Happy International Day of Women and Girls in Science!
Our scientists are absolutely essential to Ontario parks, working as researchers, biologists, ecologists and more!
Take a look at some of our amazing women scientists:
Jess Matthews, chief naturalist of the park
Jess Matthews oversees the protection of one of Ontario’s most biodiverse places: Rondeau Provincial Park. This involves the coordination of a huge number of projects.
Jess leads annual monitoring of the endangered hunter toad and collects data on the health of white-tailed deer and their impact on the park. She restores the park’s ecosystems, removes invasive species, and creates habitats for at-risk species.
She also collaborates with researchers who, with Jess’s support, have discovered that Rondeau is the perfect place to study snakes, bumblebee diversity, the impacts of invasive phragmites, and more.
“Being able to come to work knowing that my efforts will ultimately improve the quality of rare and fragile ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them is incredible. Sharing those efforts with visitors for lasting community engagement makes this work even more rewarding.”
Monica Fromberger, piping plover biologist
Monica has been working with piping plovers in the southeastern zone of Ontario parks since 2020. She protects and monitors this endangered shorebird that nests on the beaches of some of our Great Lakes parks, including Darlington, Presqu ‘ile and North Beach.
Recovery work on this species is important as the piping plover has been extinct in Ontario for about 30 years. Thanks to effective conservation efforts, we now see between 65 and 75 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes Piping Plover population of Ontario and the US!
A big part of what Monica does is educate the public about the plight of piping plovers, their life history and habitat requirements. She also monitors its habitat, predators in the area, and looks for every opportunity to gain more knowledge that will help with the conservation of the plover.
“I have learned a lot from other women working in science and I am grateful to the women of the past who paved the way in this field for all women today!”
“Working with this endangered species is very exciting because not only do I get to contribute to its conservation, but I also get to see the faces of our park visitors light up with curiosity when they discover how rare the bird they are observing is. really is.”
Anurani Persaud, Senior Ecologist
Long before Anurani became a senior ecologist, he began working as a research assistant at Killarney Provincial Park and collaborated extensively with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
Since then, he has spent many days paddling around the lakes of Killarney and Muskoka, and has completed a couple of postgraduate research projects, one of which focused on understanding how climate change will modify food webs in temperate lakes.
In his role as Senior Ecologist, Anurani collaborates with other staff to ensure science is incorporated into policies, strategies and procedures for the planning and management of Ontario’s parks. Her work also involves collaborating with our conservation partners to recognize and account for their lands as protected and conserved areas, and to grow the network of protected and conserved areas across our province.
Beyond her work in the scientific field, Anurani also has a deep interest in diversity, inclusion and social justice, which led her to participate in an Anti-Racism Working Group.
Sonje Bols, Learning and Education Leader
Sonje has been working on the Discovery Program for over 10 years! Discovery involves educating park visitors as well as conducting a variety of research and resource monitoring projects.
She has been involved in researching Public Wolf Howls and Canada Jay in Algonquin Provincial Park, and monitoring turtle nests in Grundy Lake Provincial Park.
Sonje examines a Merlin chick (a species of falcon) that has fallen from its nest in a busy campsite. The chick will be taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center, where it will be raised and then released into the wild.
Sonje currently works for the Northeast Zone office, working on a variety of Discovery projects and delivering school programs. Her experience in science (she has a master’s degree) and her experience in Discovery help bring the science curriculum to life for students!
“You never know what your day will be like. You could run a kids program in the morning, have some invasive garlic mustard in the afternoon, and then get a call about an injured Canada goose on the park beach! I have always loved working in science and protected areas. It’s rewarding work and you feel like you’re making a difference.”
Julia Belliveau, ecological assistant
As an assistant ecologist, Julie works to promote and maintain ecological integrity within Southeast Zone parks.
Some of its projects include the restoration of sensitive habitats and ecosystems by monitoring and protecting species at risk, monitoring hyperabundant wildlife and its ecological impacts, managing invasive plant species, planting plants and species of native trees and conducting controlled prescribed burns to contribute to habitat restoration. .
“It is important to find and strive for a balance in our ability to enjoy nature while protecting its health, function and diversity. I am so grateful to be able to work toward this goal with a province-wide team that includes many of my female colleagues in many different roles. I grew up loving nature and I hope that the work I do can inspire others to not give up and protect it so we can all enjoy it.”
Hannah Dodington, Discovery Program Resource Technician
Last summer, Hannah spent many hours completing surveys for the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas in Killbear Provincial Park.
This involved identifying birds by song and sight, observing bird behavior and monitoring bird nesting areas. All of these observations were documented using breeding and behavior codes, which provide information for global research and conservation initiatives.
“My work as a woman in science is important not only because of my contributions in the ecological sense, but also because it is what fulfills me as an individual. “Any person, regardless of their gender, should be able to pursue a career that gives them a feeling of purpose and happiness.”
Danni Gartshore, Master’s candidate in Biology at Lakehead University
Danni is currently researching the impacts of the invasive spiny water flea on fish growth. She conducted her fieldwork in Quetico Provincial Park in the summer of 2021 and is also analyzing historical data dating back to the early 1970s.
Their work is partially funded by the Quetico Foundation and will help the park understand the impacts the spiny water flea can have on fish in Quetico lakes with this aquatic invasive species.
“The research we are doing at Quetico can have big implications for invasive species and fisheries management in Canada. Improving our knowledge of the natural world and making a positive impact on the environment has been a lifelong dream of mine and I am honored to contribute in a meaningful way.”
To all the incredible women scientists working passionately to understand and protect our natural spaces: thank you for your hard work and expertise, and congratulations on all your achievements!
Why are your scientists detecting wildlife? Can I collect snakes and turtles too?
Please do not handle wildlife. The staff members shown here are trained scientists engaged in professional research. These scientists follow a strict animal care protocol approved by the Northern Ministry of Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. These protocols review the desired outcome of the research and ensure that steps are taken to place the least amount of stress on the animal as possible. We ask that you always observe animals from a distance for your safety and that of the animal.