My Internship with Habitat Acquisition Trust
by Caroline Merner
Fall has crept up quickly and I cannot help but reminisce about the amazing season I spent as the Outreach Intern for Habitat Acquisition Trust this summer. At Thanksgiving, I contemplate why I am so grateful for having had this opportunity. This internship put the theory from my environmental studies at Dalhousie University into practice. Aside from being biology-based, I developed essential communication and outreach skills.
Caroline (front, centre) and other volunteers with HAT staff returning from Senanus Island
This summer, I worked under the mentorship of Todd Carnahan, HAT’s Land Care Coordinator, for the Good Neighbours Project, focusing on the Tod Creek Watershed. With his expertise in landowner outreach and extensive knowledge about habitat conservation, Todd taught me the importance of building trust with community members when providing tangible recommendations for land management. Visiting 50 landowners was a fulfilling milestone for me.
By conserving sensitive Garry Oak meadows and recovering wetlands, we worked to encourage commitment to restoration and species protection. In our Species At Risk outreach, the latest addition was the Community Bat Program: we aimed to locate and protect bat populations living in our rare ecosystems.
Along with landowner visits, we hosted and attended restoration events. Highlights included Senanus Island, James Island, Matson Conservation Area, Maber Flats and Whitehead Park. As we pulled invasive plants, like purple loosestrife, ivy and daphne, I continuously admired the hardworking volunteers who joined us in our conservation feat. These HAT supporters showed me the pivotal role land trusts play in communities to secure land and create a hub for conservation awareness.
Caroline removing invasive species from James Island
At HAT, I also assisted Wendy Tyrrell, the Covenants and Acquisitions Coordinator, to monitor and restore covenanted properties in Metchosin, Sooke and Matheson Lake. Wendy took me under her wing, showing the real-world application of my studies using GPS to track our circuits and introduced me the complexities of covenant policy.
Caroline (front, lower) and other volunteers taking notes while monitoring a HAT Covenant protected property.
In addition to fieldwork, working in the HAT office and facilitating during community outreach made this internship so diverse in tasks. Paige Erickson-McGee, the past Outreach Intern and current Community and Development Coordinator, showed me that whether one has decades of experience in the field or is, like her, just beginning a conservation career, we each bring something to the table. Paige and I teamed up for community outreach. Over the summer season, our HAT booth could be spotted at festivals on the Gorge, the Peninsula, Cadboro Bay and in Sidney.
Caroline at one of HAT's community engagement events - here at Gorge Canada Day Picnic.
The HAT office move was also an undertaking for the staff this summer. Paired with Adam Taylor, our Executive Director, we made light work of the office space change. Throughout the summer, with his leadership and kind manner, Adam’s outlook helped me think critically about my career goals. Beyond gaining invaluable skills and a resume-enriching experience, this internship shaped my conservationist perspective and provoked a deeper passion for environmental work.
Caroline (front left) with the other HAT staff in front of the downtown HAT office (825 Broughton St).
Lastly, I would like to thank the support of the Canada Summer Jobs internship in helping provide this experience to summer students, like me, who are inspired by the field of conservation.
Caroline's position was funded by Canada Summer Jobs, a Federal Funding program through Service Canada.