MTRI – Spring 2023 Newsletter

Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute
Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute

With summer fast approaching MTRI’s field work season is well underway and our staff are sometimes quite literally swamped! We have just finished a very busy winter finishing reports, writing new proposals and welcoming new staff. We hope you enjoy reading the latest updates from our ever-growing list of projects all dedicated to conserving, sustaining and promoting Kespukwitk, Southwest Nova Scotia.

The Latest from MTRI’s Projects

Turtle Nesting Season Begins and Our 2023 Herp Atlas

Turtle nesting season

It’s turtle nesting season and that means turtles are on the move to find a perfect spot to lay their eggs. Please watch out for turtles and other wildlife on the road and slowdown in posted areas near lakes and wetlands. All four of Nova Scotia’s turtle species are now at risk and losing even a small number of adult females can have a big impact on the population, especially for the threatened Wood Turtle and endangered Blanding’s Turtle. Turtles have a good sense of direction and know where they want to go, so please don’t move or disturb turtles unless they are in immediate danger.

The start of a new year means the start of a new Herp (Herpetology) Atlas to help us learn more about our province’s turtles, frogs, snakes and salamanders. The Herp Atlas uses iNaturalist, a free wildlife identification app, to collect volunteer observations of wildlife and help us get a better understanding of where amphibians and reptiles live in the province. To help us, upload your herp observations on iNaturalist and join the project NS Herp Atlas. If you have any questions, you can email

Visit the Herp Atlas

Conserving Monarch Butterflies

Swamp milkweed, Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed
Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed has begun to sprout and that means it won’t be long before the Monarchs start appearing in the skies once again. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed and as a caterpillar, they eat the leaves of the plant. The adults still need nectar to eat though, so having native or non-invasive plants that flower throughout the growing season will help feed those hungry butterflies. Having those beautiful flowers around will also add some flares of colour to your yard so it’s a win-win!

Learn more about Monarch Butterflies


Swamped with Potential

forested wetlands are critical habitats

We sometimes hear swamps called wastelands but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These forested wetlands are critical habitats for many species at risk and provide important benefits to humans by improving air quality, cleaning water and preventing both floods and droughts, just to name a few. This year MTRI is continuing our work to conserve forested wetlands across the province with two ongoing research projects.

Our first project is a continuation of last year’s work to create a forested wetland site inventory to help the research community find sites appropriate to their needs quickly. It may sound boring but finding useable sites for specific research projects can take years and cost thousands of dollars. Our project aims to slash that waste and encourage research into these valuable ecosystems.

Our second project is a brand new three-year study to better understand the benefits of leaving intact forests, called buffers, around forested wetlands when conducting forestry operations. We are hopeful this project will reveal new best management practices that we can use to improve provincial policy and make decisions that better align with ecological-based forestry.

Getting Batty

Have you seen a bat?
Have you seen a bat?


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. Have you seen a bat? The Nova Scotia Bat Report Website is currently experiencing technical issues, and we do not want to miss your report.

In the meantime, if you have a sighting to report or any questions, please refer to one or both contacts below:

NS Species at Risk Hotline 1-866-727-3447 or

Atlantic Bat Hotline 1-822-434-2287 (BATS) or

Learn more


Let's Talk Bats, June 15, Ross Creek Annex, Canning
Let’s Talk Bats, June 15, Ross Creek Annex, Canning

Join us on Thursday, June 15th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. for an evening dedicated to a group of fascinating animals – bats! Learn about how you can help local bats and participate in bat research happening in Nova Scotia this summer, as our speakers Taryn Muldoon (Acadia University) and Lori Phinney (Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute) will be shining a light on the secret life of bats and the challenges they encounter. The event will be held at the Ross Creek Annex located at 2182 Sheffield Rd, Canning, NS. This will be an in-person gathering, and light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing many of you there! For more information contact or call 902-682-2371.

On the Lookout for Old Growth

Old Growth Forest
Old Growth Forest

This year we are once again collaborating with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (NS DNRR) to grow and diversify the old growth stands in the provincial old forest database. We are also continuing to test the new old forest scoring protocol and will be focusing our surveys in the southwest end of the province this summer. Last year, thanks to MTRI’s work, NS DNRR added 11 sites to their old forest conservation layer.


