Part one of ACER’s Where Are They Now? series, a celebration of our wonderful former employees, interns, volunteers, and other folks who have made our work possible. Written by ACER executive board member Elizabeth MacLean.
Jason Weiler loves his work as Parks Ecologist in Calgary, where his current project is part of a 10-year strategic plan for the restoration of 20% of the city’s open space to its natural state. This work entails the identification of, planning for, and management of restoration sites through their reversion to natural meadows or stabilized riverbanks. He also develops training materials and works with local stewardship groups and individuals of many ages and cultures in community projects.
A student work placement with ACER was a major step in the journey to his dream job. As a kid in Ontario, Jason was part of a nature-loving family and an experienced camper. Uncertain at first where his interests might take him, he embarked on a degree program in Environmental and Resource Management at Waterloo University. During his practicum placement in Fall/Winter 2009, ACER put Jason to work with staff monitoring biodiversity plots in the woods of the Bruce Peninsula near Wiarton, Ontario. He also visited schools, assisted volunteers in tree plantings, accompanied ACER’s founding president Alice Casselman to conferences, and created a summary report of his work. While he was well-versed in theory from his studies, “the field components were all brand new to me,” he says. ACER gave him his first practical, hands-on experience. “The co-op placement really opened my eyes.”
Eventually, Jason made his way west. “I fell in love with the mountains,” he says. In his four years with the City of Calgary, his work has grown more complex, and he has become acutely aware of the environmental degradation caused by Alberta’s oil sands experience. This year COVID-19 has challenged him to adapt his programs and put safe protocols into place. Jason says one encouraging result of the pandemic is that he’s hearing “more whispers about what recovery will look like.” He is very optimistic that environmental restoration work will thrive as the economy recovers.
Jason Weiler’s projects are part of Calgary’s Our BiodiverCity initiative, bringing together local environmentalists, cultural and faith groups, government bodies, schools and universities, and corporations. They’re gaining national attention. In fact, his project’s Habitat Restoration Manual won a 2020 Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Planning Excellence. The CIP commends the project for its “innovative and coordinated approach to understanding biodiversity” and “clear and consistent strategy for community and citizen involvement in restoration projects.”
Jason credits ACER with helping to train Canada’s next generation of environmentalists and recalls his season with ACER as a “foundational moment” in his career.
Check out Jason’s award-winning project here: https://www.calgary.ca/csps/parks/planning-and-operations/naturalization-initiative.html?redirect=/habitatrestoration