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Volunteer Spotlight: Catriona Dempsey

This month the HAT office team would like to shine the volunteer spotlight on:

Catriona Dempsey



for taking the time to help us with our Western Screech-Owl Monitoring Project! Catriona has been a driving force in our Western Screech-Owl monitoring project this year, leading night monitoring surveys, and both co-ordinating and the installion of Audio Recording Units and nest boxes in the Highlands, Sooke and Metchosin and Greater Victoria Area.   Thank you Catriona for volunteering your time as a Western Screech-Owl action hero for local conservation, we are amazed by your generosity, organization, and determination.

Paige Erickson-McGee, shares her gratitude for Catriona, “Catriona Dempsey has been a valuable addition to the Western Screech-Owl Team Leaders. After training under HAT’s owl biologist Tania Tripp at Madrone Environmental,Catriona has contributed over 75 volunteer hours of nest box installation and monitoring, owl surveying, habitat assessments, and analyzing audio recording data. She keeps the owl project running, and her enthusiasm for wildlife conservation is inspirational. We wish her all the best studying human-wildlife interactions with grizzly bears in Banff National Park this summer!"

Catriona shares a little bit of her Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteering experience with you:

When Catriona first got introduced to HAT she says, "I first started working with HAT last spring. I was fortunate to be hired for a co-op work term with a Duncan-based consulting company (Madrone Environmental Services) monitoring Western Screech-Owls under the supervision of an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated owl biologist, Tania Tripp, who has been working with HAT extensively on the owl monitoring program. Over the course of the term we helped HAT to put up nest boxes and conducted night time owl surveys. I was also responsible for installing Audio Recording Units on properties to record owl calls every night. It was very exciting to be a part of the first year that HAT has monitored using these devices and I have learned so much! After my work term ended I missed being a part of the owl monitoring project very much. So, this spring I decided to return to owl work with HAT and contribute as much as I could while finishing off the last semester of my degree. I am always looking for ways to blend my science background with my love of working with people and HAT is an excellent fit."

Recalling her experience volunteering with HAT Catriona tells us that "[her] favourite moment so far has been finding a female Western Screech-Owl using a nest box put up by HAT. We were checking all the boxes on a property with our specialized camera attached to a pole. I completely didn’t expect to see an owl in the box. By that point I had checked dozens of boxes and I was very much expecting to see the inside of an empty box on the screen. When a female owl appeared on the screen I was shocked. It was an indescribably amazing feeling to see an owl looking back at me and the surprise made the moment even better. I am happy that it looks like that owl and her mate are back in the area this spring and will likely be nesting in a box again. Giving even one owl a place to nest has made the entire project so very worthwhile. "


If she could share something to others about being part of the HAT community Catriona would want other to know: "As a student, volunteering has given me hands-on experience that I could never gain in a classroom. But, more importantly, it gives me renewed passion for conservation and reminds me why I am studying in the field that I have chosen. There are so many people working with HAT (landowners, volunteers, and HAT staff) who are passionate about conservation and extremely generous with their time and I find working with them all so inspiring. It is also very rewarding to be helping with a project that directly benefits a threatened species. I have grown to love Western Screech-Owls and I want to see them thrive here in Victoria. "

Executive Director, Jill Robinson shares her gratitude as well giving, "A huge thanks to Catriona for her amazing contribution to HAT’s owl project. We are so thankful for her time, energy and expertise, making a powerful impact on the conservation of Western Screech Owls and local landowner stewardship."

Thank you Catriona for sharing your insights as well as volunteering to support local conservation with us at HAT, it's always a joy to work together.


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