Cal Martin

Cal Martin’s introduction to the career of a naturalist happened in high school, thanks to an “inspirational teacher” who suggested that Cal volunteer at a local nature centre. Cal signed on and ended up leading guided hikes and working with the centre’s environmental day camp. “I fell in love with the job of educating people about the natural environment.” He loved it so much that Cal spent the next three summers working at the centre. “I knew this was something I was passionate about. Something inside me said ‘This is the line of work you want to get involved in’.” Today, with a Bachelor of Science degree, Cal works full-time as a naturalist with the Greater Vancouver Regional District Parks department.

His job is to understand in detail the cultural and natural resources of the regional parks system and communicate that information in a meaningful way. “When you take a group of people on a guided walk, they expect you to have an intimate understanding of the entire history, geology, botany, and zoology of the park.” As a result of the different demands of his job, Cal spends half his time researching topics, consulting with other naturalists, and developing programs and learning materials. “I love being able to continually learn about new subjects.”

The other half of Cal’s time is spent outdoors, leading everything from guided hikes to evening canoe trips on topics ranging from ethnobotany and intertidal marine life to endangered bat colonies. He enjoys the personal interaction with the public, often pulling from his “goody bag” of props—including skulls and feathers—to help illustrate his point. “When I’m outdoors, I’m not only teaching them but sharing experiences and stories as well…Suddenly, you see this spark ignite in their eyes, and you know you’ve had an impact.” One of the biggest drawbacks to the industry is the seasonality of the work—it’s difficult to find year-round work as a full-time naturalist.

In addition, because of this seasonal nature, the job frequently isn’t considered a legitimate career. “The job of a naturalist is often seen as a summer job instead of a viable long-term profession.” Despite these drawbacks, Cal loves his job. It is the perfect combination of outdoor activity and public interaction. “Being able to work outdoors and teach people about the natural environment is a very fulfilling line of work to be in.”