The perk of being in conservation is the amount of time I spend outdoors. I had the pleasure of visiting 15 of Ontario Nature’s 26 nature reserves this summer. These pockets of wilderness across Ontario are special habitats that we manage and protect. Conservation staff hosted 12 events on our nature reserves, reaching over 300 people!
Of the reserves I visited this summer, H.N. Crossley stood out due to its unique habitat. Located between Parry Sound and Muskoka, this small property is surrounded by cottage country, and is a haven for local wildlife. It has a short trail that leads to a lookout that showcases the spectacular view of a fen encircled by rare flowering plants and shrubby vegetation.
While on site, we conducted Vegetation Sampling Protocol (VSP) to determine the vegetation species present within 400 square metre plots placed in different habitats on the property. VSP is an intensive survey method that requires detailed recordings of the physical features of the trees and plants in each plot. The measurements we took included the height and width of both standing trees and downed wood e.g. fallen logs. Downed wood is ideal habitat for many creatures including salamanders.
While hiking through the forest, we stumbled upon a massive vernal pool that was home to many amphibians. This was my first sighting of a four-toed salamander which belongs to the same family (Plethodontidae) as red-backed salamanders (both species lack lungs). It is the only terrestrial salamander with four toes, hence its name.
This summer, we saw a wide array of wildlife, canoed on Lake Huron, learned to identify plants and trees, and helped turtles safely cross the road. I can honestly say this has been my most eventful field season yet!
Smera Sukumar directs the Nature Reserves and Conservation Science programs. She joined the team in 2016 and holds a MSc in biodiversity and conservation from the University of Leeds and a BSc in zoology from the University of Guelph. Smera has lived in four countries and travelled to over 40. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, cooking, dancing, and cozying up with her cat.