Dr. Emily Gonzales is an Ecological Restoration Specialist at Parks Canada where she coordinates conservation programs, develops policy and provides scientific advice for ecological restoration projects in national parks. She has also worked for Environment Canada as a Biodiversity Analyst and was the Director of Science AL!VE, a non-profit organization for science education.
Here at UVic she teaches Restoration Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, and Ecosystem Design through Propagation of Native Plants.
Gonzales’ favourite part of teaching at UVic is learning from her Continuing Studies students. She says “the students bring their own experiences to the courses. Often, they share these perspectives with an enthusiasm that is infectious and this exponentially expands the learning opportunities as well as appreciation for the content.”
For Gonzales, some of the best moments in her teaching are the breakthroughs—that moment when a student is struggling with a difficult concept and then something clicks into place —particularly when it happens through dialogue with another student.
The diversity of learning styles and levels of interest in various topics surprises her too.
“The first time I taught Restoration Ecology, I was surprised how interested the students were in soils. Their enthusiasm for the topic raised my own interest and understanding.”
When asked about important mentors in her own life and career, Gonzales picks her mother, Dr. Valerie Gonzales.
“She taught statistics in the psychology department here at UVic, which might not be the easiest material for students to get excited about, but she made it relevant and engaging. And she always made time for her students. She has also finished more than 20 Ironman Triathlons. That’s a 4 km swim, 180 km cycle, and a 42 km run! She’s 70 years old and lives life with gusto.”
Speaking about her own learning pursuits, Gonzales refers to the continuing education courses she took at Simon Fraser University in Dialogue and Civic Engagement. “I am interested in the ways government can engage the public on issues. I am trained as an ecologist and I used to think that when faced with an issue in conservation biology, we simply needed to collect more data. Now I see that people and relationships are central in the solution to every conservation issue.” She quotes retired Parks Canada biologist, Michael Gibeau: “Science, while necessary, is not sufficient to solve problems in the real world.”
“I’ve applied the skills learned in that program to workshops in Parks Canada as well as to online discussions in my courses. I’m particularly interested in how dialogue can enhance education and our understanding of the world.”
Gonzales’ other interests include teaching yoga and pushing her own limits through challenges such as bungee jumping – despite being afraid of heights.
“I guess I seek out that which is a bit uncomfortable, to see what I can learn from that fear, “ she adds with a smile.”
This article was writen by MJ Turner and first published in the Fall 2016 Calendar.