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Northern Community Science

James Bay birdwatching © Ray Ford


Ontario Nature is one of five partners organizing Ontario’s third Breeding Bird Atlas (Atlas-3). During previous atlas projects, organizers worked with Indigenous communities to coordinate expeditions around communities and along rivers across the province – including remote parts of northern Ontario. For Atlas-3, deeper engagement of Indigenous Nations, organizations and individuals is a priority for the Atlas partners. We acknowledge that all of Ontario is the traditional territory of one or more Indigenous Nations.

Through our Nature Guardians Youth Program, we learned that there are barriers to youth engagement with birding, including a lack of access to equipment, educational resources and mentors.

Our boreal program staff are focused on increasing engagement in Atlas-3 with youth, Indigenous communities and conservation groups in northern Ontario.

Mission Marsh Conservation Area, Thunder Bay © Julee Boan

What We Are Doing: Youth Engagement

We have launched a Birding Backpack Program in Thunder Bay. This program provides birding gear and learning resources (e.g., binoculars, bird guidebooks) that support youth to learn about and connect with the birds around them. The backpacks are used during guided birding walks hosted by Ontario Nature staff and are available to schools and youth groups on loan.

Through this program, youth are also learning about bird-related community science projects, such as eBird and Atlas-3.

Atlas-3 Study Area © Ontario Nature

What We Are Doing: Indigenous Engagement

We are building relationships with Indigenous communities across northern Ontario. This vast area covers several Treaties and many communities, and traditional territories. Through respectful, intentional, and inviting dialogue, we are learning how the Atlas-3 can contribute to Indigenous community goals and interests.

We are educating and training our staff about the negative impacts of historical approaches to research that excluded Indigenous peoples.

We are working with Indigenous communities and organizations through a foundation of “ethical space” and “two-eyed seeing”. Through our community engagement, we will continue to listen to and include Indigenous Knowledge and voices.

For more information on Ontario Nature’s Community Science Program and Atlas-3, please go to our Atlas-3 webpage.

Bald eagles at nest, Lake Nipissing © Liam Quinn CC BY-SA 2.0

This project is funded by the Career Launcher Internships program and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

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