Conservation Volunteers at the end of a hard day's work on Boughton Island (Photo by NCC)
Meet Ontario's Conservation Volunteers
Coming out to a Conservation Volunteers (CV) event is a great way to get involved with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and to learn about and give back to nature. NCC puts on CV events across Canada. In Ontario, we are lucky to have a dedicated group of individuals who return, event after event, to volunteer for the love of the province’s natural spaces.
To help celebrate National Volunteer Week (April 23-29), we asked a few of our dedicated volunteers to share some of their stories and tell us why they are lending a hand for nature.
Bruce Gemmel – Carden Alvar and Minesing Wetlands
Photo Courtesy of Bruce Gemmel
“I grew up in Port Credit, Ontario, at a time when it was still a small town on the outskirts of Toronto. My friends and I were "free-range" children. We would explore many places — my favourite being Rattray Marsh, on the shores of Lake Ontario, about a mile from our house. The atmosphere in the marsh was so eerie, and the plant life so lush and unusual, that we would pretend a dinosaur or two might be lurking nearby. I became a supporter [of NCC] in 1971, when this magical place was threatened by development and NCC was one of the organizations that worked successfully to save it.
"I started volunteering with NCC in 2009. I've done quite a few invasive species events, such as battling buckthorn, Scotch pine, garlic mustard, policeman's helmet, honeysuckle and, the arch-enemy of alvars, the plant I love to hate, dog-strangling vine.
"I also enjoy the butterfly and dragonfly counts, because they are great fun. Where else can you see apparently rational adults jumping up and down, waving nets and shouting and pointing as they run through mud and poison ivy in pursuit of an insect?
"Seeing a Hine's emerald, the rarest dragonfly in North America, on a cluster of showy lady's-slipper in bloom — these are the kinds of experiences that always make me look forward the next season of Conservation Volunteers.”
Sumiko Onishi – Western Lake Erie Islands
Photo courtesy of Sumiko Onishi
“I conduct research seven days a week for the Pelee Island Bird Observatory during the spring and fall bird migration seasons, so I know how hard field work can be. Because of my busy schedule, the end of season is the only time I can volunteer for other outdoor activities. For the last five years, sowing acorns with NCC staff has become a November tradition to wrap up the season. Sometimes we’ve worked under rainy and chilly conditions, but I enjoy feeling the autumn air and listening to birds flying over when we are planting.
"The best part is experiencing the changing seasons. I like planting, watching the sprouts emerge, seeing the plants growing and finding out how birds and other animals use the habitat.
"For the past 10 years, I have seen many dead ash trees on Pelee Island and old trees broken and falling down. I hope planting more trees will help future generations of forests and that the trees and grasses we plant will provide habitat for many different species, including islanders and visitors too.”
Southwestern Ontario – Norfolk
Inga Hinnerichsen – Southern Norfolk Sand Plain
Photo courtesy of Inga Hinnerchsen
“Back in Finland where I grew up, my dad used to take me along on his weekend outings, starting when I was two and a half years old. He was an avid naturalist and taught me the scientific names of plants and mushrooms we found. From there, my fascination for fungi grew.
"I immigrated to Canada in 1971, first to Toronto, then Calgary and now, in retirement, in lovely Norfolk County. I quickly discovered the amazing biodiversity in the Carolinian ecosystem, and the knowledge and passion passed on to me by my dad were rekindled. I began to learn about the species at risk in our area. Backus Woods was an introduction to NCC. What a fantastic idea to acquire important natural tracts of land and preserve them for future generations!
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to give back, even if just a little bit, to the conservation and restoration of our natural areas, which play such a big part in my life.”
Erik Van Den Kieboom – Northern Bruce Peninsula
Photo courtesy of Erik Van Den Kieboom
“I met Esme Batten of NCC during a school field trip on the Bruce Peninsula that was set up through my science teacher, Tobin Day, in the spring of 2016. I volunteered to participate with Esme during the massasauga and queen snake surveys on the Bruce Peninsula in July of 2016.
"I became involved with NCC because it sounded like a great learning experience. I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about Ontario’s fascinating snakes, as well as to see a few new species. Most of all, however, I wanted to help gain a better understanding of our endangered snakes and learn how we can protect them and their habitat.
"What I liked best about being involved with NCC was that I was outside every day, all day, in a natural environment while I was learning about massasaugas and queen snakes. It was an amazing experience and I hope to volunteer with NCC again.”
Tanner Lang – Rice Lake Plains
Photo courtesy of Tanner Lang
“I grew up watching National Geographic and nature documentaries, which led to an interest and passion for environmental science, specifically in ecological restoration. With only three per cent of tall grass systems remaining in southern Ontario, they and the species that depend on them need our help. This led me to volunteer with NCC to restore tall grass systems by preparing sites for planting prairie species plugs. Working with NCC staff on the Rice Lake Plains gave me the opportunity to do my part in restoring an endangered community and to learn new things.”
Anne Robertson – Frontenac Arch
Photo courtesy of Anne Robertson
“Since 1997, I have monitored a conservation agreement for NCC on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists. An annual trip to this wonderfully wild property on the Canadian Shield, with forest, wetlands and open rocky areas providing a rich variety of habitats, is a joy at any time of year.
"NCC is an excellent example of an organization that does a very good job of land protection across the country and is well known for being one of the most reliable groups protecting property nationally. NCC gives me an opportunity to visit wild lands and meet like-minded people. Knowing NCC is a reliable land protection organization reassures me that donations will be well spent.”
Whatever their background or reasons for getting involved, we are so grateful to all of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers. To learn more about how you can join NCC’s Conservation Volunteers program, click here.