WA Wed – A Walk with a Biologist

David Cook using his skills

David Cook is “Wild About” science and being outdoors. In retirement he has had the time and willingness to share his extensive background knowledge about plants, animals, and environmental concerns. He has actively engaged in doing interpretive walks throughout the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia. His walks are designed to be learning experiences rather than hikes. Many of the adults who attend his walks are familiar with his reputation as a scientist and appreciate that walks are accessible to people with diverse range of physical abilities and knowledge of science. The type of walk offered depends on the group requesting David’s support and the choices David makes to keep things fresh and interesting. He does not like doing repeat sessions that are the same. Therefore, participants can expect variety. I was on the Bear Hunt when he bent down, scooped up the bear scat and ran it through his fingers to assess what the bear had been eating. Apparently, that was another of his many studies, reporting on the diet of local bears through analysis of their poop. For the non-biologists in the group, he added an element of surprise that had us delighted and riveted to what he was saying. He provides a model of how senior citizens can #getOUTdoors, #getINvolved in learning that benefits their fitness and sense of belonging for free.

David Cook continues to be active in his North Shore Community.  He is on the board of the Light House Park Preservation Society, the Old Growth Conservancy Society, was  on the board of the Friends of Cypress Park Society.  He was on the board of Nature Vancouver and ran the Botany Section of Nature Vancouver for ten years and still runs the Geology Section of that society.   He has recently completed a seven-year study of 54 hectares of old-growth forest in West Vancouver and previously completed similar reports on two old-growth forests in the District of North Vancouver.This has resulted in many opportunities to share his background knowledge.

David was born and raised in Perth. He graduated from the University of Western Australia with a double major in zoology and geology with extra courses in botany. Rather than following his father’s footsteps into banking, his insatiable curiosity took him into work as a science reporter with a Western Australian newspaper, a job as an entomologist for the Department of Agriculture in Australia and Port Moresby. This came to an abrupt end when he was offered a transfer to Rabaul, the capital of New Britain, while working as an Entomologist for the Administration of Papua New Guinea. Rabaul was a town built in the crater of a volcano and nobody wanted to work there. Predictably, a few years later the town was wiped off the map by a volcanic eruption. David had been on expeditions into the Star Mountains and up the Sepik and Ramu Rivers of Papua New Guinea, and after leaving New Guinea, caving expeditions to New Caledonia and the adjacent islands of the New Hebrides. Then began a three-year world trip that almost achieved circumnavigation of the globe; Japan , South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Laos (the Vietnam war), Cambodia (Angkor Wat), India, the Middle East, France and finally Canada where, tiring of travel, he took a job in one of his fields, Geology

David earned a living as a geologist with Union Carbide Exploration. Eventually he was transferred to Vancouver and stayed put. He never lost his love for botany and was able to focus his attention on this love once he retired. He worked with a well-known botanist named Terry Taylor, from whom he learnt the local species, and by co-leading interpretive walks.

He has developed a good reputation and demonstrated a willingness to share his knowledge. The following are some of the groups that he has hosted walks for:

North Shore Black Bear Society.

Old Growth Conservancy Society.

Lighthouse Park Preservation Society.

Nature Vancouver (formerly Vancouver Natural History Society)

Salmonberry Days (Dunbar Residents Association).

Cordilleran Section of the Geological Association of Canada.

Friends of Cypress Provincial Park.

Elders Council for Parks.

Elder College.

Stanley Park Ecology Society.

Pacific Spirit Park Society.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

West Vancouver Museum & Archives.

Young Naturalists Club.

Chilliwack Naturalists.

The Land Conservancy.

Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre.

False Creek Watershed Society.

Suzuki Elders.

Private tours.

School group tours.

He has also hosted geology tours with prearranged stopping points in Lynn Canyon Park, Caulfeild Park, Stanley Park, Kitsilano Beach, Fraser Valley to Hope, and the Sea to Sky Highway. 

Organization of the Interpretive Walks:

  1.  The society or group sponsoring the interpretive walk publicizes the interpretive walk to their members, sends out email invitations to register and generates interest through social media.
  2. Having notified members of the society or group, David shut up sends out emails to his own list that has grown to over 1000 . This includes people who have previously attended walks or communicated interest over time.
  3. Confirmations are sent out to people once they are registered.
Hello Carrie
You are registered for the Bear Walk on Thursday Sept 8th. at 10 am. The meeting location is the parking area on Lillooet Road just before the yellow gate which is the entrance gate to the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and just after Capilano University and then the cemetery. There is alternative pay parking at Capilano University, a 15 minutes walk away. Allow for this eventuality.
Most of the walk is open to the sky, so wear a hat if it is a sunny day. Bring water and a snack. The closest toilets are at Capilano University.
I have attached a map with the meeting location shown by a red cross.
4. Usually the society for which the walk is being conducted will have a Release of Liability form to be filled out by each participant.

Of the over 1000 people notified about a walk, about 20 people usually respond. Although, since Covid, people were desperate to get out and I have had a significant increase in numbers to about double that figure. In that case I place the excess number on a wait list. Of the 20 that achieve registration, about half will cancel, particularly if the weather changes, leaving me with the ideal number of about 10.

David is aware of other programs to facilitate registration processes, but he remains with what is tried, tested, and works for him.

There is lots of room for others wanting to share their expertise. David’s preference is to have a group of about 10 people which usually ends up at about 10 as some almost always cancel. He finds this small number lends itself to more questions, conversation, and active engagement. The fact that David frequently sends out messages stating the session is full, shows that people are receptive to this kind of learning outdoors in nature. He is hoping others reach out to offer these kinds of opportunities and learn about their crucial role in ensuring that good decisions are being made with respect to the environment.

This Wild About Outdoor Learning Wednesday post is based on input and an interview with Dr. David Cook.

Published by Carrie Froese

Curiosity guarantees a life of learning😀 Let me help you find the answer to your questions about educational practice, setting up a small business with a focus on education, and running a non-profit with a focus on educational events.

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