Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

At the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2016 Spring Gathering held on May 19th, Jennifer Kingsley’s “Meet the North” presentation and the generosity of communities near and far shone brightly. The sold-out event saw more than 150 in the community enjoy a reception and banquet dinner in the Almonte Civitan Community Hall decorated with the color and glow of the “Northern Lights.”

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 1

MVFN’s 2016 Spring Gathering event was enjoyed by a sell-out crowd at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, decorated for the evening with a Northern Lights theme thanks to the creative mind and energy of Lucy Carleton and her team.

Through the keynote presentation we were privileged to meet many generous people who are making a good life for themselves and their families in Northern communities (in locales such as Longyearbyen, Svalbard; Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Iceland), and who invited guest speaker journalist/naturalist Jennifer Kingsley into their homes and lives as she traveled to “Meet the North” one introduction at a time. It seemed as if the Arctic circle curved south for this one night as we learned quite unexpected things about Northern life from the sparkling personality of Kingsley. On her journey, Kingsley explained, she has had to “let expectations go” and the result she said is summed up with the word “unexpected.” Enjoying tea in Pond Inlet made with fresh water collected from a nearby iceberg!  The unexpected stories from “Meet the North” were told formally for the first time at MVFN’s Spring Gathering, leaving the audience intrigued and humbled by many special moments, for example images of a group of people with divergent political views together “singing their hearts out” in a coal mine in a distant Norwegian archipelago. The stories were all brought to life in the images of photographer Eric Guth, carried south and shared by Kingsley. You can follow the continuing journey on-line on Kingsley’s “Meet the North” blog.

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 2 a

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 2 b

At MVFN’s Spring Gathering, Jennifer Kingsley shared her “Meet the North” stories and signed copies of her award-winning book “Paddle North: Adventure, Resilience and Renewal in the Arctic Wild.”

The generosity of our local community also shone very brightly on this Spring Gathering evening. Thanks to the support of bidders and individuals and business who contributed to a silent auction, over $3000 was raised for MVFN’s Environmental Education program. This program is currently supporting Monarch butterfly conservation education at seventeen local and nearby primary schools. Using provided plants, soil, and milkweed seeds butterfly gardens are being, or have already been, developed and are being nurtured. In September, with “live monarch release kits” students will observe the life cycle of the butterfly and regenerate the “super-generation” of this imperiled species. A special thank you to the following contributors for enabling these efforts!

Our 2016 donors: Garden Inspirations, Pat Purdy, Greta Bradley, Ken Allison, Carolyn Lunn, Bob and Sherryl Smith, David Sale, Love That Barr, Pakenham General Store, Pakenham Golf & Country Club, Terri Knuuttila, Mill Street Books, Arnold Polk, Cartwright Springs Brewery, Textile Traditions, My Upholstery Shop, JB Arts, Blackbird Home Décor, Kentfield Kids, Gene Fytche, Centennial Restaurant, Fern Martin, Al Potvin, Paddye Mann, Jim Bendell, Bob McCook, Equator Coffee,  Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, Marion Wilson, Fulton’s Maple Sugar Products, Fairwinds B&B, Pakenham Horticultural Society, JazzNHouse, Cliff Bennett, Wilderness Tours, Helena & Gerome Knap, Alan Goddard, Café Postino, Al Barratt, Chris Hashimoto, Whitehouse Perennials, Five Span Feed & Seed, L.G. Lee & Sons, Maple Leaf Auctions, Howard Clifford, Acanthus Florals, Almonte Fitness Club,  The Mill Street Crepe Company, Textile Traditions, Almonte Bike Shop, Barley Mow Pub, Mississippi Animal Hospital, Mississippi Golf Club, Nancy Young, General Fine Craft, Gilligallou, Healthy Food Technologies Inc. (HFT), Baker Bobs, Nicholson’s, Vamos, Home Hardware.

MVFN as a charitable organization and member group of Ontario Nature has a mission to advance nature education and conservation, and presents several awards to recognize and support excellence. At the Spring Gathering, the 2016 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Award for post-secondary education was presented to St. John Catholic High School (Perth) student Erin Symon who will begin a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree program in Environmental and Resource Studies in September.

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 3

Erin Symon, a student at St. John Catholic High School in Perth, was awarded the 2016 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary for post-secondary studies presented by Cliff Bennett (left) and Nature Bursary Committee Chair Mike Macpherson.

In addition to the student award, two MVFN Champion for Nature awards were presented, to recognize individuals or groups for outstanding achievements in wildlife conservation, and whose actions have raised awareness and contributed to the protection of our local natural heritage. Dr. Tineke Kuiper, a resident of Wolf Grove and former MVFN Board member and Program Chair, was nominated for her tireless research work making presentations and providing support and advice regarding development of Natural Heritage System policies for Mississippi Mills and for heading up MVFN’s recent efforts to prevent development within Burnt Lands Alvar. A second 2016 Champion for Nature award was presented to Ray Holland, a “transporting angel of injured birds.” Lynda Bennett: “There is nothing Ray would not do to protect any living species.”  In the 1980’s Ray helped Kathy Nehei save hundreds of Ring-billed gulls and as a resident of Pakenham, he has spent a lifetime studying birds and their habitat. He watched over and cared for the female Bullock’s Oriole found in Pakenham last March. More detailed Champion “Profiles” can be found at

The 2016 MVFN Champion for Nature Awards were presented by MVFN President Brenda Boyd (right in both photos), one to Tineke Kuiper and the other to Ray Holland.

