Thirteen is the most unlucky of numbers, so it’s appropriate that this podcast is all about two unlucky wetland dwellers - the Northern Leopard frog and the Blanding’s turtle. Why unlucky?
Because both are in ecological trouble. The northern leopard frog is endangered in parts of British Columbia, the Blanding’s turtle is threatened in Ontario.
Take the northern leopard frog. Its habitat, which the little guys are pretty fussy about, is shrinking, bullfrogs are invading from the U.S. and the leopard frog is prone to a nasty, lethal fungus. As we’ll learn, it takes a egg-cursion from B.C. to Calgary and back again, to put the little “not-easy-being-green” amphibians on the road to recovery.
The Blanding’s turtle with it high, helmet back and yellow throat is a distinctive turtle. It’s also a long-lived meandering one that ranges across roads and ATV tracks as it moves to nesting grounds. But those grounds are shrinking and the turtles, which can live to 75 years old are threatened by predators, cars, ATVs and even by climate change.
Like ducks, both those fraught frogs and tenuous turtles live a good part of their lives in wetlands. So, as go the amphibians, perhaps, so goes the wetlands.
To find out more about our loping and leaping wetland friends, and what’s being done to save them from territorial oblivion I spoke with two experts Lea Randall, an endangered species ecologist at the Calgary Zoo and Mark Gloutney with DUC, out of Ottawa.
Eduardo Carrera is the CEO of Ducks Unlimited Mexico, DUMAC for short. Eduardo oversees a Ducks Unlimited team that tackles threats its country’s wetlands much the way a grassroots NGO would. Folks who live in poor rural Mexican communities often lack modern sanitation technologies. And, they’re not aware of the impact their waste water is having on nearby and fragile wetlands. So, to save those wetlands Eduardo and his colleagues provide those technologies and that education to teachers in the communities, students and even professionals who need evidence-based resources to help them understand ecological issues in Mexico and beyond.
Meanwhile on the coasts of Mexico tourism and shrimp farming threaten mangrove swamps that are the winter homes to migratory birds including ducks from Canada.
We spoke with Eduardo about the complex issues and ingenious solutions he explores every day.
Meanwhile in P.E.I., Lucy is a stubborn black duck who, for the past few years has raises her family in the garden plants outside a Superstore in Charlottetown, PEI. When the kids are ready, Lucille, good mother that she is, waddles her brood to a set of ponds DUC created right across the road from the shopping centre. A road that the police close for the Lucy parade. The black duck is also a webcam superstar thanks to a video feed DUC fired up last season. We spoke with DUC's Jana Cheverie about the tale of migrating mother who’s made wetland education a family affair.
If you’d like to learn more about Lucy’s story you can at ducks.ca/lucy. If we’re lucky, and she returns, her popular TV show will be there as well.
In celebration of DUC’s 80th anniversary this episode is all about volunteers. Volunteers, those men and women whose passion let’s them eschew pay cheques, have been a vital part of DUC since it’s earliest, distant days.
First up I chat with Leigh Patterson, a DUC staffer who’s just finished a quest for Keeman. Last fall, Leigh wanted to track down some of DUC's first volunteers, called keemen. Her co-workers told her it couldn’t be done, that it was a crazy quest. Well, she proved them wrong, really wrong. And, about the keeman name? Listen in.
Then I have a quick conversation with a super volunteer, Serge Mathieu. Serge love ducks. And he’s a maniac for the green head DUC’s logo, as you’ll learn. Serge is also a manic volunteer for DUC, something he’s been doing for 25 years. The Nicolet, Quebec native was named DUC Volunteer of the Year for Quebec this year. And, he’s a wildlife biologist who teaches at the forestry school in La Tuque Quebec.
Leigh Patterson began her career with DUC more than 25 years ago in the mailroom. Today, she’s the editor of Conservator magazine, a dedicated DUC volunteer and an ace Keeman and Keewoman tracker.
Serge Mathieu is a wildlife biologist and long-time DUC volunteer. He resides in La Tuque, Que. with his partner, their two children, and more ducks than he can count.
In this episode we’ll be learning about a kind of wheat ducks love, not to eat but to hang out.
Then we’re off to another duck playground - peatlands, peatlands that need preserving. Why? Because they’re great at keeping vast amounts biomass from reeking havoc on our climate.
