People passionate about nature

Farewell to Christian Artuso

Best of luck to our NM board member on his next adventure

With a mixture of pleasure and regret, we report that Christian Artuso is leaving Manitoba to take up a new position with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Ottawa.

Above: Artuso on Owl River by Jill Larkin

Christian arrived in Manitoba to pursue his studies in linguistics, obtaining an M.A. in 1998. He then made a dramatic career switch, deciding to pursue his passion for birds through a Ph.D. in Environment and Geography, completed in 2009. For this, he delved into the lives of Winnipeg’s Eastern Screech-Owls, focusing on the effects of human density on the population here at the northern limit of their range (he admits to being obsessed with owls in general, traveling the world to see and photograph them). During his field work he prowled the streets, parks, and riverbanks of Winnipeg and doubtless came to know the city better than most long-time residents. He also frequently had to explain what he was up to when he met inquisitive locals. During this time he also met his future wife, Youn-Young, and he became a valued member of Nature Manitoba and a birding friend to many.

After graduating, Christian initiated the province-wide Golden-winged Warbler Survey, a Species At Risk project that now involves scientists from the University of Manitoba, Environment Canada, and Bird Studies Canada. Soon after that, he was hired by Bird Studies Canada as Manitoba Program Manager and was tasked with coordinating the Breeding Bird Atlas of Manitoba. If ever anyone was up to the task, it was Christian. From the beginning, he was the indefatigable driving force behind this monumental endeavour, seeing it through to the final publication stages in 2018 and 2019. The result is free for all to enjoy online here. Besides fund-raising activities and conducting numerous workshops across the province, many of them at First Nations communities, he contributed more records to the Atlas than anyone else, and also did much of the writing and editing of the published text. He seemed to revel in completing hard physical slogs through unforgiving terrain, sometimes spending days hiking with all his gear on his back. He built a reputation of never giving up, although it has been rumoured that he once turned back somewhere along a power line south of Highway 60. Almost impossible to believe!

Above: Photo by Youn Young Park

As if all the above was not enough, Christian has served as a member of the Nature Manitoba Board of Directors since 2008, chairing the Manitoba Important Bird Area program, and contributing to the Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative among other other Species At Risk conservation projects. He participates in all manner of bird surveys and has published numerous scientific and popular bird articles. He has been very much the public face of Manitoba birding, frequently responding to media requests, and giving presentations at venues ranging from schools to scientific conferences. A keen wildlife photographer, his pictures have appeared in many magazines and books, as well as at his blog site here, and elsewhere online.

We wish Christian the very, very best in this next chapter of his life. He will be sorely missed here; indeed, he seems impossible to replace. Manitoba’s loss is Ottawa’s gain.