Abbie Stewart has worked with MSES since 2007 as an environmental consultant, specializing in Large Mammal Landscape Ecology. Abbie has conducted numerous Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and Third Party Reviews and has lead various academic research projects resulting in a number of peer-reviewed publications. She earned a Master’s degree in Landscape Ecology from the University of Calgary, where she assessed landscape analysis methodology and the concept of ecological thresholds in habitat amount.

What initially interested you about the field of ecology, or got you into it?

I have always had a love of animals and simply enjoy nature. What better way to spend my days, than by learning about the relationship between animals and their environment?

Who inspired you in the field of ecology, or mentored you along the way? How did they shape your path?

That one is easy – Petr Komers inspired and mentored me! I met Petr while working at another consulting company and he showed me that the data we collect can and should be used to meaningfully inform our impact reporting. He pushed everyone to move beyond the status quo and to expect and provide better information. He inspired me to go back to school and complete a Master of Science which has allowed me to push others to do more meaningful assessments.

What is an example of an interesting project that you have worked on? What made it interesting?

I really enjoyed working on my graduate studies which evaluated landscape scale effects on large mammals. It required a lot of field work and I never knew what each day would bring – all sorts of wildlife sign, wildlife encounters, beautiful scenery, mechanical difficulties, human encounters. I also discovered that I really enjoy the large, landscape scale perspective when trying to understand animal distribution and habitat use.

What has been a highlight for you while working at MSES?

The highlight of working at MSES is the people that I have had the chance to work with along the way. The MSES team is a group of intelligent, modest, friendly, and open-minded individuals. Our clients are so diverse in their experience and provide interesting new perspectives. It is a pleasure to work with them each day.

What is your wildest experience while out in nature?

I’ve had a few wildlife encounters that got my heart rate up, but I think the power of Mother Nature during a canoe trip is what really sticks with me. A prairie storm rolled up on us so quickly that we barely had time to pull off the river and take cover. The intensity of the wind, thunder, and lightening was astonishing, and we were so close to being struck by lightening that my teeth fillings felt like they were vibrating! In the end, the hill next to us was struck and we merely had to suffer the soaking rain and minor mud slide that followed.

What animal is underappreciated and deserves more love?

Bats have an extremely important ecological role. They eat LOTS of insects which, in turn, reduces the amount of pesticides needed to protect crops. Other bats pollinate flowers and disperse seeds which can produce foods that we eat. Studying bats when I worked for Dr. Barclay at the University of Calgary gave me a huge appreciation for bats and it was so much fun.  

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Definitely camping with the family and spending time outside doing everything from walking the dog to canoeing to biking. In the winter, it is unquestionably snowboarding!

What is the most interesting place you have visited and what made it interesting?

I absolutely loved Amsterdam. I found the people to be extremely friendly and welcoming and the overall atmosphere was one of freedom and tolerance. There was so much to see and do and it could all be done without a vehicle – walking, boating, bicycles.

Where we are in every moment is where we are supposed to be.