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Thank You, Jane

Michelle Fairbrother is a physical science officer at the National Hydrological Service. In her own work, Michelle pushes herself to embody the same bravery and strength demonstrated by Jane Goodall. In her spare time, Michelle crafts, thrifts, hikes, and feeds baby squirrels.

As a child, hearing about the amazing life journeys of others elicited equal amounts of awe and envy for an individual’s choices and ensuing experiences. For me, this person was Jane Goodall. She embraced a deep love for wildlife and had a profound trust in her adventurous spirit. Jane’s decision to move to a faraway continent to conduct research struck me as the purest form of bravery and inner strength.

Taking to the streets of Ottawa to express the importance of our precious planet.

Taking to the streets of Ottawa to express the importance of our precious planet.

In reflecting on this childhood admiration and the words in Jane’s book “Reason for Hope”, I have come to realize that there are many other reasons I see her as a role model. As a woman without a formal degree in her field of research, Jane faced many forms of resistance when trying to present her findings and secure funding for her fieldwork. Despite this, she continued collecting what came to be very valuable information to understand the similarities between primate and human behaviour. Observing the mannerisms, tool use, and social structures of chimpanzees took immense patience, vast amounts of time, and self-sacrifice in the form of physical comfort and a conventional family life. Later in her career, she came to the realization that her knowledge could be best applied to essential conservation action and left the research she loved to lead initiatives in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park and beyond.

Michelle interacting with local wildlife.

Michelle interacting with local wildlife.

Currently, there is ease and speed in the transfer of verifiable environmental science information. There are also still substantial portions of the population that continue to deny the negative impacts of human activity on the environment. Jane had the fortitude to conduct many years of thorough research and the courage to continue to share her message of the importance of respecting all creatures who inhabit the planet. While it may not have been her aim when she began research as a curious and driven 26-year-old, she also inspired a generation of young female scientists to commit the same passion and tenacity to their research and the value of their unique voices.

Conservation projects and their champions mean spaces like Algonquin Provincial Park can be enjoyed by lucky explorers like Michelle.

Conservation projects and their champions mean spaces like Algonquin Provincial Park can be enjoyed by lucky explorers like Michelle.

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