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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Keeping up with the Canada Jay

Today’s blog post comes from bird researchers Alex Sutton and Koley Freeman, PhD candidates at the University of Guelph.

In the world of Gray Jays, winter means one thing: it’s breeding season!

Gray Jays, also known as Canada Jays, are common in Algonquin Provincial Park. Continuing a 54-year-old tradition, a dedicated team of researchers is monitoring breeding pairs. This is the longest study of its kind in the world!

With each passing year, more is learned about the breeding behaviour and life history of these remarkable birds.

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The IBAs of Polar Bear Provincial Park

This installment of our 2017 blog series IBAs in provincial parks — brought to you by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada — is very “cool.” 

Welcome to our year-long blog series! For our inaugural spotlight, we are staying in the winter spirit and focusing on Ontario’s far north. That’s right: our worlds collide up there in a big way.

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Happy World Wetlands Day!

Bog. Swamp. Fen. Marsh. Muck, mud and mire…

It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? When movie directors want to make things hard for their characters, they sometimes pick a wetland to chuck them into – think Humphrey Bogart in the classic movie “African Queen”, where he struggles day after day to pull his boat through an impenetrable swamp.

Wetlands get a bad rap, but they are hugely important to all of us. Without them, things would be a lot more difficult on old Planet Earth.  Like big sponges, they store water from snows and rains, and then let it out when things get dry. They provide rich habitats for plants and animals to live in, and they create “biodiversity”: the variety of life.

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Winter track surveys

In today’s post, Ecologist Corina Brdar shares the “best part of [her] job.”

I’m an ecologist for Ontario Parks. When people ask me what exactly it is that I do, I have a hard time answering – my job is so diverse and interesting.

So I like to give the example of my favourite job duty: doing winter track surveys for deer.

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What’s in a weir?

Neys Provincial Park recently removed an obsolete weir as part of its work to restore and maintain ecological integrity. Superintendent Allison Dennis has the story…

The term “weir” piqued my curiosity following my first review of the Neys Provincial Park Management Plan.

Turns out that a weir is a barrier constructed across the width of a river or stream which raises the water level on the upstream side to a specified height. Unlike a dam, which redirects excess water using spillways, a weir allows excess water to flow over the top of the structure and continue downstream.

So what does this have to do with a provincial park?

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A nature-lover’s New Year’s resolutions

Today’s post comes from Alistair MacKenzie, Natural Heritage Education Supervisor at Pinery Provincial Park.

Alistair at PineryAs we begin a brand new year, many of us make personal resolutions to try to better ourselves, or to help our families and communities.

I’ll be making several personal resolutions (darn sour-cream-glazed dougnuts!), but in addition, I am choosing 2018 as the year to make some resolutions for parks and protected areas. 

As I work and play in Ontario Parks’ many incredible landscapes, most of my efforts will take effect there, but I am not planning on limiting my efforts…I’ll include any green spaces I can find!

I’m just one person, so I would encourage you to help.  You may want to create a different list for yourself, but our parks can certainly use the help, so please consider giving back to our protected areas.

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Bye bye, Buckthorn!

Today’s post comes from Natural Heritage Education Leader David Bree at Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

“EI” is a term we use a lot at Ontario Parks.

EI stands for ecological integrity, or the biodiversity and naturalness of an ecosystem. Protecting and restoring the ecological integrity of our provincial parks is vitally important to us.

Ontario Parks turns 125 in 2018. To help celebrate, different parks across the province were awarded a number of community involvement ecological integrity project grants.

At Presqu’ile Provincial Park, our money went towards removal of a nasty invasive species: Buckthorn.

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Birds and biodiversity

Welcome to the final installment of  our 2017 series “IBAs in provincial parks,” brought to you by Ontario IBA Coordinator Amanda Bichel of Bird Studies Canada.

It’s been a terrific year sharing bird facts and stories about IBAs and provincial parks, but it’s time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture: biodiversity.

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