Welcoming our Summer Students

Luca Voscort, Catherine Deguire, Jordan MacCormack, Mason Crouse, Tamara Uhlman
Luca Voscort, Catherine Deguire, Jordan MacCormack, Mason Crouse, Tamara Uhlman

Every year our team is lucky to be joined by knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate young people for the summer to help with our projects or lead their own work. These students get a hands-on education with many different conservation projects happening around Nova Scotia. This year we are very excited to introduce you to:

Luca Voscort

My name is Luca and I am currently finishing my M.Sc. in Biology at Acadia University, where I am studying the non-target effects of hemlock woolly adelgid management on pollinators. As part of this project, I spent countless hours in eastern hemlock stands in Kespukwitk/southwest Nova Scotia and became very attached to this special place. I am grateful that the MTRI allows me to gain insight into many other areas of research and conservation in this beautiful area.

Catherine Deguire

I am an intern student from Québec and I chose to do my 3rd-year bioecology internship at MTRI because of my great interest in the conservation of biodiversity and at-risk species. The institute provides me with great opportunities to learn about the local fauna and flora while being with people that are just as passionate as me about conservation.

Jordan MacCormack

My name is Jordan, I am a first-year student in the Natural Resources Environmental Technology program at NSCC. I was guided to this field by my growing passion for conservation, sustainability, and biodiversity and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the summer working and learning with MTRI. I love getting to be part of all the research and education projects – it’s worth every tick!

Mason Crouse

My name is Mason and I grew up near Caledonia. Already familiar with MTRI, I was excited to be working here for the summer, and to be learning various skills I can use throughout my career!

Tamara Uhlman

I’m Tamara Uhlman, I grew up in Milton and spent many days outdoor hunting or fishing. I wanted to bring my love for being outside into my career. While working for MTRI I have endless amounts of opportunity’s to be outdoors and learn new things.


Connecting with Our Community

Launching Wild Roots Youth Nature Club!

Launching Wild Roots Youth Nature Club!
Launching Wild Roots Youth Nature Club!

MTRI is now hosting Wild Roots Youth Nature Club, held on Saturdays from 10-12 p.m. for children and young teens ages 6-12. Wild Roots is a free program that involves hands-on, nature-based education and fun activities to get your young ones immersed and inspired by the wonders of the natural world. You can learn more and stay up to date with the details and themes of each club meeting by following MTRI’s Facebook or Instagram pages or checking out Wild Roots unique social media channels. Thank you to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for making Wild Roots possible!

Facebook | Instagram


Our Biggest Kespukwitk Municipal iNaturalist Competition Ever!

Our Biggest Kespukwitk Municipal iNaturalist Competition Ever!
Our Biggest Kespukwitk Municipal iNaturalist Competition Ever!

This year, thanks to the support of the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, we are launching our biggest Kespukwitk iNaturalist Competition ever! Over the next year, we will be hosting 4 seasonal, 2-week-long Kespukwitk Municipal iNaturalist Competitions. These are fierce but friendly competitions between the municipalities of Annapolis, Digby, Clare, Yarmouth, Argyle, Barrington, Shelburne, Lunenburg and Queens to see who can collect the most wildlife observations with the free iNaturalist app. To join, all you must do is log onto iNaturalist and take observations in Kespukwitk during the 2 weeklong competitions. iNaturalist is a free app that allows anyone to ID wildlife, and it uses that data to support conservation projects and wildlife research.

Thank you to everyone who joined our spring competition! We collected over 2,300 observations of almost 800 species with the help of 215 observers and 322 identifiers! Congratulations to Lunenburg County for once again taking home the grand prize, bragging rights, and to Kerstin Wilson for winning our prize pack! Our future competitions will run: Summer: July 17 – 30, Autumn: Sept. 11 – 24 and Winter: Feb. 12 – 25.

During each competition, we will host guided nature walks around the region to get you out and inspired by the biodiversity around us! We will also have prize draws of wildlife guides, cards, swag and outdoor gear to help you on your next adventure. For our spring competition, we hosted walks on birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants. This summer we are planning bigger and better, stay tuned.

Follow the Competition


Explore Species at Risk Stewardship with the Kespukwitk/Southwest Nova Scotia Priority Place Website!

Kespukwitk/Southwest Nova Scotia Priority Place
Kespukwitk/Southwest Nova Scotia Priority Place

The Kespukwitk/Southwest Nova Scotia Priority Place is an initiative formed under the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Approach to Transforming Species at Risk Conservation in Canada, a biodiversity hotspot in Canada, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. MTRI is one of the partner organizations working with the Kespukwitk Conservation Collaborative to conserve species at risk and their habitats through research, sharing of knowledge, and on-the ground actions. Check out our news and events page to find ways to get involved, including links to report species at risk sightings, and read our news stories and stories from the field to learn about current projects. Consider bookmarking the site and checking in again in the future as we are developing tools and resources geared towards municipalities, volunteers, educators, and private landowners.

