Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley
Mississippi River at Pakenham

2008-2009: From the Ground Up

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

April 6, 2009

Field naturalists reach for the stars with astronomy retrospective: Observing the Universe from our Home in Space

By Cathy Keddy

Did you know that this year is IYA2009 or International Year of Astronomy? Four centuries ago, Galileo first recorded astronomical observations using a telescope. His telescope magnified the view by just three times. Today, cameras aboard unmanned spacecraft send back observations at a dizzying pace as they travel towards distant planets. It does not seem like so long ago, but how long ago was it that Neil Armstrong touched the lunar surface? Where were you?

This month the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) reach for the stars as they present their final lecture in the series From the Ground, Up-Celebrating MVFN’s First 20 Years. On Thursday, April 16 Brian McCullough, astronomy and space science educator with the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, will present Naturalists of the Night – Observing the Universe from our Home in Space. Brian saw his first satellite as it passed over his family’s back yard around 1960 and was 15 when he received his first telescope – the same year Apollo 8 astronauts made their historic first voyage to the Moon. Kanata is now the home base for Brian’s backyard “Brightstar Observatory.”

As past president of the Ottawa Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Brian received the RASC Ottawa Centre Observer of the Year award in 2001 for his observations of Pluto, which at that time was still classed a major planet (and dwarf planet Eris was yet to be classed). He received the award again in 2006 for his extensive lunar observations and entertaining presentation series “The Ten Minute Moon.”

In this special International Year of Astronomy, Brian McCullough will offer highlights from his years immersed in the fascinating world of amateur astronomy. In recognition of MVFN’s 20th anniversary lecture series, his presentation promises to include some exciting astronomical developments from the past 20 years and the importance of Mississippi Mills’ outstanding leadership in controlling light pollution of the night sky.

Please join the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists for Naturalists of the Night – Observing the Universe from our Home in Space, Thursday, April 16 at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. Cost for non-MVFN members $5. For further information contact Cathy Keddy (613-257-3089), MVFN Program Chair.

Enjoy an evening of discovery and sharpen your woodland detective skills with this presentation Seeing the Trees for the Forest: Holes for all Occasions by Michael Runtz

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

By Cathy Keddy

With this month’s March 19 lecture in the series From the Ground, Up-Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) First 20 Years, we launch into the arboreal realm. Guided by prize-winning photographer, author and naturalist, Michael Runtz, we will peer at nature in the trees in the forest, from the roots to the top of the canopy. Birds, bears, bats, beetles, beavers and many of their companions (frogs, flying squirrels, finches and fungi) share our forest trees. Dead or alive, trees are wanted by more natural denizens than you might guess-for food, shelter, breeding, well…for all occasions! What can the fur, nibbled seeds, bark chips, tracks, feathers, or eggshells beneath a tree tell us about its citizens? Michael Runtz would know.

Michael is one of our natural world’s leading ambassadors. He has received numerous awards for his education and conservation efforts. These have included an Outstanding Service Award from the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and a Distinguished Science Education Award from the Canadian Council of University Chairs. Michael has worked as a professional naturalist in provincial and national parks and is a frequent guest on natural history television and radio programs. His many books from Algonquin Souvenir to Moose Country to Wild Flowers reflect his passion, knowledge and stunning photography. He is also on the faculty of Carleton University where he teaches courses in natural history and ornithology. His courses are podcast internationally and attended by close to 1000 students per term. We are most fortunate to have Michael Runtz as our guest!

 Enjoy an evening of discovery and sharpen your woodland detective skills. Let Michael bring the forest to you through his lens and his fountain of knowledge of the natural world. Join the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists for his presentation on Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. For further information, contact Cathy Keddy, MVFN Program Chair, at 613-257-3089.



What do we have to lose? Discover Species at Risk in Lanark County at next MVFN Lecture

Thursday, Feb 19, 2009

MVFN Press Release

by Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) lecture series continues February 19th with biologist Marie-Andrée Carrière’s presentation “Discover Species at Risk in Lanark County”. This will be the fifth in MVFN’s lecture series From the Ground, Up: Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ First 20 Years.

Ms. Carrière is a Species at Risk Biologist whose work with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources helps to ensure implementation of the Endangered Species Act through research, field inventories and working with various groups on recovery strategies for species at risk. She conducted graduate research work on two turtles at risk- the northern map turtle (special concern) and the stinkpot (musk) turtle (threatened). Both occur in Lanark County.

Over 500 native species are considered at risk in Canada. Among the provinces, Ontario is home to the greatest number of these species. Most species at risk (SAR) in Ontario are classed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. Some of the species listed, such as the eastern elk and deepwater cisco, are extinct and already lost from the province. Ninety-four or about half of Ontario’s species at risk occur in the ecological area known as the “Mixed Forest” region, where Lanark County is found. Wildlife categories with the largest numbers of SARs include birds such as the barn owl of grasslands; plants such as butternut and juniper sedge, as well as the dwarf iris of alvars; fish including the redside dace of clear, cool streams; and reptiles such as the five-lined skink of fire barrens. There are also mollusks, lichens, insects (e.g. Monarch butterfly) and mammals of our region on the provincial SAR list. Protection for all of these treasured species was greatly enhanced in 2008 with the passage of the provincial Endangered Species Act. In addition, funding has become available for stewardship programs as well as species recovery and management plans.

