Perhaps you noticed a group of individuals wearing orange helmets and vests while walking on the trail on Saturday, October 21st? They were volunteers from a search and rescue organization who used the site for their training. Here is some information about our community and a summary of our day.
Who are we?
The group was founded in 2003 under the name Recherche et Sauvetage Sherbrooke Haut-Saint-François (RSSHSF). The original members, some of whom are still active, have over time provided valuable assistance through their life experience and deep involvement, and have gained recognition for the group’s expertise in search and rescue. In the fall of 2021, the board of directors initiated a process to better represent members from all over Estrie. The new name Recherche Sauvetage Estrie was adopted, along with a new logo. What hasn’t changed, however, is the desire and commitment of our members to help others!
We are a non-profit organization, bringing together volunteers from various backgrounds who dedicate their time to respond to the needs of different authorities. Our accredited ground search and rescue members are always ready to intervene to save lives. Our main mission is to provide assistance in finding missing persons, those lost in the forest, or in distress.
Trained and qualified
The group responds to requests from the Sûreté du Québec, Civil Protection, and other organizations or citizens requiring our services. We are recognized and accredited by the Association québécoise des bénévoles en recherche et sauvetage (AQBRS). In order to fulfill our mission, all our volunteers receive training in areas such as search and rescue basics, profile of a missing person, ground search techniques, map and compass skills, crime scene preservation, GPS, radio communication, etc. Volunteer training is ongoing.
Our volunteers typically train in the area around Sherbrooke Airport, where the terrain is flat and well-known to group members. Seeking a different location for a search and victim evacuation simulation, one of our board members, familiar with the Côte du Piémont trail, suggested the location. Immediately, the President of RSE contacted the responsible party at the Massawippi Trail to request permission for our upcoming training day. The site’s topography, quality of trails, and cleanliness of the forest allowed us to practice both practically, theoretically, and physically.
The course of the day
We arrived in the parking lot at 8:30 am. We had just enough time to unpack our equipment when it began to rain, and it continued throughout the day. So, we set up our shelter, and by 9 am, we gathered under the tent to receive instructions. Despite the bad weather, we were a group of 15 individuals practicing search and first aid techniques. Once teams were formed and directives given, volunteers dispersed into the trails. One member remained at the command post in the parking lot. This task is crucial because this person manages communications and monitors the trailer where all our rescue equipment and victim transport gear are stored.
We began with a trail search. To do this, we divided our group into teams of 3 to explore different trails (except for the beach trail). This search technique involved placing one searcher who walked directly on the trail, while the other two walked on either side about 10 meters into the woods. Their common goal was to find clues, tracks, or objects belonging to the lost person.
A clue was eventually found in the late morning between points 4 and 5 on the trail map. From that location, a search operation was launched with all the volunteers. We formed a search line south of the old Wippi South trail, and the search was conducted within an area approximately 200 meters deep and 300 meters wide. When the team found the person (an actor simulating spending the night in the forest, suffering from hypothermia, and having severe back pain), to add to the challenge, they spoke only in Spanish! Our volunteers had to adapt to communicate with the victim and use our stretcher with a backboard and the mule (stretcher transport system) to evacuate the injured person.
The exercise was a success, and everything was carried out professionally and with a good spirit. After returning to the command post, it was time for lunch. This was followed by an evaluation of the activity to discuss the positives and areas for improvement. Everyone agreed that the Massawippi Trail is simply beautiful! In addition to being perfect for this type of scenario, it provides good physical training. We will definitely return. In the afternoon, it was time to pack up the camp and head back home.
How to become a volunteer?
For more information about our group or to join the 40 volunteers who are at the heart of our mission, please contact Mr. Dany Chaput, the president, at 819-571-7313 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The next training session starts on January 17, 2024, and there’s still time to sign up. Give us a call!
We want to thank the organization for allowing us to use your fantastic terrain!
What an exciting place to learn about history from a cultural, industrial, environmental and anthropological point of view.
