Great #Nature Volunteer Opportunities Across Canada

When I bought my first house, I started gardening.  I read articles about how creating habitat for pollinators and wildlife even in a backyard could be beneficial to the urban ecology and those that depended on it.  I got my hands dirty and started shaping the small corner that I called my own.

Once I saw the opportunities of small hedgerows, ivy growing on buildings and native plants, I started noticing it wherever I went in the city.  Alleys and shortcuts turned up small patches of wildflowers, nut trees growing downtown were a thrill and dirt paths (or " desire paths" as my friend told me they were called) made by dog walkers through a field held surprises of meadowlarks and fireflies - something different each time I visited.

It was by volunteering however that I really saw a different side of the city.  I started with urban stream monitoring, where I would don hip waders and venture down streams, catching views of sunbathing turtles and darting dragonflies.  I moved on to monitoring buildings for the elusive chimney swifts, which gave me a magical night when friends and I discovered a large roosting site and watched as hundreds of swifts swooped and circled down into a large chimney at dusk.  I helped monitor avian migrations, waking two hours before dawn to drive to a monitor station that provided me with up close views of birds being tagged.  I also searched for native butternut trees and planting saplings in a nature reserve and helped with a weekend streambank restoration project using bioengineering techniques piling willow branches into large rolls of fascines.

There are many opportunities to get out and help with urban nature projects.  Here in Ottawa you can help:

- Innis Point Bird Observatory monitor owls in the fall or tag purple martins in the early summer

- Nature Conservancy Canada clean up Kettle Island (a great opportunity to see a private nature reserve)

- Build bat houses and install them outdoors with the Ottawa Stewardship Council

There are also amazing projects in other cities:

- In Montreal you can get dirty and garden with Sentier Urbain who has created a circuit of gardens downtown

- In Peterborough (and Montreal) you can volunteer to tag and release Monarch butterflies

- In Toronto you can help monitor and protect Piping Plover nests (I'd sign up for this in a heartbeat!)

- In Vancouver you could lead pond dipping events for children in Stanley Park

What I found was that volunteering gave me opportunities to do things that I'd never be able to do on my own and it gave me up close and personal experiences with nature.  Some of these volunteer events are also one-offs, so you don't have to commit to volunteering regularly if that doesn't fit into your schedule.  If you are interested, it's as easy as getting in touch with your local nature organizations to see what opportunities there are or searching on your city's website for volunteer jobs.  You could even start searching to see if there are any experiences if you are interested in something specific: volunteering at a turtle trauma centre, monitoring local bat populations or possibly even helping out with seed collecting.

What volunteer nature experiences have you done?

And what would be the one amazing opportunity you would like to do?

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