December 13, 2011 - The Cure for Nature Deficit Disorder - Tiskita Jungle Eco-Lodge, Costa Rica, February 2011
by Kevin Shackleton, avid birder
ecological trip to Costa
Rica came about as a result of Kevin’s
daughter meeting a friend from the Tiskita Jungle Eco-Lodge, Costa Rica.
(The word Tiskita is a Spanish word that stands for osprey – a large black and
white diving bird that feeds on fish)
Kevin said, “If you
find yourself overwhelmed by e-mails, cell phone calls, paid TV and everything
at work, etc., and want to unplug from it all, this is the place to go.”
in this one week trip at the Tiskita Jungle Eco-Lodge all that was required was
air-fare and the nerve to fly from the TorontoInternationalAirport to San JoseInternationalAirport
in Costa Rica,
connect with a local plane and fly directly to an air-strip adjacent to the
Tiskita Jungle Eco-Lodge is located north of the Panama border
on the Pacific side of Costa
Rica. Kevin reported that the pilot buzzed
the landing strip first before landing. Apparently this maneuver is routinely
done to scare away wild life / horses that may be grazing on the air strip.
Once on the ground,
the owner of the Lodge met them and escorted them to the Lodge. All guests were
treated like they were family. Kevin reported seeing wildlife nearly
immediately on the path to the Lodge; namely, squirrel, white faced capuchin
monkeys coatis and various sorts of butterflies and spiders. The coatis were
eating water apples at the time of discovery. Howler monkeys were seen later in
the week. Although Kevin’s main focus was the native birds of Costa Rica, he
could not resist photographing the wild-life that crossed his path. Kevin
reported that jungle birding was frustrating and not very rewarding without a
guide to point out the birds that are secretly hiding in the foliage or
underbrush. One guided walk was provided, but the rest of the time guests were
left on their own.
History: Costa Rica is a country
in Central America, northwest of Panama:
revolted against Spain
in 1821; became an independent republic in 1848: 19,730 sq mi (51,101 sq km);
Webster’s New World Dictionary & Thesaurus. Forests were cleared
to make way for pineapples, bananas and coffee plantations. It was discovered
that preserving the wild-life and providing habit for the native species was
more profitable. With this focus in mind and the government’s native tree
planting incentive program the local people turned the area into a natural zoo
where birds, animals, reptiles etc. can live without fear of man. When the
project to reforest the area was first started all sorts of plants from all
over the world were brought in but now their strategy is just to preserve the
Kevin said that when
Peter bought the property 30-40 years ago the hills were barren. The only thing
Tiskita had going for it was a spring water source and pools located on the
steep hills. Kevin said that without this natural water resource Tiskita would
Lodge materialized as the forests, birds and animals returned to the area.
Programs such as: surfing, swimming, deep sea fishing, guided jungle walks,
horse back riding, bicycling, swimming pools / cool natural pools and relaxing
on the beach, etc. were added as an additional drawing card. The lodge itself
was self-contained and presented guests with a variety of indoor games when the
outdoor weather was inclement.
Tiskita Jungle Lodge, Costa Rica
Kevin reported that
one of the amazing features of the Tiskita Lodge was that you could sit on the
balcony to observe and photograph the ocean and jungle wildlife right from your
chair. It was from this vantage point that Kevin was able spot and photograph
an 8 foot long iguana.
Every evening at
sundown the characteristic light plane engine sound of cicadas could be heard
with the Howler monkey chorus joining them in the morning.
Although the Lodge
had a swimming pool, winter/snow acclimatized tourists (Canadians in
particular) did not findthe pool appealing,
simply because the water was just too warm; however, the spring fed natural
pools on the hill side were the ideal place to be when you needed to cool off. Kevin spoke about spending 30 minutes or more just sitting in the pool to
recover from the heat after hiking.
All meals were
provided, but guests were on their honor to report the drinking of beverages from
Screened in windows
and ceiling fans kept living quarters reasonably comfortable. There was no
roofed, walled off and open to the air. Any flick of the switch for light
brought moths in to visit.
A flashlight was
needed between and when you wanted to go from the
dining room lodge to your cabin – there were no lights on the grounds.
The lodge mascot was
a semi-tame toucan that came and went as it pleased. Apparently this bird
formed a bond with the people and staff at the lodge after staff rescued it and
nursed it back to health following an attack from a kookbot.
Photo gallery of just
some of the plants, birds, reptiles and animals of Tiskita: (all photos were taken by Kevin Shackleton)
Bare-throated Tiger Heron
Osprey or Tiskita
Wildlife of Cosa Rica - Photos by kevin Shackleton, February 2011
October 11, 2011 - The 'Good', the 'Bad', and the 'Ugly' of Domestic Arthropods
by Antonia Guidotti, Entomology Technician, Department of Natural History, Royal Ontario Museum
Many thanks to Antonia Guidotti for permission to use her information and some of her photos
in this article. Ms Guidotti described her presentation as being a
brief primer on domestic arthropods.
Using power-point, Ms. Guidotti spoke to the YSN club regarding the
'Good', the 'Bad', and the 'Ugly' of Domestic Arthropods.
By the word domestic, she meant those types of insects that live in or
near your home.
These are the types of insects that are either beneficial or do not cause significant damage to you or your possessions.
There are over 5000 species of jumping spiders described with about 110 found in
Canada. These have extraordinarily good eyesight and hunt/jump their prey
while other spiders take a more relaxed approached, spin a web and wait until
guests drop in. The common house spider enjoys the comfort of a good
home to live in.
Masked bedbug hunter or Assassin bug
This insect is often mistaken for a cockroach or a Chagas bug (Triatoma
sp). Despite his/her appearance he/she is a predator and dines on other
insects. Immature assassin bugs cover themselves with dust for
camouflage and look dirty. Although they do not transmit disease, these bugs can give a painful bite.
This is another arthropod that moves quickly, and is a predator of insects
and arachnids (spiders). This insect may look as if it has 100 legs but
in reality it has more like 30 legs. It likes damp areas (like basements
& bathrooms). They have a weak bite. They cause no damage to the
house or foods.
Ms. Guidotti said that there are about 1500 species in the genus Drosophila. They are
attracted to rotting or fermenting fruits or liquids. Most fruit flies
on decaying fruit or fungal material. Generally fruit flies won't lay
eggs on the fruit until the fruit is mature. A complete life cycle
requires less than two weeks. The D. melanogaster
species is used in genetic research because it is easily cultured.
parents usually call the ROM to ask about nest removal when
the wasp's nest is built near an entrance or there are children that are
playing near a nest. Concerned parties are reminded that wasps, despite
being a hazard, are pollinators and feed on caterpillars. Using another
entrance and avoiding their nest is a recommended alternative rather
than destroying their nest. One introduced species (Polistes dominulus)
is becoming more commonly seen and is a little more aggressive. For
more information on yellow-jackets, check out the ROM blog. http://blog.rom.on.ca/2011/09/yellowjackets-a-k-a-late-summer-picnic-pests/
Western Conifer Seed Bug
Although this insect is native to Western Canada, it has expanded its
range in the last 25 years. It feeds on seed cones of pine trees during good
weather but moves indoors to hibernate. This bug looks similar to the
Assassin bug but belongs to a different family (Coreidae, the leaf
footed bugs). It is a true bug and can be handled.
Asian Multi-coloured Ladybird Beetle
This insect was introduced into the United States in the late 1970's to
fight aphids. It was first recorded in Ontario in 1994 and is now the
most common ladybird found in Ontario. In its native range this insect
hibernates in cliffs and valleys; unfortunately in Canada it aggregates
indoors to hibernate for winter and
has become a nuisance because it
can stain furniture and walls in your home. Ladybirds don't usually
bite but this one has been known to occasionally nibble. Research
has shown that when populations reach large numbers, they may feed on
These are the types of Arthropods that are either annoying or may bite you or damage your possessions.
4000 species, only 30 are associated with people and homes. The most
common ones are American and German cockroaches. These insects are
mainly nocturnal and adults of most
species can fly. They feed on human foods and can carry microbes which
can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. Ms. Guidotti recommended
we take precautions to avoid bringing them home with our groceries etc.
Native wood cockroaches are not typically found in homes nor are they a
These are the big black ants that you see around your yard and houses.
They nest in wood but don't eat it. To find them look for dirty sawdust
and listen for activity in the wall. They prefer soft, damp wood (but
will nest in dry wood). Males and queens have wings when swarming.