In September, the Massawippi Conservation Trust signed a deed of servitude with the municipality of Stanstead East in order to protect the land immediately adjacent to the falls. This land and the Niger river that flows through it, have been central to our local history for thousands of years. They are in the Appalachian geological corridor of Quebec.
This is the traditional territory of the Abenaki people. Thanks to recent archaeological digs, we have concrete evidence of their passage and presence along the Niger River. Abenaki archaeologists have studied the land above the falls all the way back to Lake Lyster from where it flows. The flat plains were good for hunting and fishing, a dry place for the semi-nomadic people to move through season after season. The river was the passageway to travel from the south to Lake Massawippi, another rich hunting and fishing ground.
“We had a cursory archaeological dig done to see what was on the Abenaki territory. We found a striker that dates back thousands of years. We also found quartz from Mount Pinnacle,” recounted Pamela B. Steen, municipal councilor (now Mayor) in La Tribune April 2021 article. Quartz was a type of mineral that was used for barter.
Zoom forward past the arrival of the French and English fur traders to the period of colonial settlement. Other people started arriving in the region in the latter half of the 1700s. Some were Europeans, others had official land grants and many arrived on foot, from the northeastern United States, people who were in search of land. Like those before them, the settlers recognised the river as a rich source of food, transportation and power. We do not know much about the Tatton family, a black family that came here in 1804. But it seems that the river, originally called the Negro River, derived its name from them. The river`s name changed over time from Negro to Nigger and finally to the Niger River. The current name “Niger River” is first reported in 1863 on the Map of the “District of St Francis (Putnam and Gray)”. The word “niger” comes from the Latin form of “black”. The toponym “rivière Niger” was made official on September 14, 2006, at the Commission de toponymie du Québec.
One man, Stephen Burroughs, famous for his ability to adapt to the times, became the namesake of the falls. His infamy comes from his skills as a counterfeiter. He was born in New Hampshire in 1765 and according to his own memoires was `the worst boy in town`. He was a swindler and prankster. During the American revolution he impersonated a doctor when he shipped out on a Yankee privateer. Later he stole his father`s sermons (his father was a Presbyterian minister) in Massachusetts and he impersonated a preacher performing marriages, baptisms and more. Finally, he saw a potential in counterfeiting coins and paper money. He eventually ended up in Stanstead Township in 1799 with his wife Sally and their children. Like others, he cleared land and built saw and grist mills. He was possibly the first to build a mill on the river. He was well regarded by his neighbours. The colourful story of his life is well documented in American and Canadian articles (see bibliography below).
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the site passed through several hands as agriculture and forestry formed the basis of the economy in northern Stanstead Township. In 1854, a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, a bridge and farm buildings were located near the site. Just above the falls, a house was built between 1883 and 1906, accompanied by a barn-stable. Evidence of these human activities have been corroborated by archaeologists.
Another important part of the history of Burrough`s Falls is it`s hydro power. The Niger River had many mills along its banks and in 1929 a hydro station was built by Southern Canada Power Ltd (SCP). There was a 2,000 HorsePower mill operating in 1930 according to the SCP annual report.
The construction of this small power station was of strategic importance to Southern Canada Power Company, which wanted to be closer to the industrial development of Rock Island, which was more than 100 km from the Chute-Hemming power station. What’s more, the new power station would also make it possible to secure the southern grid in the event of a power distribution problem.
With the nationalization of Quebec’s hydroelectric network in 1963, the power station became the property of Hydro-Québec. In the 1980s, several installations were dismantled, including the barn.
In 2010, a major break occurred in the penstock, resulting in the permanent shutdown of electricity production. Between 2014 and 2016, the balance stack and penstock were dismantled.
In 2021 the municipality of Stanstead East acquired the site from Hydro Quebec for future recreational purposes and to protect it from further transformations. It had the hydro station recognised and registered as a heritage building.
The heritage site is also of interest for its landscape value. The site is marked by the presence of the 55.17 m-high Burroughs Falls, part of the Niger River. The property, which is largely wooded, also features several types of forest stands: cedar, hemlock, maple, and tall pines planted along the access road.