MVFN wholeheartedly thanks everyone who made the event such a success! We remind members of the upcoming summer paddling program and invite the public to join the club for the summer program of canoeing, nature field trips and citizen science work; our natural history lecture series will resume in September after a summer break. Please visit for an events calendar and membership information.

All photos by Pauline Donaldson



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Reminder all invited to garden party set for Friday!

This is a reminder that all are cordially invited to enjoy an afternoon & evening of great company, music, garden tours & potluck refreshments at the home of Al Potvin and Shirley Deugo-Potvin at 38 Carss Street in Almonte this Friday, August 21st from 4-8 pm.

No RSVP’s are needed and all are welcome. Just remember to bring a potluck dish, and your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. We are planning this event as alcohol-free; there will be cold water available.

The party is being co-hosted with the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists to celebrate and raise funds for the Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund which supports awards to graduating high school students going on to study in an environmental field.

Bring your favourite dish to the potluck refreshment table and a non-alcoholic beverage. Also bring a folding chair and your bathing suit for a swim in the pool. A lifeguard will be on deck!

Come and enjoy toe-tapping music with the Jimmy Tri-Tone Band; garden tours with Ed Lawrence, local horticulture expert & CBC Radio gardening host; walks amongst the trees on the property with Dr. Ron Ayling, retired University of Toronto forestry professor; and birding with Cliff Bennett.

See you there!

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Click here for 2015 application form 

Press Release

April 1, 2015

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary committee are  looking for a young person with a passion for nature who believe they can make a difference in meeting the environmental challenges of the future. The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary is offered annually to assist a graduating high school student  to pursue post- secondary studies in a field related to the natural environment which may lead to a career in this field. This year, one bursary of $1000 will be awarded to a deserving student from our area. The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Fund is named for Cliff Bennett, a founding member of MVFN. The award was established by Cliff’s many friends in 2007, to honour his contributions to the community and nature, with a lasting legacy. To date, over $7000 has been awarded to local students pursuing their studies.

The 2015 bursary will be awarded to a local student who attends a high school in Almonte, Carleton Place, Perth, or West Carleton. To be eligible, a student must be graduating from high school and be undertaking post-secondary studies in an aspect of nature or an environmental field. As well as academic achievement, the bursary selection committee will consider an applicant’s involvement in issues relating to the natural environment. Previous recipients have actively promoted environmental awareness through school projects and volunteering. Interest in protecting our environment has led previous Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary award winners to pursue degrees in marine biology and zoology. Some award winners followed their passion in environmental stewardship by studying fish and wildlife technology or biotechnology.

 “I am pleased that this award may encourage a young person today to become an environmental leader tomorrow” says Cliff Bennett. “I consider it an investment in our environmental future”.

 Application forms are available from student services departments in area high schools, or from the MVFN website at The deadline for applications is Friday, May 1, 2015.

 For further details or questions, students may contact Mike Macpherson of the Nature Bursary Committee at 613-256-3043 or send an email to


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Two Area Students to Benefit from Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ Cliff Bennett Nature Bursaries

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) are pleased to announce that on June 19th Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary awards were presented to two local graduating high school students. The deserving recipients of the $600 bursaries are Katelyn Cadieux of Notre Dame Catholic High School, in Carleton Place, and Derek Oliver of Perth and District Collegiate Institute.

Katelyn will be attending the Environmental and Resource Studies honours program at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Derek will be attending McGill University’s Macdonald Campus in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, for studies in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

2014 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary


Photo:High school students Katelyn Cadieux (Notre Dame Catholic High School, Carleton Place) and Derek Oliver (Perth and District Collegiate) were each recipients of $600 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Awards for 2014. Presenting the awards on June 19th in Carleton Place were Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists Bursary Committee chair Mike Keffer (left) and MVFN President Cliff Bennett (right). Photo by Neil Carleton.



The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary was established in 2007 by MVFN members, friends, and the family of retired educator Cliff Bennett on the occasion of his 75th birthday. The annual bursary is awarded to graduating high school students who are pursing college or university studies related to nature or the environment.

Since 2007, more than $7,000 has been awarded to 14 students from Almonte and District High School; Carleton Place High School; Notre Dame Catholic High School; Perth and District Collegiate Institute; St. John Catholic High School; and West Carleton Secondary School.

Application information for the bursary awards is available on MVFN’s website, at, or through Mike Keffer, Chair of MVFN’s Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Committee, at 613-256-8686, or


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