These arthropods are omnivorous and feed on sugars, plant juices,
honey, aphid honey and other insects. If your house has ants, there is
less chance that it will also have termites since these ants will feed
Clothing and Indian meal Moths
The larvae of the clothing moth and case-making moth are attracted to
and feed on clothing and natural fibres that have sweat or food on them.
The larvae of the Indian meal moth feed on grain and grain products,
dried fruits, seeds, nuts, powdered milk, chocolate, candies, pet food,
Sanitation, vacuuming and continuous checking to catch infestations early are the best controls in the home.
57 species have been found in Ontario. It is the female mosquitoes that
need a blood feed in order to reproduce. Research has found that two of
the mosquito species are vectors for West Nile virus. Although West
Nile virus has little effect on people, some sensitive individuals have
brain swelling from being bitten. Amphibians, insects, birds, bats, etc. feed on mosquitoes.
Fleas are wingless, bloodsucking parasites of pets, livestock and man.
Rat fleas were carriers of the Bubonic plague. An adult female flea
whitish eggs on her host's body, den or nest.
Lice are wingless parasites that can infest pets, poultry, livestock
and humans (several thousand species). Lice can be divided into two
groups: biting or chewing. The lice that infect humans are sucking
lice. The three types of lice to infect human are: head Louse, Body
Louse and the Crab Louse. 10 percent of the school population has a
head lice infestation at any given time. This is a fairly high but accurate
Mites are more closely related to spiders. Many species are barely visible to the naked eye.
Homes occasionally can become infested with the Northern fowl mite when
a bird's nest is located near a window or on an eaves trough.
Arthropods that you should know about
Northern Black Widow Spider
This arachnid can be found in Ontario including some outer parts of the
greater Toronto area. If bitten the neurotoxin in females can be
dangerous to young children, seniors and compromised individuals but is
usually not fatal. The black colour with a red hour glass on the
abdomen is typical but colours may vary with individual spiders. Males
and immature spiders look different.
Ms Guidotti reported that she has never received any of these insects.
The workers are white and must live in dirt tunnels. Colonizing flight
takes place in the spring (reproductives are winged). Termites can be
very destructive to homes and are widespread in the city of Toronto and beyond. To eradicate,
contact pest control.
Bed bugs are on the increase in the world, including Ontario. Reduced
use of pesticides, resistance to pesticides and increased global travelers are theories why bed
bugs are spreading. Once bed bugs are established they are very
difficult to eradicate.
Bed bug facts
They have 6 leg, antennae, three body parts and piercing mouthparts. They have reduced wings and do not fly.
Family Cimicidae - Other species of cimicids: Swallow bugs, Bat bugs, Tropical bed bugs
They are broadly flattened, ovoid, 6-9.5 mm long, brown in colour but reddish when full. Life Cycle
The female lays over 200 eggs in her lifetime (1-12 eggs per day). In
6-17 days, nymphs emerge from the eggs. Nymphs feed about once every 7
days and then moult. They
reach maturity after 5 moults. Depending on temperature, lifespan may
5 months to 1 year. Fertilization takes place via traumatic
insemination (the male pierces the abdominal wall of the female to
fertilize her eggs). There is no courtship known. Behaviour
All stages and sexes feed on blood, mostly at night when its host is
inactive/sleeping. They can locate their host from 1.5 metres (maybe
further). The bite is painless because anticoagulants and anaesthetics
are injected. Bites can occur on the arms, legs, back and face of the
host. Young bed bugs engorge in 3 minutes, the adults in 10-20
minutes. After feeding the bed bugs return to their hiding place. These
insects are good hitchhikers. Hosts
Bed bugs blood feed on humans, birds, bats and sometimes other mammals
(rabbits, mice, dogs, etc.). Researchers are not exactly sure of their
orientation cues but seem to think they are attracted by carbon
dioxide, heat, kaimones (compounds that hosts give off) and possibly
Effects on host's immune system may cause: discomfort, itchiness,
redness, swelling, rash - possible allergic reaction. Some people have
no reaction at all. Other secondary effects on the host may include
psychological stress, secondary infection and economic costs. Disease Transmission?
Bed bugs have been noted to carry a number of diseases; however, no
viral replication has been found in their gut and no transmission to
humans has been reported; therefore, bed bugs are not considered to be
a 'public health issue'. For more information see: http://www.bedbugsinfo.ca/
Blacklegged Deer Ticks
arthropods are not insects, have no wings, and are easily
spread by birds. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease transmitted by the
bacterium carried by the tick (the tick feeds for 3-7 days). Ontario
has different ticks, but now deer ticks and Lyme disease are
widespread in Ontario and extend as far north as Thunder Bay. Lyme
disease is a difficult
disease to diagnose. Incubation may be anywhere from 3-32 days and
includes a range of symptoms: fever, headache, bull's eye rash,
numbness to fatigue. Health authorities suggest; if bitten, collect
tick and take it to the Doctor or to a Public Health Unit where staff
will send it to a laboratory for identification and testing.
This condition is characterized by the feeling of being 'bitten'.
Individuals often have dermatitis and skin lesions. The course of
action for Ms. Guidotti is to examine any 'specimens' that are submitted and to
follow-up with a number of questions to eliminate the possibility of
missed obscure arthropods. The dermatitis/skin lesions may be due to
medication, illness, environmental factors, allergies, etc. This
condition seems to be most common in older females. If no arthropods
are found after several tries - she recommends the individual see a physician.
How to submit specimens to the ROM for identification
- Preferred dead. Freeze or put in alcohol (isopropyl alcohol is fine).
- Place in a container - not in envelope or bag so specimen does not get squashed.
- Put name and telephone number on the container.
- Mail to my attention at ROM.
- Submit images to <firstname.lastname@example.org>
September 13, 2011 - Types of Trees, Management and Tree Replacement
by Ryan Redvers, Certified Arborist
Ryan Redvers had a real love for trees. He appreciated the way the
trees grew, their bark, their shape, their size and their height. He
showed some pictures of dead trees with incredible circumferences (one
that was 18 feet in circumference). Some of his slides showed him high
up in the trees that he was caring for. See Clips 2009 re: Brian Muelaner, Ancient Tree Adviser
To enhance his presentation Ryan used slides and set-up a number
of tables to display various tree leaflets along with their
Ryan spoke to club members and visitors about: The
types of native and non native trees that grow in our forests and along
our boulevards in Toronto and surrounding area. One of the issues that
surfaced in his presentation was, "What do you do with moderately fast
growing juvenile-teenage trees?" Most people like trees and plant them,
but trees are like children, they need managing as they grow. Some
people just let nature take its course and let the rain, wind or ice
dismantle it for them. Some trees age gracefully while others do not
and have problems. If you have power lines near your property you may
want to consider the size of the tree that you plant. As a home owner
the question arises, "When do I plant a replacement tree and what type
of tree should I plant?"
Listed below are the types of common native and non-native trees that Ryan has been involved with or planted:
Manitoba Maple, Norway Maple, Silver Maple, Sugar
Maple + Maple Hybrids, European Mountain Ash, White Ash, Red Oak, Bur
Oak, Siberian Elm, Weeping Willow, Black Willow, Linden, Hawthorns (+
hybrids), Hackberry, Basswood, Cedar, Black Locust, Shade Master
Locust, Honey Locust, Sunburst Locust, Ginkgo Biloba (Maidenhair Tree),
Magnolia, Paper Birch, Yellow Birch, Hophornbeam Ironwood, Blue Beech,
European Beech (Beeches are in the same family as the Oaks,), Black
Walnut, Butternut, Hickory, Tree of Heaven, Kentucky Coffee Tree,
Northern Catalpa, Horse Chestnut, Trembling Aspen (+ hybrids),
Cottonwood, White Popular, Black Cherry, Tin Cherry, Eastern Hemlock,
Red Pine, Eastern White Pine, Jack Pine, Austrian Pine, Douglas Fir,
Common Tamarack Larch, Serbian Spruce.
This is only a sample of the trees that are available.
