Even though Lisa Scott wasn’t sure in what direction her education would take her, she did always know that she wanted to make a difference.
She has certainly done that through her work as a professional biologist.
Born in Summerland, Scott grew up in Okanagan Falls and graduated from Penticton High School.
“I was very much inspired to have a career in science by my high school biology teacher,” Scott explained.
She went on to the University of British Columbia and gained a bachelor of science degree in animal biology and at the age of 22 she travelled to Sydney, Australia and did a master’s degree in zoology.
“Australia was the best thing for me. I really grew up there,” explained Scott.
During her time there she studied a marsupial called a Bandicoot, whose population was declining.
Some of Scott’s research was used to have this species declared endangered, through new legislation.
“I started to realize my heart was really in conservation,” said Scott.
Her passion for conservation and land management has been well utilized in her work as coordinator for the Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS).
Although Scott describes this as having been her “bread and butter” for the past 20 years, she also does other things.
“I would call myself a habitat biologist,” she said. “I do work with conservation planning, with species at risk, injured and threatened species and I do work with invasive species. All these things are inter connected and woven together.”
Right now Scott has a large contract with the Nature Trust of British Columbia and is doing a management plan for a bio diversity ranch in Okanagan Falls. She is pulling together a team of eight people. She explained that once a management plan is in place to control a certain weed, for instance, it is then monitored and adjusted as needed depending on how well that plan is working.
“Adaptive management is an important part of my world,” she explained.
She has also learned the importance of partnerships and communication over the years.
Outside of her secular work, Scott is also one of the co-founders of the Meadowlark Nature Festival and is a member of the Summerland Earth Week Organizing Committee.
“An important thing to me, whether it’s the Meadowlark Festival or Earth Week, it’s about people getting out doors and people having a greater appreciation for nature and realizing that they can make a difference,” she said.
A large part of what Scott does through her school and public presentations is to educate people. She explained though, that there is more to it than just education.
“There is a social marketing aspect to the work that I do. It’s about changing behaviours. You need to identify the benefits, the barriers, create social norms and create incentives. You are trying to sell a concept about how to care more for the environment,” she said. “I try to engage people, not just educate them.”
When Scott teaches young people about invasive species she gives them homework to do.
She encourages them to go home and to tell one other person what they have learned.
“I don’t think people realize that just the sharing of knowledge can help to make a difference,” she said.
Scott finds that people are much more aware of invasive plants in the region and much less apathetic now than they use to be.
She continues to provide support to people who perhaps still lack the confidence and understanding of what to do about them.
“I definitely feel like I’ve made a difference, but I think there is a lot more work to be done,” she said.
“There is still so much habitat degradation, loss of species and we’re in an ever evolving climate. The only known is the unknown. Change is constant so we’re always going to have to keep on our toes to keep aware of what’s around us and what we need to do to protect the earth.”
A public forum will be held at Okanagan College in Penticton on Tuesday April 26, in celebration of the success of OASISS. To learn more about this free event go to www.oasiss.ca.