Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Naturalists Learn the Science of Bird Song

Naturalists Learn the Science of Bird Song

Bird song was the subject of the most recent monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) held at the Almonte United Church on Thursday, April 21.

With the aid of slides and sound recordings, Dr. Bruce Falls, noted ornithologist and scientist, shared with his audience a scientist’s perspective on the world of bird song. “We enjoy hearing birds, but their songs are really directed at other birds”, he explained as he began his in-depth presentation. A retired professor, Dr. Falls spent his career teaching and performing research at the University of Toronto’s Department of Zoology, where he was involved in pioneering studies in bird behaviour.

Introduced by MVFN host for the evening Rod Bhar, Dr. Falls began his talk by explaining how birds produce their songs. He illustrated some of the unique physical adaptations that allow birds to produce sounds. He also reviewed some key experiments that led to our current understanding that bird song is both learned and inherited by the members of individual species.

In the last half of the presentation, Dr. Falls explained why birds sing. He explored some of the studies that he and others have been involved in that show how male birds use song to mark their territories, attract mates, and scare off intruders.

The talk was followed by a question and answer session. Members of the audience came away from the presentation with a new perspective on the complexities of bird song and how it forms an essential part of the survival and reproductive strategies of many bird species.

Mr. Bhar thanked the speaker and presented him with a gift basket of local herbal products.

Coming up in the near future is MVFN’s 17th Annual General Meeting, to be held at Union Hall on Thursday May 19th. The general public is welcome to attend. Feature of the evening will be a sound and slide presentation by noted local photographer Bill Pratt.

Other programme items include canoeing Contstance Creek, led by Rod Bhar on Sunday May 29 and a walk in the natural world of Mer Bleu, date to be announced. For more information on MVFN and events, go to the website www.mvfn.ca.

 

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Lichens: an overlooked and threatened aspect of biodiversity

Written by Tineke Kuiper, program chair MVFN

Lichens: an overlooked and threatened aspect of biodiversity

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will feature Dr. Irwin Brodo, a renowned author and authority on lichens, as their speaker for the 6th lecture in the series on Biodiversity.

Dr Irwin Brodo, recently retired from the Canadian Museum of Nature, has dedicated his entire career to the study of lichens and has published over 70 research papers, mainly in the fields of lichen taxonomy and ecology. Dr. Brodo is currently President of the International Association for Lichenology and was their Bulletin editor for twelve years. He has served as President of both the American Bryological and Lichenological Society and the Canadian Botanical Association, and has received several awards for his contributions to lichenology.

Together with photographer/naturalists Stephen and Sylvia Sharnoff, he has recently written a popular guidebook, Lichens of North America, covering 1500 species and illustrated with over 920 beautiful colour photographs, each of which are a work of art. Among his many other contributions is also an identification guidebook on the lichens of the Ottawa Region, now in its second edition.

Dr. Brodo will present lichens as fascinating colourful organisms, made up in part of fungi and in part of an organism capable of photosynthesis (such as algae), which live together in a relationship that is beneficial to both. Often appearing together with mosses and liverworts, Brodo will explain how they can form miniature gardens that demand a close-up view. In a preview comment, he stated “We have seen them grow on various rock surfaces, but they can also grow on trees, gravestones, old cars, etc, as long as they are not disturbed. In fact, lichens are all around us, forming an important part of the diversity of living things. Just like the rings of trees, they can give us information about the past, and they form an important ecological indicator of our natural landscape”.

Dr. Brodo’s talk will be amply illustrated with beautiful colour slides and will give some background on the fascinating biology of lichens and their place in the ecosystem. He will show many of the common species that can be encountered in Eastern and Southern Ontario and nearby regions, but also will discuss some aspects of boreal lichens.

Long interested in popularizing lichenology for the general public, Dr. Brodo frequently gives lectures and workshops and leads field trips for amateur groups. With his strong interest in environmental conservation and natural history of all kinds, he has been active in many Canadian conservation organizations, especially the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club and the Ottawa-Hull Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, having served both as President.

Dr Brodo’s talk will appeal to both naturalists and photographers, and is open to the general public. This event will be held at The Almonte United Church, Elgin Street, on Thursday, March 17, 2005, at 7:30 P.M. There will be a non-member charge of $5.

For more information, please contact Tine Kuiper, 256-8241 and, visit the MVFN Website at mvfn.ca.

 

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Naturalists learn of smallest backyard creatures

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by: Mike McPhail
Thursday Feb. 3, 2005

Naturalists learn of smallest backyard creatures

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It has been said that biodiversity is the key to ensuring the continuance of life on earth. During the Jan 20th lecture on Insect Biodiversity in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) Biodiversity series, research scientist Dr. Henri Goulet’s knowledgeable and passionate presentation highlighted an important issue, just how little we actually know about the living organisms in our own backyards. Insects and other arthropods are by far the most diverse of small life forms in Ontario, yet Dr Goulet estimates that we know less than 50% of the species.

