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Many of the wildlife species we study are tucked away for winter but the staff at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute are staying warm by working hard! It has been a busy and productive fall and winter here at MTRI. We welcomed two new staff, hosted our annual science showcase, monitored Blanding’s turtle hatchlings, scored old forests, and much more! We hope you enjoy catching up with what we’ve been doing to conserve Kespukwitk, Southwest Nova Scotia.
Winter Bat Report
Bats are one of the leading experts when it comes to coping with cold winters. In preparation for hibernation, bats gain about a third more body weight. As temperatures drop, bats begin to budget their fat reserves using a special technique called torpor. Torpor involves lowering their temperature and slowing their metabolism and heart rate. They maintain this state for 2-3 weeks in periods called torpor bouts. Then they wake up for about 1-2 hours to either drink, eliminate waste, or change spots, before re-entering a deep sleep-like state again for another cycle. They continue this cycle until spring.
Nova Scotians have reported a few bats during the winter of 2023 so far using www.batconservation.ca. One bat rang in the new year on January 1 by feeding in the backyard of a property located on Stillwater Lake, Halifax County. On January 27, a bat was found inside a home in Scott’s Bay, Kings County, early in the morning and was safely returned outside. Both observations were on unseasonably warm days for January in the province.
Bats in Atlantic Canada are still at historically low numbers due to the disease White Nose Syndrome. No population rebound has been observed or confirmed, but signs of some summer colonies and reports from the public give bat biologists hope there are some persisting.
Please report all sightings via the link below. These sightings are used by conservation groups to learn where surviving bats are.
On the Lookout for Old-Growth
Last summer, MTRI was contracted by Nova Scotia Natural Resources and Renewables to collect old-growth forest data in a variety of forest types. The goal was to provide information on potential new locations of old-growth forests not yet identified in the provincial database. Our staff also gave valuable feedback on the province’s new methods to determine old-growth forests, called an old-growth score.
Twenty-five potential old-growth forest sites were assessed during the field season in Annapolis and Queens counties on unprotected crown land. Within these sites, 154 plots were surveyed and scored to determine how many old-growth qualities they had. Old-growth forest scoring is calculated by coring and measuring the diameter of some of the trees in the stand, counting the number and size of standing and fallen dead trees, looking for indicator species and assessing potential past disturbance to the forest. Ten of these sites met the provincial criteria to be classified as old-growth and will now be conserved by the province.
Kespukwitk Conservation Showcase
MTRI’s Kespukwitk Conservation Showcase took place in November of 2022, at White Point Beach Resort and attracted almost 150 people to come together to learn about and share the exciting stewardship work being done in Kespukwitk/ Southwest Nova Scotia. The Showcase included presentations on species at risk and their habitats, with topics ranging from wetlands to invasive species and stewardship. This was followed by a Community Science Showcase featuring posters and a series of presentations highlighting community science opportunities. A graphic recording was captured by Libby Dean, graphic facilitator, which is shown above and beautifully captures the key themes of the day. If you were not able to attend the Showcase, recordings can be found on our YouTube via the link below. Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed!
MTRI was excited to host the Showcase, alongside Environment and Climate Change Canada, on behalf of the Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative, and with added funding from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables and the Region of Queens Community Investment Fund.
2022 Blanding’s Turtle Check In
This year was full of surprises when we were looking for Blanding’s turtles! Some of our nesting females picked some odd spots to try to lay their eggs, leaving us scratching our heads. Did you know turtles can scale rock faces? Well, when it comes to finding the perfect spot for their eggs turtles will do just about anything. It can take more than two decades for the little hatchling to become adults, so we were extremely excited to see Jeffrey, who hatched from a nest protected roughly 20 years ago, return to start nesting herself! Thanks to some dedicated volunteers and the help of the Acadia First Nation Earth Keepers, we were able to successfully protect 27 nests and release 175 hatchlings in the two populations that MTRI monitors.
The picture above, taken by the enthusiastic volunteer and aspiring herpetologist Justin Dagley shows a newly released hatchling soaking up the sun and taking a well-deserved nap after digging out of the nest cavity. Thanks to the sharp eye of another volunteer, we were able to catch up with a hatchling we released in 2021. The hatchling, now named Ken, had survived the winter and was checking out new areas. We hope to continue helping turtles like Ken make their start in life!
Nova Scotia’s New Provincial Lichen
The Blue Felt Lichen is now our official provincial lichen and Nova Scotia has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to have an official provincial lichen. Blue Felt Lichen is a large, blue-grey, leaf-like lichen and often has a scallop-like appearance.
Lichens are a fascinating partnership, a symbiosis, of fungi and algae or cyanobacteria. The Blue Felt Lichen is a cyanolichen, meaning it has cyanobacteria. Nova Scotia is home to several at-risk lichen species, including the Blue Felt Lichen, which is considered vulnerable, but there are hundreds of other species in the province. Some lichens play a critical part in our native ecosystems by fixing nitrogen from the air into forms that other organisms can use for nutrients.
The designation of Blue Felt Lichen as our official lichen species is thanks largely to the efforts of Jonathan Riley. Thank you Alain Belliveau and Burke Korol for the photos.
Welcome, Marie and Cole!
We are excited to welcome Marie Racioppa and Cole Vail to our MTRI team!
Marie Racioppa started at MTRI in January 2023 as a Priority Place Engagement Intern. She is originally from Markham, Ontario and obtained a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto and a Master of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo. Her previous work focused on using tracking data to inform conservation planning decisions for game bird species including Greater Sage-grouse and Mallards. She loves being outside and spotting unique or rare wildlife, especially when scuba diving or birding.