Winter wheat is a hardy strain of grain that can survive even a -40 winter as it hibernates under a blanket of warming snow. Warming snow? You’ll see. In the spring when other crops are barely in the ground, if they’re lucky, winter wheat is showing off its first leaves and then it grows like mad and attracts ducks looking for a nesting ground.
DUC has been working to raise the profile/ dispel myths around winter wheat for years. They’ve been helping understand why is winter wheat such a duck magnet and why should we should care. To find out more about winter wheat, last April I talked to Lee Moats, a farmer in Riceton, Saskatchewan. We thought, with spring coming on it would be a good time to revisit that conversation.
Peatlands are the unsung heroes of climate change. Beneath their soggy, sodden surfaces are millions upon millions of metric tons of carbon in the shape of plant matter. The cold temperatures and oxygen-starved waters of the bogs sequester all that carbon. That’s good because, released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it would crank up the global thermostat like a chilblained grandad on a cold winter’s night. I found a champion of these shy climate superheroes in Pascal Badiou a research scientist for Ducks Unlimited Canada’s institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research.
In this episode we’ll be celebrating, in our small way, World Wetlands Day, which is on February 2th. This year that event is highlighting wetlands for a sustainable urban future. We’ll learn how those moist, mushy and fecund habitats do just that.
Next up, twelve days after World Wetlands Day comes Valentine’s Day - which is mushy in its own right. And, it’s an event that’s a tad bittersweet for the lovelorn. It turns out that drakes (those are male ducks) have tons of techniques for a attracting a mate, and female ducks know just how to clue into the sometimes curious courtship rituals.
Lisette Ross is a wetlands biologist for Ducks Unlimited Canada. For her urban wetlands are some of the most valuable real estate in growing, sprawling cities worldwide. Without them, the millions of people flooding into to cities would miss out on the diversity, cleansing powers and spiritual uplift of these vital habits. Here’s my conversation with her about World Wetlands Day and the diversity of solutions urban centres have discovered for preserving and nurturing the healing habits at their very hearts.
Drake courtship are a curious combo of burbling, burping, dancing and and rushing headlong into love. Lauren Rae a National Conservation Biologist for Ducks Unlimited Canada explains it all to us.
In this first podcast of 2018 we talk with Brendan Kelly, a conservationist and avid photographer from Paradise, Newfoundland. Kelly explains how taking the time to wait for his natural subjects allows him to tune into their habitats and appreciate them as remarkable, intelligent animals.
You can see samples of his work on instagram at _brendankelly_
On the hard, frozen surface of winter wetlands it looks like all is calm, all is bright.
But if you could plunge beneath that icy crust, as if a pond or marsh were an aquatic Creme Brule, you’d see a slow, but still-living world where mammals fish, insects and amphibians might not thrive, but they survive. They’re hunkered down to wait out that season that makes our brave Canadian hearts swell with pride.
Jacques Bourgeois is the communications and marketing coordinator of Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre in Manitoba. He explains how dragonflies turn into snowbirds, frogs freeze and thaw like Butterballs and fish chemistry to their advantage. Oh, and turtles? They breathe from an unexpected orifice.
In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol Mrs. Cratchit makes a small goose into a family feast. And she renders it delicious and delicate. But, how, many Canadians -- who think of goose as a greasy nightmare before Christmas -- "How did she pull off that Christmas miracle?" To find out I spoke with Pat Kehoe with DUC and a game roaster of renown. If the Great British Bake-off had Goose Week, Pat would win hands down. He shares secrets for goose goodness.
In this episode we explore the intertwingled intersection of conservation and hunting. Can you both care about wildlife and its habitat and take an animal’s life?
Next, rain, snow and sleet show up on meterologists’ radar screen. But sometimes weather boffins spot something else on their glowing monitors. Something else that has nothing to do with clouds, forecasts or humidex reports.
Learn more about Aldo Leopold.
Learn more about the Boone and Crocket Club.
And, of course, you can learn more about Ducks Unlimited Canada too.
Winifred Kessler has been a wildlife ecologist for more than four decades.
She has a PhD in zoology. She spearheaded the University of Northern British Columbia’s Forestry program and was a professor and chair of that program for seven years.
She’s now retired but sits on the board of directors of the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund and DUC. And, most recently, she won the coveted Aldo Leopold Memorial Award. That’s the highest honour the Wildlife Society gives out.