Visit the Website


MTRI’s Second Annual Wildlife Photo Contest

MTRI’s Second Annual Wildlife Photo Contest
MTRI’s Second Annual Wildlife Photo Contest

While you are out looking for wildlife during one of our iNaturalist competitions or projects why not also submit your photo to the MTRI Wildlife Photo Contest? Send us your best wildlife pictures from within Southwest Nova Scotia between now and the end of September for a chance to win a prize pack. Send your submission, no more than 5 photos please, to

Please submit your name, the date the photo was taken, and where it was taken with your submissions.  All wildlife species submissions are welcome! No pictures of handling wildlife or drone images from within protected areas will be accepted. Please follow the rules of your local jurisdiction when taking photos. Our judges will decide the winner based on wildlife diversity, photo quality and photographer inclusivity (we will not only pick professional photos). Good luck everyone!

Email Your Photos


Pleasant River Invasive Species Removal

Pleasant River Invasive Species Removal
Pleasant River Invasive Species Removal

Thank you to all the amazing volunteers who came out in May to help us remove the invasive species Glossy Buckthorn from the Pu’tlaqne’katik Floodplain treasured wetland! We had an eager group of about 30 people with volunteers from all the coordinating groups including MTRI, Ducks Unlimited Canada – Atlantic, the Nova Scotia Invasive Species Council and the Nova Scotia Nature Trust. Pu’tlaqne’katik floodplain is located in Pleasant River, near Kejimkujik National Park. Beautiful, ancient-looking red maples line the riverbank, creating a serene environment for anyone who visits. This site is a popular hiking and bird-watching area, with a trail running right through the area. Visiting the Pu’tlaqne’katik floodplain allows you to see the haven it provides for many species!

Learn more about the Glossy Buckthorn


Summer Seminar Series

Summer Seminar Series
Summer Seminar Series

Starting in July and running until the end of August, MTRI will be hosting weekly seminars on Thursday evenings from 7 – 8 p.m. These seminars will be hybrid so you can join online or stop into our field station at 9 Mt Merritt Rd, Kempt to join us and grab some snacks and light refreshments. Our seminars will feature speakers on a range of conservation, indigenous knowledge and wildlife topics including bats, the Terranaut Club, forest fires in Nova Scotia, mushrooms, Mi’kmaw Moons and climate change; just to name a few. You can stay up to date with our seminars by following us on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for our past seminars.

Past Seminars


Saying Goodbye to a Conservation Legend

Steve Mockford
Steve Mockford


The staff and board of MTRI who had the pleasure of knowing and working with Steve Mockford are greatly saddened to learn of his recent passing. We express our deep gratitude for his rich contributions to our community. He was a mentor to many, and a steady and calm leader in the organization for many years; he left us far too soon.

As a long-standing board member and past Chair of MTRI, Steve helped to shape the growth of the organization. As a conservation biologist, Steve enriched our understanding of endangered reptiles in Canada and advanced their recovery. His candour, humour, patience, and deep respect for humanity made Steve a valued member of any circle as a mediator and mentor. He will be greatly missed.

On behalf of the lasting memory of Steve and his family, MTRI has created the Steve Mockford Memorial Student Research Award. As a valued builder and mentor, Steve shaped the direction of MTRI and inspired student researchers at Acadia University, MTRI and beyond. Your donation honors his memory by providing support for post-secondary student research activities in conservation science. Our scholarship committee will work with Steve’s family to establish award criteria. We will post updates on our website and social media when the funds are to be awarded.

Donate to the Steve Mockford Memorial Student Research Award

Steve’s Obituary


Thank You For Your Support

MTRI is lucky to be supported by such passionate and knowledgeable volunteers and 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 or visit our website.

Donate Today


Conservation In The News

Nova Scotia wildfires: What role is climate change playing?

Dalhousie Forestry Research Team Receives $1.57 Million To Study Nova Scotian Forests

Pleasant River couple donates piece of property to Nature Trust of Nova Scotia

N.S. environment minister cannot say when Coastal Protection Act will become law

Nova Scotia announces plans for youth climate council

N.S. Environment Department working on final recommendation for proposed wilderness area


Copyright (C) 2023 The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute. All rights reserved.

The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute

9 Mount Merritt Road

Kempt, Nova Scotia B0T 1B0