Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

In our “Behind the Scenes” series, Discovery Program staff from across the province share a “behind the scenes” look at their favorite shows and projects. tToday’s post comes from Alexander Renaud, Discovery Program Leader at Emily Provincial Park.

Seven years ago I applied for every job under the sun (as all college students do) and finally got the call.

The only downside…I had never been to a provincial park before.

I spent my childhood in the cabin avoiding bugs on a covered porch. Wow, I was in for an awakening!

My first year

To say I struggled during my first year would be an understatement.

As a history and political science student, biology was not my strongest subject.

Oh, and the outdoors. I didn’t like that much either. Why do you ask? Insects. And what was my first program about? These were insects, ladybugs to be specific.

So I started researching and familiarizing myself with the outline of the program. Here are some things I learned about them…

A collection of ladybugs created by campers during the program.A beautiful collection of ladybugs made by visitors.

  • They are not actually a “bug”, but an insect, a beetle to be specific (who knew, right?)
  • There are over 450 different species of ladybugs in North America. Some have different colors, some have spots, some have stripes, and some have no markings at all!
  • A ladybug flaps its wings more than 85 times per second. Side note: if you challenge a child to try to flap their arms that fast, they will have a blast!
  • See also  Turtles: the last survivors

    Staff and participants show off the ladybug crafts they madeMy first program!

    A couple weeks later, I was hooked!

    I loved meeting new people during the programs. Guided walks have easily become one of my favorite running activities! I even developed a passion for canoeing, just so I could explore Emily from the water.

    A staff member leads a guided walk and talks about raccoons at a stop.“Who’s who in the dark”, guide to nocturnal animals

    When park management asked me if I would like to return next season, I said, “YES!”

    The next years

    As park staff, we are always asked, “What other campgrounds would you recommend?” Do you know what is offered in this park? How many parks have you visited?

    Map showing the location of starred Ontario parks where Alexander Renaud once visited48 parks and counting!

    In that first year, my answers were very vague because I had yet to explore beyond the boundaries of my own park.

    That all changed when I purchased my own Summer Park Pass! I hit the road with camera in hand. I camped, hiked, paddled, you name it! I gathered anecdotes, wildlife encounters, and innovative ideas to bring back to Emily and our campers.

    In my third year, I applied all of these experiences as a Discovery program leader. The team and I work hard to develop creative programs and a unique experience for visitors!

    Spike, the park's snapping turtle, measures his wingspan against local birds in front of an exhibit.Spike, the park’s snapping turtle, has the wingspan of a blue jay.


    A collection of photographs of the different projects mentioned including turtles, programs and research.

    Why do I keep coming back?

    Six years, dozens of programs, four bioblitzes, and thousands of happy campers later, I fondly remember my time at Emily Provincial Park.

    Four staff members dressed up for a late-night show titled "Why can not we Be Friends?"Saying “CHEESE” after a late-night show

    The experiences and opportunities I had in this position have shaped me into the individual I am today: an avid iNaturalist user, a perpetual trash collector, a turtle stopper, and of course, a storyteller!

    See also  Camping Vacancy Highlights: September 13-15

    I am rooted in nature.

    Staff member using a DSLR camera to take photographs of species in the park.Compilation of photographs of different species in Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park

    This lifelong connection has been fueled by every moment of my stay in our provincial parks and by the dedicated staff, energetic campers, breathtaking views and incredible creatures that call them home.

    Emily Provincial Park Staff Photo 2019Emily Provincial Park staff photo, 2019

    Who would want to work somewhere else?