Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Ecologist used paleolimnology to take naturalists ‘back in time’

Ecologist used paleolimnology to take naturalists ‘back in time’

By Pauline Donaldson

On Thursday November 24th , we hosted the third speaker in our series, “Change in our Natural World”. Guest speaker, Dr. Brian Cumming, is Associate Professor in the Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory at Queens University (PEARL). The PEARL scientists use techniques of paleolimnology (study of fresh water ecosystems in the past) 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 be deduced by analyzing which types of fossil algae are predominant in the lake sediment deposited during a particular time period. Cylindrical cores removed from lake bottom sediment are first calibrated to establish the relationship between depth and timing of deposition (age).

Some of the background work which was done to establish the protocols and the relationships between algal type and the environmental conditions in which they flourished, were done in British Columbia where there is a huge diversity of lake types. This knowledge was then applied when examining sediment cores from lakes in the Canadian Prairies.

From these studies, Dr. Cumming has concluded 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.

The presentation concluded with many good questions from the audience, followed by refreshments and further discussion. Please join us again in the New Year, on January 19th, when we welcome the fourth guest speaker in the series “Change in our Natural World”. Art Dyke will tell us about “Change in the Arctic”.

 

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

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 www.mvfn.ca.

 

 

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Naturalists explored the nature of bees

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 www.mvfn.ca.

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MVFN celebrate many successes at 2005 Annual General Meeting

AGM
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Pauline Donaldson
June 9, 2005

MVFN celebrate many successes at 2005 Annual General Meeting

The 2005 Annual General Meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) was held in May at Union Hall. President Michael MacPherson welcomed attendees after a short reception. Events and reports were presented, recently elected treasurer Elizabeth Dunning presented the annual financial report and elections were made to three newly created Board of Directors positions.

Pauline Donaldson, Almonte, takes on the role of Public Relations Chair, Cathe Baker, Ramsay, will chair the Membership Committee and Paul Egginton, Ramsay, joins the BOD as Member at Large. Brenda Boyd, Almonte, will be MVFN’s new representative to Ontario Nature, replacing Pip Winters. Other officers of the BOD who were re-elected included President, Michael Macpherson; Vice President and Environmental Issues Chair Michael McPhail; Program Chair, Tine Kuiper; Educational Programs chair, Janine deSalaberry; all from Ramsay and Stewardship Council Rep. Franziska Von Rosen and Natural Resources Issues Chair Dr. Jim Bendell, both from Lanark Highlands.

Retiring Treasurer Reiner Hollbach and MVFN representative to FON, Pip Winters, were thanked for their work on behalf of MVFN.

The successful Environmental Education Projects Program (EEPP) was one highlight of the information part of the evening which members are clearly proud of. The program speaks for itself, but in summing it up, EEPP Chair Janine De Salaberry noted that all of the Ontario Trillium Foundation funding allocated for the project this year was spent as were additional amounts from fundraisers such as the Gray Jay Gala. In all, over 1600 local schoolchildren have taken part in one of these programs such as “Birds of Prey” presented by the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. The evening ended with refreshments and at that time members were able to view thank you ‘posters’ made by children from several local schools where EEPP programs took place.

Reporting on other significant milestones was MVFN member Cliff Bennett. After 3 years work on the steering committee for the Mississippi Mills Community Official Plan representing MVFN, Cliff was very pleased to report that most of MVFN’s recommendations made it into the Council draft. Cliff also stated that the 5-year project on a square for the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas is now complete.

Members received reports of Chairs of other committees including Jim Bendell reporting as Natural Resources Issues Chair. Jim outlined various activities including the committee’s role in gaining recognition in the Species at Risk Act for the local red wolf population. Program Chair Tine Kuiper reviewed the topics and speakers for presentations, which occurred during this year’s seminar program. This highly successful series was unique in offering a set of presentations linked by the biodiversity theme.

During the second part of the evening Bill Pratt of Parks Canada presented his enchanting sound and slide shows of nature photos. Bill began with the provocative question to the audience – what type of Canadian landscape do you have personal connections with? He reminded us how the natural environment in Canada can draw us together as a country. Read story.

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Nature photographer Bill Pratt captivates audience

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Tine Kuiper
June 9, 2005

Nature photographer Bill Pratt captivates audience

Tine Kuiper and Bill PrattAt its recent Annual General Meeting held in May at the Union Hall the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) were fortunate to have renowned local nature photographer Bill Pratt present two series of photographs. In the first slide-show “Ontario Wild” Bill took us to several “secret places” in Algonquin Park where he photographed a variety of wild life such as the interactions of a family of Moose in their natural habitat.

In the second series Bill’s photographs showed the mystery of the landscape of the Northern tundra, which he explored while visiting the headwaters of the Thelon river in the Yukon. He showed that not only is this area great for experiencing wolves, caribou, muskox and other wildlife, but it is also wonderful to experience the vastness and fabulous scenery of this unspoiled area as well as the Northern lights.

Bills photographs were an excellent way of completing the current MVFN lecture series of talks on biodiversity, as he focused on the total landscape such as we can still find it in its pristine condition in many of the Northern regions. Underlying Bill’s work is a strong sense of the beauty of Canada and the need to keep this country together. He indicated that he also finds spiritual peace and emotional relevance while capturing images such as these, and he was able to share and evoke these same emotions in his audience who were truly captivated by the experience.

Bill is an engineer at Parks Canada who devotes most of his spare time to photography. He is an active member of the local photography group “Photography Matters.” Bill is currently featured on the Culture Canada web site, together with several other outstanding individuals such as outstanding architect Douglas Cardinal.

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