National STEAM Day 2021

Today is National STEAM Day, a day that celebrates and illuminates the fields of sciencetechnologyengineeringarts, and mathematics. Here at the Toronto Zoo, we work to connect people, animals, and conservation science to fight extinction.  

As Conservation Technicians with the Adopt-A-Pond and Turtle Island Conservation programs, we are proud to be involved in such projects as the Blanding’s Turtle Head-starting program, Milksnake monitoring, Western Chorus Frog monitoring initiatives, and the Four-Directions Shoreline Cleanups. 

If you’d like to learn more, or have members of our team share our projects and knowledge of wetland ecosystems and conservation, you can check out our outreach initiatives and curriculum material at Toronto Zoo | Adopt A Pond – Education or reach out to us at aap@torontozoo.ca 

From right to left: Courtney L., Avalon C., Lisa B., Reegan S., and Christine D. 

Here is what each of our team members has to say about working in STEAM fields and as Conservation Technicians with the Toronto Zoo. 

Courtney L. holding a Common Snapping Turtle.

 “As you can see from my picture, I am overjoyed to be involved with Adopt-A-Pond and to take part in monitoring wildlife in the GTA. This is my third season with the program, with the first two seasons contributing to my Master of Science. I investigated environmental, spatial, and temporal factors that influence road mortality in Rouge National Urban Park. This involved walking three road segments within the park and documenting both live and dead-on-road wildlife. This will help inform the location of fencing and eco-passages to allow wildlife to cross safely. It is very rewarding working on research projects that can influence the conservation and protection of a habitat or specific species.” — Courtney L.

Avalon C. with a Grey Treefrog on her hand. She was brushing past some vegetation whilst on the way to fieldwork and found it on her hand!

 “Working for the Toronto Zoo doing fieldwork is a dream come true. Every day is a new learning experience, whether it involves PIT-tagging turtles or conducting snake surveys. Participating in the release of the 2019 Blanding’s turtle head-start cohort was an honour that I will always cherish. I’m so lucky to work with many passionate and enthusiastic people! I will always remember what an alder leaf looks like and what a catbird sounds like, due to my coworkers sharing their knowledge with me while out in the field.” — Avalon C.

Lisa B. with a Milksnake during artificial coverboard surveys.

“Being in the STEAM field can be challenging, but is very rewarding! I have worked in the conservation field for a few seasons and seen the importance of flexibility and adaptability when it comes to this type of work. Each day presents itself with a new challenge, especially when working outdoors. Nature has a mind of its own and doesn’t always do what you may expect it to, but I enjoy the excitement of having each day be a different one!  Working for Adopt-A-Pond as a Wetland Conservation Technician has really been a dream position – we have a variety of projects on the go with turtles, snakes, and frogs. This allows us to build our knowledge in each of these areas while also getting to see these critters in person. There is a great mix of working outdoors to collect data, and working indoors on data analysis, writing, and outreach. I always look forward to coming into work since I work with the best team of passionate people! Knowing that we’re playing a part in conserving reptile and amphibian populations in Ontario is a great feeling at the end of the day!” — Lisa B.

Christine D. holding the OTCC female Blanding’s turtle before her release into the Rouge National Urban Park.

“This is my first field job after graduating from the University of Guelph in Biological Sciences. As an Indigenous woman in science who is working as a First Nations Conservation Technician at the Toronto Zoo, I’m very grateful to be working in a position that allows me to connect my Indigenous heritage with my love of science. From a young age, I was always invested in learning about science, particularly about conservation efforts and biology. My favourite TV channel was Animal Planet and I never missed an episode of Steve Irwin Crocodile Hunter. So, it really is a dream to be helping in the conservation of reptile and amphibian species! Through working closely with Adopt-A-Pond, I have had the opportunity to gain skills in radio-telemetry to track our head start turtles, PIT-tagging and handling Blanding’s turtles and other local turtle species, handling of Milksnakes and other local snake species, and a variety of data collection for each of our monitoring projects. Over the winter, we will continue to radio-track our head starts, but I will also be working on data analysis and more technical skills such as report writing and GIS map making. I’ve also been able to take part in various outreach projects, in which I get to share our important work with others, like any of you reading this blog!”  — Christine D.

Although Reegan’s time as a Wetland Conservation Technician has come to an end, here was what she had to say about working in the Adopt-A-Pond team.  

“This is my first time working for the Toronto Zoo and my first field job. I have an advanced diploma from Fleming College in Ecosystem Management Technology where I had various opportunities to immerse myself in the environmental field, including participating in a tropical field herpetology trip at the Tirimbina Biological Reserve in Costa Rica. As a Wetland Conservation Assistant with the Adopt-A-Pond team, I have been able to utilize my educational background, immersing myself in various experiences contributing towards the conservation of Ontario’s native herpetofauna. Through this experience I got to challenge myself in what I thought I was able to achieve and to be part of this amazing group of people that I had the opportunity to work alongside through the heat, the rain and the mud. The following are some highlights from my experiences: 1) helped track my first head-start turtle, 2) assisting with the PIT-tagging of adult male Blanding’s turtle, 3) finding the nesting snapping turtle and assisting with the egg removal, 4) preparing and the release of the 2019 head-start cohort, 5) finding, capturing and processing my first Milksnake, 6) assisting with the capture and release of the 2-year-old head-starts, 7) getting muddy, 8) taking our team photo!” — Reegan S.