Backyard Habitat Programs Manager
Most of what CWF's Backyard Habitat Program has to offer is thanks to the passion and vision of Maria MacRae. She has been a big part of CWF's success in helping Canadians discover and appreciate the wildlife around them and create habitat for these valuable species on their property. Unfortunately, Maria has been ill with cancer for several years and on April 11th, 2010, she died at the young age of 44.
Maria began work with the Canadian Wildlife Federation in 1995. At the end of her first year, she took a three-year leave of absence to work on a conservation project in Papua New Guinea. She returned in 1999 and became the Manager of CWF’s Backyard Habitat Programs which includes the CWF demonstration gardens, Certification program, Wild About Gardening website and previously, the Golden Gardens funding program. She also wrote for Canadian Wildlife and created a series of educational materials that included our well-known “Wild About” posters, a shorelines poster and field guide kit, bags, handouts and more.
Prior to CWF, Maria received her biology degree from McMaster University and then went on to specialize in wildlife management at McGill University. This was complemented with an MBA from McGill and Erasmus University in The Netherlands. She worked in the conservation field since 1990, starting with the publication of her research in Canadian Field Naturalist. Her career in conservation education began when she started doing freelance writing for various newspapers and magazines and then went on to create the Ladybug Survey with Nature Canada. From these experiences she discovered the joy of sharing her fascination in all types of wildlife, from the misunderstood but beneficial beetles, bats and snakes, to the colourful birds and butterflies and the native plants they rely on for their well-being, with the public.
Maria had a strong passion for both wildlife and her job at CWF, where she loved helping people connect with the wildlife around them, inspiring them to give back to nature. She put 110% into her work, not for the paycheck but for the satisfaction she got in knowing she was making a difference. She often worked into the wee hours of the morning, perfecting whatever it was she was working on and in recent years, she even continued to work while receiving cancer treatment both at the hospital and at home!
She liked to motivate Canadians in a positive way, through inspiration and education, trusting this would create a lasting appreciation for wildlife. Maria also had integrity, speaking out for what she believed was right and fair. She was naturally respectful and appreciative of her staff and volunteers and was a delight to work for. She had a great blend of business sense, creativity, vision – and a quick wit. Her love of humour prompted her to find it in most situations and managed to get people chuckling at least once during her visits. In fact, you knew she was in the building just by hearing her famous laugh which would prompt the comment “oh, Maria must be in the building!”
Maria was responsible for just about everything the Backyard Habitat program has to offer today and had thousands more ideas raring to go. We saw how her interactions with wildlife experts gave CWF a good name, as Maria brought the science as well as passion to what we’re all working towards. This was clear with her invitation to participate in a monarch conference in Mexico with leading North American experts.
We have lost a major contributor to CWF’s cause, and a good friend, but will honour her memory with our continued efforts to inspire Canadians to love and protect our wildlife.