Timothy Burkhart

Peace River Break Coordinator, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

I was born/grew up in: Vancouver, BC, Canada

I now live in: Chetwynd, BC, Canada

I completed my training/education at: I did a BA in History and Political Science at the University of British Columbia. I followed with a Masters in Environmental Studies and Natural Resources at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Describe what you do at work.

I spend most of my time connecting people and ideas. I work with communities to identify good projects that will help advance conservation in Northeast BC. Then I help them find the funding, science and capacity to get the work done. I help write proposals to get funding for community projects. I also work with First Nations to ensure our work is in line with their Treaty rights, and connect with Government to solve difficult conservation problems.

I also do a lot of mapping, as conservation is all about the land. For this, I use a computer mapping program called ArcGIS—Geographic Information Systems. GIS is a powerful tool in helping to solve conservation problems. Some conservation problems I work on are: identifying where wildlife, such as Caribou, need to roam for food and mates, and what barriers, such as mines, roads, or forestry sites, are in their way. I make decisions based on priorities. For example, what projects should we support and spend our time and money making happen.

I have a community-driven vision that grounds my work and I make sure all our projects are connected to that. I work remotely with my colleagues mostly working in other parts of North America. Most often I engage with them online through Skype and email. I read a lot of research reports and documents so that I can understand the conservation biology behind the work that we do.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

My career is focused on connecting and protecting habitat so that both people and nature can thrive. Wild places provide us with the things that keep us alive: fresh water, clean air, productive soil, and protection from natural disasters like drought and floods. When animals, birds, fish, plants, soil and water interact as they should, not only does wildness thrive—so do we.

What motivates you in your career?

The work that I do is part of a continental-scale conservation strategy is recognized as a global model for reconciling the needs of nature and people. Being part of this huge, collaborative vision is a very exciting thing, and I love connecting the communities in my region with this globally significant initiative. I also get to go out on the land, or up in helicopters, tracking Grizzly Bears and Caribou with wildlife biologists and working with local guides and outdoors clubs to clear pollution from beautiful natural sites. For me, it's these connections that matter the most. Being able to help solve a community problem with something like pollution, while knowing that it is part of this huge strategy from Yellowstone to Yukon, is very rewarding.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

I did my undergraduate studies in History and Political Science, which gave me the research, writing and critical thinking skills to succeed in almost any field. I had no set career in mind, and was hired after graduating as a Historical Researcher. I worked on a study of the decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River. This sparked an interest in wildlife and ecology. So later I went on to work for BC Parks, managing marine protected areas off the coast of BC. I also worked in politics, as a desire to make change on the ground is something I've always had. I realized I wanted to merge these two passions: making change, and a love of wild places. I decided to look for a career as a conservation campaigner, and started a Masters course at UNBC in Environmental Studies and Natural Resources. From there I was hired by Y2Y to work on northern issues. So while my career path was a winding one, it all added up to this job, which I love.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I love a healthy mix of getting outdoors and being a couch potato playing computer games. Both are super rewarding and relaxing, and a healthy mix of down-time and outdoors-time is really important to me. I like to ski, hike and camp and fish, I sail and paddle canoes. I volunteer with my local Search and Rescue.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Don't worry about planning everything out. Follow your passions and instincts, they will lead you to the right path. Always try to be learning, whether in school or not.

CurioCity Careers

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