MTRI December 2021 Newsletter

We are pleased to once again, share the most informative MTRI newsletter with you.


MTRI December 2021 Newsletter
MTRI December 2021 Newsletter

It has been a busy and productive fall here at the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute. We welcomed two new staff, presented our research at a conference in Prince Edward Island, launched our new website, and more! We hope you enjoy catching up with what we’ve been doing to conserve Kespukwitk, Southwest Nova Scotia.

What’s Keeping Us Busy

Wandering Through Ancient Woods Video Series

We’ve been busy working with Picnic Studios this summer and fall to bring everyone into Nova Scotia’s most stunning forests. In early December, we launched our three-part videos series: Wandering Through Ancient Woods: A Journey into Nova Scotia’s Old-Growth Forests. Our series features Jim and Margaret Dresher, Dr. Peter Duinker, and Pipukwes Latto’law, Raymond Sewell, as they take us on a journey through Nova Scotia’s old-growth forests. These videos celebrate the many unique ecological, cultural and spiritual values that these rare and rich forests share with us.


Engaging the Municipalities of Kespukwitk in Species At-Risk Planning

Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative (KCC)
Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative (KCC)

Kespukwitk is a biodiversity hotspot and one of 11 Priority Places under the Pan-Canadian approach to transforming species at risk stewardship in Canada.

One of our newest projects is working with the Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative (KCC), a collection of partners focused on coordinating conservation in Kespukwitk, to engage with municipalities for species at risk preservation. We are developing support and resources, including a toolkit for municipal stewardship, and empowering municipalities to contribute directly to long-term species at risk conservation. This project is being led by our newest staff members Alysha Griffin and Jane Heeney.


Turtle and Snake Tracking

Eastern Ribbonsnakes
Eastern Ribbonsnakes

This fall we continued our recovery efforts for the Threatened Eastern Ribbonsnakes and Endangered Blanding’s Turtles. Our ongoing program protects Blanding’s nests at high risks of predation or flooding, monitors populations, surveys new habitats, and radio tracks individuals to find new populations. Thank you, Ira Reinhart-Smith for the Blanding’s photo.

This year we were able to resume turtle nest protection and recorded a successful year for Blanding’s hatchings. One of the populations that we monitor had 85% of its eggs hatch, a new record! We also found a new Blanding’s turtle female, Huney, and tracked her to a wetland not previously known to have this species. Our snake team successfully tracked two Ribbonsnakes, Petunia and Orlando, to their underground overwintering sites and detected Ribbonsnakes in 80% of the lake ecosystems we re-surveyed after 10 years from the last sightings.


Bat Species at Risk Research

Eastern Red Bat, photo by: Cindal Bonnanfant
Eastern Red Bat, photo by: Cindal Bonnanfant


For almost a decade, we have managed Nova Scotia’s Bat Hotline to monitor bat populations since the decline caused by White-Nose Syndrome. This year we collected over 600 sightings in the province and were lucky to get a report of an Eastern Red Bat in Yarmouth County. Red Bats are uncommon in the province because we are at the northern tip of their range. This bat (pictured above) was roosting on a window frame for a couple of days before departing. Thank you, Cindal Bonnanfant for the photo.

As always, if you see a bat, please report it using the link below or calling 1-866-727-3447.

NS Bat Conservation Web Page


Rare Lichen Monitoring

Rare lichen of Nova Scotia
Rare lichen of Nova Scotia


As part of our work with forestry companies in Nova Scotia, our lichen team surveys areas proposed for harvesting for signs of rare and threatened lichen species. Over the fall, our team identified Wrinkled Shingle Lichen, a Threatened species in Nova Scotia, on 32 trees during their surveys near Big Bon Mature Lake. Each tree with a rare lichen will now receive a 100 m protection zone around it.

Peppered Moon Lichen, another rare lichen, was spotted in late November during monitoring for Blue Felt Lichen and Frosted Glass-Whiskers near Little Bon Mature Lake. It was originally detected on this site in 2007 by one of MTRI’s lichenologists Tom Neily. Thank you, Brad Toms and Jeff White for the photos.


The Nova Scotia Herpetology Atlas

Reptiles and amphibians are at-risk in Nova Scotia as well as around the world. To learn more about our province’s turtles, frogs, snakes and salamanders, we asked Nova Scotians for help, and they did not disappoint. During the first year of this project, we used iNaturalist, a free wildlife tracking app, to collect observations of wildlife and help us get a better understanding of where they live. To date, we have captured over 4,000 sightings of 22 species across Nova Scotia! We were blown away at the results and are excited to continue the project into 2022.

