Why do maritime fish fight currents, waterfalls and man-made barriers to get to inland ponds and lakes to spawn? What barriers do they face? How does that odd behaviour help the ecology of wetlands? And, how can we make their job easier? We talk with Nic McLellan, the Atlantic Science Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada to find out. Plus, we discover what tracking road race runners has to do with counting fish.
Did you know ducklings have their own social network? No spoilers, but you'll be amazed by how those little ducks make sure they all share the same birthday, thanks to a quick chat we had with Dave Howerter. He's the Director of National Conservation Operations at Ducks Unlimited Canada. Dave's up on the equivalent of bird Twitter.
Like to learn more about these topics and other aspects of wetlands conservation? You can at ducks.ca.
And, you can email your questions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservation Programs Specialist, Atlantic Canada
Nic McLellan grew up in Sackville, NB where he developed a keen interest in biology and the outdoors.
Prior to his current job at Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), Nic worked on several research projects with the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) and the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. These projects involved a variety of bird species including shorebirds, songbirds, seabirds, and waterfowl.
David Howerter, PhD
Director, National Conservation Operations
Dave Howerter is an accomplished scientist with a track record of successfully managing a complex scientific program, demonstrated ability to build teams, build consensus, and develop partnerships. Dave is responsible for all programs national in scope related to engineering, education, international partnerships, government relations, research and conservation planning.
A map of Lake Ontario, like one in an old geography textbook, might miss Cootes Paradise. Without detail it can seem this great lake runs dry at western shore of Burlington, about 50 kilometres from Toronto. Some more careful maps have it end in Hamilton Harbour. But no, Lake Ontario fades out in a little 320 hectare triangle of marshland called Cootes Paradise. It’s really a river delta, but a remarkable one. On either side over two dozen streams, the largest being Spencer Creek, flow over the Niagara escarpment and the shallow basin.
Once, those waters made this a hunting and fishing Mecca. Then its location at the head of the lake and some industrious canal work n the 1820s turned Cootes Paradise into a short-lived shipping lane. A century later it almost became an airport. It’s also been home to shantytown of “canal rats”, a ragtag community. Those homes, sometimes on stilts, clung to the marsh’s shores in the 1920s and 30s. Residents playing hockey on its frozen surface in the winter and sometimes hosted hobos from the railway that ran across the sandbar that separated it from Hamilton Harbour.
These days, though, the shantytown is long gone. So are much of the indigenous plants and waterfowl. They’ve been upstaged by voracious carp and relentless phragmites and manna grass. In a canoe, as the sun creeps to the horizon, you can see the trouble in paradise. In the murky marsh, carp jump and shimmer. A paddle shaft vanishes from sight two feet down. High water a couple of years ago submerged a barrier that was to keep the bullying bottom feeders out.
Now what was once so dense a marsh it was surveyed as land, is now open water. In 1941, when the environmental trouble from industrial and urban runoff was becoming obvious, the Royal Botanical Gardens was given stewardship of Cootes. It’s been a hard row to hoe for the environmental champion. Bad luck, climate change, urban expansion, oxygen-sucking algae have set the RBG’s plans of recovery by years.
But there is a hero in this story, the man who’s in charge of saving paradise. His name is Tys Thysmeyer, the head of natural lands for the Royal Botanical Gardens. I spoke with him about his work and his passion for saving a remarkable wetland.
Corixids, or water boatmen, are wetland insects with oars for legs and wings that can carry them kilometers from their homes when it's time to migrate.
Stephen Srayko, a PhD in biology candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, has been studying that migration for years. He watches as the corixids lift off from marshes and land on the shores of the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers in swarms during the fall.
There white sucker, longnose sucker, and goldeye fish feed on the massive influx of food. In turn, they provide sustenance to the rivers' game fish.
Srayko thinks the corixids provide a near-invisible link between wetlands and the nearby rivers. They're one more reason why conserving wetlands helps a broader eco-system.
How did Canadian musician David Archibald spend his summer vacation? He did a musical tour of 31 Ontario provincial parks (and worked in an eight-day voyager canoe trip for R and R).
His campground concerts were aimed at kids and families and celebrated the history of the parks. But, with his often playful songs, he also educated his audience about the ecology and fragile nature of the habitats within park boundaries.
Ducks Unlimited Canada does its own educational outreach through our Wetlands Centres of Excellence and Wetland Heroes programs.
But this episode, we’re focussing on Archibald’s education through music.
Archibald has been interpreting natural spaces with his music for 29 years when Bon Echo Provincial Park hired him to celebrate the petroglyph-famous campground in song.
He has written for and performed on Sesame Street in New York and CBC's Mr. Dressup.
But he’s also a music producer (he gave Avril Lavigne her first shot at a studio microphone) and is currently the musical director for a show about Stompin’ Tom Connors.
That’s where we caught up with him for this episode.
You can find out more about David Archibald and his music at http://www.davidarchibald.com.