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Profile: Jackie Waddell

by Nina Linton

Jackie WaddellStanding on the snow-covered ground Jackie Waddell looks up, a delicate veil of afternoon sun drapes her in a soft light. Ageless trees tower above, their craggy limbs, outstretched, create a sinuous web overhead with pockets of blue peeking through the meandering branches. A self confessed lover of nature, Waddell is at home under the big sky.

The current executive director of the Island Nature Trust has constantly used education as a tool to engage the public in a dialogue about our environment as she dedicates her life to the conservation of wild places and spaces.

“I love natural history and I love learning about it and now more than ever love teaching other people about it,” exclaims Waddell, who will do more than sixty presentations this year on all things out-of-doors.

Instilling knowledge in kids, advising adults and sharing with seniors, Waddell has volunteered her time, tutoring thousands of community members about the natural world after moving to the province in 1986.

After completing her post secondary studies in wildlife management, she was initially employed by the Island Nature Trust to oversee a three month long scenic heritage roads project. Hard working, Waddell has been able to stretch out her term there for close to twenty-five years, with her tenure including everything from the piping plover project, where she worked to protect the fragile shore birds, to making contact with land owners on behalf of the not for profit organization that works as a land trust, buying and accepting land for protection as well as helping private land owners safeguard their own tracts.

Both personally and professionally, Waddell, hopes that in future these rare areas will reach a minimum of seven per cent of the Island’s surface, forming “a beautiful network of connected natural areas that are protecting all the representative habitats on PEI.”

Working alongside many other players on the provincial protection scene, Waddell is advocating for a land use plan for Prince Edward Island, lobbying government and joining forces with other like-minded organizations to conserve and protect wildlife in wild areas for the benefit of all.

“Natural areas are the basis for our clean water, the air we breathe, they do everything from preventing flooding to provide us with beautiful places to go,” says Waddell.

Waddell aims to draw Islanders into the conversation on conservation insisting that, “education is important but I think it is just as important to listen to people. And not just listen but to act on people’s behalf to benefit the Island.”

As Waddell pushes forward with her community work she hopes that her continuous outreach will bring awareness to the needs of the living world around us.

Whether lecturing at the library, completing piles of paperwork in a search for project funding, leading a group of young students through the woods, or discussing the ins and outs of emergency bird care after a local resident has discovered an injured avian friend, Waddell is happily surrounded by nature.

“It is with you all the time. If you are driving into the city and there is a crow, that is a part of it; if the tide is out, that is a part of it. It is there all the time, whether you are a bird watcher or a baker in the kitchen looking out the window, you are looking at nature.”

And she hopes that this is the message she can pass on to others.

“It is not even to think about nature in a different way but it is to think about nature period.”

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