On a ranch at 148 Mile House, DUC intern Richard Topp meticulously scours the ground as he prepares to begin an amphibian salvage. Topp is more than happy to be knee-deep in mud. Not only does he have a job, but it’s one that affords him to continue to do meaningful research in his chosen field.
The recent UBC Okanagan graduate just completed his bachelor of science degree and had a job lined up with the City of Delta. In a time where the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the workforce, Topp found himself on the outside looking in as job cuts ended his employment before it even started.
It was quite difficult,” explains Topp. “I was in a real tight spot. I was jobless for about a month and wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
Thankfully, opportunity knocked for Topp. The UBC grad had worked as a student in conjunction with DUC’s Spartina invasive plant program. That experience opened the door this summer thanks to a generous donation from long-time DUC supporter Ray Maher.
Maher makes good on funding student research
Maher is currently a national director with Ducks Unlimited Canada and the chairperson for B.C’s provincial council. His pledge is to funding DUC in B.C.’s summer students for the next 10 years.
“It’s important we give the next generation of students the opportunities to further the important research critical to Ducks Unlimited Canada,” says Maher.
His commitment to the organization spans back almost five decades, starting with his love of waterfowl hunting while growing up on the Prairies. Maher recognized the need to protect the rapidly decreasing number of wetlands and has been an advocate for waterfowl conservation even since.
Maher went on to study biology and went on to work as a taxidermist. He settled with his family in Prince George in the early 1990s before taking on a new career path in Burns Lake, taking over ownership on a road maintenance business.
Maher says another significant motivating factor for his donation to DUC was his own career path.
“Coming out of university, there weren’t very many opportunities for up-and-coming biologists. There is a huge need for on-the-ground research, and providing summer students with the chance to get a foot in the door is critical for Ducks and conservation. It’s nice when you see them working in the summer and then end up working for us once their education is complete.”
Maher says today’s students will be instrumental in helping DUC in the years to come. They will help rejuvenate its membership and drive its science-based approach to conservation. He also stresses the donation should help bridge the gap that DUC is facing when it comes to generating revenue to fund its research.
"Our fundraising is mostly done face-to-face, and we all know that's impossible at this time. So hopefully, this will prompt others who can think about where they donate."
Donation a game-changer for DUC in B.C.
Sarah Nathan, manager of provincial operations for DUC in B.C., says the donation provides peace of mind in an economy disrupted by the pandemic.
“Having a 10-year commitment to funding summer student positions has been an absolute game-changer for us in our conservation program,” says Nathan. “It really adds stability, and helps us plan our summer seasons in advance, allowing us to maximize learning opportunities for students as well as benefits to our program.”
Topp is grateful for the opportunity, knowing the work he is doing with DUC is building his resume by offering a wide range of skills needed for conservation work.
“An amphibian salvage was something I had never done, so it was great to be able to gain that experience,” he says. “It allows me to build my skillset in a time when I wasn’t sure I would even have a job.”