The 30×30 Challenge is good for you

Today’s post comes from Sarah McMichael, Ontario Parks’ Healthy Parks Healthy People Coordinator.

We all know that fresh air is good for us, right?

Time in nature has been proven to lead to better sleep, improved productivity, lower stress, increased self-esteem, better mood, lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a lower risk of diabetes and heart attack. The research is clear: spending time in nature improves our physical, mental, and social well-being.

Imagine how much your health and happiness could improve if you spent quality time outdoors every day for a whole month. This is what the 30×30 Challenge is all about. Sounds like a great way to get healthy!

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The importance of research in Ontario Parks

Ever wondered about or wanted to pursue scientific research in a provincial park? Today’s post from Northwest Zone Ecologist Intern Lindsey Boyd and Northwest Senior Assistant Zone Ecologist Evan McCaul should answer your questions.

Spread throughout Ontario, our 340 provincial parks protect 8.27 million hectares of land and 1.3 million hectares of lakes and rivers. From mosses to moose, protected areas provide endless research topics and opportunities.

Scientifically speaking, provincial parks are an excellent place to conduct research. Parks can be used as a reference site to measure natural conditions within a broader landscape study, or provide an excellent place to study climate effects on species and systems in a place with fewer human pressures like roads or high levels of noise, light, and air pollution.

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Tobi Kiesewalter: interpretive naturalist extraordinaire

Nothing’s more inspiring than a person with a true passion for nature.

Tobi Kiesewalter is one of those people. He puts his passion to work as the Natural Heritage Education leader at Murphys Point Provincial Park. 

Tobi’s been a valued member of the Ontario Parks family for a whopping 22 years. Now, we’re proud to announce he is the recipient of the National Association for Interpretation’s Great Lakes Region Master Interpretive Manager Award.

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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!