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!