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Wild thing

Biology student recognized for sharing knowledge with focus on youth

Student Life

By Kelly Foss

Biology PhD student Travis Heckford is this year’s recipient of the Wild Things Scholarship.

Award presentation
From left are Sara Jenkins, co-vice president, Nature NL and Travis Heckford.
Photo: Submitted

The $1,000 scholarship recognizes the enthusiasm and efforts of a student whose volunteer activities have helped to conserve or enhance nature in the province. It is presented annually by Nature Newfoundland and Labrador (Nature NL).

The Wild Things Scholarship is one of the many legacies of naturalist and educator David Snow (B.Ed.’85, B.Sc.(Hons.)’85), who passed away in 2017. Barely out of university, Mr. Snow challenged Nature NL to establish a scholarship for students who were directly engaged in conservation activities in the province.

Maintaining the scholarship in perpetuity in his memory is an important cornerstone of the organization and is supported by generous donations from Wildland Tours and an anonymous donor.

“Mr. Heckford’s application stood out from his peers for his volunteer efforts on behalf of the biological community of Newfoundland and Labrador, and for his enthusiastic support for sharing his knowledge with the broader public – especially, the young people of this province,” said Sara Jenkins, scholarship co-ordinator.

Committed to conservation science

Mr. Heckford has volunteered his time with Nature NL’s Nature Nook program at The Rooms and has designed and run several all-volunteer citizen science projects, including a mobile phone app to record Canada lynx sightings across the province in support of future studies of lynx ecology and population dynamics.

“Initiating a citizen science project and curating various websites is not a trivial task.” — Dr. Yolanda Wiersma

Most recently, he partnered with Bird Studies Canada’s Nocturnal Owl Survey as the provincial contact, an organization for which he designs survey routes and co-ordinates volunteer surveys.

In addition to these activities and his full university research load, Mr. Heckford serves the local environmental and wildlife community through board positions with the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of The Wildlife Society, of which he is a founding member, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Newfoundland and Labrador chapter.

Actively engaging

Recently, Mr. Heckford has raised his voice on behalf of local ecological issues such as the conservation of federally listed boreal felt lichen in areas slated for development, co-authoring letters to ministers and publishing his recommendations in The Telegram.

“Travis has a clear commitment to conservation science and is passionate about [actively] engaging the public,” said Dr. Yolanda Wiersma, his advisor in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science.

“His contributions to multiple citizen science initiatives in this province will create valuable data for researchers and conservation managers, while also engaging the public in conservation issues in meaningful ways. Initiating a citizen science project and curating various websites is not a trivial task and the contributions from the volunteer efforts that Travis has made over the past three years will be felt for many years to come.”

Nature NL is a non-profit registered charity that promotes the enjoyment and conservation of this province’s wildlife and natural heritage.  Formerly called The Nature History Society of Newfoundland, Nature NL is the province’s oldest conservation organization.

The organization is funded through annual memberships, and hosts myriad free indoor and outdoor events throughout the year, all run by a dedicated network of volunteers and friends.

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