By Chloe Speakman, Wilderness Committee Campaign Assistant
Jean Lieppert Polfus is a scientist and an artist – a somewhat rare combination in academia.
She grew up in northern Wisconsin, skiing, canoeing, camping and hiking in the surrounding hardwood forests. She was raised with the understanding that there are a multitude of unique beings in the world, each perceiving the world in unique ways. Her mom is an artist, so she and her sister were always encouraged to express themselves through drawing and painting.
Jean’s commitment to wildlife, wild places and the people who depend on them comes from a series of experiences she’s had over the course of her life. She’s always found witnessing animals in wild landscapes hugely impactful.
Jean continues to find value in the diversity of life, and she also values the opportunity to make a difference for species at risk in her career.
After earning her Bachelor of Science in evolutionary and environmental biology, she studied conservation biology in the traditional territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in northern British Columbia. During her work, she gained an appreciation for the complex blend of cultural, political and ecological issues that exist in the north. Caribou are pivotal to many of those issues.
Now a doctoral candidate in the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba, Jean uses art as well as science to explore the natural world around her. As an ecologist she appreciates the complexity of ecosystems, and as an artist she hopes to find unique ways to depict these intricacies.
Her research explores the potential for art to increase communication and knowledge exchange between scientific and Aboriginal communities. Ultimately, she aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the identities and relationships among caribou populations, Dene and Métis people in the Sahtú region of the Northwest Territories. She is innovating ways to use art in combination with a scientific framework to support wildlife management.
Having firsthand knowledge of communities acting as stewards for land and wildlife, Jean believes that the most positive conservation outcomes are possible only by supporting the stewardship of people who truly depend on the land.
Woodland caribou, which occur across much of northern Canada, were listed as threatened in 2014 under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). However, since BC has no stand-alone species at risk law, caribou have no provincial protection in British Columbia. Click here to sign the petition to protect species at risk in BC.
Jean is a Toad Person because she believes in a future where our children’s children will be able to watch caribou run across the mountains. She graciously donated some of her artwork to the campaign.