Recent Recipients of the Wild Things Scholarship

Scholarship Committee Note: Prior to 2020, the scholarship application was not limited to high school students, and many of our awardees were already enrolled in post-secondary institutions within the province. We applaud their efforts, and are now equally pleased to be able to limit applications to our province’s high school students who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to nature.


Sophia Reid (Reidville, NL) is a graduate of Elwood Regional High with plans of attending Memorial University in the fall to pursue studies in environmental science with future career goals of protecting and restoring endangered ecosystems. Throughout high school, Sophia was an active member in the school Green Team, where she took part in activities such as clean ups, and creating and maintaining green spaces around the school.


Jorja Hinks (St. John’s, NL), is an international philanthropist with a keen interest in initiating environmental projects local and abroad. She is an honours French immersion graduate from St. Kevin’s Senior High who will be attending Memorial University in the fall to pursue a bachelor of science with future hopes of a career in medicine. From elephant conservation in South Africa, creating water filtration systems in the Dominican Republic, to working with a reforestation project right here at home, Jorja has vast experience working in many different areas to help preserve our environment and help create a sustainable future. She has created and continues to support initiatives in Uganda, such as a beehive program for mothers, establishing a fruit tree nursery at a school, and is currently working towards building a well in the same village. Jorja has been a part of 11 international impact trips that have all included efforts to preserve and protect the environment and improve the health and well-being of local community members. She has assisted programs such as Wine To Water, RaPapel, Sole Hope and Elephant Sanctuary, The Crags. Locally, as a member of the leadership committee of Wild Outside NL, Jorja encourages youth to get involved with programs that provide opportunity and support for like-minded individuals who want to learn more about environmental conservation and are unsure where to begin. During her time with Wild Outside, she has contributed to outdoor clean ups in Petty Harbour, tree planting initiatives, and general trail maintenance in the Manuels River park to make space for a community garden. All of these experiences have provided Jorja with what she describes as invaluable knowledge that will continue to help her grow as an environmentalist.


James Murphy (Tors Cove, NL) is graduate from Mobile High School and plans to study Biology at Memorial University starting in August.  James was co-founder of the Mobile High School’s Environment Club, which holds numerous clean-up events annually, lobbied to have disposable plastic removed from the school cafeteria, and created presentations about the importance of recycling for their peers. For his dedication, James has won several school awards, both as a student and as a volunteer.


Kayla Crichton (Torbay, NL) is a graduate from Holy Trinity High School and is pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering at Memorial University in Fall 2020. In the future she plans on completing a master’s degree in environmental engineering systems and management with an interest in the research and implementation of renewable energy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Kayla was a member of the science club, aquaponics group, and was active in Holy Trinity’s partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada to establish the first Wetland Centre of Excellence in the province at their High School. Through these groups, she assisted with a school garden, initiating school cleanups, implementing an aquaponics system at the school growing vegetables, and working on a weather monitoring station to collect data from the nearby wetland, as part of the Wetland Centre of Excellence program. Kayla also worked with the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador to build a trail system in the town of Flatrock. Kayla’s passion for conservation and the environment began at a young age, growing up camping and enjoying the outdoors with her family, which she states made her appreciate her environment and everything it has to offer. She describes her inspiration to get involved in nature conservation as witnessing nature loss in her own community and wanting to be involved in the solution.


Nature NL is pleased to announce that Travis R. Heckford (St. John’s, NL) has been awarded the 2019 Wild Things Scholarship. Travis’ application stood out among his peers this year for his volunteer efforts on behalf of the biological communities of NL, and for his enthusiastic support for sharing his knowledge with the broader public and, especially, the young people of this province.

Over the past few years, Travis has volunteered his time with Nature NL’s Nature Nook program at The Rooms, and has designed and run several all-volunteer citizen science projects, including a a mobile phone app to record Canada lynx sightings across NL in support of future studies of lynx ecology and population dynamics. Most recently, Travis partnered with Bird Studies Canada’s Nocturnal Owl Survey (NOS) as their NL contact, for which he designs the survey routes and coordinates the volunteer surveys. In addition to these activities and his full university research load, Travis also serves the local environmental and wildlife community through board positions with the NL chapter of The Wildlife Society (NLTWS, for which he is also a founding member), and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, NL chapter (CPAWS-NL). Recently, you may have seen Travis’ raising his voice on behalf of local ecological issues such as the conservation of federally-listed boreal felt lichen in areas slated for development, for which he has co-authored letters to Ministers, and published his recommendations in the Telegram.

His advisor, Biology Professor Yolanda Wiersma, writes, “Travis has a clear commitment to conservation science and is passionate about [actively] engaging the public. His contributions to multiple citizen science initiatives in this province will create valuable data for researchers and conservation managers, while also engaging the public in conservation issues in meaningful ways. Initiating a citizen science project and curating various website is not a trivial task and the contributions from these volunteer efforts that Travis has made over the past three years will be felt for many years to come.”


2018 was an unusual year in that we could not choose between two outstanding applicants, and were thus able to award them both for their efforts on behalf of our province’s nature.

