Volunteer Spotlight: Cathy Hamel

Cathy’s story begins in Germany where a Canadian military couple were stationed and adopted her. They brought her back to Canada with them when she was 3 years old. “My dad always called me his souvenir of Germany.”

She spent her childhood years in North Bay and her teenage years in Niagara Falls. After studying Environmental Biology and Women’s Studies at University and a “short” 11-year stint working at Agriculture Canada, she became an autoworker for 30 years where she got heavily involved with the union. “Social activism led to much volunteering for various organizations, and I’d always been very interested in the natural world. I’ve been an avid birder since I was a teen and have belonged to various nature groups, so I was able to combine these two passions as a volunteer bird bander for Birds Canada for two seasons.”

She then heard about the Turtle Tracker program at the Bruce Peninsula National Park and decided to volunteer her time there monitoring turtle nests. “When our local Nature Club put out a call to help Thames Talbot Land Trust with their turtle program a couple of years ago, it seemed a perfect fit as it was so close to home for me.” We couldn’t agree more! This year alone, Cathy was largely responsible for protecting 75% of the turtle nests, resulting in the majority of the successful hatch and release of 474 baby turtles!

“I have enjoyed the time spent with TTLT immensely. I have learned much, and Daria and her crew are an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Cathy has recently retired and moved to a small town in northeastern Ontario where she hopes to continue to work with turtles in the wild. “From what I’ve seen so far, this area looks like prime turtle country and I’m very enthused to see what the spring will bring.” 


Expanding on Cathy’s Social Media Post Answers

Favourtie Outdoor Activity

“My favourite outdoor activity is something called Geocaching. It’s basically a high-tech treasure hunt, using a GPS receiver to find containers holding logbooks hidden in the wild. You find the container, sign the logbook, and then log your experience online. More information about geocaching can be found at www.geocaching.com.”

Most challenging thing you’ve done

“The most challenging thing I’ve ever done was hike the Bruce Trail, end-to-end, continuous, and solo, when I was 55 years old. Hubby dropped me off in Tobermory in July 2015 and picked me up in Queenston 7 weeks later. I had previously hiked most of the Trail in bits and pieces, but I really wanted the thru-hiking experience… and I got it, in spades! I wrote a daily blog called ‘Musings from the Bruce’ while on the Trail; it can still be found online, at www.cathyhamel.blogspot.com.”

Best Nature Memory

“My best nature memory comes from the summer of 2014, when my friend Linda and I hiked the North Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. This little-known gem of a trail is extremely rustic – I’ve heard some hikers describe it as what the West Coast Trail was, 50 years ago. It requires a 90-minute boat ride just to reach the isolated eastern trailhead. During the four days we spent hiking that trail, we saw only three other people. There were no organized campsites; camp was made on our choice of myriad pocket beaches, and we would wake in the morning to find bear tracks in the sand beside our bivies. Towards the end of our hike, we crested a slight rise and saw a cougar dozing in the sun about 50 feet ahead of us, in the middle of the trail. I stopped short, and Linda bumped into me. We both froze as the huge cat lazily rose and eyed us disparagingly. It shook off the sleep, flicked its tail, and then haughtily sauntered off into the forest. After a stunned pause, we proceeded extremely cautiously, to put it mildly.


Photo Courtesy of Cathy Hamel