ANNUAL REPORT OF THE CERTIFICATION COMMITTEE FOR 2019-2020
By Don Barnes, MSc, CWB®, Chair of Certification Committee, and OCTWS President-Elect
Certification Committee email address CSTWSCertificationCommittee@gmail.com
Manuscripts Relating to Certification in Canada
Evolution of certification programs designed to create Canadian professional biologists
At the AGM, Erin and I were approached by Dr. Lu Carbyn about putting together a manuscript on wildlife certification in Canada. In 2010, he and two co-authors published an article in Canadian Field Naturalist (CFN) about biological societies in Alberta. Because of his contacts with CFN, we decided to develop an article to be published in this Canadian-based journal. It was decided that I should spear-head the paper. To help the three of us in our task, we engaged the help of Dr. Everett Hanna (Certification Committee Liaison Officer for BC-CAB), Dave Ealey (Certification Liaison Officer for ASPB), Justine Josephson-Laidlaw (President-Elect of the Manitoba Chapter and Certification Committee Representative from TWS Manitoba Chapter), Jessica Melsted (Certification Committee Secretary), and Al Arsenault (CRB Canadian Representative on the Certification Committee).
To help us develop the proper historical perspective, Lu Carbyn has generous contributed documents extending back to the 1970s and 80s. I am in the progress of transcribing these into a usable computer format for use in the proposed article.
Why are there not more TWS members opting for certification: A Canadian Prospectus
Part way through this above-mentioned manuscript, the co-authors and I realized that there was another story to be told. As a result, we decided to tackle a question which has plagued us over the years—Why are there not more CWBs in Canada? —. With regards to the second manuscript, I felt the most appropriate journal would be TWS’s WILDLIFE PROFESSIONAL, as the subject of our paper deals with the program responsible for producing wildlife professionals. Erin, being part of its editorial board, will be able to provide guidance as we develop this article.
Of late, Erin spear-headed a survey of Canadian biologists/students. Thanks to her generosity, I was able incorporate certification queries into the survey. As a result, we will be better able to understand how professionalism is perceived by Canadians. In addition, we have a number surveys which can be used in our development of this second manuscript:
- certification survey of Student Chapters by Jessica Melsted ;
- a survey of employers in the western provinces by Justine Josephson-Laidlaw; and
- three surveys—employers, education institutions, and working biologists—by the Committee of Canadian Concerns (part of the historical information provided by Lu).
Recently I have reached out to CWBs across Canada to engage them. I have asked them to provide the following information: 1) the reasons why they underwent TWS certification when so many other wildlife biologists did not; 2) any thoughts/comments they may have to shed light on why student/young professionals are not motivated to become AWBs or CWBs; 3) any suggestions they may have to increase certification awareness in Canada; and 4) would they be interested in adding to our growing list of CWB mentors. The response has been overwhelming. CWB®s from across Canada has supplied us with a lot of thought-provoking ideas and comments. Over the next while, I will be engaged in synthesizing their comments.
Both these publications are works in progress. We are hoping they will help to provide not only a historical perspective but a road map of how to proceed with certification in Canada.
CSTWS Certification mentorship program
Over the last year, this initiative has provided the opportunity for several CWB®s to dialogue with prospective students and wildlife biologists. Thus far, we have 25 CWB® mentors spread across BC, AB, MB, SK, ON, NB, and YT.
To complete an application for either an AWB® or CWB®, a TWS member must obtain a reference from a CWB®. The mentorship program is important because a CWB® is provided the opportunity to get know the applicant better and thus become comfortable enough to provide a reference. Students/biologists benefit as the CWB® can be useful in answering inquiries about the application process or certification in general. Further, it is our hope that this dialogue will endure over time. For those interested in making use of the mentorship program, check out Committee/mentorship/Protocol for requesting mentor.pdf.
Updating the Status of the Certification Committee
In 2019, there were several changes to our committee structure:
- Jessica Melsted replaced Ali Hughes as our Secretary.
- Stephanie Walsh EP® will be returning from a year-long leave in England. She indicated that she would be willing to return to the committee in March 1, 2020
- Kaitlin Machacek, a student at Lethbridge College replaced Jessica Melsted as our student representative.
- Chuck Priestley replaced Robin Gutsell as our Alberta Chapter Representative
- Justine Josephson-Laidlaw replaced Brian Kiss as our Manitoba Chapter Representative
- Levi Newediuk replaced Michel Laforge as NF & Lab Chapter Representative and
- Education Liaison Officer position remains unfilled.
Update of the Curriculum Review Committee (CRC)
The impetus for this committee came out of concern that our educational system does not adequately prepare students for a career as wildlife biologists. In 2018, based on a recommendation from Dr. Lu Carbyn, the Certification Committee proposed and was given the “green light’ to form a Curriculum Review Committee (CRC). The mandate of this ad hoc committee was to compile, examine, review, and ultimately to recommend changes to the existing curricula of Canadian universities/colleges involved in educating wildlife biologists. The task to “kick start” this ambitious initiative was given to a select group of CSTWS members: Dr. Rick Baydack, Dr. Erin McCance, Dr. Everett Hanna, Dr. Lu Carbyn, and me.
