Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

“Our Human Need for Wild Nature and Conserving its Incredible Diversity” first lecture topic for MVFN’s 2010-2011 series

Blueberry Mountain

Blueberry Mountain

Press Release

Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

September 1, 2010

Our Human Need for Wild Nature and Conserving its Incredible Diversity

by Cathy Keddy

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists public lecture series on natural history and biology is set to start again September 16th. There was record attendance at MVFN’s lecture series last year. Talks this year will once again be held at the Almonte United Church, and are open to the public as well as MVFN members. You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the presentations—just a curiosity or appreciation for wild nature. Cottagers, hunters, fishermen, canoeists, hikers, campers, artists and seasoned field naturalists alike are invited to explore what lives in Lanark County and how best to protect it for future generations. Refreshments are offered at each lecture.

The coming year marks the beginning of the United Nation’s ‘Decade of Biodiversity’, so the underlying theme of the series will be Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People. Lectures will include a wide range of topics from the psychological benefits of wild nature to the status of the wild turkey. We have species here that many people have never seen—such as red efts, whip-poor-wills, map turtles, lizards, and even egrets. Who knows what lurks in your favourite bit of local forest?

Our first lecture will be presented by Dr. Baylor Johnson, Professor of Philosophy and Director of outdoor studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Dr. Johnson has an interest in environmental philosophy and the causes and solutions to environmental problems and has written articles for journals such as Environmental Values and Rethinking Sustainability. The lecture will focus on how to amplify the benefits humans derive from time spent in wild lands, and ways to encourage everyone to similarly benefit. This is a very broad topic. Why do fall colours captivate us? Why do hunters take pleasure in the autumn deer and turkey hunts? Why do naturalists look forward to the autumn hawk migration? Why do artists so often find inspiration in our forests and lakes? Why did Jesus and the Buddha, among others, spend hours alone in the wilderness? What is clear is that while there are a great number of ways people appreciate nature, we all share a common interest in wild things and the need to experience a sense of wildness.

So enjoy an evening among friends, take in some spectacular photography, and prepare yourself for an autumn and winter of talks and field trips. Attend Dr. Johnson’s presentation “Our Human Need for Wild Nature and Conserving its Incredible Diversity” which kicks off MVFN’s new lecture series Thursday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m., at the Almonte United Church, 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.

Photo 1: MVFN member Edwin Rohr atop Blueberry Mountain, one of Lanark County’s spectacular wild lands. The first lecture in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ 2010-11 series will explore why we all share a common interest in wild things and a need to experience a sense of wildness. Photo courtesy Howard Robinson.

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The ‘Algonquin’ in the Algonquin to Adirondacks Conservation Connection

Press Release

October 2, 2009

Enjoy a virtual visit to Algonquin Park at Almonte lecture by Senior Park Naturalist, Justin Peter

 Photo Howard Robinson, Algonquin Park, 2009

Photo: Howard Robinson, 2009, Algonquin Park

Lanark County functions as one of the links in a continental-scale conservation connection called Algonquin to Adirondacks, or A2A for short. It is somewhat like the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative to conserve Rocky Mountain biodiversity. A2A stretches over 300 km of the Canadian Shield from Algonquin Provincial Park, across the St. Lawrence River, to Adirondack State Park in New York.

The theme of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2009-2010 lecture series is Algonquin to Adirondacks: Big Picture Conservation. It encourages us to consider protecting biodiversity on a scale broader than we are accustomed to thinking about-planning on a scale bigger than landscape, larger than a national park, greater in extent than the jurisdiction of most land management units.

Algonquin Park, the northern anchor of this connection, will be featured in the second lecture of the series. Justin Peter, Senior Park Naturalist and Natural Heritage Education Specialist at Algonquin Park, will tell us about managing the Park’s ecosystems in the face of real and potential threats to their ability to function. Using evidence from within the Park and beyond it, Justin will also explore the implications of landscape connectivity for conservation of Algonquin, both within the Park and down the A2A corridor.

Enjoy a virtual visit to Algonquin Park from the comfort of a warm room in Almonte and learn about its future and role in the A2A connection from Justin’s presentation, The Algonquin in the A2A Conservation Connection, 7:30 pm., Thursday, October 15, 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



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Turtles in a Perilous Time

Turtles in a Perilous Time
by Matt Ellerbeck

“Turtles have proved that they are one of time’s most successful survivors. They have been on this Earth for well over 200 million years. This means that they were here long before the mammals, before the birds, and even before the dinosaurs. They have managed to survive throughout the ages, while countless other species have disappeared around them. Today however, the turtle is living in a perilous time. Around 70% of the world’s turtle species are now listed on The World Conservation Union’s Redlist of threatened species. For some turtles it is already too late. Several turtle species have already gone extinct. Many more are being pushed to the brink of extinction . . .”


To read the entire article by Matt Ellerbeck please click here matt-ellerbeck-turtles1

NOTE: Matt Ellerbeck is a turtle advocate and conservationist based in Kingston, Ontario. His website on turtles is at


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MVFN’s recent lecture explored why turtles outlived the dinosaurs but are now in trouble in Ontario

David Seburn

Press Story
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
March 26, 2008
Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

MVFN’s recent lecture explored why turtles outlived the dinosaurs but are now in trouble in Ontario

Photo: David Seburn discusses local populations of Blanding’s turtles with a carapace after MVFN lecture. Photo by Howard Robinson

Ecological consultant David Seburn was guest speaker March 20th for the 6th lecture in Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) series “Our Natural World: Conservation Challenges.” The lecture focused on Ontario’s turtles which Seburn describes as ‘endlessly fascinating’. As a species they have been around for so long they saw the dinosaurs go extinct! This is especially remarkable when one considers the relatively few species of turtles worldwide and only eight in Ontario.

