After receiving a Master's of Science degree in Biology from Laurentian University, Brandy moved to Lambton County and quickly became an active member of multiple environmental and wildlife-based groups in Sarnia. New to Southwestern Ontario, she is fascinated by the flora and fauna that is specific and special to this part of Canada, and enjoys exploring an
As we learned at the March Indoor Meeting, Canadians have been collecting weather data for a long time!
The video below shows the installation of weather stations across Canada since the 1840s.
What you maybe didn’t know (because I sure didn’t), as Guest Speaker, Professor Alan MacEachern explained, is that the information collected from these stations was done on a volunteer basis by members of the local community by hand and sent by mail for inclusion in the records.
While much of the data that volunteers recorded was quantitative such as temperature or precipitation readings, those volunteers also recorded personal qualitative remarks, and up until now, that data has never been analyzed.
McEachern and his team are interested in the qualitative remarks that were made by the volunteers, some more than 150 years ago, and are also working towards making that information public and digital such that people like you and me, can ask questions such as “What was the weather like on the day I was born?”, or “What date has my favourite migratory bird arrived in my home town over the last 100 years”. These observations may also help us to understand how the annual cycles or phenology of some species are being affected by climate change. For example, has the date in which a certain plant species begins to flower been earlier and earlier over time?
Quite an interesting talk through the history of weather and nature observations, through the eyes of Canadians over the last 150+ years.
If you are interested in learning more about historical weather data in Canada, you can visit the Government of Canada’s Historical Climate Webpage here: http://climate.weather.gc.ca/
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND REMINDERS
- The AGM will be here soon- for those who have purchased tickets, we will see you there on Saturday, April 14th!
- Speaking of the AGM, we are still in need of some bucket draw items. If you have anything you wish to donate, you may bring with you to the AGM (just come a little early to do so)
- On May 6, 2018, from 10 am to 1 pm, the Thames Talbot Land Trust is hosting a nature outing. If you are interested, please RSVP.
Biomimicry – Innovation Inspired by Nature
At the February indoor meeting, LWI member, Kim Gledhill set the stage for her talk about biomimicry by selecting volunteers from the audience to participate in a group activity to simulate adaptation. Many of the physical features we see on plants and animals are well-suited to their environment and are adaptations that have developed over many, many generations through natural selection.
Kim explained that Biomimicry is based on the principle that nature has already solved many of the problems we are facing, and is the imitation of copying nature to solve problems.
The examples of innovation were really fascinating.
Kim told us about the shape of a Kingfisher’s beak leading to the design of a high-speed, high efficiency train, and vertical windmills that have been designed around the movement of schooling fish.
Other neat examples included swimwear taking inspiration from shark skin, and medical adhesive inspired by gecko feet.
Looking to nature can help humans to develop sustainable and practical solutions and products. It will be exciting to see what other nature-inspired products and technologies are developed in the future!
REMINDERS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS:
- 2018 AGM is coming up soon on April 14, 2018. Tickets can be purchase tickets at the next indoor meeting. 100+ have already been sold! Prizes for the bucket draw are also being sought.
- The LWI Board is working to complete a risk analysis for activities for insurance purposes. If you are interested in volunteering to help complete this analysis, please contact Felicia Syer, or Bill Hoad.
- LWI is looking for Board Members and volunteers, please let us know if you are interested.
Mary Martin, Organizer of this year’s Annual General Meeting (April 14, 2018), announced that bucket draw prizes are being collected for the AGM. For those who wish to donate prizes, please bring them to the February/March indoor meetings, or arrive early at the AGM to donate.
Fernand Noel and Sheila White, both of whom have made significant contributions to the establishment and long-term success of the Howard Watson Nature Trail (HWNT), lead us through its history on Monday night.
Up until its abandonment in 1967, the HWNT used to be an operational railway that was primarily travelled by trains transporting sugar beets. The linear path was then unofficially used as a trail, but in 1982, City Councillor, Howard Watson sent a letter to Lambton Wildlife asking if the club had any interest in making this linear property a hiking or biking path.
Although it may seem like the rest is history…Fern and Sheila explained (entertainingly too) that it wasn’t.
Not everyone was in favor of an official trail, and they were loud in their opposition.
Described as challenging, but rewarding, Fern, Sheila, and others involved in the trail project worked hard for years to see the concept of the HWNT become a reality. In 1988, the Howard Watson Nature Trail was officially born, but the efforts of volunteers, community groups, and City of Sarnia committees to improve the trail have been continuous to this day.
At the end of the talk, Fern asked who in the audience had helped to establish and ensure the success of the trail all those years ago, and I was surprised by the number of LWI member hands that were raised. For me, it was a true reminder of the passion and dedication we have among our membership in the club, as well as their accomplishments.
November Indoor Meeting: Non-raptor bird species need our help too and Fascinating Freshwater Mussels.
At the last indoor meeting of 2017, we learned that sick or injured songbirds and waterfowl will soon benefit from a local non-raptor species rehabilitation clinic being constructed by Erica DiMuzio. To offer our support, Mike Kent, on behalf of LWI, presented Erica with a donation of $1,000.00. I was really inspired by Erica’s passion for helping wildlife in such a direct way. Best of luck with your new centre, Erica!
LWI wrapped up its 2017 line-up of indoor presentations with guest speaker, Erin Carroll, Manager of Biology at the St. Clair Regional Conservation Authority (SRCA). Having attended the Sydenham Nature Reserve Celebration in September, where Erin gave a hands-on, river-side presentation about Freshwater Mussels, I knew a more in-depth indoor presentation on the same topic would be interesting.
Who knew that experts come from all over the world to Lambton County to study mussels? With 34 species of freshwater mussel, no other river in Canada beats our very own Sydenham in mussel diversity. It’s pretty amazing that we at LWI helped play a role to conserve part of it!
To say these creatures have a unique life-history would be an understatement. Erin showed a video where adult freshwater mussels ‘lure’ their host fish with parts of their soft, fleshy body that look convincingly like prey. For those of you who missed the indoor meeting, I highly recommend searching ‘Freshwater Mussel Lures’ on YouTube so you can see this for yourself.
Erin also discussed the importance of mussels in the Sydenham River, each of them filtering an amazing ~1 litre of water per hour. She and colleagues at the SRCA conduct surveys of the Sydenham, where mussels and other indicator species also help them to paint a picture of our river’s health.
While, our native mussel populations do face threats such as increases in water salinity (much of which is from road salt), invasive species such as the zebra mussel, and water pollution; the news isn’t all bad in the Sydenham. Erin shared that in recent surveys by the SRCA, a new species record for this area was made, and one species not seen her in 50 years was observed.
After Erin’s talk, I was definitely excited to get out and spot some freshwater mussels. If you were too, there’s a free APP that was developed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Toronto Zoo called ‘Clam Counter’ that helps you identify your neat finds in the field, right from your phone. You can also report your sightings to help the organizations working to protect Canada’s freshwater mussels.