Julia Onderwater wants to have a career centred on her greatest passion - conserving nature, and protecting parks. Thanks to funding from the CPRA’s Green Jobs Initiative, which is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Summer Work Experience program, the university student got a great head start in her career as a Social Science Research Assistant with the Capital Regional District (CRD) in British Columbia.
“Regional parks and trails have a responsibility to users, as well as the conservation of nature,” says Julia.
“Regional parks and trails have a responsibility to users, as well as the conservation of nature” - Julia Onderwater, student
The CRD encompasses the southern tip of Vancouver Island and southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia, and establishes and manages an interconnected system of natural lands. It protects and restores the region’s biodiversity, offers compatible outdoor recreation and education opportunities and accessible, nourishing, joyful connection with the natural world and the area’s cultural heritage.
In her summer job, Julia interacted with the regional parks’ many users – including walkers, joggers, swimmers and cyclists.
Julia Onderwater, student
She distributed surveys to gain public feedback, and entered this information into a database which helped the CRD manage its parks and trails.
“My job allows the CRD to understand if there are issues in parks and trails that need to be addressed, such as garbage, dog waste, incompatible recreational usage, and habitat destruction,” says Julia. “It is often those who use the parks and trails who are able to tell us the most valuable information about how the CRD can improve its management of those spaces, which is what makes the surveys so important. The surveys allow people to have their voice heard in the management of parks and trails.”
“It is often those who use the parks and trails who are able to tell us the most valuable information about how the CRD can improve its management of those spaces" - Julia Onderwater, student
She adds that when visitors fill out the surveys, they also reflect on what they value about the region’s parks and trails.
“This job has taught me to appreciate that nature is not purely physical or natural. It always contains a human element, especially in recreational spaces,” says Julia. “This makes managing parks and trails more complex, especially when considering the balance between recreational demands and the conservation of nature.”
Beatrice Frank, who supervised Julia and one other student hired under the Green Jobs Initiative, says the CRD’s regional parks and trails system is situated in and around large population centres, and give many people the opportunity to access, experience, enjoy and learn about the area’s natural environments and species.
“Visiting protected areas can trigger positive emotions, attitudes and behaviours toward nature and build the necessary public support for nature conservation" - Julia Onderwater, student
Julia’s job helped document how important regional parks are for CRD residents, she says, and how connected people are to the regional parks.
“Visiting protected areas can trigger positive emotions, attitudes and behaviours toward nature and build the necessary public support for nature conservation,” says Beatrice. “Our job is making sure that our visitors have respectful and positive experiences in our parks system, and enable them to connect to and cherish the incredible natural landscape we have on Southern Vancouver Island.
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