Before enrolling in the Restoration of Natural Systems program, Kristina Coleman hadn't paid much attention to the natural world around her.
"I didn't know anything about plants at the time," Coleman says with a laugh. That was then.
She can now identify dozens, thanks to her program which focuses on environmental restoration. That new knowledge certainly came in handy as she, along with Louise Goulet, a noted wildlife biologist, designed a native plant garden at Gulf Islands National Park headquarters in Sidney.
"There were no native species in that garden. We took out everything but the trees," Coleman says.
By Coleman's count, there are some 700 species in the garden: tiger lilies to camas and Siberian miners' lettuce.
The beauty of this program is how much real-world application there is.
- Kristina Coleman
Although she knew Parks Canada wanted to redesign the site, she had little idea that her project would be accepted. Nor did she know that her intensive five-day Field Study course would turn into months of paid work that counted toward her course mark and will stand out on her CV should she ever be looking for work.
"That's the beauty of this program is how much real-world application there is. This program also allows you to make contacts in the real world. I was so excited and so freaked out at the same time," she said.
Like many in her program, Coleman works full time and is five courses into the 12-course program. As a chemist, her day job is analyzing data for an environmental laboratory in Sidney.
"I wanted to know more about the environment and systems and how it all fits together," she says. "I thought this program would be a little flaky, like maybe it won't be anything I can use (in life or work). But it definitely is."
For instance, Coleman had met Goulet, the biologist, while researching a project for another course. Coleman gives full credit to Goulet for helping her prepare her proposal and complete the project. The biologist, and Coleman's program, also helped instill a love of Vancouver Island's natural flora.
"It's kind of amazing. I recognize plants that I never would have noticed before."