Ryan suggested that there are many new hybrids on the market that are
suitable to plant. Each tree has its own particular problems, i.e. they
attract aphids, they have nuts, their leaf litter won't compost down,
they have too many keys, they have minute flower tassels that rain
down, they grow too fast or too slow, they are too short or too tall or
too big, they have thorns, they have numerous seed pods and they cannot
tolerate the air pollution nor the clay dry soil.
you are in doubt on what to plant, simply drive down any street and
check out the trees that are growing along the boulevard or ask the
town for advice. To answer the question on what to plant, Ryan leaned
toward the Silver, Silver-red (and hybrids) and Sugar Maple as a good
boulevard tree but did caution us that these trees can grow to a
significant size. He then went onto say that these types of trees form
long slender branches in their younger form, can develop a heavy crop
and often require crown reduction. Ryan also suggested the Red maple
but said to be prepared for extremely slow growth. The Locust tree was
mentioned because it takes nitrogen from the air; however, the native
Black Locust has thorns and seed pots and can be invasive. Hybrid forms
such as the Honey Locust, Shade-master Locust and Sun-burst Locust are
also common boulevard trees but these trees can grow excessively tall
and large. Another favorite tree that can be seen on the boulevard is
the Linden Tree. Ryan said this type of tree is a magnet for aphids
that can drip a sticky residue. One of the benefits of the Linden trees
is it attracts Lady-bugs - they feast on the aphids.
Hackberry according to Ryan is one of the up and coming boulevard trees
(grows best in soil that is calcic and quite basic). This tree is in
the Elm family and has the potential to grow only 30-40 feet in height
and have a diameter of 1-2 feet.
Photo by R. Redvers
tree Ryan was totally against was the European Buckthorn. He said that
this tree was #4 on the black list for non-native invasive trees and
competes with and takes over the ground of the native Hawthorn trees.
Ryan said that there used to be 50 species of Hawthorn but there is now
only 25-30 species left. Apparently the Buckthorn is extremely
difficult to get rid of. i.e. if cut down it will simply grow back from
the root, plus there is no guaranteed success if the root system is
sprayed. This plant also spreads by seeds.
Photo by R. Redvers
tree that Ryan did not recommend was the Norway Maple. He said that
this tree was once very popular but it has since been discovered to be
quite and invasive tree. It has a proliferous amount of keys, is
relatively fast growing and is prone to over extension. This type of
tree is also more prone to developing black spots and landscapers have
reported that its leaves do not break down quick enough when dug into
Norway Maple by R. Redvers
Black spots on Norway Maple
Photo by R. Riley
by R. Redvers
Maple and Ash were other trees that Ryan did not recommend. Although
the Manitoba Maple is native to Canada, Ryan considered it to be a
nuisance tree. The Ash tree was not recommended because of the Ash
Borer problem. Apparently this insect has destroyed 70% of the Ash
trees in Toronto and has moved northward up to Finch. Ryan says there
is nothing that can be
The Ash Borer leaves a D shaped hole - by R. Redvers
done to stop this infestation except to cut the
trees down. Keswick is nervous because they have many Ash trees. One of
the questions asked by the audience was, "What happens to the wood that
is cut down?" - The insect lays its eggs just under the bark. Once the
tree is cut the wood dries locking the insect in the wood so it cannot
escape. The wood cannot leave the region.
What do you do with moderately fast growing juvenile-teenage trees?
Most home owners move 3-5 times before settling into
the home of their choice. Many owners plant tree(s) as a demonstration
to their children. This gives you the warm fuzzies; however, most home
owners don't realize the boulevard/forest tree they planted and left
behind has the potential to live for 150-200 years. Some trees are
simply genetically programmed to grow long stems. Occasionally some
trees will hit a sweet spot (tap into an underground water source) in
mother earth and grow excessively fast. Maybe you've heard chain-saws
roaring after a heavy down pour, excessive wind or ice storm. If this
scenario is familiar to you, Ryan has an answer for you.
Example of over extension - by R. Redvers
out for over-extension and heavy crowns in juvenile-teenage trees
(20-40 years old). In Ryan's slide he said, "Crown reduction or
subordination is a delicate process where many cuts are made to remove
the outer most tips. The goal is to reduce extension while increasing
diameter. The goal is not to reduce significant weight by making 6-10
inch cuts in diameter. The biggest cuts should be 3 inches or less in
diameter. 11/2 - 2 inches is the typical cuts that are made when
reducing a tree. When subordination is done correctly the tree will
move less with
Before crown reduction After crown reduction
Photos by R. Redvers
the wind and bend less with an ice load. The force at
all crotches is reduced." The triangular shape form is the ideal goal.
above approach prevents leaving holes in the canopy. In this scenario
the tree on the right has been reduced with 6-10 inch cuts. This
approach causes the tree to compensate by creating vigorous multiple
shoots at the cut sites which develop into weakly attached branches that
are prone to breakage. Large cuts also have a tendency to lead to
fungal decay that eventually sends the whole tree into decline. The
biggest hole in a tree is one measurement for longevity.
Trees that are cut/pruned badly like this will grow
for five to ten years before showing signs of ill health.
Large cuts may reduce the need for subordination every
2 years but predispose the tree to fungal infection and a host of
multiple weak branches.
Subordination is recommended every 2 years in the
juvenile-teen years of a trees growth but should be tapered off as the
Tree cropped with 6-10 inch cuts
Photo by R. Redvers
Ryan went on to say that once whole branches are
removed it's the beginning of the end for the tree, which may not come
for 15-20 years.
When, Where and How to plant a replacement tree
Ryan recommended planting a new tree as soon as you
see a problem - general decline with the existing tree. The new tree
can be planted as close as possible - usually approximately 1 foot
away. If shade is a problem, simply trim up the branches on the old
tree until the new tree can receive sunlight. Most new trees will glide
up right under the old tree. The old tree will offer the new tree some
degree of protection while it grows.
Examples of various boulevard trees and tree leaflets with their accompanying name:
of tree leaflets on display
Squirrels love the
Large seed pods
May 10, 2011 - Earthwatch Expedition "Brown Hyenas and Cape Vultures", February 2011, Johannesburg, South Africa
by Kathy Boles CHRP, Lotek Wireless Fish & Wildlife Monitoring
"Dumalang" to everyone who has clicked onto this adventure expedition (Dumalang means "Hello")
counted it a privilege to be able to go on
this free 12 day hands-on work trip, compliments of her company, to
Johannesburg, South Africa where she was involved in Hyena Research at
Phiri, Hyaena Research at Mankwe Wildlife Reserve and the Pilanesberg
National Park. Getting to the destination was an exhausting 22 hour
flight. The first part of the trip took her and her husband from
Toronto to Amsterdam, the second part from Amsterdam down to
The Brown Hyena was under attack by the Native
Africans because they have associated the Brown Hyena as the killer of
their cattle. This seems like a logical inference since these hyenas
are always at the scene when the carcass is found. Researchers on the
other hand did not perceive these animals as killers but as part of the
ecological clean-up committee and the preventer of disease associated
with rotting flesh in the dry and hot environment. To exonerate these
animals of this hideous reputation, researchers needed to prove to the
local inhabitants these animals were not guilty of these crimes and
therefore needed to stop shooting them.
The funding for researchers to investigate this
travesty was sponsored by the "Earthwatch Expedition". The trick in
fund raising was to attract enough volunteers to pay for the research.
In this case only 10 volunteers were needed. This type of arrangement
allowed guests to see and participate up close and personal in the
research work that was being done. Tourists to the country on the other
hand were not allowed to get out of their vehicle and were also limited
from entering restricted areas of the reserve.
Adventure of a Life-Time - All photos were submitted by Kathy Boles
Beautiful Sunset scenes were a regular occurrence that she and the team saw
reported that inexperienced people from all around the world can go on
these trips and she has learned from experience that you are never too
old for an adventure and she would do it again. No previous work
related or camping experience was required. There was 1 couple from
Japan, 2 couples from the USA, one single man from the UK, one single
lady from Atlanta Georgia and Kathy and her husband from Canada making
a total of 10 people. Everyone met at the Johannesburg airport in South
Africa for their 12 day expedition.
The sign "Chalet" was quickly discovered not to be a posh resort but an attractive compound set up in the bush
with a number of tents for the guests. Each expedition guest(s) had their own tent, toilet, sink and shower.
such as frogs frequently visited the shower area and needed to be moved
aside prior to bathing. A generator provided the needed electrical power for
guests from 5pm-10pm (if and when the expedition guests were not
lag" was no excuse to be slack but guests were allowed an early to bed
the first night. This was a work trip and all guests were expected to
arise early, work late and contribute to this hands-on research
adventure regardless of their experience. Kathy reported that upon
arrival guests unpacked, had lunch and then went for a ride in the
"Bucky" (topless multi-seated truck) to get their first glimpse of the
reserve and the wildlife.