The newly renamed property, Parc des Chutes-Burroughs, is home to several types of habitat: forest environments; aquatic habitats comprising the Rivière Niger, its waterfalls and certain streams; and treed swamps, some of which are located in flood-prone areas. Some streams are home to a species of salamander likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, the Northern Dusky Salamander.
As for the plant species present, Canada fleabane, two-leaved toothwort and ostrich fern matteuccia are species vulnerable to harvesting, while Provancher’s fleabane is a threatened species in Quebec.
In September 2023 the Massawippi Conservation Trust signed a conservation servitude to protect the 36 acre property in perpetuity. Part of the site will continue to thrive as a park and recreational area. The municipality intends to open the space to visitors with an exhibit at the hydro station and allow walkers to enjoy the forests and river`s edge in late 2024 or early 2025.
Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes
The Massawippi Foundation’s Monarch Butterfly project, coordinated by Nature Nerding, took place for the first time this year starting in July. Our overarching goals were to: bring awareness to the fields of milkweed at the entrance to Scowen Park, collect data on the presence of Monarchs at Scowen and momentarily capture and share the wonder of a metamorphosing butterfly by installing a live exhibit in the form of a butterfly nursery. We could not be happier with how things unfolded.
Recap: Why a Monarch Butterfly Project?
The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has experienced an 80% decline in numbers over the last couple of decades and has been designated as Endangered. It is hardly the only insect of value in an ecosystem and sadly, it is far from the only insect facing challenges. However, from a conservation standpoint, there is a rationale behind choosing to shine the spotlight on certain key species.
In the case of Monarchs, there are a couple of reasons. Firstly, they are considered an umbrella species which means taking action to protect Monarchs can have an impact on various other species sharing the same habitat or some of the same requirements for survival. Secondly – and most of us who have had the privilege of getting acquainted with them can attest – Monarchs evoke genuine fascination. From their stunning colouration and complex life cycle to their epic migration down South, we are compelled to learn more about this charismatic species and be a part of protecting them. Together, these elements make Monarchs the perfect “spokes-insects” for raising awareness of and encouraging participation in conservation efforts for smaller wildlife.
The Butterfly Brigade & the Monarch Life Cycle
Our first Butterfly Brigade (BB) meeting was held early in July and a handful of dedicated volunteers continued to meet every two weeks for the next two months to see the project through.
Home to various species of native wildflowers, the lower fields flanking the entrance to the Scowen Park trails constitute an incredibly valuable habitat for a variety of wildlife. The abundance of milkweed in these fields is of particular interest as this humble plant is critical to the Monarch Butterfly lifecycle. And so in our first meeting, we began by learning how to recognize milkweed.
This is a focal point of the project since it is the only plant a Monarch caterpillar will feed on making it essential for Monarch reproduction. Though there are several species of milkweed, the only species present at Scowen is Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). After taking inventory of what Common Milkweed looks, feels, and smells like, we proceeded to mark a handful of data collection sites throughout the fields.
At our next meeting, we learned more about the Monarch life cycle and how to go about collecting data. Because Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, adult butterflies lay their eggs on this plant. There is typically one egg per plant and most often the egg can be found on the underside of the velvety leaves. Roughly the size of a pinhead, these eggs can be hard to detect and are easily confused with other things such as globs of congeled milkweed sap. Needless to say, collecting data required keen observation and a significant amount of patience!
Despite the abundance of milkweed at Scowen, we were surprised and slightly disappointed to find no eggs and no caterpillars (larvae) in several weeks of scouring the plants at our study sites. We wondered why that was. Had we simply overlooked the eggs because they were so tiny? Was something predating the eggs and caterpillars? Was there something else at work making this breeding ground less favourable than we had hoped? Though we were perplexed, we reminded ourselves that recording the absence of Monarchs was important data nonetheless. And so we carried on completing our Observation Forms (courtesy of Espace pour la vie’s Mission Monarch), data we would later upload to their database.
