About Us

Why did we create Dispatches?

“Landscapes have the power to teach, if you query them carefully.  And remote landscapes teach the rarest, quietest lessons.” –David Quammen

Field biologists are incredibly lucky because they often get to see and experience things that many others don’t.  Doing field biology is one of the best ways to get to know a place intimately, and see it from a different point of view – whether that place is an old field at QUBS, a city park, or an island that most people never get to visit.

Like many other scientists, we have a strong desire to bridge the gap between the elusive scientist and the public.  While education about the science we do is critical, it is also important to share our experiences, and this blog provides the perfect medium to do just that.  So much of what happens in the field has no place in scientific papers, and never makes it into the public realm – yet these stories are the core of the experience.  We want this blog to serve as an outlet for those stories, and also a way for us to share the rare, quiet lessons we’ve learned from the many landscapes we’ve been privileged to get to know.

Who are we?

Catherine Dale                                                                                                                                                                                                           Coordinator, Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas, Birds Canada

My first encounter with fieldwork took place the summer after my third year of undergrad, when I worked as a minion (aka field assistant) studying Tree Swallows at the Queen’s University Biological Station.  Although it was anything but love at first sight, by the end of the summer, I was hooked.  Since then, I’ve made it my mission to do fieldwork in as many amazing and hard-to-reach places as possible.  For my MSc research, I spent several months on Nova Scotia’s magical and mysterious Sable Island, and my PhD research involved spending many hours wandering the grounds of some of the best wineries of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. In my current position as Coordinator of the Newfoundland Breeding Bird Atlas, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a few of Newfoundland’s most remote places – and also some of the more accessible ones. I am passionate about science communication and writing, and have a (perhaps unhealthy) obsession with the correct use of semi-colons.  I love sharing my field stories on Dispatches from the Field, which brings together two of my great loves – fieldwork and writing – and of course, allows me to spread the word about proper semi-colon etiquette.

Amanda Tracey                                                                                                                                                                                                     Conservation Biologist, Nature Conservancy of Canada

Amanda Tracey Profile PictureI started my career as a plant biologist studying plant community ecology at Queen’s University. I spent 8 field seasons looking at different patterns in abundance for meadows, shrublands and woodlands, enjoying every moment I spent outside doing research. I now work as a Conservation Biologist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada planning, stewarding and teaching the public about conservation lands and species at risk. While I have learned a lot from fieldwork over the years, one key thing I noticed was that bright-eyed and bushy-tailed creatures get a way better response than plants! One of my goals is to show the public how exciting plants  really are and give you a taste of the diversity in the Southern Ontario region. Plus 10 field seasons across Ontario means endless disasters, hilarious moments and really unique finds (along with the photos to prove it)!


Sarah Wallace                                                                                                                                                                                                          Ph. D. student at Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Quebec city

I completed my masters in biology at Queen’s in 2012 studying the population genetics of the Cassin’s auklet, a burrow-nesting seabird that breeds along the Pacific coast of North America. Being a seabird biologist has many benefits (despite being pooped on constantly!). For one, I collected samples from the beautiful Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. Now for my PhD, I get to do fieldwork in both “polluted” and “pristine” places. Some of the best stories are not even related to your research at all but happen along the way. I am passionate about conservation and I believe the best way to achieve conservation initiatives is through community involvement. I am excited to write for this blog to let you in to some of our secrets about why we fell in love with these places and biology as a whole!

12 thoughts on “About Us

  1. wow! just read your “about us” part…..feels good to know that women are breaking the norms and taking up less common professions …..i say this because in my country(India), though we are very modern…not very many women would take up such interesting and fulfilling role…
    Catherine, Sarah and Amanda you 3 are truly an inspiration for a lot of Women across the globe….keep up the good job!!!

    • That’s really nice of you to say – thank you! There are certainly lots of women doing field biology here in Canada – but I definitely have found that fieldwork can pose some unique challenges for women. I’m sure that we’ll end up touching on that in future posts!

  2. Stumbled upon this page and I’m glad I did. I loved reading about your academic journey and how you got to where you are. As a current third year undergrad at Queen’s who spent two blissful weeks at QUBS for a summer field course and also enjoyed the BIOL 302 class trip, I felt like I was reminiscing about all the things I loved about it when I was there. Your story makes me think of all the possibilities for my future. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Anneke, thanks for checking us out! Glad you enjoyed reading the blog 🙂 We are glad the blog is reaching undergraduate students too – we want to share with you guys why we love what we do. Do you have any other ideas for reaching more students? Also, if you are interested in writing a guest post about your field course we would love to hear from you!

  3. Love what you are doing!- without field biologists civilization will just get ecologically stupider and stupider so I hope you motivate others to want to understand what lives on this planet.

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  5. I was just thinking about the woes of my own field work and wondered if people were sharing their experiences. This is great! Tons of Birding in Belize! And Amanda, As a Forest Biologist, I am definitely interested in your work. Plus, loads of plants in Belize. Yes, This is an invite!

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