Colton Johnstone Spotlight: Forging a Career Through Entrepreneurial Environmentalism

Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2024

What motivated you to pursue the Master of Conservation Leadership program, and what specific areas of conservation are you focusing on? How does your current work/career fit into this?  

My life mantra is to inspire others to take interest in the natural world and promote its conservation. Having spent many years working for Ontario Parks in the field of interpretation, I have come to embrace a lifelong journey of learning and developing new ways to communicate with others about nature. The MCL seemed like the next logical step in my journey. My time in the MCL served as an important part of the incubation of my capstone project and ambitions beyond my current career and helped to evolve my perspective on the field of conservation.  

Throughout your time in the program, have you encountered any insights or revelations about conservation practices or challenges that have influenced your perspective?   

Having come into the program with my capstone project already selected, I was excited to build on the project based on lessons along the way. Many of the courses had direct applications to my project and encouraged me to expand the scope in a number of areas such as indigenous representation and private land conservation. Lessons learned within the program will help to guide the future development and implementation of my project.   

 Reflecting on your journey so far, what accomplishment within your studies and career are you most proud of, and why?  

The completion of the MCL is certainly a major point of pride for me in a number of ways. My late father, who inspired my love for nature, never knew that I would eventually seek out a master's education, I am frequently reminded by my mother of the immense pride they collectively share for where my conservation career has taken me. Additionally, my grandfather, Bob Prestage, graduated from the university in 1959, 65 years before I would. My final conversation with him before he died was that I would be joining the MCL at his own alma mater. Though he wouldn't live to see me graduate, the connection we got to share in his final days is something that I will always cherish. 

 What personally motivated you to pursue a career in conservation leadership, and how do you envision yourself making a difference in this field in the future?  

My father, both during his life and after, represents one of my single greatest motivators for working in conservation. Ideals he helped to instill in me fuel my passions and inspire me to always learn and grow. Following in his footsteps, I hope to make an impact in environmental education and combat the growing disconnect between youth and nature. My aim is to serve as a catalyst for future generations to experience, care for and protect nature. I will know I have made a difference in the future when I see youth I spoken to having grown up to pursue careers in conservation for themselves.  

 Is there a hobby, interest, or unique aspect of your personality that you find brings balance to your academic pursuits in conservation leadership? If so, could you share a bit about it?  

I am an avid player of games of all kinds. I play many card games that have all helped to inspire my capstone project. I want to capture the enthusiasm youth have for fantasy characters and channel that into real world applications such as wildlife. I think that through the gamification of environmental education, youth will have a deeper connection with their study of nature. By blending my passions for wildlife and card games, I plan to forge a career through entrepreneurial environmentalism. The sale of Convergent Conservation marks the first step in that mission. 

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