In August, we turned our attention to the installation of a nursery under the shelter at the park. Made entirely out of recycled materials, this screen structure was installed early in the month with the intention of having at least one caterpillar move in. Due to the fact we did not come across any monarch caterpillars at Scowen, we decided to “import” a caterpillar from the Brome Lake area. We highlighted this event as “Monarch Moving Day” and invited the public to attend to celebrate with us as we set our special guest up in his very own nursery, fresh milkweed sprigs and all.
We had members of the BB visiting the nursery every day thereafter to keep tabs on how things were going. Once moved in, the caterpillar kept busy feeding on milkweed while leaving impressively large quantities of frass on the nursery floor. A couple of days later, he had inched his way up to the roof of the nursery and just a day after that, was suspended from the roof, ready to pupate. By Sunday, August 20, we officially had a chrysalis!
The pupa stage “lasts eight to fifteen days under normal summer conditions” (monarchjointventure.org). You may recall the cool spell we experienced later in August and our little friend certainly seemed to have noticed as well! He stayed cozy in his chrysalis until a total of 18 days later when he emerged as a healthy adult butterfly (at this point, we were able to confirm he was a male based on the dark spots on his hind wings). He was released, free to forage on the nectar from a variety of wildflowers, all in preparation for his long journey south to Mexico.
The Role of the Nursery
When discussing the various components of the project, the following (and very valid) question was raised: What is the point of a nursery?
Human intervention can be a contentious topic when it comes to conservation efforts. How can we be certain we are doing more good than harm? Are we preventing nature from “taking its course”? These questions can be debated at length and conclusions are typically drawn on a case-by-case basis.
Simply put, the main goal of the Scowen Park nursery was to share the wonder. By creating a location where at least one Monarch could complete metamorphosis undisturbed, we were able to showcase the fascinating intricacies of this living being’s lifecycle. We were able to display and honour a small piece of the natural magic happening all around us.
Whether folks were closely following the project or only catching glimpses here and there, “wow moments” were had. This may seem trivial, but these “wow moments” are powerful. They are the foundation for gradually developing a sense of concern for the species with whom we coexist. Naturally, this sense of concern can have an impact on shaping our values and attitudes towards the natural world, trickling down into our everyday habits. While it is not a direct, linear path, it is a very natural one and is based on the premise that we tend to protect what we love… and we can only love what we know.
Taking in the pleasant smell of a milkweed flower for the first time, learning about the relationship between milkweed and Monarch caterpillars, catching glimpses of other neat invertebrate life on milkweed plants, watching a caterpillar pupate in real time, seeing a chrysalis for the first time, discovering you’ve been confusing Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus) for Monarch Butterflies this whole time… This project provided countless opportunities for learning, for wonder and for creating a closer connection with the natural world.
On a final note, we would like to recognize the immense value of the information and resources made available (for free) by Mission Monarch (Espace pour la vie), Monarch Joint Venture and the Butterflyway Project (David Suzuki Foundation). The overall project also relied heavily on the contributions of our super team of “Butterfly Brigade” volunteers who devoted hours to data collection and nursery surveillance, among other things. We are so grateful for every aspect of this year’s first Monarch Butterfly Project and eagerly anticipate its continuation in 2024!
Build Your Nature Vocabulary
Use the text and search the web to build your nature vocabulary and try using it the next time you’re out and about in nature, either making observations by yourself or with friends!
- Umbrella Species
- Monarch Joint Venture (https://monarchjointventure.org/)
- David Suzuki Foundation Butterflyway Project (davidsuzuki.org)
- Espace pour la vie – Mission Monarch (https://www.mission-monarch.org/)
My birding Walk and Talk at Glen Villa, in the pouring rain on Saturday June 17th.
Was it worth it? YES!
With a pair of binoculars and some patience I observed and learned that you need to:
1) listen to its song
2) observe the flight patterns
3) study the habitat
4) look at the size and colour of the bird, shape of the tail, shape and colour of the beak and any other distinguishing marks to identify the bird.
As a participant, I was amazed at how quickly the guides (Camille and Jean-Paul, both members of SLOE and veteran bird watchers) identified birds in flight. They could spot the Blue Bird and the Swallow who often share the same size bird house and might even fight over who gets the box to build their nest.
