Hello, from the new coordinator!

Hello! My name is Marissa Berard (she/her), and I am the new coordinator for the Manitoba Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program. These are certainly big shoes to fill – Amanda contributed so much to this program and will certainly be missed! I love birds a lot, and feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of this program and work alongside so many incredible volunteers. I am excited to not only keep learning about birds (truly a lifelong learning journey), but also to contribute to conserving important bird habitat through stewardship activities and outreach. 

I have been involved in the bird world for a while, both in terms of monitoring and public outreach. While working on my honours thesis (which focused on Atlantic cod) with Dr. Gail Davoren at the University of Manitoba, I was fortunate to spend two summers in Newfoundland and help out with a variety of seabird research, including with puffins, razorbills and common murres.

Puffins on a seabird island in Newfoundland (Photo by Marissa Berard).

After graduating, I worked at an environmental consulting company doing a variety of species at risk and avian monitoring including golden-winged warbler and grassland bird surveys. I then moved to Riding Mountain National Park to work with Parks Canada, first as an interpreter and then in the Resource Conservation department where I worked primarily with species at risk including Chimney Swifts and Red-headed Woodpeckers. Living near Riding Mountain has allowed me to spend a lot of time around the Proven Lake IBA, exploring the area both on foot and from a canoe.

The strawberry moon during an early morning June breeding bird survey (Photo by Marissa Berard).

While I absolutely love field work, I am also passionate about the outreach side of things. I love to give bird identification workshops and have done some volunteering with the FortWhyte Alive Birding & Breakfast program. One of the things I love about birding is that in many ways, it is a very accessible activity. Whether you are in downtown Winnipeg or out in the forest, there are birds around. I would love to create more opportunities for a variety of folks to get involved with the IBA program, and birding in general.  

As I recently shared on the MCSI website, my favourite bird of all-time (though my family and friends would argue that I have several of these), remains the black-capped chickadee. Though a common occurrence, I love the chickadee’s lively heartiness and deeply appreciate their perpetual presence on my cross-country ski outings during our long Manitoba winters, even on the coldest of days. 

A few other non-bird related things about me… In my spare time I love to hike and cross-country ski, do beadwork, play instruments and watch live music. My first language is French, and I am a proud Red River Métis with family ties to Saint-Boniface, Saint-Vital, and several other communities surrounding what is now Winnipeg.

I am very excited to be in this role and cannot wait to meet all of you!


Upcoming volunteer opportunities!

We’ve got some exciting volunteer opportunities coming up! All experience levels welcome.

Purple Loosestrife Pull – Oak Hammock Marsh IBA

Come help protect valuable wetland and shorebird habitat! On Monday, Sept 5th we will be heading to Oak Hammock Marsh to remove invasive purple loosestrife. We will be meeting in the parking lot by the Discovery Centre at 10:00am and will head to the stand as a group. After the loosestrife pull, we will head over to the café for lunch. To sign up or for more information, email iba@naturemanitoba.ca.

Red-headed Woodpecker Blitz – Kinosota-Leifur IBA

On Saturday, September 10th, we will be blitzing the Kinosota-Leifur IBA in search of Red-headed Woodpeckers. We will begin at 8:00 am, and will meet up afterwards for a complimentary picnic lunch. All experience levels welcome. Carpooling from Brandon or Winnipeg may be able to be arranged. To sign up or for more information, email iba@naturemanitoba.ca.