Science Horizons intern: Leanne Mingo

Prior to Leanne Mingo’s internship with Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), she could barely tell water birds apart. “I could recognize the Canada goose but that was about it,” she says. The national conservation organization provided her with training about the value of Canada’s great northern forest and wildfowl habitats. As a result, she has won her “boreal stripes” and can identify ducks and geese at a glance. Her internship was funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Science Horizons internship program that helps science, engineering and mathematics graduates find entry level jobs in their field of studies.

Birds aside, Leanne was well suited to work at DUC because her University of Alberta studies focused on the environment, especially wetlands. An introductory course on wetlands and their management by biology professor Kevin Devito proved inspirational. He took the class into the field during the first week of school to learn about the different types of wetlands. This involved getting knee-deep in mucky marshes and bogs, taking water and soil samples. “Throughout the year, we were able to relate what we had seen in the field to what we were learning in the labs and the classroom” Leanne says.

Born in Mississauga, Ont., Leanne moved to Calgary with her family when her father was transferred there for work. After high school, she studied biology at the University of Alberta, following in her older brother’s footsteps. But unlike her brother, who now studies medicine, she switched her focus from the human body to the environment.

A keen hiker and skier, Leanne loves the outdoors and is delighted her education and career allow her to do work to benefit the environment. “I love going to Banff National Park to backpack, ski and rock climb and enjoy all the mountains have to offer,” she says. “Since I started working at DUC, I also enjoy going to Elk Island National Park near Edmonton and always get a kick out of testing my friends’ waterfowl identification skills.”

Through work, play and study she has become a champion of Canada’s boreal forest and its wetlands. “The boreal forest is one of the last intact forests in the world,” she says. “It is an important ecosystem and stores significant amounts of carbon.” Canada is home to 25% of the world’s wetlands, vitally important for migratory waterfowl and natural buffers in floods and droughts.

When she finished the internship, Leanne was offered a full-time job with DUC. “The internship was definitely important to develop my skills and expand my knowledge, as well as for DUC to get a sense of my work,” she says. It gave her the opportunity to gain experience in her field of study, learn more about resource development, and hone her presentation and networking skills.

As an intern, Leanne was first hired to fill a short-term position. “Through this, we were able to determine that Leanne was a good fit for DUC and DUC a good fit for Leanne,” says Best Management Practices Lead Beverly Gingras. “We were very pleased to be able to offer her a full-time position and that she accepted because she has become an integral part of our team. As a young professional, Leanne brings new and fresh ideas, energy, and passion to our organization.” Leanne has worked on several projects since she joined DUC. Much of her work has dealt with the potential impacts that industrial activities may have on wetlands, waterfowl, or waterfowl habitats - especially resource exploration and the construction of pipelines and roads. She has researched and written several internal reports about boreal forest development and gaps in the regulatory framework.

“We are gathering information to better understand the impacts industry may have on the landscape in order to identify opportunities to influence policy, operational practices and improve collaboration,” she says. DUC works with various industries operating in the boreal forest including the forestry, energy, and mining sectors to promote the use of best management practices in and around wetlands.

Leanne also helped organize a very successful wetlands Best Management Practices workshop that brought together representatives from industry, government, consulting agencies and non-governmental associations. “As industrial development has expanded through the boreal forest, Best Management Practices are one way to achieve sustainable land use,” says Leanne. “This internship made me realize the value of the boreal forest and the importance of collaboration with the industrial sector to reach a mutual goal.”

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