Jean-Paul and Camille both have life lists which they share on E-Bird. Jean-Paul said he had several lists, one for Quebec, one for North America, others for different countries.
This information is available to scientists who track birds and study their patterns.
Camille wrote to us after the visit and said:
We saw, among others, a ruffed grouse and its young, a yellow-throated vireo (very rare) and three American Woodcocks (hard to see usually).
In all, 25 different species observed in the rain and dripping leaves.
If you want to know more about birding, I would encourage you to join La SLOE or the St. Francis Naturalist Club, These are two wonderful groups in our area, to help you find out more about birds and go on other great guided tours next year.
The activity at Glen Villa was organized in the context of the fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation.
More guided Walks & Talks will be held on July 15th and August 12th, 2023
Click here for more details.
Written by Nicolas Bousquet, Biol.
Field Project Coordinator
Reading time: 5-6 minutes
The Lake Massawippi watershed is home to several species of salamander, particularly the stream salamander. There are three species of stream salamander: the two-lined salamander, the northern dusky salamander and the purple salamander. The presence of numerous streams in forested and mountainous areas favours the presence of these species around Lake Massawippi.
Stream salamanders are very discreet but fascinating little creatures! These amphibians live mainly in small, cool, well-oxygenated streams. Surprisingly, this group of salamanders has no lungs, and breathes through its skin and larvae using gills. For this reason, stream salamanders must constantly keep their skin moist and live mainly in the aquatic environment. Although adults may venture a few meters from the stream into the terrestrial environment, they are usually found buried deep in the stream under rocks or other shelter such as branches. As for the larvae (juvenile salamanders), they are totally dependent on the aquatic environment, due to their gills.
Because of their dependence on the aquatic environment, stream salamanders are very fragile species. In fact, the Northern Dusky Salamander is likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable, and the Purple Salamander is designated as vulnerable under Quebec’s Act respecting threatened and vulnerable species. There are many conservation issues for stream salamanders, and generally speaking, they can be greatly affected by changes in the quantity and quality of the water in their habitat. Changes in the flow of a watercourse, deforestation of the riparian strip, sedimentation, contaminant inputs and the draining or drying up of watercourses are all factors that can considerably harm stream salamanders.
It’s interesting to note that some of the Massawippi Conservation Trust properties have been included in an extensive long-term monitoring program for stream salamanders. There are currently two studies underway. Indeed, as these properties are free of anthropogenic threats, it is interesting to see the evolution of populations in this sector over a 10-year period. This data can then be compared with sites undergoing significant pressure, such as those under forest management. In addition, the project aims to understand the potential impact of climate change on stream salamander populations. It is possible that climate change will have an impact on stream salamanders, particularly with increasingly frequent and intense dry spells in summer.
This long-term monitoring project stems from a problem often observed in the acquisition of rigorous data for population monitoring, particularly for species with precarious status. Indeed, the lack of funding for knowledge acquisition often results in significant gaps in our knowledge of population trends. The project sponsor, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has therefore set up a long-term (10-year) monitoring program for the purple salamander throughout the Estrie region. Some ten conservation organizations are involved in the project, including COGESAF. Each organization is responsible for monitoring a small number of streams, thereby reducing project costs and workloads. COGESAF’s role in this project is to monitor two streams on sites designated as “no or low impact” by human activities on the properties of the Massawippi Conservation Trust. As a herpetology enthusiast who has been working as a biologist for COGESAF for the past 5 years, this project is particularly close to my heart. Finally, I’d like to highlight the collaboration of more than a dozen conservation organizations working together to improve knowledge of the purple salamander and protect it more effectively… in the hope that this project will inspire other initiatives like it for other species or other regions!
About the author: Nicolas Bousquet is a biologist and has been field project coordinator at COGESAF for over 5 years. His fields of expertise are invasive alien species control and biodiversity conservation. He worked as a research professional at the Université de Sherbrooke, before pursuing his career with an environmental and forest management consulting firm, then as an external consultant with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. For several years, he has specialized in the study and conservation of herpetofauna, mainly turtles and stream salamanders. He has participated in a number of projects involving inventories, population monitoring, identification of threats, monitoring of egg-laying sites and the creation of facilities. He also enjoys sharing his knowledge, notably through lectures and writing articles.
Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes
As I was sitting on my balcony one misty morning, enjoying my cup of coffee, my eyes wandered to my garden box in which I had planted some of my favourite fine herbs earlier in the season. My heart sank… ruined. All of them. And the slimy culprits were still there… slowly cruising their way around the box like they owned the place. The more I looked, the more I noticed and my disappointment quickly evolved into curiosity… Slugs. What a peculiar creature. What intrigued me most of all was the fact they don’t seem like an animal that would be likely to thrive… they are slow, soft… seemingly so vulnerable… and yet clearly they do just fine.
I had to admit I knew very little about this oozing invertebrate so omnipresent in our natural world. I remember skimming over the topic in Zoology class back in university, but still had so many unanswered questions and so I figured it was about time I brush up on my gastropod knowledge. Starting with researching the very basics, I was reminded of how very much there is to know when we start studying the wonders of the natural world. Slugs are no exception, as these everyday invertebrates have much more going on than we might care to notice…
What is a slug, really?
While they may appear to share some physical characteristics with worm-type critters, slugs actually fall into the same phylum as octopuses, squids, clams, oysters and snails – that of the mollusks.
As many may guess, a slug is essentially a snail without a shell. That being said, it is not a snail that has lost its shell in the course of its lifetime, but rather over the course of evolutionary time. Interestingly, this has happened along multiple lineages meaning that slugs did not emerge from a single-shelled ancestor but rather emerged independently from various shelled ancestors. This means that while most slugs bear a striking resemblance to one another, they do not necessarily share origins.
Why lose the shell? A shell seems like an awfully good idea if your body is soft, squishy and relatively defenseless. So why bother losing such a seemingly useful protective covering? One theory suggests it is an energy trade-off – foregoing the energetic cost of growing a shell to invest energy in other aspects of survival – such as growing faster in order to reproduce sooner. Another suggests a shell can be problematic when trying to move through tighter spaces which can be extremely useful when attempting to escape danger.
At first glance, a slug’s body might not appear all that elaborate, but when you take the time to observe closely, it truly is fascinating. For starters, as different as they are from humans, slugs do get around “on foot”. Foot being the word used to describe the muscular base of their bodies and the part that contracts and helps move it forward (with the help of mucus, of course). When viewing slugs from above, we can’t help but notice a sort of hump closer to the tentacles – this hump is known as the mantle. The mantle is a feature found in all mollusks and is the area where the visceral mass is located. In some species of slug, the mantle can contain remnants of a shell either in the form of a small plate or granules – evidence of their evolutionary story. Just under the mantle, when it is in use, you can observe an opening called a pneumostome which serves as a breathing pore for the slug – I like to think of it as a single side nostril.
At the head of the body, we can observe two pairs of tentacles. Each pair has different functions. The uppermost can be likened to eyes, though they are only sensitive to light and do not form crisp images like the human eye; they also function as smelling organs. Feeling and tasting are the jobs of the lower pair of tentacles. These sensory tentacles are retractable and can be regrown in the event of a mishap.
Beneath the lower tentacles lies the equipment responsible for wreaking havoc on my fine herbs and so many people’s gardens – the mouthparts. Inside the mouth of a slug, it is almost as if the tongue and teeth are one. The radula, a tongue-like structure, is covered in minuscule serrations known as denticles that rasp off food particles as the slug moseys along at its leisurely pace.
Why so slimy?
A description of a slug’s body would not be complete without giving due attention to mucus (aka slime). If you have ever picked up a slug, intentionally or otherwise, you likely had a sticky residue on your skin afterward. Or perhaps, while walking down a forest path, you noticed glistening trails left behind on the earth. Both constitute evidence of one of the most vital aspects of slug biology: mucus.
Slugs have two varieties of mucus on their bodies helping them in the departments of mobility, communication, and protection. The thin, watery mucus that spreads from the foot out to the edges and from the front of the foot to the back helps the slug get around along with the foot’s muscular contractions. It is in this lighter slime that slugs can pick up what other slugs are “putting down”, so to speak. Whether it be in order to find a mate or for some species of carnivorous, predatory slug to track potential prey. This slime carries messages.