Cole Vail is a recent graduate of Dalhousie’s Masters of Resource and Environmental Management (MREM) program, focusing on forest management practices and environmental impact assessments. Before attending the MREM program, Cole completed an Honors thesis studying the vertical zonation of littoral zone lichens and quickly became enamoured with crustose lichens. During his Master’s degree studies, Cole became invested in public outreach and science education; writing on topics ranging from lichens and plants to climate change.
MTRI is Hiring
Do you dream of spending your summer out in nature, learning about conservation, gaining research skills and getting paid? Sounds like you would be a good fit for our team. MTRI is hiring multiple Summer Research Technicians and one Lead Research Technician for the summer of 2023. The deadline to apply for either role is March 15, 2023. Visit our website to see both job descriptions and for more information on how to apply.
Toqlika’ti’kw (Walking Together): March Break Day
Come out with MTRI and the Ulnooweg Education Centre for an afternoon of free family fun, nature activities and an immersive two-eyed seeing (Etuaptmumk) learning opportunity on Saturday, March 18 from 1-4 p.m at Asitu’l~sk (formerly Windhorse Farm). We will have speakers from MTRI, Ulnooweg, and local communities to talk and host activities about biodiversity, Indigenous knowledge, community science and the guiding principle developed by Mi’kmaq Elder Albert Marshall, Etuaptmumk.
Etuaptmumk is a perspective of seeing the world that recognizes better outcomes are more likely if we bring two or more perspectives into collaboration, creating balance. With one eye, we view the world through Indigenous ways of knowing and with the other eye, we view the world through Western, or Eurocentric, ways of knowing.
Our events will include:
A guided hike through an old-growth forest
An immersive introduction to two-eyed seeing (Etuaptmumk)
Nature crafts and kids’ activities
Hands-on wildlife education
Basket making demonstration
Medicine bag demonstration
A guided reflection exercise
For most of our events and activities, you can drop in and participate but some will require advanced registration. Details and sign-up forms will be released closer to the event. You can stay up to date with all the March Break Day updates by following our event on Facebook and Instagram or signing up via the button below.
Sit Back Seminars
On the last Thursday evening of each month, MTRI hosts our Sit Back Seminar. These online talks are a great opportunity to relax after dinner and learn more about nature and wildlife from groundbreaking research, knowledge keepers, and experts from around the region. It’s also a great chance to nerd out with the staff at MTRI! You can stay up to date with our seminars by keeping an eye out for our seminar reminders in your inbox or following MTRI on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out our YouTube channel, where we post all our past seminars.
March Sit Back Seminar: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Microscopic Universe Under the Sea
When you think of ocean ecosystems, you likely think of fish, seaweed, whales, dolphins, lobsters, or other non-microscopic species! But Rebecca Stevens-Green, Ph.D. Candidate at Dalhousie University, is thinking about what she sees under the microscope – phytoplankton! Phytoplankton are the building blocks of marine ecosystems. They form the basis of the food chain and play a role in our climate by sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transporting it to the deep ocean. Join us and Rebecca for our March Sit Back Seminar, Thursday, March 30 from 7-8 p.m., for a talk on the importance of these tiny organisms, how they take up carbon dioxide and how we study the things we can’t see!
To join our seminar, you can register via the button below or join our Facebook live stream.
The Monarch butterfly is an iconic butterfly, with large bright orange wings. Right now, Monarchs are just beginning to emerge from their winter sleep, getting ready to begin the journey north to lay their eggs. It takes roughly three generations of Monarchs to finally reach us in Nova Scotia. The generation that hatches here in the northern region will fly back to Mexico, a 5000-kilometer flight to reach the special forests they spend the winter in. This flight is one of the largest insect migrations in the world!
MTRI is asking everyone to celebrate the massive flight and to raise awareness for this Endangered butterfly by marching during March. Our goal is to collectively march 5,000 kilometers for this amazing insect. Grab a friend, your coworkers or your pet and head out for a walk, whether it’s one kilometer or ten, it all helps this cause.
Send us a message on Facebook, Instagram, email or through the reporting form to submit your march for Monarch Awareness. Just let us know how far you marched for monarch awareness! You can submit as many marches as you like and we encourage you to get out every day for fresh air, exercise and for monarchs.
You can find out more information by messaging MTRI on any of our social media channels, checking out our website or giving us a call at 902-682-2371.
Let’s march for monarchs together!
Conserving Bird Species at Risk on Private Land
MTRI is looking for volunteers for our new project! Its goal is to help inform woodland management decisions by improving knowledge and understanding about bird species at risk on private land. We need volunteers to help do field surveys, install and retrieve audio recorders, analyze audio data, and document species at risk habitats. Training will be provided through webinars and field trips. Volunteers will learn how to identify birds by sight and sound, recognize suitable habitats for the target species at risk, program and deploy remote audio recorders, check the recorders for species at risk bird calls and map bird locations using a compass and GPS/phone. If you are interested or want more information, please email Dr. Cindy Staicer via the button below or email [email protected]
Thank You For Your Support
MTRI is lucky to be supported by such passionate and knowledgeable members. Without your support, we would not have the achievements we have today, thank you all for your continued dedication. If you would like to donate to MTRI, a registered charity, and help us continue our work you can send an e-transfer to [email protected] or visit our Canada Helps page via the button below.