Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson, MVFN Public Relations Chair

Ecologist will use paleolimnology to take audience ‘back in time’

November 15, 2005

Palelimnology is the study of fresh water ecosystems in the past. On Thursday November 24th the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host another keynote seminar in this year’s theme “Change in our Natural World”. The guest speaker is Dr. Brian Cumming, Associate Professor in the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory at Queens University (PEARL). The PEARL scientists use techniques of paleolimnology to provide an historical perspective on environmental change. Data collected is used to determine natural environmental variability in the past and to test models used to study current global environmental change.

Dr. Cumming’s research can track natural changes in an ecosystem over impressively long time periods (millions of years) in the past while at the same time uncovering detailed decade by decade information about this time period. Sophisticated sampling techniques and analyses can reveal patterns of temperature, acidity and other changes in a lake over long periods of time. Changes in lake temperature for example affect the type of algae and other species which will flourish. These changes can then be ‘reconstructed’ from analyzing fossil algae preserved in the lake sediment. Dr. Cumming’s work has spanned the continents and the millennia and includes work on environmental assessment of lakes in Norway, Costa Rica and Africa as well as the impact of historic climate change, drought, acid rain, and clear cutting on lakes in the Adirondacks and many sites in Canada.

For the upcoming MVFN presentation the focus will be his research on the natural cycles of drought on the Prairies. Dr. Cumming has found that abrupt millennial-scale shifts in climate were likely common on the North American continent in the past six thousand years. These natural shifts are more severe and prolonged than the meteorological and historical records indicate. Although the mechanisms behind these changes are unclear, the findings have profound implications for the natural environment and the infrastructures of our communities. Water management plans, for example, may be inadequate if predictions of variations in water availability and water levels are based only on short-term records.

This event will be held on Thursday, November 24th at 7:30 p.m. at the Almonte United Church, Elgin St. Members of the public are welcome ($5 non-member fee) and refreshments will be offered. For further information, contact Tine Kuiper at 256-8241 or visit our website at



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Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Sheila Edwards, MVFN member
October 28, 2005

Naturalists explored the nature of bees 

BeesBeekeeper John Nelson captivated his audience of naturalists on Thursday, October 20th during the regular meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) at the Almonte United Church. The talk was of interest to honey consumers, amateur bee keepers, biologists, and all those who have paused in their busy day to watch a bee visit a beautiful flower.

Following introductions, an excellent documentary short film was shown. The film was produced by Jim Robertson and featured Mr. Nelson himself, and of course his bees. Afterwards Mr. Nelson handled questions which led to an in-depth exploration of bee keeping. There was no doubt about the interest shown by the audience. Mr. Nelson commented that he had never received such an excellent response to his favorite topic. Many fascinating and likely little known ‘bee facts’ emerged. For example:

1. Drones can be quite mysterious in their foraging patterns, sometimes searching out flowers 5 km away.

2. Local beekeepers need electric fences to protect the hives from skunks, raccoons, and bears.

3. It can take ~ 11 million flowers to produce one kilogram of honey.

4. The first queen bee to hatch, will kill all the other queen larvae, and then take off in the mating flight. If a hungry Flycatcher spots this awkward morsel, the only queen becomes lunch, and the hive will stop producing.

5. Domestic hives in Canada are at high risk of a fatal mite infection which is treated for each spring. Current research is directed at this problem.

6. If poor weather hits while a drone is out foraging, it may hide in a protected area, such as under a leaf, possibly not returning to the hive until the next day.

7. Similar to maple syrup production from sap, the bees create honey from nectar by concentrating it about 40 times.

8. Most important of all, buy local honey! Some honey sold in Canada may be a mixture of imported and domestic honey.

Host for the evening, Mr. Noel Noyes-Brown, thanked the speaker and presented him with a gift basket. The next indoor MVFN event will be Thursday, November 24th when we will host guest speaker Brian Cumming as part of our continuing series on “Change in our Natural World”. Dr. Cumming is an Associate Professor at Queen’s University and an expert in ecology and paleolimnology. For more information on this and other MVFN events, please visit our website at

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