Safety instructions were brief: Shake boots out
before putting them on. Spider, scorpions and snakes can hide in them.
Tuck pants into your socks and wear long sleeves to avoid ticks and do
not get out of vehicle until the guard tells you it is safe to do so.
The guards were to exit the vehicle first to check the immediate area
for snakes and wild animals (The guards were well equipped with rifle,
various knives and a communication device). Meals consisted of wild
venison such as Impala, Wildebeest etc. and big breakfasts.
African Wildlife Parks: Mankwe Wildlife Reserve (Mankwe means - "The land of the Leopard")
The dual purpose 4,760 hectare Mankwe Park meets
South African law requirements by providing the African Explosives and
Chemicals Company, which manufactures blasting explosives and fuses for
the platinum mines, with a large buffer zone around it to protect the
communities while providing a home for many indigenous wild game
Pilanesberg National Park
This privately owned and operated park since 1969
nestled in a crater of an extinct volcano that existed 1500 million
years ago boasts of having 552 square kilometers of land (55,000
hectares) that can be accessed through 200 kilometers of roads and
holds 6,000 very dangerous animals. This park is one of the 3 alkaline
complexes in the world. Visitors/tourists to the park must stay in
their vehicles; however, researchers sponsored by the "Earthwatch
Expedition" were exempt from this restriction and were allowed to get
out of the vehicle.
To follow the directions of park rangers
Carry-out the instructions of the researcher
Enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the country, culture, wildlife and their work experience
Work Detail (The day started at 6:00 am with a break from 2-4 pm when the temperature reaches 35-40 degrees)
Work groups were split up into two teams (5 in each group)
Set up 6 camera sites at Pilanesberg
Set up 6 camera sites at Mankwe
Install camera, cut grass, plant bait and do a Rumen drag at each site
One member documents/records the groups activities
Return in 4 days to repeat and replace SD card
Collect and package Hyena scat samples
Observe for Hyena pastings (markings on grass - this marks their territory and wards off other males)
Work groups day research kit
The procedures were repeated at Pilanesberg and Mankwe
The grass was cut with a machete before the camera was attached to the tree.
Odiferous bucket of bait
Bait is placed on ground,
wired together then staked
to the ground to prevent scavengers from carrying it away.
"The Drag": The sack of the stomach is
called Rumen. Just as the title
pulled to lure Hyenas with its odour from
up to 3 Km away.
bait locations had already been pre selected; however, exact GPS
coordinates are taken so the sites could be re-visited in 4 days to
repeat the procedure and replace the SD cards.
Camera shy infrared banquet guests
Photos placed in order of occurrence.
Bottom right corner displays the
Month, Day, Year, Hour, Minutes, Seconds
Hyenas were seen at 2 of 3 sites. Other animals that were seen were Gemsbok, Rhino, Jackal and Ostrich.
Information and instruction sessions regarding manual tracking
Spoor identification and Animal Tracking by Dougal
What type of animal the track belongs to
How long the track has been there
Which direction the animal was going
Identify the animal scat
Photo of a Hyena foot print with the toes heading left
While in position and from a safe vantage point,
expedition guests were asked by the tracking expert to count an animal
herd, their calves and record the adult's gender as they passed by.
Kathy showed a brief clip of an un-named herd running by. Kathy got a
count of 17 and was unable to distinguish the gender of the animals let
alone count the calves. The tracking expert counted 32 and was also
able to record the number of calves. Keeping track of the number of
animals on the reserve is a conservation measure. If there are too many
to fit the size of the park they need to be culled. Apparently the herd
became spooked and began to run simply because their group was present.
The usual walking distance was about 4 kilometers
for these types of outings. Kathy reported that Dougal carried his gun,
knives and communication device on his belt. On these walk-abouts the
team was asked to look in the trees and bushes for snares, for
unfamiliar prints and for holes in the fences. Kathy reported that
rangers would need to check the electric fence in the Mankwe Park every
day to make sure it was working properly. Poachers were after the big
ticket item - the Rhino Horn.
Kathy showed club members a fascinating film clip
about a little industrious Dung Beetle on a shopping trip. The view
begins by displaying this Dung Beetle rolling a huge ball of Wildebeest
dung up an incline with the intention of taking this food back to its
family. When the dung was nearly at the top of the hill the Dung Beetle
momentarily lost its grip on the dung and it rolled back to the bottom
of the incline. The Dung Beetle ran back to its treasure and started the
process once again. One could see the struggle this tiny insect was
having in pushing this dung. Just imagine the challenge of standing on
your front feet and pushing a large round object with your rear legs.
Kathy showed us the carcass of a dead Kudu
(identified by its curly horns). To perform this assessment the
researcher, using the dead animal as the center of a circle, uses a
rope to measure outwards to a radius of 25 meters. Once the circle's
circumference has been established the researchers then count whatever
is within the circle i.e. trees, bushes etc. If the object for example
is a tree(s) the researcher needs to identify the name(s) of the
tree(s), its height, circumference and the number of them. The same
principle applies for bush(es). This data collection is important and
used for vulture research.
Hyena scat turns white very quickly from the calcium
in their system, from the eating of bones.
In contrast Baboon scat has
berries in it and is very identifiable.
-Scat analysis could not be done because much rain had made the dung beetles very active
-Researchers gather scat, take GPS coordinates and identify the colour (which determines how old the scat is)
-Scat analysis helps researchers to understand eating habits/diet
-They did have to take what samples they had (200+) and package them to
send to the UK for DNA analysis to determine the type of bones,
insects, berries and hair from animals like kudu, impala, etc. They can
determine how old the hyena is and whether it is male/female
-The team also had to look for pastings (markings on grass) this marks their territory and wards off other males.
Hyena Scat - Packaging was an unpleasant job
Anxious Moments at Pilanesberg Park while in van
With urgency in his voice Eddie retorts,
"Back-up...Back-up". "Can't you smell it!" "What?" asks the group. "The
musk odour when the elephant flaps its ears," said Eddie. The van backs
up, stops. The elephant starts to saunter towards them. The van backs
up again to turn around but this time into a mud hole. Without the
usual ceremony i.e. guards out first, everyone hops out and pushes the
stuck van out of the mud hole.
Eddie reported that this elephant named
Marula is well known for knocking vehicles completely off the road.
Visit to Louis's (PhD student) Vulture Restaurant
have set-up "Vulture Restaurants" as a safe place for Cape Vultures to
eat because farmers are lacing the carcasses with poison. Researchers
are also using this dining experience to harness the birds with GPS-GSM
Teflon harness tracking devices. The current GPS-GSM devices have a
"store on board" capability, 13-18 mos. of battery life, and an
accuracy range of approximately 10 meters. Researchers are able to get
3-4 readings per day. Researchers hope to have 36 birds harnessed with
tracking devices by the end of 2011. To attract the vultures, dead
meat is placed in the enclosure. The researcher sits in a blind off to
the side. When new birds arrive the researcher pulls a cord that traps
the bird(s). The researcher dawns gloves, enters the cage, applies the
harness then exits leaving the enclosure open. The birds are now used
to this procedure and enter freely.
-Current Hyena Collars have been observed to leave noticeable marks and skin damage around the animals' neck.
-Biologists have reported that there is an issue with not being able to turn the collars off.
-Built-in release collar technology would be ideal.
-There is no way of knowing how much battery life is left for non-deployed older collars.
-Batteries of newer collars can be turned on at time of deployment.
night kit was comprised of a GPS, PDA, vehicle signs, range finder,
paperwork, pen, car batteries, spot lights, head lamps and lots of bug
The spider web was stretched across the road and
needed to be detached and anchored to bushes on the same side before
Hyenas are nocturnal animals many of the excursions were conducted at
night. Kathy reported that the animals stand out when the spot light
picks-up the shining of their eyes. Binoculars were used to identify
the animals and numbers and the range finder was used to record the
distance. The tall grass did obscure many of the animals. To pick up
the shining of their eyes, spot lamps were moved back and forth through
a 180 degree arc as the bucky/van moved along the road (one for each
side of the buck/van). Not all of the animals were hyenas, yet these
animals were identified and recorded. Kathy reported that the bucky was
always used in Mankwe Park and the van was always used at the
shows that Brown Hyenas and vultures are
merely scavengers not hunters that come in after the farm animal has
been killed to clean-up the leftovers and bones. By providing this
service, these animals keep the pathogens of the rotting carcass from
getting to other
-In comparison the Spotted Hyena (or Laughing Hyena) is a hunter.
