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. Today’s post comes from Anna Scuhr, a Discovery Program staff member at Lake Superior Provincial Park.
Being an Ontario Parks Discovery Guide brings many joys. We work in some of the most beautiful places in Ontario, with co-workers who share our passions and work that is never boring.
In Lake Superior Provincial Parkwe may find ourselves posted on Agawa Rock pictographs, leading a guided hike or children’s program, facilitating an Art in the Park program, or perhaps participating in an ecological study. We also work behind the information desk in the Visitor Center ready to answer your questions about the park!
The Lake Superior Visitor Center is located along the Trans-Canada Highway, which It effectively divides the park in two, from north to south. Thousands of visitors, from all over the world and from all walks of life, pass through our doors each season. For our visitors, whether visiting the park for the first time or the hundredth time, the Visitor Center provides a center of curiosity of sorts.
What would you like to know?
They ask us a lot of questions every day. Many also ask us different Kind of questions.
Many of the questions are relatively common:
- “Where is the nearest gas station?”
- “Do you have a bathroom?”
- “Where can I find the weather forecast?”
Some questions we get asked quite frequently but are still excited to answer:
- “I would like to go for a walk today. Where should I go?” (Let me tell you about one of my favorite trails, Orphan Lake!)
- “How much water is in Lake Superior?” (11.3 trillion liters! Can you believe it?!)
View from the first viewpoint of Lake Orphan
Others can be a bit fun:
- “What time do they release the animals?” (The park is their home and they are out there all the time!)
- “Are there insects in the park?” “Insects of any kind? “Those that bite, like mosquitoes and black flies? (Yes, yes and also, yes.)
- “Is that a dinosaur?” (No, it’s actually the skeleton of a black bear!)
That is a good question!
Then there are fascinating questions. The ones that really excite us and challenge our knowledge of the park.
Some of them have relatively simple answers:
- “Is Lake Superior tidal?” (No, although it is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, it is not large enough to be affected by the pull of the moon. However, it does experience a periodic sloshing effect known as a “seiche.”)
- “Why are many of the tree branches along the road red?” (Get out of the way!)
Other questions are a little more complicated to answer:
- “I saw a bird; Can you help me identify it? (This question is especially pleasant when accompanied by an enthusiastic imitation of the bird’s song.)
- “What would this forest have been like before humans?” (That’s an excellent question, but difficult to answer. Changes in the forest are well documented during the era of logging, but humans have been inhabiting this area for thousands of years before that.)
Our favorite type of questions
Of all the questions we get asked, some of our favorites are the ones No We really know the answers because it means we can learn something new.
- “What is the name of this flower I found?” (Hmm, I don’t know. Let’s look at a field guide together and find out!)
- “I found some poop! Can you tell me what animal it came from? (That’s a pretty scat! It looks like it came from a carnivore, but I’ll have to check out a book to find out which one.)
Sometimes this barrage of questions can be a little overwhelming for new park discovery guides, but we learn more and more with each question we have to search for. We also quickly learn to be comfortable not knowing all the answers, all the time.
We are also lucky to be part of a team with a diverse set of interests and experience that we share with each other.
- “What type of lure should I use to fish for lake trout?” (I’m actually not sure since I’m not a fisherman, but let me call Chris, our park ranger, and I bet he can teach us.)
Sometimes we just don’t know!
- “How many trees are there in the park?” (I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to that question. Let’s say a lot! I can tell you that there are at least 19 different species of trees in the park!)
Whether staff have an answer or not, interesting questions and the curiosity behind their questions provide opportunities for discovery and connection, and that’s really what our work is about.
Although we offer informational programs, we are not simply educators. Ontario Parks Discovery Guides are, first and foremost, interpreters.
The National Interpretation Association defines interpretation as “a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the audience’s interests and the meanings inherent in the resource.”
In reality, questions are a gateway to facilitating meaningful connections between visitors and the landscapes in which we work.
Good questions can lead to a shift in perspective, a deeper appreciation of our parks, and spark greater curiosity and exploration.
Explore. Notice. Discover. That’s the motto of the Discovery Program!
Keep asking questions and keep being curious.
- “Did you know you have the best job?” (Of course!)
There are many joys that come with being an Ontario Parks Discovery Guide. Answering interesting questions is one of the best. They make us laugh, allow us to share our knowledge and passion, push us to learn new things, and invite us to contemplate the mysteries and meanings found within our parks.
To our visitors, thank you for sharing your questions with us and helping us make our job a pleasure!
Do you have a curious question to help you identify a bug or plant seen in Ontario parks? Stop by the Visitor Center to ask us in person or ask on social media using #AskANaturalist.
Stay curious. And stop by and ask us a question!
Do you want to join our expert team of question answerers?
Applications to join our Discovery staff are now open for the 2023 season! Learn more about working at Ontario Parks on our website.