John Sauder is a CBC meteorologist and pilot who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
This episode begins with a remarkable story about vision, persistence and, sewage. It’s the tale of the little town of Niverville, Manitoba and its groundbreaking solution to dealing with night soil. Next, as winter approaches we ask the question everybody thinks of when they stroll past frozen ponds. It’s about ducks and feet. Let’s dive right in.
First Story Summary
Niverville sounds like the name of a town in a fairytale. But the community, nestled in the Red River Valley, had a giant-sized problem with a sewage lagoon that no longer could serve the farming burg’s burgeoning population.
In 2011 Niverville had to decommission its overtaxed and 37-year-old pond of poop before it could build a new one. But, what to do with the 48,000 cubic metres of biosolids - human waste - that had built up in the facilities’ two containment cells? Bureaucrats and engineers told the town fathers they had two options. Cart the biosolids to a landfill site or spread it over farmland, valuable farmland, farmland the Niverville sludge would put out of commission for months.
Jim Buys, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer wasn’t happy with either traditional and expensive option. A trade show meeting with Native Plant Solutions, the consulting arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada, pointed to another option. The ecological consultants and Buys came up with option three, a ecological white knight ready to slay the giant that lay fallow in the town’s south end.
For the first time in North America they wanted to use cattails and other plants to remediate the biosolids that burdened the borough. The process is called phytoremediation, a natural process that had been used when sewage lagoons were built, but never to put them out to pasture, or, really out to wetland. Niverville and Native Plant Solutions worked with scientists at the University of Manitoba, to determine the best way to plant, harvest and monitor the aquatic plants.
Those plants would extract metal contaminates and nutrients like phosphorus from the bothersome biomass. That way it would be safe habitat for wetland flora and fauna. At least, that was the theory.
It was risky journey. It took a lot of experimentation and research. But the town’s journey was, in fact, a fairytale full of hope, heroes and happy endings.
I let Jim Buys himself tell us all about his town’s noble quest.
Second Story Summary
Picture this: it’s winter and there are ducks on a frozen pond. Tell me you didn’t ask the same question I asked Jim Devries, a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research.
Chief Administrative Officer, Town of Niverville
Jim has served as the Chief Administrative Officer/Town Manager for Niverville since 1985. During his tenure, the Town has experienced significant population growth, being recognized as Manitoba’s fastest growing urban municipality. Jim, working with his councils and staff, has placed a strong emphasis on sustainable environment development within all departments ensuring the prudent utilization of our natural resources. From land development to waste management to operational services, staff are encouraged to strive for resource balance enabling the community to practice responsible environmental stewardship.
Jim and his wife Claire are the parents of four children who were introduced at a young age to nature by hiking, canoeing and cross-country skiing throughout Manitoba’s incredibly diverse landscape. Currently they live on an organic farm just outside of the community which is operated by their son. The family has grown to include eight wonderful grandkids.
Jim Devries, PhD
Research Scientist, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Jim Devries joined Ducks Unlimited Canada's Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research (IWWR) in 1991 and has been in his current role since 2014. He is responsible for co-ordinating applied research within Western Canada. This includes helping to identify research needs, designing research studies, analyzing research results and communicating research results to our staff and the wider scientific community.
Jim conducts extensive field work and analyzes large databases that relate local and landscape level habitat conditions to waterfowl productivity and responses in biodiversity metrics. Jim is also involved in translating the results of IWWR’s recent field investigations into the Waterfowl Productivity Model (WPM), a planning tool designed to estimate waterfowl productivity gains resulting from landscape change including the impacts of conservation programs.
This episode is all about getting intel on birds: what they look like, where they hang out and where they go when they migrate.
We start with the fine art of bird banding. Researchers find a bird they want to track and, as Beyoncé might say, “put a ring on it.” We’ll discover the history, purpose and process of avian bling.
Then, we travel to Cape May, New Jersey where we chat with a birding expert and author who wants to help us identify birds in their habitats. Richard Crossley has created a series of books, including one on ducks, to help us do just that.
Pat Kehoe, DUC Director of International PartnershipsLike the waterfowl populations he helps to protect, Pat Kehoe knows no boundaries. As DUC’s director of international partnerships, he travels throughout North America helping build and develop conservation relationships.
Richard Crossley, Author of The Crossley ID Guide: WaterfowlRichard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award winning author of The Crossley ID Guide series. Crazy, wildly passionate, driven and single-minded are just a few of the words used to describe his love of birding and the outdoors.