Join us for Algonquin’s “Meet the Researcher Day”

Today’s post comes from wildlife biologist Patrick Moldowan.

Within Algonquin Provincial Park, wildlife researchers work within an outdoor laboratory of a massive scale!

You might find them tucked away amid the dense forest, waist-deep in a wetland, or investigating a wolf den.

Welcome to the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station (WRS)!

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Hunting dragons, discovering damsels

During the summer of 2015, several research projects were conducted at Murphys Point Provincial Park, but one in particular attracted the attention of staff and public alike.

With long-handled nets in hand, park staff — led by expert volunteer Bev Edwards — could be seen thigh-deep in the vernal ponds, streams and lakes located within the park.

What were they doing?

Surveying for odonates (that’s dragonflies and damselflies to most of us).

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Noise annoys

How do birds cope with our increasingly noisy world?

The world is a noisy place, and that can pose problems for animals that depend on hearing each other’s sounds to find out about food, predators, and mates. Many species of mammals, birds, fish, and frogs produce louder, longer, or higher-pitch calls in noisy places, to be heard above the noise. But those altered sounds may not be good enough – they may not travel as far or convey the same information as normal songs.

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Soundscapes from across Ontario

 One of my favourite signs is from a lookout over the Grand Canyon.  It simply says,

ONE MINUTE.
DON’T READ.
DON’T TALK.
NO PHOTOS.
JUST LOOK…..AND SEE.
It is something that I hope you will do often when you visit our parks or other natural areas in Ontario.  But how about this variation?

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Turtle doctor helps Blanding’s preemies

By: Corina Brdar, Southeast  Zone Ecologist, Ontario Parks

There is some cutting edge research on preemie health and survival taking place in Ontario Parks.  The “preemie” babies in question are Blanding’s turtles –a species at risk in Ontario.  Each year the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre (KTTC) in Peterborough takes in injured (or sadly, dead) female Blanding’s turtles and rescues their eggs.  Injured turtles treated at this unique animal hospital are “induced” to release their eggs using oxytocin, just like an expectant mom would be.  The eggs are hatched at the centre and raised until they are 2 years old.

Left: Hatchling room at KTTC Right:Lynda Ruegg, a conservation technician with the KTTC, collects data on a headstarted Blanding’s turtle that she’s following in a provincial park.

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Gray jays at Algonquin: winter breeding phenom is underway

Get out your binoculars, cameras, smart phones and pack a baggie full of bread, cheese and raisins. The fascinating world of the winter Gray Jay breeding season is underway at Algonquin Park. And if you’re lucky (as most Gray Jan fans are), these delightfully social birds will feed right off your hand.

“Gray Jays are a fascinating bird,” says retired Algonquin Park naturalist Dan Strickland.  “They are very confiding and quickly learn that people can be a source of food and so they come to people, rather than the other way around. They are often tame and will land on your hands.”

“This visitor to Algonquin Park is delighted to have a wild Gray Jay calmly land on her video camera. Gray Jays in Algonquin are the subject of one of the world’s longest running field studies, part of which involves giving each bird a unique combination of coloured leg bands. These permit it to be individually recognized, even from a distance, as it goes about its business on its large year-round territory in patches of boreal forest.” CREDIT: Gord Belyea

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Ever flap an owl’s wing or held a century-old insect? You can at the Algonquin Park Collections Room!

The century-old skins, skulls and specimens inside the Collections Room at Algonquin Park live like little hermits in the basement of the Visitor Centre, stunningly preserved and rarely seen by anyone except park naturalists and visiting scientists.

Yet every now and again, the doors swing open and the public is invited to visit this treasure trove of natural history dating back 50 to 100 years.

Continue reading Ever flap an owl’s wing or held a century-old insect? You can at the Algonquin Park Collections Room!

Wolf, caribou scat offers vital clues to migration, possible renewal

Scientists are combing the backcountry of Ontario this winter scooping up samples of wolf and caribou scat, hoping the DNA-rich pellets will provide precious clues into the lives of these endangered species.

The collection is part of ongoing efforts to capture the important data far less invasively than by trapping or collaring the animals. Every winter for the past few years, scientists have flown by helicopter over parts of the province and landed where they have spotted certain tracks. They then follow the tracks on foot and bag the scat along the way. That way they can capture the samples they need without ever having to frighten or interact with the animals in any way.

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Christmas is for the birds at Killarney

Christmas bird counts have been a tradition that has been taking place for the past 114 years.  In 1900, A single man set out to count the number of different bird species and now these counts take place in over 2000 localities in Canada, US, Latin America and the Caribbean.  Bird Studies Canada now coordinates with all the local organizers to help make these counts possible.  This year, all counts must take place between December 14 and January 5.  Birds are counted in a 24km diameter circle; the same area is then used every year.

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Road to conservation

Guest Blogger: Sean Boyle 

Growing up, I spent quite a bit of my time wandering through the woods, and exploring – looking at flowers, flipping logs, catching insects and watching them in a clear bucket – the type of thing many children do.  As I worked my way through university, I realized that there was more to nature than being a naturalist and as I begun to be exposed to wildlife biology I realized that this was the path I wanted to follow. When I headed off to graduate school, and was offered the opportunity to take the lead on a project involving reptile and amphibian conservation in Presqu’ile Provincial Park, in addition to my mammal work, I was thrilled.  For someone as interested in conserving the biodiversity that I grew up loving, reptiles and amphibians couldn’t have been a better fit – they are after all, two of the most imperiled groups of animals on the entire planet!  Reptiles and amphibians are two of the most diverse classes of animals in the world. Sadly however, they are also experiencing among the fastest extinction rates on the planet.

Blanding's Turtle Photo Credit: Sean Boyle

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