Biodiversity Counts

GNN’s Summer Survey Project for 2024

This summer’s GNN’s Canada Summer Jobs interns are busily counting and categorizing caterpillars, beetles, and spiders on leaves in trees and shrubs, and teaming up with local volunteers to remove invasive species and cultivate native plants and pollinators. They are also meeting with people to talk about the importance of biodiversity, why it’s declining, and how growing more native plants can help.

Our project is called “biodiversity counts” because it does! We need insects and pollinators, and all living things, to make the healthy ecosystem we rely on for essentials like food, fresh water, and clean air. Climate change, loss of native plant biodiversity, and urbanization are taking a toll. Can we help turn things around by removing invasive species and cultivating native plants and pollinators? We are on a mission to find out!

Biodiversity Counts was organized by Lee Adamson (GNN Chair) and five of GNN’s member groups. In Parkdale-High Park, the intern is Jessie Ly, and the project supervisors are Debbie Green (PHP 4 Climate Action), Jill Marzetti and Natalija Popovic (Green 13), Ginnie Venslovaitis (Friends of South Kingsway), and Sandra Leon (Greenest City, West Neighbourhood House). In Beaches-East York, the intern is Natasha Elek, and the project supervisors are Mary Anne Lemm, Catherine Byrne and Hastings Withers (Beach United Church).

We gratefully thank MP Arif Virani in Parkdale-High Park, and MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith in Beaches-East York for their support of this summer’s Canada Summer Jobs project.

Meet our Interns

Natasha Elek

Environmental Program Biologist, Beaches-East York, Canada Summer Jobs Intern

My name is Natasha and I am currently studying ecology at the University of British Columbia. I have always loved nature, so I am excited to have the opportunity to learn more about biodiversity and educate others in my community about the importance of plants and insects to the environment. I am an avid hiker and I often volunteer with restoration groups in the areas I frequent, including Pacific Spirit Park and the Camosun Bog in Vancouver.

Moreover, I am an executive on the UBC Botany Enthusiast Club, where we work to help students reconnect with nature and promote growing native plants and pollinators. I love insects and have a large bug collection that I am continuing to expand, so I can often be found inspecting leaves and rocks for critters around Toronto. I am very glad to be working with Green Neighbours Network this summer and can’t wait to see what we find.

Jessie Ly

Environmental Program Biologist, Parkdale-High Park, Canada Summer Jobs Intern

Hello! My name is Jessie, and I recently graduated from York University with an Honours Bachelor degree in Biology. During my studies, I have completed and defended an Honours Thesis in animal physiology, specifically investigating how changes in water temperature affect the osmoregulatory strategies of freshwater fish. I am passionate about understanding the ways that organisms adapt to environmental stressors, and I will be continuing this research as a Master’s student in Biology this upcoming Fall semester.

Through this internship at Green Neighbours Network, I am excited to learn from my peers and mentors how to be an effective advocate for environmental sustainability. I am eager to gain practical experience in community engagement, develop skills in promoting biodiversity, and contribute to initiatives that protect and restore native habitats. I look forward to applying my academic knowledge to real-world challenges and collaborating with others who are equally passionate about making a positive impact on our environment.

Jahreleaseya Lehmann-Simpson

Communications Intern, Greener Toronto Fund, Small Change Fund

I’m Jahreleaseya - I just finished my fourth year of Environmental Biology at TMU. As a child, I was lucky enough to travel with my grandparents up north to many famous provincial parks. This early exposure to the environment through playing in the dirt and connecting with wildlife and nature has allowed me to gain a great appreciation for nature and bring that passion back to the city.

Furthermore, I’m passionate about citizen science and making science and conservation accessible and digestible to all. I have experience working in native plant horticulture and environmental education - as well as communications for nonprofit organizations like GNN. I love helping others to learn about urban ecosystems and what we can do to keep them thriving for generations to come. I'm very much looking forward to promoting the many partners that the GNN is connected with to help create a greener and more sustainable city. In my free time, I love hiking, watercolour painting, and spending time with my tortoiseshell cat.

Participating Neighbourhood Groups

Scroll in the window below to meet the five GNN member groups that hosted interns in GNN’s “Biodiversity Counts” Canada Summer Jobs project. Click each one to read the full descriptions. Close pop-ups using the “x” in the top right corner.

Volunteers and Interns in Action

Project Partners

Scroll in the window below to read about the Project Partners that helped GNN create and carry out the “Biodiversity Counts” Canada Summer Jobs project. Click each one to read the full descriptions. Close pop-ups using the “x” in the top right corner.

Project Sponsor