National Volunteer Week, Day 2 - Joanna Preston

For Day 2 of National Volunteer Week, Paige Erickson-McGee, HAT’s Stewardship Coordinator, would like to recognize Joanna Preston for taking a leadership role in volunteering and supporting Habitat Acquisition Trust, particularly through the organization of and extensive participation in Western Screech Owl monitoring since 2017. Joanna is a Registered Professional Biologist (RPBio) and works as a Wildlife Biologist for Stantec Environmental Consulting. With 15 years’ experience in Western Canada working on bats, songbirds, raptors, amphibians and more, Joanna brings a wealth of knowledge to HAT. Despite a full-time career, Joanna finds the time to volunteer her extensive skills and expertise to HAT’s Western Screech Owl Stewardship and Monitoring Project.

Reflecting on what inspires her about volunteering with us Joanna shared, "HAT made me realize I can contribute in a meaningful way to conservation initiatives and wildlife programs with real positive results. The HAT staff are awesome to work with and super knowledgeable…I've learned a lot."

Joanna says, "I got involved with the Western Screech Owl nest box program in 2017 and was inspired by how many land owners in Greater Victoria are so passionate about getting involved and wanting to protect this species at risk by installing owl nest boxes on their property. The Screech Owl population in Greater Victoria has declined with the loss of forest that once provided natural cavities to nest in, and with the increase in predators such as Barred Owls, so this is a species that could benefit from our help.

I helped install dozens of nest boxes and checked up on a few of them later in spring using a tiny camera on the end of a long pole. I hoped, rather than expected, to find a Screech Owl inside one of the nest boxes. After inspecting several nest boxes and finding them either empty or occupied by squirrels, we found one! On June 2, 2017 a female screech owl stared back at us on the camera monitor, with at least one baby! I was ecstatic! If one nest box provides a safe nesting place for a pair of Screech Owls to raise a family in Greater Victoria, to me the nest box program is a success."

"As a wildlife biologist and mother I feel my volunteer work at HAT is a great way to contribute to conservation efforts and teach my daughter the values of service in our community that connects with our passion for nature." - Joanna Preston

Habitat Acquisition Trust's staff, contractors, landowners, and volunteer Owl Monitors owe Joanna a great big thank you for all she's done to make our owl program possible. It is with many helping hands and minds that we run programs like the Western Screech Owl project, and we are grateful to everyone involved. Joanna stands out to us as someone who has gone above and beyond like a Western Screech Owl flies above, carrying out an essential role in our natural environment.

Thank you Joanna for giving your time to the understanding of these threatened owls and to our community!

 (Image: Joanna (right) with Ashlea, HAT's former Community & Development Coordinator, installing an owl call recording unit).

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