The thicker, stickier mucus coats the remainder of the slug’s body and this not only protects the slug, whose body is mostly made of water, from desiccation, but it can help it slip out of a predator’s grasp. Furthermore, it isn’t very palatable to some animals, serving as an additional deterrent to possible predators.
What is my point?
While doing research, I kept uttering tiny gasps of amazement as I was reacquainting myself with these creatures. And this article touches on but a fraction of their natural history. Admittedly, it’s rare I give them the time of day. I am careful not to tread on them, but it is typically the children with whom I am walking who draw my attention to them…
Present in all different shapes and sizes, unlike a lot of other wildlife, slugs are out in plain sight if the conditions are humid enough. They are just asking to be observed, to be admired for the supernatural-looking beings they are. What’s more, they aren’t going anywhere in a hurry so you can take your time with them, bring the magnifying glass in closer and really get to know them.
These opportunities for intimate observation of and connection with a wild species, no matter the type, are gifts. The next time you come across a slug on your walk through the woods, why not stop and graciously accept this gift, take a moment with this shell-less gastropod… and see what happens? You might be surprised.
Build Your Nature Vocabulary
Use the text and search the web to build your nature vocabulary and try using it the next time you’re out and about in nature, either making observations by yourself or with friends!
- Visceral mass
- Slug (New World Encyclopedia)
- Slug (A-Z Animals)
- Slugs of Maryland: Biodiversity and Biology (Aydin Orstan)
- Why Are Snails and Slugs So, Well, Sluggish? (John F. Tooker, Daniel Bliss et Jared Adam)
Photo caption: Though slugs are hermaphroditic, they will attempt to find a mate to reproduce. Once found, they can be observed in a ritual courtship display prior to mating. They each form a circle surrounding their protruding genitalia while sperm is being exchanged. Days later, eggs are laid in a protected area such as a hole in the ground or under a log.
We are so proud to announce that Margot Graham Heyerhoff has been awarded an honorary Doctorate for the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, Margot Heyerhoff, in recognition of her tireless, selfless, and impactful advocacy for her community, for art and literacy, and for the environment.
We’d like to share with you the commencement speech given by Kerry Hull, Dean of Science at Bishop’s University. You can also watch the video here.
Mr. Chancellor, Principal Goldbloom, graduates, colleagues, family and friends. It is my honour to introduce Margot Graham Heyerhoff.
Margot’s Pinterest page features a quote from Leonard Mlodinow – “The outline of our lives, like a candle’s flame, is continuously coaxed in new directions by a variety of random events that, along with our responses to them, determine our fate.”
So let me briefly recount just a few of the random events that have led to Margot Heyerhoff’s presence with us today.
She spent time in the Townships as a high school student at King’s Hall, a boarding school in Compton, and also had a brief stint as a Bishop’s student. Several years later Margot become the first Development Director at Bishop’s College School, just across the river from us. She left the Townships in 1981, for what she may have thought was the last time. However, twenty years later, under unexpected and serendipitous circumstances, the Heyerhoff family left Oakville, Ontario to settle in the Canton de Hatley.
The subsequent twenty five years of Margot’s life could serve as a case study of local actions with dramatic impact. Her interest in land conservation and sustainability started when her family converted their land into a certified organic farm. Then, in 2011, Heyerhoff worked with friends and colleagues to establish the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. One mandate of this organization is to protect and preserve the ecosystems of the Lake Massawippi watershed – they raised over five million dollars, and now have stewardship over 1200 acres of land. These forests and fields are not only conserved, they are also used to further the organization’s goals by providing environmentally friendly hiking trails as well as sites for educational and research projects. To this day she continues to serve as President of the Foundation and Trustee of the Trust.
The foundation’s conservation efforts extend beyond their lands – they also promote sustainable agricultural practices through education and research grants. In addition, as a key supporter of Bishop’s Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program as well as the Educational Farm, Margot is a passionate advocate for agro-environmental farming practices that keep our soil healthy as well as preserve the biodiversity of insects, birds and plants.