The turtle’s shell, perhaps their best known and most unique feature, represents a serious biological limitation, Seburn explained. “They are enclosed in a little box so when they breathe they must compress their organs.” And when they need to pull in their head and limbs for defense, they have to hold their breath! Egg-laying is also a challenge. Not surprisingly the females tend to be larger than males to make room for eggs.

Seburn took the audience through the characteristics and distribution of Ontario’s eight turtle species and the conservation challenges they face. Interestingly, though loss and fragmentation of Ontario’s wetlands was one challenge highlighted, habitat protection did not dominate the discussion. Neither was the threat of global warming a major concern as we are at the northern limit for these reptiles’ successful egg hatching, so warmer temperatures could be beneficial. Why then, are six of Ontario’s eight turtles on the Canada’s ‘species at risk list’? As Seburn explained, Painted turtles and Snapping turtles are doing well. However the large Map turtle is of ‘special concern’ and the Spiny softshell, the Stinkpot, the Blanding’s and the Wood turtle are all considered ‘threatened’. The spotted turtle is in more serious trouble listed as ‘endangered’. It is rarely seen now.

Clues to the answer are the increasing adult mortality rate and the survival of eggs. Once turtles reach adulthood they can live a long time, and have the potential for a surprisingly long reproductive life combined with low rates of adult mortality. However, the natural success rate for eggs is so low that adult mortality must be kept at only 1-2% to maintain population stability. Unfortunately increasing adult mortality from road hazards has become a major problem when turtles travel on land to lay eggs or move to different food sources. The Blanding’s and Wood turtles are quite terrestrial and can travel 1-2 km to nest. Secondly, exacerbating a naturally low egg success rate is increasing predation from overpopulations of ‘subsidized’ predators such as raccoons in parks. Reaching more than 4 times regular rural numbers they can eat 100% of any turtle eggs in an area. Sadly sometimes the only warning sign a population is in trouble is it’s disappearance as all the adults eventually die off leaving no young.

Seburn made some suggestions to help conserve Ontario’s turtles. Short of closing down roads, municipalities can use drift fences or culverts to channel turtles across roads, and perhaps turtle crossing signs. Individuals can help turtles cross roads in the direction they were going (do not handle snapping turtles -lift them with a shovel). Large ‘ecopassages’ have been used in some places with great success in reducing mortality of a wide range of wildlife species. Recovery strategies for Ontario’s turtles also include research and population monitoring.

Info. from Seburn on identification and reporting turtle sightings has been posted on MVFN’s website (see Turtle Watch 2008 filed under Conservation). Turtle sightings can be reported locally to Mississippi Valley Conservation or to the Toronto Zoo Turtle Tally project by calling 416-392-5999.

‘Focus on Mammals’ by Glenn Desy (MNR) will be the last lecture in MVFN’s Conservation Challenges series, Thursday April 17th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church Social Hall in Almonte. For more information, please contact Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879 or visit MVFN’s website at

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Conservation and Management: Coyotes, Wolves, and Cougars

Canadian Timber Wolf

Press Release
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
April 4, 2008
Submitted by Pauline Donaldson

“Conservation and management of coyotes, wolves and cougars” at next MVFN

On Thursday, April 17, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalist’s (MVFN) will host a lecture by Glenn Desy, a wildlife biologist who has studied a variety of rare birds and mammals, but who has a special interest in wild canids, the group of dog relatives that includes foxes, wolves, and coyotes. The lecture “Conservation and Management: Coyotes, Wolves, and Cougars” will be the last one in MVFN’s series “Our Natural World: Conservation Challenges.”

Glenn Desy’s work as a wildlife biologist has spanned ten years and taken him around North America studying a range of species and habitats from boreal birds to mangrove monitor lizards. His University of Guelph thesis work was part of a 4-year Georgian Bay ‘wolf telemetry’ study involving year-round wolf capture, snow tracking, and prey surveys. Recently Desy joined the Ministry of Natural Resources in Kemptville as Species at Risk Biologist with the Natural Heritage Information group.

Wolves and coyotes are symbolic of the wilderness. As top predators they require a lot of territory and can compete with humans for resources. The Eastern wolf has disappeared from southern Ontario but is found in Eastern Ontario where its hunting is regulated under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (1997). It is listed as a species of special concern provincially and nationally. The Eastern wolf is distinct from the northern Gray wolf (Canis lupus) and very closely related to the red wolf (Canis rufus). Hybridization with coyotes (Canis latrans) makes distinctions between the species more difficult. Which do we have here and what are the differing landscape needs and predation talents of the wolf, the coyote, and the coy-wolf hybrids? Our speaker will help answer these questions and explore ways to manage human/wolf interactions, to help conserve them, and increase our understanding of these animals.

Desy also plans to talk about wild cats or cougars. They remain a source of widespread interest to local residents. An endangered species, the Eastern Cougar tends to be quite rare in this area but their presence in Ontario is generally acknowledged, as there have been hundreds of sightings reported. Glenn Desy’s presentation is 7:30 p.m., April 17th at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome and refreshments are offered. There is a $5 fee for non-MVFN members. For information, please contact Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879 or see MVFN’s website at

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