-Educating the farmers as to the service that the Brown
Hyenas and vultures provide to their environment will be the next
important step for the safety of this species.
Future Research Projects
1. Cape Vultures
Where do they forage?
Have they been exposed to veterinarian drugs after local farmers have cared for sick cattle?
Are they feeding in protected areas like reserves or farm land?
Investigate power line collisions (Is there anything that can be done to prevent these collisions?)
-ESKOM (an energy company) is providing funding to do more research into vulture power line collisions.
-Leverhulme Trust and Pretoria University also have funds for vulture research.
2. Black Backed Jackal
Louis Phipps apparently has applied to "Earthwatch" for a new program to study Black Backed Jackals
Puff Adder Snake
Common Egg Eating Snake
Masters' students are currently studying snakes (kinds unknown)
Investigate body temperature in summer versus winter
Track distance traveled and destination
Overcoming the problem of applying a tracking device to something that sheds once a year
The 3 main snakes: Puff Adder, Black Mamba & Cobra
March 8, 2011 - Bird Migration: Orientation and Navigation
by Greg Mitchell, phD Candidate, University of Guelph
presentation is about Bird Migration in general and some of the
mechanisms that birds use to orientate and navigate. These mechanisms
that birds inherently use to orientate and navigate have only been
discovered by a lot of experimental research, observation and
collection of data.
collection of experiments from various
researchers gave the YSN club a bird's eye view into the past and
current research that has and is being done to discover just how our
feathered friends navigate. Unfortunately I was unable to keep up in my
note taking and many of the experiments are lacking either a country of
origin, a location name, an authors name, year of experimentation and
type of bird used.
Orientation versus Navigation
Orientation maintains a bearing without reference to landmarks, origin or destination
Navigation knows location with respect to a goal without reference to a map
How Birds NavigateOutline:
To define what I mean by orientation and navigation
How birds orientate and what modifies a bird's orientation. There are
certain cues that a bird uses to pick a direction and there are other
things that modify that direction
How birds navigate
The difference between orientation and navigation and what it means to behavioral ecologists:
Orientation is basically being able to move in a
direction, able to maintain a bearing without using landmarks or
without reference to your origin or your declination. This is an
analogy to a human using a compass and following a bearing, i.e. north.
Navigation means something a little bit
different. You can use orientation while you are navigating but
navigation means that you know where you are in reference to your goal
and you know what direction you need to head in order to get to your
goal. You don't need to know how you got to where you are but you can
instinctively recognize where you are and be able to re-orientate and
head towards your goal. This can only be accomplished by having a
mental map. Several studies have been done to reflect this theory.
How do they pick a direction and maintain that direction while they are migrating?
There are 3 kinds of cues that they point to:
The Magnetic Field
Both the sun and the magnetic field have problems
but clarification will be given as they are discussed. The stars are a little bit easier to
Orientation Using the Stars: (Stephen Emlen 1966-1970)
We first began to get and understanding of this
when Stephen Emlen (1966-1970) did some studies with Indigo Buntings.
He knew that when these birds were ready for their fall migration they
enter into a Zugunruhe behavioral state of mind (Zug means to move,
migrate and Unruhe means anxiety, restlessness). He knew that the birds
become anxious and restless when inhibited by confinement at migration
time. He thought that maybe the birds were using the stars to navigate
because they were nocturnal migrants. To validate the star orientation
theory he needed to conduct an experiment.
Construct a cone shape cage and put some ink on the bottom of the cage floor
Put the captured birds into the cone shape cage
Allow the birds to jump up onto the cone in the direction that they wished to migrate
An ink blot was left on the side of the cone marked the bird's direction of travel.
Using the same set-up and method, Stephen then took his experiment to the next level:
Place the cone shape cage and birds into a planetarium
Blacken out different parts of the sky in the planetarium
He observed that blackening out the periphery had
no effect on the bird's ability to orientate in a southerly direction
for fall migration, but when the central part of the night sky was
blackened out the birds could no longer orientate properly and their
directional movements became random.
It was this study that got researchers thinking about what cues birds were using to migrate.
problem with using the sun is the constant changing of its position
throughout the day. If for example, you used the sun for orientation
purposes your trajectory would arc over the course of the day. The
solution to this is to use a time compensation sun compass. To use this
method of orientation the birds would require a type of internal clock
displaying the time of day (it is thought that the birds have a type of
internal clock) which allows them to fly on a specific angle relative
to the suns position.
There are a couple of methods that can be used to demonstrate this phenomena but Greg only outlined one method.
you have two bits of information (sun and time of day) you can
manipulate either one or the other. For example, if you want your
avatar to head east and the sun is at 11:00 o'clock in the south east,
you face toward the sun then rotate yourself approximately 30 degrees
to the east and head in that direction. This will be your heading for
11:00 o'clock. Since the sun moves through the horizon at approximately
15 degrees per hour, 12:00 o'clock would change the angle to 45 degrees
(30 + 15). This is exactly what Starlings have been shown to do.
Kramer 1957, British researcher proposed this
mechanism of orientation for diurnal Starling migration during the day.
Instead of changing the clock he manipulated the sun to trick the birds
into thinking the morning was noon and the evening is 12 midnight by
putting the birds on a different light/dark schedule.
To validate that
birds use the sun mechanism for orientation he set up an experiment in
which he manipulated the angle of the sun. The birds in this experiment
are migrating in a northerly direction.
Set up a funnel shape bird trap
Place a mirror into the cage to change the sun's location
Place the captured birds into the funnel shaped bird cage
At sunset the birds flew at 90 degrees relative to the position of the sun in order to keep their northerly heading.
The birds used a combination of both the sun and time to help them with navigation.
for articles on bird orientation and their interpretation please visit Wiley online library at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/ Once connected enter bird orientation and their interpretation into the search box.
Note: Magnetic Declination changes from year to year.
There is a lot of information to be used when using the Magnetic field:
Directionality in which you can tell north from south
Angles of declinations which vary depending where you happen to be on the globe
The inclination of the magnetic field varies with the latitude, i.e. in
some spots it's stronger and in other spots it's weaker
Researcher Wiltschko did some of the pioneering
work using the Helmholtz coil experimenting with European Robins in
Wait until the birds start their spring northward migration
Place birds into funnel cages
Use Helmholtz coil to manipulate/shift the magnetic field of the bird's Magnetite* to the left
Use Helmholtz coil to manipulate/shift the magnetic field of the bird's Magnetite* to the right
*Magnetite is a naturally occurring mineral
located close to their brain or in the bird's neck muscles (at base of
the skull) and in the top portion of the beak in some birds (The
magnetic distortion of the Helmholtz coil lasts for 3-4 hours). It is
thought that the magnetite acts like a compass pointing towards the
north. Another hypothesis that hasn't been proven yet, is the birds
might be able to physically see the earth's magnetic field by a
biochemical process involving the vision.
Instead of the bird heading north the bird moves
in a north-easterly direction in the funnel cage when the Helmholtz
coil shifts the bird's Magnetite to the left. When the poles of the
Helmholtz coil are reversed and the bird's Magnetite is shifted to the
right the bird moves in a north-westerly direction in the funnel cage.
Similarly, birds that are migrating south move in a south-easterly and
south-westerly direction after being placed in the Helmholtz coil.
The birds are definitely cuing into the earth's magnetic field for migration
The above 3 pieces of information potentially can be used while the birds/animals are migrating but are they enough?
Experiments by Rachel Muheim strongly suggest there is a 4th cue - Polarized Light
Magnetic North can vary with geographic North
i.e. Magnetic north doesn't necessarily mean true north. The tilt of
the earth and magnetic declination must be taken into consideration.
This data alone will not get you to your destination.
Manipulation of Polarized Light:
by Rachel Muheim - working in the Yukon delta, Alaska with the Savannah
Sparrow) She and other researchers (Moore and Phillips 2006)
hypothesized that birds were using polarized light patterns at
sunset/sunrise to give accurate indication of what true north and true
south is. The signals disappear as the sunset and briefly reappear at
The birds in effect are calibrating what direction and what
angle they would need to fly relative to the magnetic field.
