How will I know ecological integrity when I see it?

Preserving ecological integrity is a priority for all of us here at Ontario Parks. But just what does ecological integrity look like? Algonquin Provincial Park Naturalist David LeGros explains…

When I start many of my evening programs at Algonquin, I often ask the audience if they like nature.

Usually I get a lot of hands up in the air, but there are always a few that don’t put their hands up. I tell those people, “You might be in the wrong place, because Algonquin is crawling with nature.” I know these folks may have not been paying attention to what I was saying or chose not to participate in my survey, but it always gets a laugh from the crowd.

However, this did get me thinking about why we go to parks over staying home or visiting a big city…

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A trip down the Pakeshkag River at Grundy Lake Provincial Park

Today’s post comes from Sonje Bols, a former naturalist at Grundy Lake Provincial Park.

Part of a park naturalist’s job is to familiarize themselves with the natural and cultural wonders of their park through exploration.

Whether it’s hanging out at bogs to catch and identify dragonflies, checking rocks for snakes, or canoeing along Indigenous canoe routes, naturalists set out to observe and explore every inch of their parks so they can bring that knowledge and experience to park visitors and managers.

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Spotted on iNaturalist: our staff’s favourite observations

Did you know April is Community Science Month?

It’s no secret that we’re big proponents of community science, especially using a beginner-friendly app like iNaturalist!

Every observation contributes to park research and helps maintain ecological integrity in our natural spaces.

Not to mention the cool and unusual species we’ve spotted along the way!

Check out some of our staff’s favourite iNaturalist observations:

Continue reading Spotted on iNaturalist: our staff’s favourite observations

“What the heck is that?!”: when to #AskanOPNaturalist

Today’s post comes from David LeGros, a park naturalist with the Ontario Parks Discovery Program.

“I’ve never seen one of those” is among my favorite sentences.

There’s a scary thing that happens the longer you look into nature. The more you find, the more you find out that you don’t know that much. It can be an intimidating feeling, but also, an exciting feeling.

Your mind is about to be blown.

Repeatedly.

Continue reading “What the heck is that?!”: when to #AskanOPNaturalist

Ontario’s smallest snakes

Today’s post comes from Shane Smits, senior park interpreter at Rondeau Provincial Park.

Are you terrified of snakes?

Do you believe they’re all large and frightening?

Well, everyone has a right to their own fears, but what if snakes aren’t all what the movies make them out to be?

It’s a common misconception that snakes are big and scary creatures. In reality, there are many species that are actually quite small and rather harmless.

Let’s discuss a few of Ontario’s smallest snake species, so we can hopefully change some opinions on snakes:

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6 ways to be the best park neighbour

Provincial parks are not islands.

Well, some of them are. What we mean is: there is no invisible wall around parks limiting their relationships with the outside world.

Even if you never visit a park, you benefit from the pollinator diversity they protect, the CO2 they sequester in wood, roots, and peat, and the clean water filtered by protected wetlands.

Plants, animals, fungi, microbes, water, and air move in and out of protected spaces, with intimate connections on both local and global levels.

In the same way, things that happen outside of park boundaries affect the ecosystems within them. What you do at home, work, or play can impact our parks.

Whether you live next door to a park or 100 km away, here are six ways your everyday actions can help keep parks and nature reserves healthy and biodiverse:

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Confessions of a struggling birder

Today’s blog comes from Carlin Thompson, a discovery leader at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

My name is Carlin, and I’m a struggling birder.

As an Ontario Parks Discovery leader, I am surrounded by colleagues with a passion for the natural world — which I share.

Many share a specialty in identifying birds — which I do not.

These are my confessions.

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Join us for Science Literacy Week!

Today’s post comes from Jessica Stillman, school outreach coordinator at Bronte Creek Provincial Park

What do a Polar Bear, a Prickly Pear Cactus, a Five-lined Skink, and a Bobolink all have in common?

Aside from their snazzy names, they’re plants and animals that require unique environments to survive. Some of these special spaces have been changing and disappearing throughout history.

That’s where Ontario Parks comes in. We protect important landscapes, and conduct research on how we can ensure the species living in parks can thrive.

This year, we’re excited to share the science of parks during Science Literacy Week.

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A virtual fungus foray

Today’s post comes from Mark Read, our Discovery leader at Murphys Point Provincial Park. 

This blog is not going to be an identification guide; nor is it going to be packed full of mind-blowing facts.

Instead, it is more of a celebration of the fungal diversity found in Ontario.

I hope that along the way you’ll be encouraged to take a closer look at these fascinating organisms that play such a critical role in maintaining the ecological integrity of our parks!

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Migrating north: how I became a “Bird Nerd”

Today’s post comes from Sarah Wiebe, the senior park naturalist at Kettle Lakes Provincial Park

Before this year, I would have never considered myself a “Bird Nerd.”

My journey began in my southern Ontario home, but it wasn’t until I arrived at my summer destination (Kettle Lakes!) that I truly hit my nerdy stride.

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