Nature and science have always been a part of André’s life in one form or another. André grew up in a suburb of Montreal. As a child, he found science to be extremely interesting, even though it wasn’t a strong feature of his elementary education. “My favourite subject was science, but the science class only lasted about 5 minutes late Friday.” At home, he would go to his basement “laboratory” where he would mix random chemicals and hope for something cool to happen. He jokes, “I did manage to release chlorine gas and sulfur oxide.”
Nature was introduced to him in the form of summer camp in the lower St. Lawrence where he received a badge in “naturalism”. He went on to join the Young Naturalists club in high school, exploring all sorts of neat places while accompanied by excellent botanists and ornithologists. High school also introduced to him his first science hero, a biology teacher by whom André was taught for two years. André went on to be a biology undergrad and a member of the Biology Club, being afforded additional opportunities to experience nature with the eyes and knowledge of experts. He also found that he was fascinated by yeasts. Later, as a professional microbiologist, André got the chance to collect yeasts from natural habitats in practically all continents. One of his significant professional contributions has been to participate in the discovery and scientific description of 150+ yeast species. That’s a lot of yeasts.
André has been involved with TTLT for many years. His wife, Jane Bowles, was a founding member and volunteered as Property Manager for several years. “I began to accompany her on weekend volunteer activities at the time TTLT had only a handful of nature reserves. It was a great way to spend quality time in nature in the company of my wife and other TTLT volunteers, which include several good friends.” André really started to step up his game once he obtained his chainsaw operator certification, which led him to “take part in the great Buckthorn sacrifice at Five Points Forest and the Autumn Olive slaughter at Joany’s Woods.” One thing led to another and he found himself volunteering on the Board of Directors, where he began to lend a helping hand more frequently at volunteer events on most of the nature reserves. “My first emergence from COVID-19 isolation this summer was to walk some of the trails at Mud Lake Nature Reserve, looking for problem trees. I later returned twice with my chainsaw to rectify said problems.”
Other than being a part of the “Chainsaw Crew”, André has worked on a variety of projects on TTLT nature reserves, as well as serving as Chair of the Property Management Committee (PMC), secretary of PMC (a position he still holds), and serving as secretary, vice president, president, and now past president of the Board of Directors. As President, André was involved in almost everything. He would volunteer his time, expertise, and leadership at Passport to Nature events, celebrations, fundraisers, etc., always committed to doing what was best for TTLT and always being willing to help. “To my own surprise, I much enjoyed my tenure as President and view it with a sense of fulfillment, although I look forward to refocusing my efforts on the chainsaw work.”
André’s experiences have also been great learning experiences. “The biggest lesson learned was the concept of fiduciary duty. Once one joins an organization like TTLT as a full participant (i.e. Board), one must be guided by the ethic of always acting the best interest of the organization. Situations arise where one has to weigh conflicting interests and priorities. The right decision or action arises relatively easily when one lets the ‘principle of best interest of TTLT’ serve as the overarching guideline.”
“As to fellowship, TTLT has created a unique opportunity to discover talents and qualities of people that I already knew in other contexts without realizing the immense wisdom that they offer to conservation. Collectively, TTLT brings together an immense pool of expertise. These individuals are the cogs of a tremendously powerful wheel.”
His time at TTLT has also afforded him some entertaining memories. “Perhaps the funniest moment was at the end of the first TTLT function held in our Westminster headquarters, at a time at which I did not yet qualify as a senior. A puzzled board member reached Jane, in the Bruce Pavillion kitchen, to inform her that there was a strange looking elderly gentleman in the board room, should something be done about that? Jane was delighted to reply that it was quite OK, as the gentleman in question was her husband. A week or so later, the puzzled director met Peter Andreae (of Muriel fame). Tricked by a superficial resemblance, he addressed Peter as ‘Mr. Bowles’, to everyone’s great amusement.”
André has had the unique opportunity to watch TTLT grow as an organization from the very beginning, so what does he hope for its future? “My deepest hopes vastly exceed the realm of what is possible. More realistically, I shall be content with a Thames Talbot Land Trust that attracts many more members, that manages to build financial security in the form of endowments, and where staff and volunteers can focus much of their efforts on the acquisition and nurturing of beautiful natural spaces in our area of activity in Southwest Ontario.”
A big thank you to André for providing the information for this blog post and for his past and ongoing support!
2nd Photo - Credit to Jane Bowles