Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
Women in science in Ontario parks

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:

Patricia Davidson, Beach Management Coordinator

Trish began working for Ontario Parks in 2010 as coordinator of the Plover Recovery Program at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. Under her direction, Wasaga Beach has become the most successful nesting site for the endangered plover in all of Ontario, and she has raised over 70 birds since 2008!

Scientist carrying post pound on the beach

Trish also oversees resource management efforts at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park, including at-risk species research and monitoring, invasive species removal, and habitat restoration.

Katie Tripp and Kelsey Atatise, Quetico Foundation research team

With the support of the Quetico Foundation, Kelsey and Katie have participated in a number of research and monitoring projects important to the management of Quetico Provincial Park.

Kesley sampling red pine in QueticoKelsey cores a red pine tree in Quetico

These projects include:

  • Monitoring the distribution and movement of the invasive spiny water flea in lakes.
  • Data collection to assess lake trout habitat vulnerability to climate change
  • Monitoring the survival and regeneration of red and white pine after a fire.
  • data collection to determine historical fire frequency in red pine and its impact on regeneration

This information is essential for developing effective resource management plans for the park and for evaluating the effectiveness of management actions.

Katie coring a red pine in QueticoKatie cores a red pine tree in Quetico

“I work in science because I’m interested in the natural environment, how it works, how I can help it survive the changes humans are making to it, and I just love the outdoors,” Katie says. “I love going to the forest to try to understand how we can better protect it so it remains the place we all love. In my short career in the sciences, I have had many male managers and leaders. I want to show other women that they can do it too and that there is a place for them. “I want them to know that they can participate and protect the land just as well as anyone else.”

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Hannah Dodington, snake researcher

Hannah has been working to support ongoing research on at-risk snake species (primarily the Massasauga rattlesnake) in Killbear Provincial Park for the past two seasons.

scientific measuring snake

Their time in the field helps conservationists better understand the biology of these snakes and the threats they face from humans. Scientific trends recorded over time can provide important information about how we can better protect these species today and in the future.

“As a woman working in science, I feel very confident and capable in my position. I respect each and every woman I have worked with and I have learned a lot from these people. Our interests and passions don’t discriminate against our gender, so why should our career opportunities? “We must continue to support young women to navigate and follow the available pathways to a scientific career.”

Jennifer Arnold, professor of biology, Penn State University (Berks campus)

Jennifer conducts research in Presqu’ile Provincial Park and regionally to investigate the factors driving population declines of inland-breeding common terns and restore nesting colonies.

Jennifer wearing a life jacket on a boat on Lake Ontario

He enjoys collaborating with Ontario Parks to develop and test novel management strategies. These efforts have reestablished the reproductive success of terns in Presqu’ile and have uncovered many details about the unique ecology of terns in inland waters.

As part of this collaboration, Jennifer takes college students to the parks where they explore environmental careers, gain hands-on experience, and support park programs.

“My passion for wildlife and finding those ‘quiet places’ was inspired from a young age by my father, who shared with me his love and curiosity for the natural world. Since then, I have had many incredible mentors, including the terns themselves who have become my passion over the past two decades. It is a privilege to work with these delicate and determined animals. I am constantly reminded of the value of resilience in life and I hope my work helps preserve them for future generations. As a mentor, my goal is to encourage young people to pursue their own passions, marvel at the excitement of new discoveries and find their own way to contribute to environmental stewardship.”

Kathleen Cote, Management Biologist (MNRF)

While Kat worked at Lake Superior Provincial Park, she launched the park’s iNaturalist project to encourage citizen scientists to collect biodiversity data. During this time, she also studied the root growth of the park’s wetland plants as part of her master’s thesis in biology.

Kat with a huge backpack and standing looking out over Lake Superior

He has conducted inventories of Lake Superior moose populations by helicopter and assisted with wildlife and vegetation surveys in Michipicoten Island Provincial Park. In the future, he hopes to establish snowshoe hare study plots in Wildlife Management Unit 34, which includes Lake Superior Provincial Park, as part of a provincial MNRF data collection project.

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He has advocated for the development of a research fellowship for graduate students conducting approved research in Lake Superior through his work with Friends of Lake Superior Park.

Kat works in science to protect what sustains us, ecologically and psychologically, and to ensure that wild spaces are protected for future generations.

Anne Craig, Senior Marketing Specialist

Anne manages market and visitor research on behalf of Ontario Parks. When we think about science and parks we tend to think of the biological sciences, but the social sciences are important too.

Woman with computer screen and Ontario Parks bulletin board

Understanding who visits the parks and who doesn’t, how they visit now, and how they would like to visit in the future helps Ontario Parks make important business and operational decisions and plan for the future.

Anne is currently exploring the different visitation patterns Ontario parks saw in 2020 and preparing to implement the 2021 Ontario Park Visitor Survey.

Christina Davy, Research Scientist, Wildlife Monitoring and Research Section (MNRF)

Christina’s research team explores how endangered wildlife, including bats, turtles, and snakes, respond to rapid environmental changes. One of her main goals as a researcher is to provide park managers with the information they need to manage healthy wildlife populations in their protected areas and support the recovery of at-risk species.

two scientists examine a brown batChristina (right) examines a Big Brown bat in Presqu’ile Provincial Park

We depend on wetlands, forests, lakes and rivers as much as the wildlife that uses these habitats depends on them. Healthy habitats for wildlife are also healthy habitats for people, so recovering at-risk species in Ontario is part of ensuring a sustainable future for Ontarians.

Sue Carstairs, Executive and Medical Director, Ontario Turtle Conservation Center

Sue is currently running a field project in a provincial park to help determine if “hatch, raise and release” is an effective conservation strategy for freshwater turtles. The project involves monitoring released juvenile Blanding’s turtles, using radio telemetry, along with a comparable group of juvenile Blanding’s turtles hatched in the wild at the same site.

Sue Carstairs holding a large snapping turtle

“I work in conservation as a lifelong passion and am fortunate to be able to combine my training as a veterinarian with the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre’s multi-pronged approach (hospital management, initial program, educational program and research program). “Our field work is one part of this multifaceted conservation approach.”

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 Ministry of 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.