During the 2021/2022 season, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Nature London indoor meetings to continue to be held virtually via Zoom. The silver lining of virtual meetings was the ability to invite some non-local speakers; however, the focus was still primarily on topics of local relevance in southwestern Ontario.
September 17, 2021
Scott Gillingwater from the UTRCA gave a presentation on reptile conservation in the Thames River area. Scott, a regular and favourite speaker with Nature London members, discussed the many threats to reptiles in the Thames River region. Many species are at risk or threatened, with habitat loss, road mortality, problematic farming practices, poaching, and invasive plants (e.g., Phragmites) representing some of the biggest threats. Scott talked about how the research and recovery programs he’s involved in are making a difference and improving populations. He provided a case study on the spiny soft shell turtle recovery program in the Upper Thames rivershed, where collecting eggs, incubating them, and releasing the hatchlings are leading to significant increases in the spiny soft shell turtle population. Part of the research that Scott presented on was funded by an Eco-Grant from Nature London.
October 15, 2021
Greg Thorn, Department of Biology at Western University, gave a fascinating and appropriately spooky presentation on carnivorous fungi, just in time for Halloween. He provided an overview of several species of fungi which feed on nematodes. Some of these fungi are parasites, but others are predators. Predatory fungi were particularly amazing, using loops or rings within their mycelium to entrap nematodes and then digest them with enzymes. Other species use spiny balls with toxin that prick the surface of the nematode, and one species even has a harpoon-like hunting technique with a trigger. Many Nature London members commented that they may never look at mushrooms the same way again.
November 19, 2021
Don Gutoski is an internationally recognized wildlife photographer. He gave a beautiful presentation on wildlife of the Falkland Islands, filled with simply stunning photographs, particularly of the bird life on the islands. He also discussed travel options in the Falklands and the best places to see and stay. Based on comments from Nature London members, his presentation was a big crowd-pleaser, and he indicated he would be happy to present again in the future.
January 21, 2022
Elder Larry McDemott of the Shabot Obaadijiwan First Nation, and the executive director of Plenty Canada, spoke about developing ethical space for Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous people within conservation organizations. He used the examples of the Indigenous Circle of Experts in informing the discussions and formations of Pathways One, a steering committee to direct Canada’s conservation programs and policy regarding parks, protected areas, wildlife, and biodiversity. While there is significant work to do, discussions now include how to create appropriate and ethical space for Indigenous perspectives, which are fundamental to making policy work.
February 18, 2022
Mike Cadman, coordinator for the Breeding Bird Atlas of Ontario, gave a talk about the history of the Breeding Bird Atlas, its purpose and goals, and how data is collected. The province is divided into blocks and coordinators assigned to each block to manage data collections. While data collection is somewhat intense and systematic, Mike encouraged people who are interested to get in touch with the coordinators of local blocks if they are interested in helping out, or even submitting records. He discussed what sort of data needs to be collected, the apps used, and the new trialing of a sound recordings at specific geographic spots which are later analyzed digitally to identify all the species that vocalized during a certain period of time.
March 18, 2022
Emma Horrigan, Conservation Projects and Education Manager for Ontario Nature, gave a presentation on a prescribed burn at Stone Road Alvar Nature Reserve on Pelee Island, and its impacts on biodiversity. Emma discussed what an alvar is (sparse savannah on limestone plain with thin soil), and how fire suppression allowed shrub vegetation to take over the savannah of the alvar. While long-term monitoring after the burn is continuing, research shows benefits to restoring some of populations of rare plants, snakes, snails, and other alvar species.
April 22, 2022
April’s meeting was members night, when Nature London members are invited to give 10-minute presentations on personal research, trips, or topics of interest to them. We had four presenters this year:
- Kathleen Holland, who introduced us to her video-logging and YouTube channel, “Hiking with Kathleen”;
- Glenn Berry, who provided a tropical talk on Birding in Panama;
- Lissette Verbeem, describing her hikes in Pinery Provincial Park; and
- Winnie Wake, who provided an update on the chimney swift monitoring program in London.
The presenters all did a wonderful job and managed to patiently persevere through minor technical issues with Zoom.