Sandra Elvin always thought she would grow up to be a veterinarian. Sandra acquired her love for nature from her father, who after spending one day in Canada’s open spaces, decided to move his family there.
Trained as a wildlife biologist, Sandra is currently pursuing a Ph.D. Her passion for nature and conservation has taken her around the world, from Barbados to the Philippines. Sandra’s roles have been as varied as the places she’s been, including underwater surveying, rhino population monitoring in Kenya and environmental consulting.
Sandra leads several trips with WWF and Natural Habitat Adventures, WWF’s primary tour operator. Sandra is one of several guides who leads polar bear watching expeditions for WWF travelers. Sandra has also led tours in China to see pandas and to Churchill, Manitoba during the summer beluga whale watching season.
The ‘Beary’ Beginning
Sandra has an extensive academic background and continues to contribute to numerous environmental sustainability projects while guiding six to 12 weeks a year. It’s the power of bears and their king-like status that always draw Sandra back into the field.
Tour guiding has provided Sandra with a platform to share her passion for conservation with travelers. She aims to convey some perspective on the realities facing wildlife and their habitat.
“I want to be able to empower travelers to go home and talk with depth and clarity about what they saw and felt on their trip,” she explained.
And at the same time, Sandra also learns a great deal from travelers. “I like to hear what travelers think about conservation. Often I have lawyers, academics, and presidents of organizations who share their own goals and experiences with me.”
Working at the intersection of industry and environment, the travelers and their perspective help Sandra in her own work.
One Day in Nature
Sandra often guides polar bear expeditions to Churchill, Canada where travelers are so excited by their experience seeing bears in the wild that they lose common sense.
“As guides, we actually have to watch the people, not the bears, like hawks to make sure they keep their hands inside the grates,” she said, describing traveler behavior on the tundra polar bear rovers. The rover allows travelers to not only stand outside but also literally stand above polar bears. Metal grates line the floor of the vehicle bringing travelers that much closer to the king of the arctic.
It only took Sandra’s father one day in nature to completely change his life. Sandra shares this same sentiment with travelers, with the hopes that they, as moved as her father was after one day, would find the practical value in cherishing and conserving these wild spaces.