Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Mike McPhail is a quintessential organizer, natural public speaker and leader, and a man with a great passion and curiosity for our natural world. Born and raised in Almonte, a geologist by training, Mike served as both Chair of Environmental Issues and Vice President on MVFN’s board. For three years he led the club as President.

Mike McPhail

There are very many MVFN’s projects which, without a doubt, would not have taken place without Mike McPhail. Mike researched and organized the huge logistical and multi-team effort involved in MVFN’s first bioblitz held in September 2009 on the Bell property in Mississippi Mills. A great success, this bioblitz quickly become a model for other clubs. At Mark’s Lookout on Spring St. in Almonte, Mike organized a shoreline cleanup day and planting of native shoreline shrubs and plants. Mike had significant input into MVFN’s part in MVC’s Kintail Country Christmas and was the inspiration behind the Champion for Nature awards. He has donated time, enthusiasm and expertise (and sometimes his dissecting scope) for MVFN information booths at the Art of Being Green and many other events.

In 2007 Mike played a major role in the planning and running, the Weathering the Change Climate Change workshop held in Almonte, and acted as M/C throughout this 2-day long workshop. Another projects which is close to Mike’s heart and would not have happened without him is MVFN’s Habitat Creation program which has resulted in hundreds of blue-bird houses for our feathered friends as well as duck nesting platforms and other habitat projects still in the works.

 

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Elementary school teacher Neil Carleton is a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Neil is one of those rare individuals who combine passion with knowledge in teaching others about the natural world, and the need to protect it. He has influenced countless individuals in his role as a teacher in and outside of the classroom

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Neil at MVFN’s Booth at the Art of Being Green Festival (photo Pauline Donaldson)

From the early days of the club to the present day Neil has been involved as a volunteer: chairing MVFN’s bylaws committee, taking part in the Ontario Rare Bird Survey, leading fossil hunting for youth and trips to the Museum of Nature in the 1990’s, staffing educational booths at Art of Being Green and local fairs, participating with his class in MVFN’s Frost Watch climate change awareness program (in 2005). Neil’s volunteer environmental advocacies have included everything from lobbying for the creation of our local curb recycle program, to suggesting to the president of Ontario Nature that they consider adopting a more proactive stance on Climate Change, to raising awareness of the environmental impacts of mining. While he may prefer to be in the field he is not afraid to put pen to paper or sit on a committee for the right cause.

Often first to report an interesting nature sighting, Neil shares his marvel at the natural world and his detailed observations inspire others to take a closer look and develop a deeper understanding of nature.

Neil wrote A Short Geological History of Lanark County and provided it to MVFN for use on our website. It is a journey back in geological time to discover the secrets to Lanark County’s astonishing biodiversity, so important to understand our underlying bedrock and its influence on what is above ground. Neil Carleton, along with Allan Donaldson, launched the Almonte Geoheritage Project in 2004. This led to the creation of Canada’s First Municipal Geopark, declared on April 9, 2008, located in Almonte, Ontario.

 

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Cliff Bennett is a naturalist, community volunteer, artist, and world traveler. Also a former special education teacher and Councillor. For much of his life Cliff’s passion has been his extensive volunteer work on behalf of nature. Cliff is a founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, where he went on to develop MVFN’s Environmental Education program for sponsorship of environmental education programs for schools and youth groups. He is also an avid paddler and developed MVFN’s outdoor program of day canoe trips and day hiking trips which extended in 2008 to include an annual weekend canoe camping trip & an international club tour, the recent Mexico Monarchs, with a birding trip to Cuba this coming winter.

cliff with canoe

It seems a bit of an understatement to say that Cliff is also an avid birder. He recently introduced “Early-morning 6 am birding sessions” to MVFN’s Outdoor program. His birding involvement has also included MVFN’s Red-shoulder Hawk monitoring program (1990-96), work on both Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas’s, development of the new Lanark Highlands Christmas Bird Count and a ‘zillion years’ of involvement in the Carleton Place Christmas bird count. Cliff is much in demand as a birding & nature walk lead and speaker. Mix a canoeing and birding passion together and in 2007 Cliff was the powerhouse behind MVFN’s publication of the highly successful guide Lanark County Canoe & Kayak Journeys and this February’s follow on companion guide Lanark County Bird Watching Journeys.

Cliff has been working hard as Ontario Nature’s (ON) Eastern Region Director where he has championed numerous advocacies causes including keeping Climate Change on the radar of the ON executive.

 

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Mike Jaques has been actively engaged in raising awareness and appreciation of nature in the area of birding. Mike has been involved in the Carleton Place Christmas bird count since 1987. For the first six he was both the count compiler and organizer. He has remained the compiler right up till this past years 2007 count. In all, Michael Jaques has contributed 21 years to the Carleton Place Christmas Bird Count.

Champion Jaques

The 2007 CP Christmas Bird count was the 67th annual in a tradition that started in 1900 by American Ornithologist Frank Chapman who asked birders to head out on Christmas day to count birds in their hometowns and submit the Census results. The Counts are now taking place in over 2000 localities across the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. These bird observations, collected during this one day field counts within designated areas have been amassed into a huge data base that reflects the distribution and numbers of winter birds over time. Citizen Science was born. Cleverly count teams are made up of experienced birders with intermediate and novices – which results in a transfer of bird identification skills from the more experienced to the novice.

 

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Lanark County ecologist Paul Keddy has studied the ecology of wetlands and other habitats across Eastern Canada and Louisiana. A retired Biology Professor, Paul is a highly cited researcher, being among the 2007 recipients of the National Wetland Stewardship Award from the Environmental Law Institute. His first book, Competition, was winner of the Canadian Botanical Association George Lawson Medal.

Paul Keddy is also passionate about the natural world in Lanark County. So much so that in 1999 he authored Earth, Water, Fire: An Ecological Profile of Lanark County. The book is an account of the natural history and special places of Lanark County, including a look back 10,000 years ago to a region covered in solid ice, to the Champlain Sea giving way to magnificent hardwood forests, cleared in the 1800’s.

The story of Paul’s contributions with the book did not end with its publication and the wealth of information it provides to residents and visitors to our area. Dr. Keddy generously provided MVFN with publishing rights to his book, and funds raised from book sales have supported many of MVFN’s projects. There is truly something addictive about our fabulous area which hangs on to its natural beauty, because of Champions For Nature like Paul Keddy!

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