April 22nd, 2024

Biologist turns tough-to-hear science into easy-to-read stories

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on March 28, 2024.

Author and conservationist Lorne Fitch speaks to the assembled crowd at the Medicine Hat Public Library theatre on Tuesday.--News Photo Anna Smith


The annual meeting of the Grasslands Naturalists Society on Tuesday also featured the reveal of a new collection of stories from one of Alberta’s foremost biologists.

Lorne Fitch, a noted authority on Alberta watersheds, has been working in biology for 50 years and is a retired provincial fish and wildlife biologist. He is one of the co-founders of Cows and Fish, a riparian restoration organization.

His goal with his new book, “Streams of Consequence,” takes the hard scientific fact of conservation efforts in the province and turns them into metaphors and stories that anyone can digest.

“I wrote, probably, north of 100 scientific surveys, periodicals and so forth. And I don’t think the audience for that was half of what’s in this room,” said Fitch during the reading hosted at the Medicine Hat Public Library. “It made me think: all this good information, who gets to use it? So I thought to myself, maybe one of the other ways of doing this is to tell stories.”

It was Fitch’s hope to give a voice to people who haven’t been able to speak on the issues they’re passionate about.

“The voices in question are first of all biologists, particularly biologists that work for the government, for corporations, or for consulting firms. Right now, it’s biologists that work for provincial governments, and this provincial government especially, can’t really talk to the public without going through a filtering mechanism,” said Fitch. “It’s very difficult for them to get messages out.”

Another group he wanted to focus on was broader, giving an outlet to people who have conservation concerns but are unable to articulate them, be it from a lack of an academic background, lack of platform, or both.

This is partially why he decided to present his work in the form of stories, to help the concerns resonate with a larger crowd.

“It’s important to sometimes take a hard concept, a controversial concept, a complex concept, and turn it into something that almost everybody can see themselves in,” said Fitch.

The book draws on experiences from growing up in an agricultural background, through all his work in conservation, and onward.

Fitch stressed that all profit from the book will go toward conservation causes, as will the following book set to come out in the fall, or the third book he plans to write. The book is available via Rocky Mountain Books, or ordered in via independent bookstores.

“I’ve got a lot of scar tissue to work through,” said Fitch. “So I have a lot more to write.”

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