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
Written by Jessica Adams (Nature Nerding)
Reading time: 5-6 minutes
With the passing of “No Mow May”, many might find themselves curious about the overall importance and impact of seemingly simple gestures such as letting a lawn grow out for one extra month each year. The short answer: when it comes to conservation, it can be easier to appreciate the interconnectedness and the impact of each moving part when we zoom out. A lawn is not just a span of grass that needs tending for aesthetic purposes, it is a habitat. Not only is it part of a wider network of similar habitats (i.e. other people’s lawns, fields and the like), but it is one that, if left to its own devices, grows a much wider variety of plant species that eventually flower making it much more valuable to wildlife, pollinators in particular.
This article is not about “No Mow May”, however, but rather the overarching concepts of biodiversity, conservation and how they pertain to the plight of pollinators. As summer approaches and we begin to move forward with the Massawippi Foundation Monarch Butterfly Project, we are sharing more about the concepts underlying efforts of this type to protect the Monarch population.
You have likely heard the term before, but what does biodiversity mean to you? It may conjure images of a thriving ecosystem with a variety of species living alongside one another. Without a doubt, we can appreciate variety, the beauty of it, and the notion of “richness”, but what exactly is biodiversity and why is it important?
Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. (Worldwildlife.org)
The above definition highlights that biodiversity includes not just the elements we can see, nor the ones we deem “beautiful”, but all of the living parts, right down to the microscopic players. It also weaves in the notion of working together. Each species in a biodiverse ecosystem has specific roles to play that will impact the survival of other species in the ecosystem to varying degrees.
This does not mean each species has a role all its own without any overlap. In fact, redundancy is one of the key ways in which biodiversity sustains healthy, resilient ecosystems. There are various ways of envisioning how this operates. Think of biodiversity as Nature’s built-in contingency plan. Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1981) compared each species in an ecosystem to the rivets on a plane – if one is removed, the impact is minimal, but the more rivets removed, the greater the risk of catastrophe.
Another way of looking at it is likening an ecosystem to a tower of Jenga blocks. Each block represents a species (and the roles it plays) within that ecosystem. The more blocks (species) removed, the less stable the tower (ecosystem) becomes. As blocks are slowly removed, the tower may stay upright, but is much more vulnerable to disruption – a breeze, the floor shaking… This is not unlike how an ecosystem becomes more vulnerable to disasters such as storms, droughts or invasive species. The more diverse the system, the sturdier the tower and the more resilient it is to adversity.
The Importance of Encouraging Biodiversity
Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter. (Worldwildlife.org)
From a purely anthropocentric standpoint, biodiversity serves us and we therefore have a vested interest in maintaining it. That being said, we often have a tendency to focus on the grander species or charismatic megafauna. The thing is, the bigger the animal does not necessarily mean the greater the importance.
Insects comprise two-thirds of life on Earth and each year they are responsible for providing ecological services valued at $57 billion. Perhaps one of the most valuable services is that of pollination. According to Pollinator Partnership, we can thank pollinators for two out of every three bites of food we eat and they sustain overall ecosystem function by helping plants reproduce.
Zooming Back In: The Massawippi Foundation Monarch Project
As you might imagine, there is a lot more to the big-picture conversation on biodiversity, conservation and pollinators. When it comes to passing from learning to action, however, zooming back in is essential if we want to avoid overwhelm and downright discouragement. So how, where and when can we start?
Put simply: Start small, focus close to home and start as soon as you can.
In March, we shared an article on the Monarch Butterfly, introducing an exciting new project spearheaded by the Foundation in collaboration with Nature Nerding. This project is the Foundation’s way of taking action by zooming in on how it can have a concrete impact on the pollinator population in its own backyard.
Starting small and close to home: Milkweed and Monarch conservation at Scowen Park
As soon as we can: Launching this summer!
This project also encompasses the four tenets of conservation which are fundamental to the Foundation’s conservation mission:
- Preservation – The natural milkweed and monarch habitat in the fields at Scowen Park will be protected and we hope to eventually lead initiatives that protect the milkweed populations throughout neighboring communities.
- Research – The project will include a citizen science component like several existing Monarch Butterfly projects (see list below).
- Recreation – Project elements will be available for all visitors to view, admire and enjoy when they come for a walk at Scowen.
- Education – The project will involve the installation of information panels as well as educational activities and visits open to the public (more details coming soon).
The hope is to make use of resources and partake in programs that already exist (adapting them where necessary) while also developing a conservation and education model unique to Scowen Park and the Massawippi Foundation.
For this to be a success, we are counting on the participation from our beloved community!
How to Get Involved
Are you interested in learning more about the Massawippi Foundation Monarch Butterfly Project? Do you have ideas you would like to share? Perhaps you would like to watch over metamorphosing Monarchs when the time comes?
No matter your level of interest, we would love to hear from you. We plan to assemble our first ever “Butterfly Brigade” for the summer of 2023 with a first meeting in late June.
To put your name on our list of potential Brigade members, please complete the short form here: 2023 Butterfly Brigade Registration Form
You may also write to the following email with any questions you’d like to ask or thoughts you’d like to share: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
- Charismatic megafauna
- Ecological services
– What is biodiversity? Why it’s under threat and why it matters (World Wildlife Fund)
– Pollinators need you. You need pollinators. (Pollinator Partnership)
– Pollinisateurs (Fondation David Suzuki)
or visit our Contact Page