With these resources, how can we contribute to conserving our SARs? Which species in Lanark County are at risk? How is a species listed? Bring your questions about species at risk to the next meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Marie-Andrée Carrière will address Species at Risk in Lanark County. Join MVFN February 19, 7:30 pm., at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte to learn more about species at risk. A $5 charge for non-members applies. Please contact Program Chair, Cathy Keddy (613-257-3089) for more information.



photos by Cathy Keddy

Rare snails, orchids and leafhoppers part of globally-rare alvar near Almonte and subject of next MVFN lecture

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Jan 5, 2009

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) lecture series continues January 15th with Botanist Dr. Paul Catlings presentation Life at the Extremes: The Alvar Challenge. The lecture is the fourth in MVFN’s series From the Ground, Up: Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ First 20 Years.

Alvars are rare ecosystems present in very few places on earth, in the European Baltic region and Great Lakes Basin of North America. They are under threat from urban development, quarry operations and fire suppression. These limestone pavement barrens with little soil may appear to have few prospects but they are actually biodiversity hotspots! Join MVFN and veteran alvar explorer Paul Catling for a virtual alvar tour to unravel this biodiversity riddle and learn about stewardship of these globally threatened ecosystems.

As Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada based at the Central Experimental Farm, Paul Catlings research focuses on taxonomic and ecological approaches to biodiversity protection, new crop species, alien species, and Canadian plant species in general. Since 1988 Dr. Catling has been Curator of Canada’s Vascular Plant Herbarium. This world class collection of over one million dried and pressed plant specimens is a working collection used for plant identification and classification.

The largest alvar in Europe, The Great Alvar, on the Swedish island of Öland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another fine example however can be found closer to home just outside Almonte. The Burnt Lands Alvar is the most extensive alvar east of the Frontenac Axis and is an outstanding example of this globally significant habitat. It supports some 82 breeding bird species, 48 butterfly species and 98 owlet moths. It is home to globally rare species such as the Ram’s-head Lady’s slipper and a new owlet moth discovered there by naturalist Dan Brunton. Many of its invertebrate species, such as the snail species Vertigo hannai, have likely been isolated and survived in such remnants of a prairie-like community that previously covered a wide area of North America. Although the alvar is not a prairie, many prairie species are present such as prairie sawflies and a thriving population of wingless prairie leafhoppers whose nearest other known population is in the Bruce Peninsula.

Learn about the unique characteristics of alvars, the challenges alvar species face and stewardship of these special regions at Paul Catlings presentation 7:30 PM, January 15th at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St. in Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089 or visit


Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

November 10, 2008

Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

MVFN to host another presentation by fish and aquatic environment expert John Casselman

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) lecture series From the Ground, Up: Celebrating the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ First 20 Years continues November 20. MVFN welcomes back fish expert John Casselman to talk about fish, fisheries and the aquatic environment. Dr. Casselman has had a remarkable career as an aquatic biologist in the role of Ontario government senior scientist for Lake Ontario fisheries, and has published extensively on fish and fisheries around the world. In recent years he has focused on predicting changes in fish populations and in sharing these insights to promote protection of the aquatic environment and adaptation to environmental change. Casselman is currently an adjunct Professor at Queen’s University, science advisor to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and is the most recent recipient, in 2008, of the prestigious American Fisheries Society Award of Excellence.

In 2007 Casselman took part in the ‘Weathering the Change’ climate change workshops in Almonte. “How will we respond and adapt to take advantage of increasingly valuable fish resources, which can sustain body and soul” asked Casselman. “First, let’s make fisheries and fish an important part of our 100-mile diet!”

In his 2006 MVFN lecture, Casselman explained that subtle changes in water temperature may lead to gradual or even relatively rapid population changes in a particular fish species depending on whether it is a warm-water species such as smallmouth bass, a cool-water one such as walleye or a cold-water species such as lake trout. Using tools of environmental physiology and ecology to examine fish age, growth rate, survival of fry, and the impacts of subtle changes in the aquatic environment, predictions can be made of likely changes in fish populations in a given lake or river. The next step is to transfer this science-based information to groups who may need to adapt. Since his presentation two years ago, Dr. Casselman and members of Mississippi Valley Conservation completed a study for Natural Resources Canada looking at the sensitivity to and impacts of a changing climate. The results give us an in depth look at the past, present and future status of fish populations, with particular focus on the Mississippi River watershed.

In Thursday’s presentation Professor Casselman will guide an exploratory journey with insights and side-trips into familiar and unfamiliar waters and climate change. The presentation takes place 7:30 PM, November 20 at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089 or visit


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MVFN natural history talks:  7:30 pm on third Thursdays of Jan, Feb, March, April,  Sept, Oct, and Nov at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. Almonte ON. All welcome! Non-members $5. 

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