Next year, we will train volunteers to survey high-priority areas and give us more details about our province’s reptiles and amphibians. We are currently looking for these volunteers! Are you, or do you know, an avid naturalist that would like to help with this project? If so, please contact our Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Nick Knutson. Send message to Nick Knutson


Invasive Fish Research and Monitoring

Invasive Chain Pickerel. Photo: CJKennedy
Invasive Chain Pickerel. Photo: CJKennedy


We are committed to protecting aquatic ecosystems and are involved in a variety of these projects across Kespukwitk. Through the Canada Nature Fund and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association, we are reaching out to bass anglers across Nova Scotia to promote ethical angling and the reduction of invasive species.

Just down the road from MTRI’s field station, our staff are working with provincial biologists to determine what fish species are travelling upstream at the Harmony fish ladder. With support from Adopt-a-Stream, we have also been working along the LaHave River in forests infested with Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an invasive species. Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is lethal to Hemlocks and when it infects forests along rivers it impacts the water cooling and erosion control that Hemlock trees create, damaging fish habitat. Thank you, iNaturalist user CJKennedy for the photo of the invasive Chain Pickerel.


At The Field Station

Welcoming Our Newest Staff

This fall we welcomed Alysha Griffin and Jane Heeney into the MTRI team.

Alysha Griffin
Alysha Griffin

Alysha has joined our team as a Communication and Municipal Outreach Coordinator. Originally from rural Prince Edward Island, Alysha moved to Nova Scotia after finishing her Bachelor of Science at Memorial University. Having lived in 3/4 Atlantic Provinces, Alysha has a particular affinity for the ocean. She recently completed her Master of Environmental Studies at Dalhousie studying the ecological and social connectivity in Kespukwitk. Unsurprisingly, Alysha’s interests focus on the social side of conservation. When she’s not working, Alysha spends much of her free time enjoying her endless list of hobbies, including painting, gardening, and hiking with her dog Arrow.


Jane Heeney
Jane Heeney

Jane graduated in 2020 from the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University with a BSc. in Marine Biology. She then completed a graduate certificate in Remote Sensing at the NSCC Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in 2021, during which she worked with Parks Canada. Jane has worked in the past as a Shorebird Stewardship Assistant with Birds Canada and is excited to now be joining the MTRI as the Priority Place Engagement Intern. In her spare time, Jane loves to spend time exploring the coast, climbing, camping, hiking and diving.


Our New Website

A little while in the making, we now have a new website for our members and the public to explore and learn more about what we do here at MTRI. On it, you can see all our current projects and staff, find new events, see upcoming workshops and seminars, and share the journey of conserving Kespukwitk with us.

View new MTRI Website


Online 50:50 Raffle

online 50:50 raffle
online 50:50 raffle

MTRI is teaming up with partners in conservation, the Clean Annapolis River Project and Coastal Action, for an online 50:50 raffle. This collaborative fundraiser will support our volunteer conservation programs. Our programs aren’t just a fun way to get the public involved in conservation, they make a real difference and play a critical role in conserving species at risk and habitats across Kespukwitk. All funds will directly support these non-profits and help us maintain and develop our programs.

Get Your Tickets

Consider Giving to MTRI

We are all very privileged to live in Kespukwitk, one of the most biodiverse regions of Canada. Sadly, many species and ecosystems that make this region so incredible are at risk. When you donate to MTRI, you’re helping to fund programs like Blanding’s Turtle monitoring, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid surveys, Butterfly Club, education programs, and much more. As a non-profit, all the funds we receive directly support our mission. Please consider donating and helping our work continue!

Donate to MTRI

Happy Holidays

Another year is ending, and as we hunker down for the winter, we hope everyone can enjoy time with their loved ones this holiday. From all the staff, volunteers, and members of MTRI, Happy Holidays and be well! We can’t wait to see all of you in 2022 for another year of working together to conserve, sustain, and promote biodiversity in Kespukwitk.

MTRI in the News

Providing Backup for Bats

MTRI Biologist Hopeful Bat Numbers Will Continue to Rise

Citizen Science in Southwestern Nova Scotia is Moving Research Forward

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