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Monthly Public Meetings


HNC Monthly Meeting at RBG headquarters (Photo: Stephanie Lechniak-Cumerlato)

The Hamilton Naturalist’s Club meets monthly, September through May, usually on the second Monday of each month.

Meetings are held at 7:00 p.m., at the Royal Botanical Gardens (680 Plains Road West, Burlington). Parking is free. We begin with socializing. The formal part of the meeting begins at around 7:30 p.m.

Monthly meetings can also been seen on our calendar along with other HNC events.


Upcoming Meetings


Monday, January 13, 2020

Storm Chasing in Ontario

Speaker: David Chapman

Experience the entire life cycle of thunderstorms with this exciting and educational presentation. See how they form and develop into powerful lightning and wind storms. Watch an Ontario supercell tornado from start to finish as it cuts a path through the countryside near Arthur, Canada as well as two other tornadoes to hit our province. A very powerful presentation explaining the effects storms have in Ontario.

David T. Chapman started doing photography at the age of 16. He is self-taught in the art of photography and has been pursuing his career professionally since the age of eighteen. He learned at a very young age from his father to appreciate his environment in the surrounding countryside. He enjoys taking photographs of weather phenomena, especially lightning, as well as scenery and nature. David likes to seek out unusual examples of nature such as rare weather conditions and ice crystal formations. David is also a professional speaker and enjoys entertaining and educating a good crowd. His main areas of expertise are Weather/Aurora Borealis, Local Interests and Ontario Scenery of Ontario, Birds and Wildlife.


Monday, February 10, 2020

Freshwater Mussels

Speaker: Sarah Richer

Who among us poops out cleaner water than they take in? If they had hands, freshwater mussels would raise them proudly! Even though Canada has 55 native freshwater mussel species (41 of which are in Ontario’s lakes and rivers), the majority of naturalists can’t identify any. They may only move a total of a few metres in their lives, but they are a crucial part of aquatic ecosystems, not only as food for other animals, but each can also filter several dozen liters of water a day.

Unfortunately, over 65% of Ontario’s freshwater mussel species are listed as Species at Risk due to habitat loss, pollution, competition from invasive species, and loss of their host-fish species. Sarah will chat about what species you might find in this area, which features are useful for identifying them, the creative way they reproduce, how surprisingly gorgeous these unassuming but vulnerable ecosystem indicators actually are, PLUS how and where to report your sightings.

Sarah Richer joined the Royal Botanical Gardens team in January 2016 as the Species at Risk Biologist in the Natural Lands department. Prior to landing at RBG, the variable nature of the environmental industry allowed her the privilege of working in conservation, stewardship, research, and natural heritage education for many organizations, including but not limited to Parks Canada, Ontario Parks, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Wye Marsh, and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She has also clocked many volunteer months with wildlife rehabilitators, captive breeding projects, and wildlife research, primarily focusing on species at risk birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants, with some insects thrown in for good measure. 


Previous Meetings

Recordings of previous meetings can be found here.

Monday, December 9, 2019: Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada: Preserving Twelve Mile Creek and More

Speaker: Brian Green

Twelve Mile Creek is the last cold water stream in the Niagara Region, and the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada is rightly proud of the work they are doing to preserve and enhance it. The Chapter works with many partners to counter the effects of urbanization, erosion, landowner mismanagement, loss of forest cover, and warming of the stream. The talk will focus on several of the projects undertaken, the partnerships created, successes and challenge and more: working with injured Canadian soldiers as part of the Healing Waters program, engaging Scouts in conservation and recreation, promoting ethical and responsible fishing practices.

Brian Green is an educator, writer, and broadcaster who is a founding member of the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada. Now retired from Niagara College where he taught English and Broadcast Journalism, he has devoted his energy for the past decade to the work of the Niagara Chapter in their efforts to preserve and enhance Twelve Mile Creek, the last spring-fed cold water aquatic system in Niagara. His text books on college writing skills and broadcast journalism have been used since 1980 in colleges and universities across Canada and are still among the national best sellers of their genre.  Freelance and contract articles have appeared in various publications, including Toronto Life, Canadian Fly Fisher, Canoe, Toronto Star, and The Angling Report. An avid canoeist and traveler, Brian enjoys combining those activities with his passion for fly fishing and fly tying. He lives in Fenwick, an easy bike ride to the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club Short Hills Preserve, where one of the branches of Twelve Mile Creek finds its source.