To expand the scope of her work outside the Townships, Margot mentors others across the province of Quebec as they establish conservation trusts in their areas. As a testament to her reputation, she was invited to share the Massawippi Foundation story at the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference.
Ainsi, Margot Heyerhoff a contribué de manière significative aux efforts de conservation locaux, régionaux et internationaux, non seulement par ses propres actions, mais aussi en fournissant l’éducation, les conseils et les fonds nécessaires pour que d’autres puissent faire de même.
But there is more. An accomplished artist and art collector, Margot has converted a dilapidated barn on her farm into a non-profit art gallery and cultural space. The gallery has been the venue for numerous cultural activities, including historical and architectural exhibitions, fundraising events for local charitable entities, and book launches for local authors.
In sum, Margot has dedicated herself to her community and to the sustainability of our planet.
Mister Chancellor, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, Margot Heyerhoff, in recognition of her tireless, selfless, and impactful advocacy for her community, for art and literacy, and for the environment.
Every spring, when the temperatures start to warm up, the turtles get busy, so we can get a good look at them. Because turtles are cold-blooded animals, they try to optimise their metabolism by finding warmth. You can therefore see turtles well exposed to the sun on sandbanks by the river or on branches emerging from the water.
The egg-laying season soon begins, towards the end of May and at least in June. The adult females will therefore put themselves at risk to find an interesting egg-laying site. Ideally, they will look for a natural site consisting of sand and/or gravel on the banks of the river or body of water where they live. Adult females of several species, notably the snapping turtle, the painted turtle, and the wood turtle (species present in our sector) will sometimes look for nesting sites along roadsides, footpaths, or even in active sandpits. Obviously, this behaviour puts them at high risk of mortality from collisions with cars or machinery. This is a major cause of turtle mortality and does not help to maintain healthy populations.
How can we help them stay safe and sound during this period? By simply being vigilant! Whether you’re driving, walking or cycling on structures bordering lakes, rivers, ponds or wetlands, you can remain vigilant for the presence of turtles and react appropriately if they are present. You can slow down and let them continue on their way, warning other motorists of their presence for example. In an immediate emergency, you can help it cross the road, always in the same direction it was going. It is vital not to put the animal back in the water or move it to another location. You can also take a photo and report its presence on the www.carapace.ca website. Reporting turtles to the carapace.ca project is particularly important for local stakeholders, who can find out more about problem areas. It also gives them more data and more leverage to convince the authorities when it comes to planning developments.
Several species of turtle are in trouble in Quebec, including the wood turtle, which has been designated vulnerable. A number of factors are involved, including deaths caused by machinery or cars, but also by the destruction or modification of its habitat, heavy predation and, unfortunately, the collection of individuals for resale or keeping in captivity.
This is also the case for the Tomifobia river population, which remains small despite its high-quality habitat. We suspect that occasional anthropogenic deaths caused by cars, but mainly by farm machinery, combined with low recruitment of young due to high nest predation, are factors that could explain the current low numbers in the Tomifobia River population. The COGESAF team, therefore, has a project underway to better understand these dynamics and propose solutions to reduce the risk of mortality, mainly for adult females.
One aspect of this project is to monitor the movements of five turtles fitted with a radio transmitter and a GPS sensor, enabling us to track their movements on a daily basis. Preliminary data shows that our turtles do cross roads and farm fields, making them vulnerable to collisions.
We can remain positive about the fate of the Tomifobia River population because a number of conservation organizations have been working on it for a number of years! What’s more, as we mentioned, the habitat for this population is of high quality. We will be proposing to the farmers concerned that the mowing height be raised to 10 cm to reduce the risk of mortality for this vulnerable species. We also suggest that you keep your eyes open and remain vigilant when travelling by car in this sector!
Nicolas Bousquet, biol.,
Field Project Coordinator
5182, boul Bourque
Sherbrooke (Québec) J1N 1H4
Phone 819-864-1033 poste 103
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