Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
The "Nature Snoopers": a legacy in photographs

Special thanks to Kandyd. Szuba, a family friend of the Meissners, who helped donate Meissner’s photography collection to Ontario Parks and contributed to this article.

Meet the “nature snoopers.”

To their friends, Erwin and Annie Meissner were “nature’s snoops.” Wherever they went, they were “spying on nature”: on every back road and hiking trail, they would be on the lookout for new discoveries.

For decades, this inseparable duo explored Ontario’s provincial parks and natural world, taking photographs of their finds. It was a great passion to share what they learned with their friends and family.

Erwin and Annie Meissner.Erwin and Annie Meissner

Unfortunately, Erwin and Annie recently passed away. After his death, his enormous photographic library of Ontario flora and fauna was donated to Ontario Parks.

Today we want to analyze the legacy they left behind.

A deep appreciation for nature.

For Nature Snoopers, nature could be seen anywhere and everywhere, but Ontario’s provincial parks represented the best aspects of the province.

whitetail deer fawnA white-tailed deer fawn in Mississagi Provincial Park

They had a special place in their hearts for Algonquin Provincial Park and Misery Bay Provincial Park.

False Morel.False Morel in Algonquin Park

They explored Rondeau Provincial Park to observe red-headed woodpeckers, skinks and the unusual trees of the Carolinian forest.

They visited Chutes Provincial Park, enjoying the incredible views of the waterfalls, and went to Lake Superior Provincial Park to enjoy the fantastic scenery.

short-tailed weasel

Erwin and Annie made memories at every destination they visited, often with their children, whom they took camping in Ontario parks frequently while growing up. Later in life, they moved north in search of more space to explore.

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Citizen scientists

The couple were dedicated citizen scientists. They helped found three groups dedicated to enjoying nature: Penokean Hills Field Naturalists, Massey Nature Study Group and Sheriff Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.

Their goal was to help others find the same inspiration they themselves gained from the natural world.

An adult Cecropia moth.An adult Cecropia moth

They gave countless talks on the north shore of Lake Huron about orchids, wildflowers and wildlife, and led hundreds of people of all ages on excursions.

Erwin and Annie also participated in volunteer citizen scientist programs including the Christmas Bird Count, the Nocturnal Owl Survey, the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, and more.

ring-necked pheasantring-necked pheasant

Over the three years of the latest Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, Erwin, with Annie’s help, spent more than 420 hours putting together the atlas. He even won the Golden Eagle Award from the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas for showing “the true spirit of the atlas by going above and beyond what is expected of atlas participants.”

A captured passion; a preserved legacy

Fortunately, their discoveries were captured on camera the entire way.

A black swallowtail caterpillar.A black swallowtail caterpillar

His collection of photographs showcases all the unique, weird and wonderful aspects of Ontario’s natural world.

The Meissners

Erwin and Annie made exploration and citizen science their life’s work. We are saddened that they are no longer with us today to share their many years of wisdom and experience, but we are also grateful for the legacy they left.

The images the “Nature Snoopers” captured will be used for years to inspire a new generation to explore the endless wonders of nature.

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We are only guardians of our natural world, preserving it for future generations to discover for themselves.

No one demonstrated this more clearly than Erwin and Annie Meissner.

What will be your own legacy? Learn more about leaving a legacy with Ontario Parks.