At sunset / sunrise there is a band of polarized
light that is invisible to the human eye but visible to the birds (It
has been discovered that other animal species have this ability as
well). The birds are taking these bands and averaging them. So no
matter where they are on the planet the band average will tell them
what direction south is. The magnetic field might not necessarily tell
them what true south is, but point for example west of south. By using
the average of sunset / sunrise polarized light bands the birds are
able to pin-point the direction of south and adjust the angle they
would need to fly using the magnetic field.
Wait until the birds start their fall southward migration
Place birds in cages
Shift the polarized light patterns with light filters by 90 degrees
East/West at sunrise and 90 degrees East/West at sunset
Instead of the birds heading south all of the
birds shifted their movement by 90 degrees East / West according to
direction of shift. This was very strong evidence that birds were using
the bands of polarized light in the sky for navigation.
Experiments by Helbig 1991 with European Black Caps
The breeding Black-Caps populations in Germany
migrate south-west to Spain then down to West Africa. The breeding
Black-Caps populations in Hungry migrate south-east to Turkey and then
down to East Africa. There is some overlap within these populations
(minimal since these birds don't breed at the same time so there is not
a lot of opportunity for these birds to mix together).
Movement and orientation can be modified by a number of things
Method - What Helbig did in 1991:
Took birds from both of these populations
He measured their orientation and then he bred them together
The mean orientation of the off-spring,
Black-Caps crosses was to the south providing evidence that there is
some genetic control over the migration orientation for birds.
Physiological control of migration orientation using fat loads
The object of this experiment was to discover,
what the physiological controls of migration orientation are. This
study was done on the north side of the Gulf of Mexico. S(?) and M(?)
measured the bird's fat reserves during their migration south.
Catch birds on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico as they migrated from the north to the south
Tape little glow sticks onto the birds feathers (temporary weight that would fall off)
Release and track / observe direction of flight
The birds that were fat headed right out over the water.
The birds that were lean headed to the west
presumably to fly inland and go around the Gulf until they had
sufficient fat reserves.
A fat reserve is a cue to flight orientation,
but how they orientate is partly fixed genetically, and might be
determined by their body condition, i.e. how much fat they have and the
circumstances that they find themselves in especially when they need to
cross a large expanse of water.
Timing Effects on Migration Orientation
Greg then spoke briefly about the work/studies
that he was doing on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy, approximately 5
kilometers south of Grand Manan Island. Kent Island is an ideal habitat
for birds. The northern 1/3 is composed of Boreal Forests and the
southern 2/3 is composed of grass land. Many bird groups live there.
One of the groups of birds that Greg chose to
study had two different migration patterns. The early breeder's
clutches molted early and they migrated early.
Grand Manan Archipelago in Bay of Fundy
The late breeder's
clutches molted late and they migrated late but both groups had
different migrating patterns to the same destination. The early
breeders flew 50 kilometers west, north-west from Kent Island to the
mainland then follow the mainland down to Cape Cod. The late breeders
flew 350 kilometers south west directly to Cape Cod.
Map: Cape Cod and Grand Manan Archipelago
The unanswered question is: Did the first flight
of early breeders choose a safer route by flying 50 kilometers to the
mainland before proceeding down the coast to Cape Cod or did the second
flight of late breeders that flew directly to Cape Cod?
Navigation is knowing where you are in reference to a goal somewhere on the surface of the planet.
Evidence for navigation (Perdeck 1958 - First
experiments involving navigation took place in (?). This
early experiment in navigation involved the transplanting of 11,000
European Starlings to validate their navigational skills - to see if
they could adjust their orientation and fly (navigate) to their winter
destination in France.
Capture adult and juvenile European Starlings right before migration
Transplant captured birds to a new location (?)
Release the birds and observe their direction of flight
The juvenile birds were disorientated and simply
flew in a south-westerly direction. They were not able to orientate and
adjust to the new location and were not able to navigate to their
winter habitat in France.
The adult birds on the other hand were able to
orientate despite the trans-location to a new area and adjust their
flight plans to accommodate the new location and were able to navigate
and fly in a north-west direction to their winter habitat in France.
# 2 Thorup et al 2007
The second and more recent experiment involving
navigation (Navigation is knowing where you are in reference to a goal
somewhere on the surface of the planet) was done by Thorup et al 2007
in North America. This experiment involved the transplanting of White
Throated Sparrows on the west coast to the east coast (a translocation
distance of 3,700 kilometers) during their migration to their southerly
winter grounds. To accomplish this, the birds were captured on route to
their winter grounds, loaded on board a plane and flown back north to
the opposite side of the coast where they would need to make the
journey again from a new location. The hypothesis: To prove that birds
navigate by knowing where they are in reference to a goal somewhere on
the surface of the planet.
Capture adult and juvenile White Throated Sparrows during their migration to their southerly winter grounds
Load captured birds on board a plane and fly them to the opposite coast (East Coast of North America)
Put GPS units on birds
Release and track the birds
The adult White Throated Sparrows automatically
knew that they were in a new location (east coast), adjusted their
flight plans to accommodate the new location and were able to navigate
and fly in a south west direction to their winter grounds.
The juvenile White Throated Sparrows did not have that ability
The adult birds have some type of genetic map or
imprint to re-orientate themselves when their surroundings are changed,
but the juveniles, do not have this ability / established map to draw
Question: "Is it possible that the birds have not been taught that behavior?"
Answer: "Song birds do not teach their offspring migration routes like geese and swans do."
Greg went on to say that these White Throated
Sparrows have never been to the east coast, yet recognized the change
and were able to adjust their migration route.
Navigation using Magnetic Fields (Fransson et al 2001)
Thrush Nightingales were used in this experiment
They caught the birds up (?)
Put the juvenile and adult birds into 2 separate cages
The birds in the first cage were not subjected to a magnetic field and were used as a control group
The birds in the second cage were manipulated by a magnetic field and
tricked into thinking that they had been moved to the northern edge of
the Sahara Desert
The birds were then released and observed
The birds that were subjected to the magnetic field were totally disorientated.
The juvenile birds inherently knew that when they
get to a certain point on the earths magnetic field they need to stop
otherwise they would be out in the desert.
The birds that were not manipulated by the magnetic field were able to get their bearing and navigate successfully.
February 8, 2011 - Unique Native Plants and Plant Communities of the Bruce Peninsula
by Mark Carabetta, Conservation Science Manager, Ontario Nature
- This is another area of expertise and science that I am somewhat unaware of. It involves the study of native plants and plant
communities. If you don't
believe me try letting native plants grow on your property in a well
groomed city street neighbourhood like a friend did. In this real life drama some
neighbours secretively sprayed the "weeds" on the town property
between the street and sidewalk. Needless to say this couple was quite
to them these were not invasive weeds but Native Ontario plants that
would mind their manners. If you looked at their front yard it was also
covered with well-groomed Ontario Native plants. Unfortunately this
couple moved due to constant neighbour harassment.
At a glance, this subject looks a bit intimidating but it
can be broken down into Introduction, Score Keepers (A bank of data
information vital to the protection of all plant and living
creatures on the earth. Without it we could inadvertently annihilate many
animal and plant species without even knowing it), Niagara Escarpment and Nature Reserves (3).
topic was chosen as a direct result of the concentrated work that was
done on three of the reserves on the Bruce Peninsula. Ontario Nature
has a total of 22 nature reserves with a combined size of just over
5804 Acres plus 2 conservation easements (An easement is property that
is privately owned but there are development restrictions placed on the
for protection purposes).
Mark acknowledged Maria Papoulias and Peter Kelly for the fieldwork/research that they have done on these reserves.
For clarity the words describing plants or animals as being unique or
rare are relative terms, simply because they may or may not be rare or unique
somewhere else. Since these terms are ambiguous several committee
bodies have evolved to clarify and keep accurate records.
This committee determines which species is listed as endangered or threatened in Canada.
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)
COSEWIC is a committee of representatives from federal, provincial and
non-governmental agencies that assigns national conservation status to
species at risk in Canada, based on detailed status reports. Some
species listed by COSEWIC are currently protected by provincial
This committee determines which species is listed as endangered or threatened in Ontario.
The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO)
COSSARO is the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources committee that
evaluates the conservation status of species occurring in Ontario and
makes recommendations on the status of species at risk in Ontario.
