Gord Gadsden.

Gord Gadsden.

Gord Gadsden: Engaging stewards of tomorrow

Chilliwack's Gord Gadsden, 32, as featured in The Chilliwack Progress Forty Under 40.

Gord Gadsden can identify a mind-boggling 310 species of B.C. birds, most of them from the Upper Fraser Valley.

With keen ears he can pick out about 160 different birds by song.

Gadsden, 32, is a bit of a self-proclaimed bird geek.

He’s also a resource technician for Fraser Valley Regional District Parks where he gets to share his considerable knowledge with the public. At night he works on his degree in Leadership and Management.

In his FVRD parks role he takes care of the various regional sites from habitat restoration, to landscaping to removing invasive plant species. The goal is always maintaining the ecosystem.

In his spare time he launched the local birders’ online site, Fraser Valley Birding, in 2005.

“There were sites for Vancouver residents to share bird sightings and identifications,” he said. “But this was an untapped base. I wanted to give local people an avenue to share, and it’s a great way to promote birds.”

He was just always interested for as far back as he can remember.

“I learned to read with a bird guide, to be honest.”

He was about 5, and he would make feeders out of milk jugs to attract the winged creatures and became utterly captivated.

He remembers duck hunting as a boy with his father, Chris Gadsden. Although he doesn’t hunt anymore he remembers there was “a high level of respect and understanding.”

Later he’d go on fishing trips and be totally distracted by the birds in trees.

One of the founders of the Chilliwack Field Naturalists, Denis Knopp, was an early mentor for him.

There’s a fair bit of community outreach in the FVRD parks role he’s been in for 13 years. Getting kids interested potentially means creating the environmental stewards of the future.

Everything from running interpretive programs, to school projects like making wood duck boxes for the tiny wood ducks, as well as swallows, bats and owls.

It’s about engaging youth and getting them interested in how the plants and animals in a park interact.

Often it’s something as simple as looking at tadpoles in their natural habitat.

“If I can teach them something about the wildlife to make it meaningful, they’re likely to remember it,” he says. He tries to keep it fresh, as the kids will sometimes come back a few different times over the years.

“They might not understand it all but if you can appreciate how a ecosystem works, you might one day try to do what you could to keep it healthy.”