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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Don River Valley, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Don River Valley, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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SavetheBees22



Registered: December 2017
City/Town/Province: Toronto
Posts: 1
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The afternoon sun beats down mercilessly. Anxiously, I haul a blue recycling bin filled with water to the flowerbed, quenching the seedlings' thirst. However, these aren't just any seedlings. These native species would save the bees. I initiated the Pollinator Conservation Committee at my school to take action and educate the student body about pollinator decline through honey-tasting booths, classroom presentations, and our school's first pollinator garden.


Pollinators are essential to our ecosystems and food production, and their conservation is critical to environmental and human welfare. My upbringing has instilled in me a sense of responsibility and love for nature. The belief that we must protect that which has given us so much is core to my environmental stewardship. Our diverse pollinators - from bees, butterflies, beetles, to birds and beyond - not only maintain biological and genetic diversity in our ecosystems, but provide invaluable services for our food systems and even our economy. Facilitating reproduction in 75% of flowering plants, pollinators are responsible for producing over 30% of our food, and contribute an estimated 217 billion dollars to the global economy. However, a variety of threats, including habitat degradation, pesticide use, and climate change, have left native pollinators in serious decline.


When I first heard of the buzz nearly 3 three years ago, I knew I had to take action. I joined the Ontario Nature Youth Council (ONYC), where I met other passionate, like-minded, young environmentalists. Since joining ONYC 3 years ago, I've dedicated 450+ hours planting 250+ trees and wildflowers, and spearheading a pollinator conservation campaign. My efforts with the Ontario Nature Youth Council for taking actions to improve pollinator health in Ontario, through "taking independent actions, education, awareness, monitoring (including citizen science), and habitat improvement" have been recognized in the Ontario Government's Pollinator Health Action Plan released in 2017. "Ontario Nature is a charity dedicated to protecting Ontario's wild spaces and wild species. Are you aware of the recent decline in pollinator population? Help SAVE THE BEES!" This is a phrase etched into my mind. I've promoted pollinator conservation to over 4000 people - including Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and Eric Solheim, Director of the UN Environment Programme - at conferences, concerts, city-wide festivals, and school events. I pushed through my comfort zone, delivering presentations and workshops at Toronto's Lovin' Local Food Fest, a Jack Johnson concert, and an Eco-Schools TDSB teachers & Bee City Canada conference.


I organized a province-wide conference, the Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership, attracting 100+ high school students for a weekend of environmentalism. I contacted speakers, planned weekend activities, and delivered my own workshop on pollinator decline: "What's the Buzz About?". In one year, I went from being an audience member to being a workshop presenter at the Youth Summit. I presented to other youth on the issue of pollinator decline and what they could do. I was earnest in making pollinators a focal point of the summit, and distributed 150 copies of the book, Keeping the Bees by Laurence Packer, phD expert on pollinators, to provide an avenue for greater education on pollinator conservation.


I helped draft a template for letters requesting municipal governments to become declared Bee Cities. It has been used by provincial Youth Council members for their townships, and three towns have passed the resolution in their town halls. To promote the wide diversity of pollinators, I spearheaded a social media campaign and developed public educational materials for pollinator conservation. I updated Pollinator Conservation Toolkit which includes a campaign summary, background of the pollinator decline issue, and action items to for pollinator conservation. I created two bilingual posters detailing various pollinator friendly plants. I created a teacher's guide for implementing pollinators education into the curriculum.


Knowing that habitat degradation and fragmentation remains a severe problem for pollinators, I launched a Toronto pollinator habitat planting. After months of extensive planning and deliberation with admin and staff, we earned the green light to move forward with planting the school's very first pollinator garden. I lead the drafting of an action plan, complete with a School Pollinator Habitat Plan using ethically grown, locally native species. With the help of Ontario Nature and a grant from TD Friends of the Environment, 200 native wildflowers were provided. Over the course of several weeks, many helping hands tended to prepping the soil and planting the seedlings. Our garden, completed this May 2017, is situated outside the main office of our school. 200 native wildflowers have been planted, including: 72 Pearly Everlastings, 36 Lance-leaved Coreopsis, 36 Giant Sunflower, 18 Sweet Oxeye, 18 Heath Aster, and 18 Large-leaved Aster.


In addition to the core Pollinator Conservation Committee of students, we partnered with teachers within our school, including those of ESL classes, and the Ecoteam. My school is one of the most diverse in the city, located in a neighbourhood consisting primarily of newcomers and refugees. To involve students of diverse backgrounds in conservation activities has been meaningful to connect them to a project in this new environment. Our efforts helped earn my school's certification as Canada's 3rd official Bee City School and Platinum Eco-Schools status. A Bee City Canada School is a school that has been recognized for their efforts in protecting endangered pollinators through education.


"Toronto is home to a wide range of pollinators, including over 360 species of bees and 112 species of butterflies. Many of these insects provide important ecosystem services such as pollination and food sources], while contributing to the overall health of biodiversity in our city." The importance of the garden transcends reviving pollinator habitats. My work with Ontario Nature Youth Council's pollinator campaign and initiating the Pollinator Conservation Committee and garden at my school has taught me firsthand about the power of youth to drive action.


Watering the garden today, I feel a sense of pride. The pollinator garden not serves to brighten the school grounds and bring awareness and tangible action for pollinator conservation. Planting these wildflower seeds will not only create habitat for native pollinators, but the next wave of environmental stewards. They will be the seeds of change.
Date: December 25, 2017 Views: 380 File size: 28.1kb, 6226.8kb : 3988 x 3988
Hours Volunteered: 57
Volunteers: 16
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 15 to 18
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