The IUCN has developed a red list to outline how threatened or rare these species are.
The International Union for the Conflict of Nature (IUCN)
This Nature Service monitors rare species.
Nature Service (an off-shoot of the Nature Conservancy in the USA)
In Ontario we have the Natural Heritage
Information Centre. This centre is part of the Ministry of Natural
Resources that provides information on rare and at risk species plus
The Natural Heritage Information Centre
Each species (whether plant or animal) is given a rank using the initials G, N and S.
G = Globally
N = Nationally
S = State or Province
Numbers from 1 - 5 are then used to indicate the plant or animals spread and abundance
1 = Critically imperiled / Rare (which means there are less than 5 populations remaining)
2 = Imperiled
3 = Vulnerable
4 = Apparently secure
5 = Secure / wide spread and abundant
When these letters and numbers are all put together this example is what it looks like:
e.g. G3, N4, S5; meaning:
Globally = vulnerable
Nationally = apparently secure
State or Province = secure
i.e. Red Maple is ranked as G5, N5 & S5 which means it is secure as a species
i.e. American Ginseng is ranked as G3, N2 & S2 which means it is
Globally vulnerable, Nationally it is imperiled and Provincially it is
To complicate matters further plants are not just looked at as plants
but as plant communities.
It is impossible to speak about the unique native
plants and plant communities of the Bruce Peninsula without at least
noticing the presence of the Niagara Escarpment.
One of the distinguishing features of the Bruce Peninsula is the
Niagara Escarpment. This Escarpment extends from New York State, runs
just south of Lake Ontario then up into southern Ontario via Niagara
through Hamilton then up the Bruce Peninsula across the
Manitoulin Island, St. Joseph's Island, then swings
Approximate outline of the Niagara Escarpment
down into Michigan.
The escarpment that runs up the coast of the Bruce Peninsula has been
classified as one of 15 biospheres in Canada since 1990 and is part of
a network of 531 biosphere reserves in 105 countries.
said that Ontario Nature has done a fair amount of inventory / ground
work on 7 reserves in the Gray-Bruce Counties on the Bruce Peninsula,
but he focused on:
Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve
Petrel Point Nature Reserve
Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve
The Malcolm Bluff Shores Nature Reserve is one of the newest reserves. See accompanying photos below.
Red stars mark approximate location of the 3 Nature Reserves on Bruce Peninsula
Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve
- This 67 hectare reserve was purchased in 1993 when a lot of focus was placed on the Great Lakes Alvars - Many research publications were written about Alvars - Has a board walk running through it - Ecological mapping, aerial photographs and the first natural plant inventories were done here by Maria Papoulias
View of the Malcolm Bluff Shores property taken from Skinner's Bluffs
Photo by Mark Carabetta
- Plants were also divided into their different community types and a species list was made out
- Many rare plant communities were found as a result of this work; for
example, Creeping Juniper Shrubby Cinquefoil Alvar (G2) Jack Pine,
Northern White Cedar, White Spruce Tree Alvar (G2) and Dwarf Lake Iris (G3)
just to name a few.
- One animal species, the Massasauga Rattler (G3) was also seen at this reserve.
If you plan to hike this trail this reserve is
located on the Upper Bruce Peninsula on the northwest corner of Hwy. 6
and Dyer's Bay Road. The trail starts at an opening about 400 metres
north of the Dyer's Bay Road (on the west side of the highway). Look
for the Ontario Nature reserve sign set back from the highway. Do
not park along Hwy. 6 or at the reserve entrance.
- This is a very ancient reserve located at Red Bay on Lake Huron - Purchased in a piece meal fashion from 1967 - 2010. (Total size to date = 33.6 hectares) - Inventory mapping has been done as outlined in the previous reserve - A globally rare Great Lakes Coastal Meadow Marsh plant habitat (G2 & S2)
is located here. These distinct marsh plant communities are separated
by just very slight elevations and from those plants living on the rift.
Fresh bear track
by Mark Carabetta hiking at Malcolm Bluff Shores
- 317 vascular plant species and 71 different
families were found on the reserve and surrounding area as a result of
the plant inventory that was done. This includes carnivorous plants, 16 different species of orchids and 5
different species of rare plants.
- When the total number of plant
species found on the reserve is plotted on a pie shaped percentage
graph, only a very small percentage could be classified as globally
If you plan to hike this trail this reserve from
Hwy. 6 turn west at the town of Mar. Drive along the Red Bay Road to a
T-junction, drive north on Huron Road roughly 3 kilometres, then turn
left (west) on Petrel Point Road. This road is just north of the Red
Bay Lodge and divides the northern and southern halves of the reserve.
Please park only on the north side of the road.
Welcome to the newest nature reserve - simply cross the Bruce Peninsula
to the Georgian Bay side! This reserve is tucked in between the Cape
Cook Indian Reserve to the north-east, the dead-end Mallory Road to the
south-west and flanked by Colpoy's Bay to the east. Directly across Colpoy's Bay are Skinners Bluffs.
Shoreline view of Malcolm Bluff Shores
Photo by Mark Carabetta
Once all the parcels of land scheduled to be
purchased by Ontario Nature and in partnership with The Bruce Trail
Conservancy by the spring of 2012 are complete, this newest nature
reserve will then be the second largest of Ontario Nature's consisting of over 1,000 acres (404.68 hectares).
is almost 4 Km of Bruce trail on the reserve escarpment property that
overlooks the 4 Km of beautiful unspoiled shore-line of Georgian Bay
below. Mark reports that it is a fantastic view.
The elevation from the shore to the top of the escarpment is approximately 110 metres.
Not only does the escarpment provide a fantastic view for visitors but
it is also the home for numerous birds and many rare plants.
Mark showed the group a sketch of the nature reserve from a cross
sectional perspective. Using this cross sectional diagram as a guide,
it was easy to see the geological formations and various elevations that
exist on the property.
reported that a plant cliff ecologist, Peter Kelly, a researcher from the
University of Guelph had randomly selected and studied a 40 meter
section of the upper and lower cliff face of the escarpment on the
reserve and reported to him that there were 291 living Eastern White
Cedars and 12 dead Cedars on the upper cliff face and 27 living Cedars
and 262 dead Cedars on the lower ground level section within this 40
meter section. Fifteen of the living Cedars were discovered to be over
300 years of age and 1 cedar almost 600 years of age. Peter apparently
added and speculated that the chances of finding a tree of 1000 years
of age on this 6 Km stretch of cliff face was probably very good.
Cedars are basically a common plant, but what makes these Cedars rare
is their age. Given the fact that these trees are rare, rock climbing
would be extremely detrimental to their well-being. Mark had in his
possession a book entitled "Cliff Ecology" that outlined the importance of ecology of cliffs from all over the
January 11, 2011 - Science-Based Monitoring of the Nearshore Zone, Lake Simcoe (Ontario Canada)
by Brian Ginn, phD, Limnologist, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
If you are like most people you don't go to the doctor until you have a problem.
In this scenario it is the community (people within a 30 kilometre radius of Lake Simcoe)
that needs the doctor. "If; for example, the water tastes and smells
like dead fish," the doctor would be a
limnologist. If the problem is severe enough a limnologist is hired to
investigate the problem. A possible cause could be obvious - dead fish,
dumping of toxic waste into the water or bacteria, but in most cases the
cause is not obvious. In some cases the community doesn't even know that they have a problem
until the news media highlights it for them in a
dramatic manner. By that time, so much environmental change has taken
place that it is very difficult to know exactly where to start to fix
approached Doctor B. Ginn before he presented his topic, "Science-Based
Monitoring of the Nearshore Zone: Lake Simcoe (Ontario, Canada)" and
asked him if I could record it and post it on the YSN web-site. To my
delight he said that he would send me a pdf version of his research
because he wanted this information to be made available to the
2 versions: Click to view - Version #1 / Version #2 - click on (Distribution of Aquatic Plants in Relation to Nutrients, Substrate...)
At the end of Brian's presentation I didn't know whether to cry, laugh
or protest. To cry because the government has made up it's mind that it
wants to expand industry and growth north of the city of Toronto; to
laugh because we are like an ostrich with its head in the sand who has
chosen denial to deal with the problem at hand; or to protest
vehemently to get the government's attention to stop this insane
industrial and rural expansion project.
help you get your feet on the ground I have started this presentation
with a definition of limnology. The definition that suited this issue
the best was obtained from:
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limnology>
Limnology is the study of inland waters. It is often regarded as a
division of ecology or environmental science. It covers the biological,
chemical, physical, geological, and other attributes of all inland
waters (running and standing waters, both fresh and saline, natural or
man-made). This includes the study of lakes and ponds, rivers, springs,
streams and wetlands. A more recent sub-discipline of limnology,termed
landscape limnology, studies, manages, and conserves these aquatic
ecosystems using a landscape perspective.