Attendee’s, who braved the frigid temperatures of the night, were presented with absolutely dazzling slides of some of the 230 species of insects alone that frequent a few flowering heads of goldenrod. It truly is a jungle out there with insect species representation from herbivores, parasites, predators, and nectar & pollen feeders. To put this diversity in perspective, during this year’s Carleton Place Christmas bird count, 45 species of birds were recorded in a 15-mile diameter circle around the town of Carleton Place.

Biodiversity is considered a fundamental requirement for adaptation, survival and continued evolution of species and Dr Goulet’s microscopic insect world was alive with insects adapt at cryptic hiding, mimicking patterns that would make them less susceptible to or better at predation. As each of us gains a better understanding of biodiversity, we will be able to make better decisions about our environment, starting in our own backyards. Such as taking Dr Goulet’s lead, who, after noting their genocidal effects, declared his own backyard drug (pesticide) free. Dr Goulet was kind enough to share with the MVFN some of the presentation’s slides (such as a preying mantis mimicking a wasp), which will soon be posted on www.mvfn.ca

Mark your calendars for MVFN’s 5th Biodiversity lecture (Communicating the Issues of Biodiversity), that will be given by Andrea Howard of the Eastern Ontario Museum of Biodiversity on Thur. Feb. 17th at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. at 7:30 pm. If you are not yet a member of the MVFN, this may be a good time to join. For further information, please contact MVFN Programme Chair Tine Kuiper, 256-8241 or consult our web site: www.mvfn.ca

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Seeing Both Forest and Trees Focus of Naturalists Presentation

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Submitted by Cliff Bennett
Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2004

Seeing Both Forest and Trees Focus of Naturalists Presentation

Ontario Forest“There are no experts on biodiversity of forests but there are many highly specialized persons who study little pieces of the puzzle” stated noted forest researcher and author Dr. Brian Naylor, at the monthly meeting of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, held at Almonte United Church on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Naylor, who works for the Ontario Ministry Of Natural Resources out of North Bay, went on to unfold many of the mysteries of forest life and how the puzzle pieces all fits together.

Noting the importance of being able to see both the forest and the individual trees and all of the relationships surrounding trees, Dr. Naylor delved into the more intricate variety and variability among the living species and environmental aspects related to each species. Noting there is infinite genetic diversity within at least 50,000 species of life forms to be considered in a forest, Naylor explained how ecosystems are studied to bring balance into forest products harvesting. “We can harvest wood products and not disrupt biodiversity’ concluded Naylor, “but we have to be very smart about it”.

Introduced by MVFN Director Franziska von Rosen, Dr. Naylor responded to a variety of questions from the large audience. He was thanked by MVFN Director Jim Bendell and presented with a gift basket of local herbal products. Also at this meeting, MVFN President Michael MacPherson announced MVFN had received a $15,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation which will ensure stable funding over the next three years to bring environmental education to schools and youth groups within our membership area.

MVFN Programme Chair Tine Kuiper announced the next presentation in the series on biodiversity. This event will be held on Thursday, January 20 and will feature Biodiversity in the insect world with noted Agriculture Canada entomologist Dr. Henri Goulet.

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Field naturalists launch biodiversity lecture series

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004

Field naturalists launch biodiversity lecture series

GeeseOn Thursday, 16 September, members of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) were privileged to hear a very interesting lecture introducing the theme for this year’s program — “Biodiversity”. At the lecture, Dr. Charles Francis, Chief of the Migrating Birds Section of the Canadian Wildlife Research Centre in Ottawa addressed four questions: What is biodiversity? How does Biodiversity arise? Is Biodiversity of any importance? and What are the main threats to Biodiversity?.

Introduced by MVFN member Dr. Don Wiles, the speaker starting his talk by defining what is a species (this is not always clear). Dr. Francis used examples from a large number of photos and illustrations, many of them from the tropical rain forests of south east Asia, where he has extensive experience. These photos aptly demonstrated the nature of biodiversity and also showed a few instances of species that seem more distinct than they really are.

Noting that there are thought to be about 1.4 million species alive on earth today, the speaker showed how population estimates are made, and speculated on the accuracy of the data. On the development of new species, he pointed out that speciation requires isolation from other populations of similar species.

Dr. Francis noted the greatest benefits derived from biodiversity are efficient use of nutrients and protection against mass extinction of monocultures. He pointed out that the biggest threats to continued biodiversity appear to be destruction of habitat and human over consumption.

A lively question period following the lecture brought out further ideas and more and stimulated further conversation on the subject. Dr. Wiles, in thanking the speaker and presenting him with a gift of local herb and garden products, complimented Dr. Francis on a really a memorable lecture, noted for its incisiveness, its balanced perspective and the excellence of its presentation.

Also at the meeting, MVFN Programme chair Tine Kuiper outlined the up-coming programme, including the annual nature walk on Sept. 19, the annual Fall Colours canoe trip, Oct 3 and the speaker for the next meeting, Thursday, Oct. 21, Mr. Mike Yee, Mississippi Valley Conservation, who will talk on the Biodiversity of the Mississippi Watershed. Please consult the MVFN web site mvfn.ca for further details.

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