles, and maximization of reusable packaging. Along with operating its own farms, Fresh City partners with 75 other farmers who are contributing to organic and transparent practice to ensure the best quality.