Limnology is closely related to aquatic ecology and hydrobiology, which
study aquatic organisms in particular regard to their hydrological
Environmental issues concerning the quality and quantity of freshwater are at the forefront of media attention, scientific interest, and public concerns
We need scientific data to:
- Identify the problem
- Determine the cause (Natural? Human? Both?)
- Put the problem into context (long-term data is needed)
- Set Goals for recovery and restoration to a sustainable state
- Advise lake managers, set policy, generate applied solutions
- Evaluate recovery efforts and targets
A foundation of the process for holistic lake management
Largest inland waterbody wholly in southern Ontario
Popular recreation area
1 million angler hours / yr
Ice fishing capital of Canada
Centrepiece of LSRCA
Manitoulin - Lake Simcoe Ecoregion
rated "moderately to severely degrading"
Focus of research, management, restoration efforts
3,307 km2 watershed
722 km2 lake area
60 km north of Toronto
$200 million fishery
$975 million in "ecological value"
Attempt to value replacement cost to nature (cleaner air, filtering water, absorbing pollution, regulating climate)
Lake Simcoe and approximate watershed area marked with green outline
The Oak Ridges Moraine borders the southern watershed boundry
Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority
One of 36 conservation authorities in Ontario
Watershed-scale management of water and other
natural resources in partnership with government, landowners, and other
Mission: Provide leadership in the restoration
and protection of the environmental health and quality of Lake Simcoe
and its watershed
Winner of the 2009 International Thiess Riverprize - excellence in watershed management
Top 5 environmental stressors & lake issues:
Phosphorus loading and nutrient inputs: Reduce inputs to TP = 10-20 micrograms/L
Deepwater Oxygen and fish communities
Restore coldwater fish habitat: hypolimnetic O2 <5mg/L (target = 7mg/L)
Sustainable populations of lake trout, lake whitefish, lake herring
Invasive species and loss of native species: Changing biological communities / loss of native species
Climate change: Changes to water supply, quality, and quantity
Lake Simcoe: Nutrients
World's most widespread water quality issue
"Fertilizes water": more nutrients = more plants / algae
Main nutrient = Phosphorus (P)
Nutrients enter lake from streams
In 1973 lake
226 was set up as an experimental lake. The lake was divided into 2
sections by a Silt Curtain. The water in the 1st section was exposed to
Carbon, Nitrogen and Phosphorus while the water in the 2nd section was
exposed to only Carbon and Nitrogen. The water in the 1st section was
green in colour from an overgrowth of algae while the 2nd section
remained free of algae and the water remained blue in colour. Photos of
the Holland River (July 2004) revealed this same green coloured water
from an over growth of algae.
The study resulted in new laws to control phosphorus in aquatic systems.
Representational diagram of Experimental lake 226
Lake Simcoe: Deepwater Oxygen
- Lake trout require a minimum of 5 - 7 mg/L of oxygen dissolved in the water (7 is the ideal)
- Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water; therefore, fish (trout,
whitefish, herring) that require a coldwater
habitat naturally have a smaller range during the summer months when
the water warms up
- Plants / algae that use oxygen exacerbate habitat loss even further.
Decrease in native clams / mussels (outcompeted by zebra mussels)
Other changes suggest declining quality in shallow waters
Environmental change from zebra mussels:
Established in Lake Simcoe by 1995
Colossal ecological changes (especially foodwebs)
Filter entire lake in 5 days
Increased transparency of water (3 - 7 metres)
Bring offshore nutrients towards nearshore
Perfect environment for aquatic plants
Zebra Mussels 2009-2010 - 747 sites / 43,952 mussels
- Biomass + population trends - Sampled in depths of water 1m - 20m, except Kempenfelt Bay
- Quaggas increasing!
2: Algal Monitoring
Rapid response to limnological changes (24 hours)
Survey algae to track environmental changes
Monitor for problem species (taste, odour, toxics)
Phosphorus and nutrients in Lake Simcoe / Muskoka Region
pH (acid rain) in Dorset Region lakes
Climate change (Ontario and worldwide)
3: Sediment Nutrients
Nutrients (e.g. phosphorus) settle to sediments over time
Can be released into water under low oxygen conditions
Can be a significant nutrient source
Also: nutrients pulled inshore by zebra mussels, used by plants, released under low oxygen conditions
Lake Simcoe Nearshore Program:
compare nearshore and offshore sediment nutrients
are nutrients available for species?
how fast is it accumulating?
are nutrients being released? Under what conditions?
3: Sediment Nutrients
Lowest: Inner Cook's Bay
- Lake Champlain, VT: 500-600 micro grams/g
- Lake Winnipeg, MB: approx. 800 micro grams/g
- Lake Simcoe, ON: 340-1400 micro grams/g
- Chesapeake Bay, MD: 400-1500 micro grams/g
-Lake Taihu, China: approx. 2100 micro grams/g
3: Plants verses Sediment Nutrients
the summer a lot of plants grow in Cooks bay area, yet sediment
nutrients are low for this area. A theory has been put forth that the
plants freeze and die in the water during the winter months, then are
flushed by spring water flow and blown out into the lake towards
Beaverton area where they settle.
This theory is going to be tested by an experiment in the spring 2011.
GPS tracking units are going to be placed on the plants in Cooks Bay
and their movement followed in the lake.
Low sediment TP = Plant uptake? 75-97% P from sediment
High sediment TP = P transport and release with plant death?
4: Physical Monitoring
Measure and compare physical conditions
How do these variables change over the year (summer vs winter)
What effect do these changes have on lake organisms
Collecting data might seem mundane but researchers can track this data to study the long term effects
Study the environmental history of a lake by
inferring past limnological conditions using indicators (biological,
geo-physical, chemical) archived in sediments.
Widely used for acid rain studies
find out when acid rain impacted lakes
how much were lakes impacted
Dorset, Muskoka regions
Also used for nutrient studies
When did lake problems start?
What was the cause?
How much were lakes impacted?
Also being used for climate change:
What changes have occurred?
What changes can we expect?
Use the past to assess current conditions (put
in long-term context) and track environmental changes (use to predict
When did environment changes occur?
What is the amount of change from natural variation?
What was the environment like in 1950? 1800? 10,000 yr BP?
What are realistic recovery targets?
Sediment = material from lake and catchment settled in layers, B. Ginn Smol 2008
Collecting sediment cores Photo: Smol 2008
track historic deepwater oxygen
track changes in phosphorus
assess plant and fish populations
Pre-1820: > 7 mg/L
1820-1890: 3-5 mg/L (land clearance)
1960-1990: 2-3 mg/L (urbanization)
Since 2000: approx. 4-5 mg/L (P-reduction)
Increases with forest clearance
Increases with Trent-Severn / Holland Marsh
Increases with urbanization
Decreases with P-reduction
Shows community changes with zebra mussels and climate change
Plant? Fish? Climate?
LSRCA Nearshore Monitoring Program:
Track environmental changes in this critical, previously unstudied, lake ZONE
Establish baseline data for future monitoring studies
Exotic species introductions? Climate change?
Tools for tracking changes:
Plant, animal, algae communities (how are these changing?)
Monitor standard lake health variables
Study the past to predict the future
Evaluate success of recovery targets (effective? realistic?)
Transfer out knowledge to other lakes and lake users
Use science as a foundation for sustainable lake management
Top 5 environmental stressors:
Phosphorus and nutrient inputs
Deepwater oxygen and fish communities
Invasive species and loss of native species
Environment Canada (Science Staff and Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund)
Ontario Ministry of Environment
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
Lake Simcoe Fisheries Assessment Unit
University of Toronto
University of Western Ontario
University of Waterloo
York Region District School Board
Local Interest Groups (Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation)
Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund
Field / Lab Assistance (LSRCA): L. Bennett, K. Bolton, R. Bolton, C. Eves, D. Lembcke, S. Lynn, R. RacLean, E. O'Connor, T. Tennant, R. Wilson, G. Yerex