Monday, October 7, 2019: When Wild Animals Need a Helping Hand

Speaker: Chantal Theijn

Join Chantal Theijn from the Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge as she discusses how to determine if wildlife is in need of help and if so, how to best help in a safe and responsible manner.

Chantal Theijn is both the founder and the Authorized Wildlife Custodian at Hobbitstee Wildlife Refuge, which she started in 2007 with the hope of caring for 30 animals annually. Hobbitstee has now grown into a facility that cares for over 2,500 animals each year. Chantal’s background is in animal reproduction, nutrition and health, and she is passionate about leaving wildlife wild, habitat protection/restoration, research, and also young/adult offender programs.


Monday, September 9, 2019: Lynx and Landscapes: How Prey and Habitat Influence the Behaviour of Canada Lynx in the Yukon

Speaker: Rachael Derbyshire

Rachael Derbyshire will share her stories from the field and preliminary results of her work as she studies the Canada lynx, a keystone species with population cycles that closely follow those of snowshoe hare, including how lynx behaviour changes how they cope with periods of low hare availability and other environmental factors.

Building upon previous work in southwestern Yukon, where lynx and hare populations have been tracked through several population cycles, she has seen dramatic fluctuations in lynx and snowshoe hare numbers. Rachael’s talk will focus on general lynx ecology in the context of broad-scale environmental changes.

Rachael Derbyshire is an early-career biologist interested in animal behaviour and conservation, with an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Guelph, and a M.Sc. in Ecology. She has since worked with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, and has managed several applied projects on monarch butterfly conservation with the University of Guelph. Supported by Wildlife Preservation Canada, she continued working with threatened species through the Post Graduate Diploma in Endangered Species Recovery program, offered by the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology and validated by the University of Kent, including travelling to Mauritius to participate in a range of field expedition and classroom learning opportunities focused on the recovery of endangered species. She is currently working on her PhD on the foraging behaviour and population ecology of Canada lynx. Rachael is very happy to be returning to the Hamilton area, close to her childhood home of Brantford, Ontario, to speak to the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club about her experiences working with northern populations of Canada lynx.

Monday, May 13, 2019: Doing the Dempster: Driving the Dempster from Dawson to the Arctic Ocean

Speakers: Jessica Bayne and Richard MacDonald

The Dempster is a highway in name alone. Both the Dempster and the new highway to Tuk are prone to washouts, landslides, mud that makes the road turn to grease and dry spells that turn the road surface into a dust bowl and a hardpan. It is such a challenge to drive that it is recommended that a heavy duty vehicle equipped with one or more spare tires, a jerrycan of extra fuel and damage insurance, be used. So why do so many trucks and camper vans set off on a march up this highway each summer? The breathtaking scenery, wildlife, geological formations and sheer vastness of the landscape, that’s why.

In July 2018, Jessica and Richard drove the Dempster Highway to Inuvik and the new highway from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. Join us on May 13 as they recount their experience travelling through this desolate and beautiful area of Canada.

Jessica Bayne grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, and attended Westdale High School and McMaster University for both her undergraduate and graduate programmes. She is a mother, retired teacher, avid hiker and amateur photographer and has done extensive travelling throughout the world.

Richard MacDonald is a father, grandfather, retired Metallurgical Engineer and avid bird watcher. He has led birdwatching tours around the world including multiple trips to Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the Far East. Richard is constantly on the lookout for new bird species and rock formations on his travels both within the West Coast environment and further afield. Jessica and Richard now reside in Victoria, BC.

Monday, April 8, 2019: Reptile Rendezvous

Speaker: Allison Forde

Despite having the greatest diversity of reptiles in Canada, it can be a challenge finding them in Ontario. Our elusive and sometimes stigmatized snakes and turtles face many challenges themselves. What’s being done to help them? Alison will share her knowledge and experiences from the field with a little help from her reptile education ambassador, Noodle.

