Dr. Natalia LIfsthitz
I was born and raised in Mexico City, and developed a great passion for animals at a young age. Having ducks and dogs at home, I was fascinated by animal behavior, which led me to pursue a career as a biologist at UNAM (the National Autonomous University of Mexico). During my undergrad, I participated in a study with blue-footed boobies, led by Dr. Hugh Drummond from the Ecology Institute at the same university, and discovered the wonderful world of behavioral ecology. After that, I focused on coloration of birds in the context of mate choice. I worked with Blue-footed and Brown Boobies for my undergrad and Masters’ theses. While working with all these amazing seabirds, I got to live in small remote tropical islands around Mexico for long periods of time and have countless stories to tell.
In 2013, my husband Edgar and I, with our little dog Pacha, moved to Edmonton so I could pursue my PhD at the University of Alberta, in the lab of Dr. Colleen St. Clair. I studied the effects of urban pollution on the coloration of Tree Swallows. I obtained my PhD in 2019 and have since worked in various areas of science, including teaching, nest-sweeping, wildlife biologist for Environment Canada, and am currently the scientific advisor for Ellis Bird Farm. When I’m not doing something biology-related, I am an avid tennis player and a great fan of craft beer.
I have been fortunate to have had an early career as an avian research ecologist that took me to some of the most spectacular ecosystems on the planet, such as the Canadian Arctic, the windswept plains of Patagonia, and the arid Andean highlands of the Atacama Desert. It was these truly awe-inspiring and transformational experiences that solidified my passion for both avian ecology and the conservation of nature that continues to this day. In the subsequent phase of my career, I transitioned into teaching and for about ten years have served as a teaching faculty member at colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States. Most recently, I combined my life-long dedication to conservation and education in the non-profit sector and served as Director of Education and Outreach (North America, Asia, Africa programs) for a wildlife conservation organization in Southern California.
In addition to my current position as a Biology Instructor at Red Deer Polytechnic, I volunteer my time and skills to create and implement empowering environmental education, economic development, and female empowerment projects for underserved communities in Africa and Asia. In a similar vein, I also work with on-the-ground conservation partners in Africa to both reduce bushmeat poaching and combat the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn. As a hobby, I have recently become, quite admittedly, completely addicted to wildlife photography.
I grew up in Calgary, where my husband and I raised our two children. Once the kids left for
University, we moved to Lacombe in 2006 where we currently reside and operate our own business.
For the last 35 years, my passion for environmental education fueled my creativity to develop
education and outreach programs for the Calgary Zoo, the Weaselhead Preservation Society and the Red
Deer River Watershed Alliance. These programs are still in use today. I also have a a strong
background working with NGO’s and have contributed my knowledge and insight to various boards including Alberta
Luge, Calgary Canoe Club, and Battle River Watershed Alliance.
I can be found, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, and spending time at our cottage in Nova
Scotia whenever I can. I also enjoy painting and sewing.