Scholarship Committee, 2018

Alexandra Hayward (Mount Pearl, NL) is currently finishing her BSc at Memorial University in Ecology and Conservation Biology, Alex hopes to pursue a career in environmental law, focusing on helping political entities engage better with environmental concerns. Volunteering and being an active voice for the environment has always been an important part of Alex’s life: in high school, she was active with the Environment Club, leading discussions, fundraising events, and community clean-ups; she was involved in developing the student newspaper club, to which she contributed articles about environmental issues; and she was a founding member of the school’s outdoor club. At MUN, she has been the Environmental Representative for the undergraduate Biology Society, for which she organized a clean-up of Burton’s Pond and a recycling program. She attends local climate marches and writes her politicians about issues of concern. Alex was influential in bringing the Blue Dot Movement, a grassroots movement for environmental rights, to this province. After seeing David Suzuki speak on his Blue Dot Tour in 2014, she worked with her high school Environment Club to raise awareness in Mount Pearl, which ultimately led to a municipal declaration for Mount Pearl citizens’ Right to a Healthy Environment. Since then, Alex has become a regional Blue Dot Movement Ambassador, which involves online meetings and training with ambassadors across the country, meeting and engaging with her MP about environmental rights, writing to newspapers, engaging local organizations, and social media actions. Alex is motivated to help shape a future where we take better care of each other and the natural world that nourishes us.

Kelly M. Young (western NL) obtained her B.Sc. in Biology with a minor in Geography in 2016 and has recently started her M.Sc. in Environmental Science, both a Memorial University. As a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations Band, Kelly has a deep respect for the environment and understands the necessity of conserving our natural resources and our biosphere. She embodies this respect through small actions, such as picking up trash on trails or attending local clean-ups, and through her volunteer work at MUN on a climate change project led by Drs. Joseph Wroblewski and Robert Davis aimed at reducing methane emissions from oil extraction and storage. Kelly recognizes the value of communicating environmental issues across different platforms to reach a wide variety of audiences. Her 2015 article on the threats of fracking to Gros Morne NP was published in NatureNL’s journal, “The Osprey”; in the same article, she highlighted the important role that social media can play in helping the younger generations share their concerns for the future of the environment in this province. She shares scientific news, as well as environmental issues and alerts, on her public Facebook page: “Pursuit of Science“. Through participation in national and international environmental groups, she is kept informed on urgent environmental issues, and voices her appeal for environmental action through emails to provincial and federal government officials. In line with her future studies and career goals, Kelly intends to work diligently to help curb climate change, in order to protect our atmosphere, our oceans, our water cycle, and especially our land.


Brendan Kelly, from Paradise, NL, is the 2017 scholarship winner. Brendan completed his Fish and Wildlife Technician program at the College of the North Atlantic in Corner Brook this spring. He intends to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation at the University of Prince Edward Island starting this September, with future plans for graduate work in ornithology. Since 2005, Brendan has been building and placing nest boxes for birds across Newfoundland and Labrador through partnerships with wildlife officers and parks staff. To date, Brendan checks and repairs over 200 nest boxes annually. These nest boxes provide a safe nesting location for several species of birds including: Boreal Owl, Saw-whet Owl, Common Goldeneye, Northern Flicker, Tree Swallow, chickadees, and Newfoundland Marten. Most recently, he has been volunteering for Intervale on the west coast, helping them collect Newfoundland Marten hair samples. To promote his conservation work and ideas, Brendan has met with various municipal and provincial government officials, and organizations such as the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, Delta Waterfowl, Humber Natural History Society, Memorial University, and various media, such as the CBC and The Telegram.


For her M.Sc. thesis in the Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology graduate program at Memorial University, Leanne Guzzwell will study Northern Gannets at Cape St. Mary’s. Leanne has a long history of volunteering on behalf of the nature and environment of the province, having volunteered with the Ocean Sciences Centre (seal research), Nature NL (assessment of the Quidi Vidi Lake Important Bird Area, Nature Nook at The Rooms), CPAWS-NL and Environment Canada (Ocean Days at DFO, monitoring purple sandpipers at Cape Spear, carrying out Atlantic Shorebird surveys, serving on the puffin and petrel patrol). As an individual, Leanne built a case for the need for enhanced wildlife rescue facilities in the province, created a Facebook group “Bird Lovers of Newfoundland” to bring bird watchers, bird keepers, and bird lovers together, and has completed several wildlife and bird certification programs to become the best “wildlife warrior” she could be.


Alvan Buckley, a medical student at Memorial University, is an accomplished young naturalist. His volunteer activities include maintaining the Newfoundland and Labrador portal for eBird. This is a global citizen science project where anyone can submit bird sightings to an online database. This information is essential for scientists to track global trends in bird populations. Due in part to his efforts the NL eBird portal has seen a five-fold increase in usage. Mr. Buckley was also selected for his work in organizing two Christmas Bird Counts, the longest running citizen science project in the world. These bird counts provide essential information on bird population trends over time. Mr. Buckley has also volunteered with the Canadian Wildlife Service in the Canadian Arctic.


Aaron O’Brien is a native of Cape Broyle, Newfoundland and a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of Ottawa. As a volunteer, he has made significant contributions to the conservation and enhancement of nature in Newfoundland and Labrador. Aaron has served as a Protected Areas Steward for the Avalon Wilderness Reserve with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NL) over the past seven years. He writes a wildlife column for The Independent. Aaron is also a trail custodian of the East Coast Trail Association (ECTA). Aaron plans to pursue an academic career specializing in environmental philosophy and ethics.


Emma Power is a student at Queen Elizabeth Regional High School, Conception Bay South. She served as Chair of her high school’s Ecological Crusaders group and participated regularly in the Eco-Mentors program for Earth Day. Her most impressive achievement, however, was her successful campaign to bring curbside recycling to the town of Conception Bay South. Emma started a letter writing campaign directed to the town council and the local paper and a petition directed to the Mayor and the Director of Public Works in which she highlighted the importance of curbside recycling for her rapidly growing community. Due in large part to her efforts, a curbside-recycling program started in CBS in October 2013. Emma plans to attend Memorial University upon gradation to pursue a career in medicine or marine biology.


Cheryl White – St. Bride’s, NL