Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Lau!

We asked Sam some questions about her time with Wild Ontario. Here's what she said:

Sam Lau1. Why did you decide to volunteer for Wild Ontario?

Like most volunteers, I was first introduced to Wild Ontario while interacting with the team (both bird and human) at Cannon Day, an outreach event that we hold in the heart of campus every year. I was immediately drawn to the enthusiasm of the volunteers and the positive energy to create change. I knew I had to apply!

2. When did you join the program?

I was accepted into the program in 2015.

3. What have you learned/how have you grown through this experience?

It is overwhelming how influential my time with Wild Ontario has been on both my professional and personal growth. Volunteering with WO has been a vital part of my undergraduate career, and for that I am very thankful. In short, this has been an immersive experience where I was able to develop many core animal husbandry and training skills. As a bird handler, I was exposed to many new concepts, but the opportunity to apply them in 'real time', setting training goals and working as a team, facilitated immense growth for me as a trainer. I was also able to develop my voice as an educator. I never anticipated that I would develop such a passion for public speaking but travelling the province with Wild Ontario has taught me the importance of outreach education and reaching out to inspire others. This program is very committed to the growth of their volunteers through experiential learning, so you are constantly growing together as a team - whether that’s learning about natural history, or a heated debate about which food fanny-pack is the superior choice. The team at WO is an absolute blast to work with and I am ever-inspired by the things that we can accomplish together as a family.

4. How would you describe the bird(s) you work with?

I was first assigned to work with Apollo, our handsome male American Kestrel. Apollo is a spunky ball of energy, and a lot of fun to work with.  Apollo is always keen to learn new behaviours. He is very fast-paced, so he has a lot of potential. Being on his team required me to be incredibly attentive to his little intricacies, and this taught me a lot of patience as an animal trainer.

I currently have the pleasure to be working with Ellesmere, our female Gyrfalcon. She is a curious character, and in my opinion, the falcon equivalent of “a big dog that doesn't realize how big they actually are". Her goofy demeanour and quirky vocalizations make her absolutely endearing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working closely to advance her training, as she continues to grow as an animal ambassador for her species.

5. What’s up next for you?

I am currently wrapping up the last bit of my undergrad here at Guelph. It is bittersweet to be leaving this beautiful city and the wonderful people I have met, but I'm excited for the future. I will be starting grad school at McMaster in the upcoming Fall semester. My MSc project will focus on environmental stress, specifically the physiological impacts of hypoxia in vertebrates, such as high-altitude waterfowl and fish species exposed to wastewater effluent. I hope to continue educating others about Ontario's wildlife and conservation wherever my adventures take me next!

6. What others say about Sam:

"Sam has been an absolutely wonderful part of the team. She is a quiet leader, and her calm and measured approach works equally well with her bird and human teammates. She is positive, helpful, kind and a pleasure to work with. We are so sad to see her go...the program won't feel the same without her!"

"Sam's such a superstar! She makes everybody smile, but is also a super hard worker who takes her responsibilities seriously. She's an awesome mentor to new volutneers and is so much fun to work with!"

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