Alison Forde is an Ecologist with SNC-Lavalin and Vice President of South Peel Naturalists’ Club. She holds a BSc (Wildlife Biology) and MSc (Environmental Biology) from the University of Guelph.

Over the past decade, Alison has worked with and studied Ontario’s reptiles on a personal and professional level, most recently surveying for Massasauga Rattlesnakes in the Georgian Bay area. She loves to bust myths and misconceptions about snakes and has helped countless individuals overcome their fears through education.

Monday March 8, 2019: Environmental Changes

Speaker: Bill McIIveen

We are aware that we surrounded by various habitats both natural and man-made. We may accept that some components represent desirable items (e.g. crop plants, livestock, garden plants). But we may also be dismayed when a new pest such as the Emerald Ash Borer appears on the scene. This effect is particularly evident when its appearance is sudden, it affects our own properties, or if it is highlighted in the news media. Over time, the importance of the new feature becomes lost to memory or the loss of some component goes unnoticed by the general public. The presentation will consider a list of changes that includes new (alien) animals (fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, insects), many new plants, new pests and diseases, new species used in agriculture and even organisms (e.g. diseases) that directly affect humans as well. Some native species have disappeared from the landscape, some species have emerged as invasive problems following their introduction, and some have been re-introduced.

W.D. (Bill) McIlveen received his B.Sc. (Agr.) and M.Sc. from the University of Guelph and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the Pennsylvania State University. He was the Senior Terrestrial Toxicologist with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for over 25 years and then as an environmental consultant where he conducted biological inventories (flora and fauna) throughout Ontario. He has authored or co-authored over 400 articles or reports relating to environmental matters ranging from naturalist club newsletters to government reports to refereed journals. In 2017, his activities were recognized by Ontario Nature and he was given the W.W.H. Gunn Conservation Award.

Monday, February 11, 2019: Future Wetland Development in Stoney Creek

Speaker: Scott Peck

Wetlands are important environment for wildlife, and additionally can have significant benefits for cities.

Join us as Scott Peck discusses the acquisition of lands, environmental assessment process and restoration work for the creation of natural wetland detention facilities and wetland enhancement to address downstream urban flooding and erosion issues within Battlefield and Stoney Creeks.

T. Scott Peck, B.A., MCIP, RPP is currently the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer/Director, Watershed Planning & Engineering with the Hamilton Conservation Authority. Scott has 26 years’ experience working for the Long Point Region Conservation Authority as an Assistant Resource Technician, Hamilton Conservation Authority as an Environmental Planner and Senior Planner and with Norfolk County as a Senior Planner.

Scott’s experience includes policy development, program management, urban, rural and agricultural land use planning, floodplain management, environmental and watershed planning, property acquisition, regulatory compliance and sustainable development.

Monday, January 14, 2019: Intertwined Generations: Me, Youth & You

Speaker: Jackson Hudecki

As the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club arrives at its 100th year of environmental stewardship, education and preservation, there is lots to celebrate! But there is also a lot at stake, and we need everyone involved, from every age group and background.

Enter the Junior Naturalists’ Club and the Young Environmental Science (or YES) Alliance, two environmentally-driven, hands-on, mentor-based youth clubs geared to the continued connection to Mother Earth and guiding students striving for a post-secondary career in the environmental sciences.

Hear about what we are up to, how others in the community are stepping up, what you can do and even share with us your own efforts! After all, we are in this together.

In his 10th year of Environmental Education, Jackson Hudecki has been building a foundation to support anyone curious about connecting to the natural wonders of these local woods. Aside from facilitating the youth clubs, bird clubs, beer festivals and obstacle courses out of Royal Botanical Gardens, Jackson is the Director at Large for the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, a community conduit, a proud Hamiltonian, and always ready to gab.

Monday, December 10, 2018: The Roots that Grow Deep: Trees, Heritage & Conservation

Speaker: Dr. David Galbraith

While we often think of cultural heritage and natural heritage as separate topics, they share something very important. They are all about the stories we can tell based on the environment around us.

