By: Brandon Cooney, Sustainability Assistant Intern – Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador & the Town of Conception Bay South
Can you tell us a little bit about the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador (CCNL) and the Town of Conception Bay and the project you are working on?
I was hired by CCNL, a non-profit dedicated to providing youth with valuable work experience in environmental and cultural heritage conservation. Through the support of CCNL and the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program, I was able to spend my placement working for my hometown of Conception Bay South as their Sustainability Assistant Intern Working with the Town of CBS has been an amazing opportunity. I have been working on a wide range of projects that all align with my areas of interest, and that I believe will have a meaningful local impact.
During my internship, I have helped the Town develop their Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan (CCCAP), the end product of the Adaptation Changemakers Project — a 2 year federally funded initiative. Over the 2 years, this project involved local and national workshops with participating communities, stakeholders and relevant experts. Risk and vulnerability assessments were conducted in the Town, and together with the steering committee, the Town identified 26 local adaptation actions. An implementation table was then created for each action to outline how the action could be executed. My role was to take the implementation tables, along with the resources provided by the project team, and write the CCCAP. I did this in collaboration with a colleague from ICLEI and with input from the Town.
In addition, during, my internship I have been working with the CBS Community Garden Steering Committee to develop new and enhance existing community gardens within the Town. This work is being led by an incredible group of volunteers focused on building community and addressing food insecurity in CBS. I have supported them with funding applications, reports, policy documentation, events, public outreach, and more!
What sparked your interest in the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program?
Since a young age, I have loved the outdoors and had a strong interest in science. This led me to complete a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology at Memorial University, located in St. John’s Newfoundland. Toward the end of my degree, I became particularly interested in “big picture” issues such as climate change and earth systems. While I knew I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, I wasn’t ready to commit to a specific focus, as my interests have been very broad in scope. Instead, I took time travel with the intention of developing a clearer direction for my career path.
While travelling through Nepal I witnessed the effect that deforestation is having on the remote mountain villages of the Himalayas, and how rapid urbanization is affecting the air quality of Kathmandu. While working in the Colombia Icefields I educated thousands of people on the rapidly disappearing beauty of the Athabasca Glacier. In New Zealand I met with locals concerned over excessive land development, invasive species, and a dairy industry that was poisoning the once-abundant river ecosystems.
These experiences solidified my passion for sustainability, climate change and mitigating the impact we are having on the Earth. It also allowed me to bridge the gap between what I learned in university and what I had experienced first-hand. When I returned home, it felt like the stars aligned! The first job I applied for, and ultimately got, was through the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program.
What has been your favourite part of working with the Town of Conception Bay South?
My favourite part of working with CCNL and the Town of CBS has been the opportunity to do meaningful work on a broad range of local projects. Specifically, working towards educating the community on climate change; increasing the community’s resilience and adaptive capacity to potential future impacts of climate change; and helping to address food insecurity and building community through the Community Garden project.
Of course, in addition to the valuable work experience, the invaluable experience I’ve received from the mentorship of my Director and Manager, as well as the fantastic people I’ve been able to meet, work and network with has been a major highlight of my internship.
How has the work that you are doing influenced your interest/knowledge of the environmental sector and/or clean technology?
Working on the Adaptation Changemakers project has illuminated how communities can plan for the potential future impacts of climate change. It has taught best practices for engaging with stakeholders, planning for risks and vulnerabilities, as well as highlighted the unique challenges smaller communities can face when creating adaptation plans.
In addition to the adaptation planning process, this work has influenced the way I communicate climate change to broad audiences. Learning about stakeholder engagement, effective written and verbal science communication strategies and even building educational resources for social media and websites has been a great learning experience. I will take these learnings with me as I continue to grow my career in the green economy.
How has this experience helped you shape and/or work towards your career goals?
Since returning from travelling, my career goals have been focused towards environmental project management. Through this internship, I have honed many valuable skills, including independent project management, and my ability to effectively communicate science to wide audiences. As I move forward in my career path, I am confident this experience will prove to be pivotal for my development as an environmental professional.
To learn more about the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program visit our webpage.