staff in canoe

8 questions with an Ontario Parks ecologist

Alison Lake or “Lakie” is an ecologist in our northeast zone, and has earned a reputation as a passionate promoter of ecological integrity.

She has an infectious love of the natural world and is rarely seen without her “bins” (binoculars) around her neck.

staff looking over forest in helicopter

At last count, she has visited over 100 provincial parks, exploring as far south as Fish Point Provincial Park and paddling as far north as Wabakimi Provincial Park.

After an early career in forestry, “Lakie” joined Ontario Parks, and for the last 18 years has worked at:

She spent many years as part of the Discovery program, and also held positions as an assistant park superintendent, chief park naturalist, and park biologist before becoming an ecologist in the northeast zone.

Do you remember the first provincial park you ever visited?

Killbear Provincial Park. My family had just immigrated to Canada from Australia, and I learned that the bleakness of a Canadian winter is more than made up for by a Georgian Bay summer.

pine at sunset

Killbear set my baseline for what a Canadian landscape could be.

What is your favourite lake to paddle in Ontario Parks?

Lake Huron, anywhere on Georgian Bay.

It’s huge and challenging, and has exciting big water, big waves, and when that’s too much there are thousands of interesting islands and coves to explore and provide calm water on windy days.

staff paddling canoe

I love the challenge of navigating through the thousands of islands — especially through the delta of French River Provincial Park.

What’s your favourite nature sound?

The sound of wind blowing through White Pines.

Cluster of old growth pine trees with blue sky in background

What’s your favourite smell in nature?

I love the smell of hot sun on pine needles — nothing like it.

What is one thing that you wish every park visitor knew?

I wish visitors knew how much more you can see when you are quiet and still.

turtle on log

I have learned more by waiting and watching to see what a creature is doing than I ever did by picking it up and interrupting its day.

What makes you smile the most when spending time in nature?

I always smile when I hear the first Common Loon of the spring return from a winter away on the coast.

If someone has never been to a provincial park before, which one would you encourage them to visit first?

Go visit whatever park is closest to you, and then start visiting a different one each time if you can.

hiking trail

All our protected places have something amazing that they were created to protect. I am trying to work my way through visiting as many Ontario provincial parks as I can. I am well past 100 now, and can’t wait to see the next one!

What’s your favourite camping meal?

Bannock wrapped around the end of a stick and cooked over a fire, then rolled in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon while hot.

Eat it off the stick!