Bird programs paying off for Boreal Centre

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

One thing the folks at the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation (BCBC) are pretty tickled about is that local students are interested in working there in the summer. Right now there are two of them; Robyn Perkins as an assistant bander (her second year) and Kimberly Johnston is an information officer at the Boreal Centre. In both cases, early exposure to the world of migration monitoring and other activities of the Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory (LSLBO, a partner in bird conservation with the BCBC) made the difference.
“It is really rewarding to see students from our education programs at the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation now studying environmental sciences and getting summer jobs with us,” says BCBC executive director Patti Campsall. “And these local students are coming to us with great enthusiasm and skills. I see this trend as a legacy of the 10 years of education programs that we have been delivering at the Boreal Centre. As an employer, the opportunity to hire great skilled local students is a real plus, especially the opportunity to develop long term staff for the centre.”

Former Junior Bird Club member Kimberly Johnston

Johnston’s interest in bird conservation dates to when she was in elementary school. Her family attended the annual Songbird Festival, and she belonged to the Junior Bird Club. She’s just finished her first year of post-secondary studies at McGill University in Montreal, in physical sciences, and will focus on environmental biology in her second year. The summer job at the Boreal Centre, “is a good fit,” she says. “It combines interests of mine – nature and education.”
Johnston would like to be a bander, but needs a license to do that.
“I tag along,” she says. “I’m learning a lot.”
That’s early in the morning, before her job at the BCBC begins. There, she takes visitors around, explaining the centre’s displays and answering questions.
“May long we had quite a few people,” she says. “We had a family from Spain and a couple from India.”
Last week she was also working on preparations for the songbird festival.
“I also help with school groups,” she says.
Perkins remembers attending the songbird festival even before the BCBC existed. The bird-banding demonstration made a strong impression on her. It lay dormant for many years, until – as a university student – she visited a bird-banding station at Beaverhill Lake.
“We happened to visit on the busiest day of the fall and all of this excitement reignited that childhood wonder and really got me working hard to learn my birds so that I could try to fulfill that childhood dream of mine. And with a lot of studying up on birds in a relatively short time-frame and a healthy amount of luck, that is how I got where I am today.”

Junior Bird Club members Sydney Haney and Kimberly Johnston, in 2006.

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