To date, this steering team has drafted a Terms of Reference and has begun generating a list of potential educators from key Canadian universities/colleges to make up the committee structure. In addition, we have reached out across Canada to elicit input from the Canadian section and chapters members. We hope to be in contact with these select educational champions to gauge their willingness to participate as members of CRC.
Re-Designing the Certification Committee Website
I have been in communication with Jessica Lang, CSTWS Web Master, about “beefing up” the Certification Committee site. Both she and Erin have been very supportive about my proposed changes. I have reached out to my committee for feedback to my suggestions. Like most committees, our website is only a few lines long.
Presentations Centered on TWS Certification Across Canada
- TWS Manitoba Chapter Certification Workshop
- Once again, the Manitoba Chapter will be putting on a certification workshop as part of their AGM. Even though, I will not be in attendance I have been in contact with Justine about my involvement. At their 2018 Certification Workshop, the proceedings were videotaped. The plan is to create a webinar based on this tape and show it to students. In addition, students will be encouraged to begin AWB applications. I have agreed to evaluate and provide feedback. It is hoped the combination of these two activities will be instrumental in generating a discussion centered on certification.
- AGM Certification Workshop
- The organizers of the joint OCTWS/CSTWS AGM and Conference chosen as their theme, Wildlife Professionalism. I have been asked to put on a 1-hour Certification Workshop.
- In the first 30 to 40 minutes, I will present an overview of TWS Certification from a Canadian perspective. The following topics will be covered:
- Why bother with TWS Certification?
- Overview of the requirements necessary to become an Associate Wildlife Biologist (AWB®) and a Certified Wildlife Biologist (CWB®)
- Inherent problems Canadian TWS members encounter during the application process.
- Advice in filling out a winning application
- Initiatives towards improving TWS Certification Program in Canada
- The future
- In the second half of the session, there will be an opportunity for the audience to pose questions to myself and two Ontario-based CWB®s:
- Dr. Darren Sleep—Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Ottawa and Robert Pineo—MNRF, Peterborough
- University of Alberta Certification Evening
- In December of 2019, Dr. Mark Boyce and Dave Ealey put on a session that highlighted TWS and ASPB certification programs.
- Lakehead University Chapter Certification Evening
- The chapter orchestrated a session which introduced TWS its members and interested parties. From all indications, the session was very successful with 11 students expressing interest.
- Indigenous Organization showing interest in Certification
- I have two employees of Fours Rivers Environmental Services Group who will be submitting their applications for AWB®. This connection with First Nations will hopefully flourish.
Connecting with Canadian Certification Granting Organizations
As part of our mandate as our CSTWS, we have reached out to the other Canadian-based certification granting organizations
ECO Canada—I have had contact with them, and they are keen to work with us.
ASPB—Dave Ealey continues to work on possible ways how our committee can work with them.
BC-CAB-- At our November 2019 meeting, the Certification Committee formed a sub-committee to explore ways to best way to collaborate with BC-CAB. This 3-person committee (Everett Hanna—BC-CAB Liaison—, Rod Davis—BC Chapter Rep—, and I) continue to dialogue about possible options.
AFS-- I have contacted Dr. Mark Poesch, Fisheries Professor at U of A, as he has a keen interest in ensuring that his students are exposed to professionalism.
ESA-- Since they have a Canadian Chapter based out of the University of Calgary and it is chaired by Dr. Karen Yee, I have tried to reach out to her. Despite my efforts, I have been unsuccessful to contact her via email. The email address on the ESA website doesn’t seem to work. If anyone knows her proper email, please let me know. It would be great to have ESA involved.
NOTE: ABQ does not have a professional certification program
Proposal for a Committee of Biological Professionals (CBP)--The certification committee believes that CBP is a natural extension once connections are firmed up amongst these 5 certification-granting programs. Since CBP represents the 6 professional programs involving with fish & wildlife, their ecosystems, and environment, it would be a powerful vehicle to promote professionalism in Canada.
Re-Designing the Certification Committee Website
I have been in communication with Jessica Lang, CSTWS Web Master, about “beefing up” the Certification Committee site. Both she and Erin have been very supportive of my proposed changes. I have reached out to my committee for feedback to my suggestions. Like most committee write-up, ours is only a few lines long.
TWS Early Career Professional Working Group (ECPWG) Certification Scholarship
I have just found out about a Certification Scholarship sponsored by ECPWG. I urge all CSTWS members or those belonging of the many student and/or provincial chapters to investigate this unique opportunity to move closer to certification. This scholarship is designed to help cover costs for university course work that early career members may be lacking to satisfy the requirements of AWB/CWB certification.
To learn more, go to TWS’s Working Groups website site devoted to ECPWG and look under GRANTS.
There is still time to apply as the due date is May 15, 2020.