Whether we are telling stories about our own history or that of nature, these stories become richer and deeper when we can bring into them direct evidence of the past.

Trees can be considered as essential components of both the natural and cultural heritage of an area. We’ll see what stories we can tell about trees in our area, combining the fields of natural and cultural heritage to seek a deeper understanding of the importance of nature in urban areas.

Dr. David Galbraith is Head of Science at Royal Botanical Gardens. He studied wildlife biology at Guelph and Queen’s universities, completing his doctoral dissertation on ecology of Snapping Turtles and Wood Turtles.

He joined RBG in 1995 to bring conservation projects together among botanical gardens across Canada. In 2006 David was appointed head of the science department, overseeing the library, archives, and herbarium, research staff, and use RBG’s resources by outside researchers.

Since 2007 he has led the development of the Cootes to Escarpment EcoPark System, a natural lands park alliance in Hamilton and Burlington, in part for which he was named Hamilton Environmentalist of the Year in 2010.

Monday, November 12, 2018: Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights

Special Speaker: Tyler Schulz, Deputy Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Tyler Schulz, Deputy Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, will provide an overview of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights. He will also discuss topics from the recent annual reports, with an update of the government’s progress on environmental protection and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

The Environmental Commission of Ontario is a bridge between the public and the government on environmental issues.

Tyler Schulz is the Deputy Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Tyler provides leadership and management oversight of the office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), and provides support and strategic advice to the Commissioner and staff on a variety of issues.

Tyler is passionate about educating, and helping Ontarians use, their public participation tools under the Environmental Bill of Rights. Previously, Tyler worked at the ECO as the Director of Operations, providing oversight, support and advice on issues concerning administration, customer service, public education and information technology. Before that, Tyler worked at the ECO as a Senior Policy & Decision Analyst, focusing on wildlife management, waste diversion and increasing Ontarians’ awareness of their environmental rights.

Tyler completed a M.Sc. and Ph.D. at Dalhousie University, first studying seal evolution, and then sperm whale communication. During graduate school, Tyler realized his passion was to work in the civil service as an environmental ombudsman, standing up for peoples’ rights and empowering them to achieve environmental protection.

More about the Environmental Bill of Rights is available: https://eco.on.ca/blog/the-environmental-bill-of-rights-your-environment-your-rights-is-now-available-in-cree-oji-cree-and-ojibwe/

Monday, October 15, 2018: Fungi – The Fifth Kingdom

Speaker: Kriss Gandier

Join Kriss Gandier to learn about the fascinating world of wild mushrooms and other edible wild foods. Find out about the best ways to learn and methods used to identify mushrooms, as well as information about mushroom preparation and preservation for culinary purposes.

Kriss Gandier has been foraging for mushrooms her entire life, originally in Thunder Bay. She has been a member of the Toronto Mycology Club for over 20 years and has led forays in Cambridge and Kitchener. She currently harvests mushrooms and other wild foods for high-end restaurants including Langdon Hall.

Monday, September 10, 2018: Plants and Archaeology in Ontario: A 5,000 Years History of Plant Use

Speaker: Rudy Fectau

Join ethnobotanist Rudy Fectau as he presents his research on plant remains from sites in the Burlington, Hamilton and Brantford area. Plants can tell us the story behind local environmental conditions, the importance of agriculture, and the uses of various kinds of plant products. Both cultivated species (maize, bean, squash, sunflower, and tobacco) and a wide variety of native plants show the spread of plants through time and space, prehistoric technology, and the economic systems of local people.

Rudy Fecteau has been conducting archaeobotanical research in Canada since 1976, completing several hundred reports describing plant remains from more than 300 sites that include pre-contact, Euro-Canadian and environmental sites across Canada, Ohio, Michigan and New York State. He holds an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Toronto and an M.A. in Historical Geography from York University. He has recently been appointed as Visiting Scientist in the Palaeoethnobotany Lab in the Department of Archaeology, McMaster University. He is currently working on several archaeobotanical projects down in his dungeon in Greensville where he lives with his wife Margaret Ann and several dozen squirrels, a peanut-eating rabbit, blue jays, sparrows, red bellied woodpeckers and the odd deer and fox.