Island Nature Trust gets new executive director

Sally Cole
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The Island Nature Trust's executive director Megan Harris stands in front of the group's office in Charlottetown.

Megan Harris remembers the exact moment she knew she wanted to become a biologist.

"It happened during a Grade 11 field trip to the Bamfield Marine Station in B.C.," she says.

Until then, the teenager had little exposure to "real ecology work."

"It was something that we did as a family, walking in the woods, going fishing and camping," says the British Columbia native who now calls P.E.I. home.

But, after touring the field operation and watching the marine biologists in action, a vision, as well as a passion for the profession kicked in.

"I knew that being outside, working, gaining a better understanding of the outside world was something I wanted to do...That was my watershed moment," says Harris.

Now, after an extensive career working with non-government organizations from P.E.I. to New Zealand to Victoria, B.C., she taken up a new post.

Harris is the new executive director of the Island Nature Trust (INT).

The organization accepts lands in their natural state as donations or purchases lands to protect them and manage them as natural areas.

Harris, who stepped into the shoes formerly filled by the former executive director, Jackie Waddell, this past summer, says the work is challenging.

There's been a "steep learning curve" and "surprises along the way."

"I'm somewhat overwhelmed. That's because you're looking in an organization from the outside, it's really difficult to get a good sense of what it's all about until you start."

One of her first jobs is tracking down the trust's various properties.

The trust currently owns over 2,600 acres of forests, offshore islands, coastal lands and wetlands.

"I'm getting a better sense of what eco systems we have represented, in our lands already, where the gaps are and what we could be doing better and what we are doing well. Basically I'm trying to establish a balance sheet in terms of what we need to improve on and what we're doing well at and what we need to build on."

Her fact-finding mission has taken her to Courtin Island in the Malpeque Bay, where pieces are being offered to the trust.

"One is a donation while the two others are purchases. So if we can pull that off we'll own most of the island, so we can protect it."

In addition, Harris is developing the organization's vision.

"The board of directors has an important role to play in that. I'll be having discussions with them over the winter when we have a bit more breathing room to sit back and contemplate these things."

In any environmental field, there's always way more that needs to be done then you can possibly do.

"I think the organization can be more strategic in what we're pursuing. For example, we need to look at what lands are we missing in our portfolio and try to acquire and protect those eco systems. We can also do more education work."

Harris hopes to develop partnerships with schools and nonprofit groups who are working on ecology projects.

Organizations: Island Nature Trust, Bamfield Marine Station

Geographic location: P.E.I., British Columbia, New Zealand Victoria Courtin Island Malpeque Bay

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