December 1995

Highland Memorial: Giving Frogs a Home
Paradise is Just Around the Corner
Coins for Cootes
Students Speak Out For Wetlands
Dissection Revisited
Mud, Bugs and Soakers
The First United Nations Peace Water Garden

by: Heather Gosselin
Adopt-A-Pond Coordinator

Highland Memory Gardens and Crematorium of Willowdale, Ontario a division of Memorial Gardens (Canada) Ltd. is naturalizing its cemetery to attract wildlife.

Gary Palmer of Cemetery Services at Highland Memory explains that " Cranes, wood ducks, red-wing black birds, wrens, painted turtles and bullfrogs have made their home in the two ponds found on the cemetery grounds." The first pond existed when Memorial Gardens bought the land, but the second one was just recently built. "The original pond has been such a success that we decided to build a second one." explains Palmer.

A flowering rock garden will be put around the perimeter of the pond and a gazebo in 1996. "We have people that come here regularly just to watch the wildlife" explains Palmer. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has also visited Highland Memory because it a resting spot for migratory wood ducks.

The ponds found on Highland Memory Gardens and Crematorium are not only providing esthetic value to the cemetery, they are also providing an outdoor classroom for Highland Jr. High School. Students from this high school monitor the ponds for wildlife, test the water and are involved in the clean-up in the spring. Highland Memory Gardens intends to erect a purple martin nesting box built by students from Highland Jr. High School's woodworking class.

Memorial Gardens owns 44 cemeteries across Canada, including 20 in Ontario. If you are unable to visit a local pond or build a pond in your schoolyard, please feel free to contact Memorial Gardens to use their ponds as an outdoor classroom. This is a perfect example of how schools and businesses can work together effectively to conserve wetlands.

Paradise is Just Around the Corner
by: Melanie Winterle
Project Paradise
Royal Botanical Gardens

Paradise can be found in Southern Ontario within the communities of Burlington, Hamilton and Dundas. Paradise is a marsh called Cootes but it's not quite the natural gem it used to be. Royal Botanical Gardens, custodian of this important body of water, and its many partners have undertaken the restoration of this large freshwater marsh and named the experiment Project Paradise. Although this project is only one part of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, the lessons learned at Cootes have become a model for similar projects as close to home as the Oshawa 2nd Marsh and as far away as Lake Chapala, near Guadalajara, Mexico.

Personal accounts of the marsh from the early 1800s speak of Cootes as a lush, diverse habitat. Those of us growing up in the area have noticed a continuing decline of water quality and marsh plant populations. Urbanization and the invasion of pollution-tolerant carp, a non-native species, are responsible for devastating this once-stable ecosystem. Today, out of an original 250 hectares of wetland, only 25 hectares remain vegetated. This means that 85% of marsh vegetation has been lost. We know that there is a direct relationship between the loss of habitat and the decline of wildlife. Recent studies by Royal Botanical Gardens and federal fisheries scientist indicate a dramatic decline in fish, amphibian and other wildlife species since those early 1800s.

The successful restoration and management of Cootes Paradise relies on three key components: carp exclusion, revegetation and education. These components are defined by five objectives: 1) improve water quality, 2) alter the fish community to include pike, bass and perch, 3) provide spawning, nursery and adult fish habitat, 4) recover lost wetlands to restore the aquatic plant communities and create habitats for shorebirds, waterfowl, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and 5) create and enhance trails, boardwalks and viewing towers. The activities supporting these objectives are showing positive results. For example, the places where carp are excluded respond well to volunteer planting programs and natural revegetation. These restored areas provide habitat for marsh-dependent animals and illustrate what happens when an educated community gets involved.

Cootes Paradise will once again be a thriving ecosystem but that won't be the end of Project Paradise. "If we are to have real success, what we learn here, won't stay here," says Len Simser, Environmental Biologist and Coordinator of Project Paradise, "it will become part of the learning process and success at other restoration projects around the world." Perhaps this means Paradise really is just around the corner.

If you would like more information about Project Paradise, please call (905) 527-1158 or write to: Project Paradise, c/o Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario, L7T 4H4.

Photo: Volunteers at one of the planting days in Cootes Paradise.


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"Coins for Cootes"
by Melanie Winterle
Project Paradise
Royal Botanical Gardens

What do Grunge Days, Bake Sales and aquatic plants have in common? They all represent hard work and sincere concern of today's youth for our marsh land. Last year over 20 schools participated in fundraising activities for Project Paradise. Another 60 youth groups and classes took part in growing aquatic plants to help revegetate Cootes Paradise. In order to recognize and maximize the on-going efforts of these children a special program called "Coins for Cootes" has been developed.

Starting in September 1995 with the help of Mr. Brad Bender at Bramur Plastica, coin boxes will be available for schools and youth groups. These "Coins for Cootes" collections can then be taken to the nearest branch of Canada Trust, thanks to Friends of the Environment. Every group that participates will be recognized for their specific efforts. They will receive a certificate of merit describing their activities and a copy of "News from Paradise".

If your class or youth group would like to learn more about the restoration process or would like to participate in "Coins for Cootes" please call Melanie Winterle at (905) 527-1158 ext. 2950 or write to: Project Paradise, c/o Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario, L7T 4H4. You will be able to read about the successes and interesting activities happening in "Coins for Cootes" in up-coming issues of "News from Paradise".

Photo: John T. Tuck School, Burlington raised $204.50 by having a bake sale, pizza day and timbit day. (L-R), Catharine Jones, Jayde Duncombe of Tuck School and Melanie Winterle of Project Paradise.

by Denise Ryan
Environmental Youth Corps
Adopt-A-Pond Assistant

Students often feel their opinions are disregarded because of their age or education. Miss Gilmour's grade five class at Highbush Public School in Pickering, recently demonstrated that this is not always the case. The students voiced their concerns about wetland destruction through letters to the local media and government. The response to the letters was overwhelming!!

The letters were written as part of a class unit on wetlands. At the end of the unit the students were given the choice of writing a letter to the government or to the local newspaper, The News Advertiser. The letters published in the newspaper under the title, "Voices for the Wilderness" are included below.

Through the efforts of Miss Gilmour's students, the community has been made aware of the importance of wetlands and the wildlife which inhabit them. The Adopt-A-Pond programme presented the students with a certificate for contributing to an increased public awareness of wetland conservation.

To the editor:
I'm writing to you to talk to you about the wetlands and how they can be saved. From my point of view, ducks should have homes just like you and I. If we didn't have wetlands ducks wouldn't be able to live. Ducks need shelter and water just like we do. Wetlands are disappearing rapidly and we should do something about it.
Camille Noel

To the editor:
Wetlands in Ontario are being destroyed by the minute! Ducks, frogs, tadpoles and insects are losing their natural habitat because developers and builders are wiping out wetlands by building houses that people don't even need! Why do people even want to destroy the wetlands? Don't we have enough houses in our world?
Nicole Carss and Ashley Vella

To the editor:
I'm upset about the way the wetlands are getting destroyed. I am ten years old and I am concerned about how ducks, fish and other animals are losing their homes. We are destroying their habitat by wiping out the land and building on it. Another problem is purple loosestrife which takes over all plants in the marsh. If we don't stop these problems there will be no place to fish, no place to walk and watch the ducks play. What I'm trying to say is save the wetlands.
Matthew Murphy

To the editor:
I am only 11 and I may not be old enough to be heard, and I may not be wise enough to be listened to, but that is not what matters. What matters is I have a voice and to make my point I am going to use it.

Each second as I am writing, ducks are becoming homeless because we humans are destroying their wetland habitat just to make ourselves happy. We do this by making new buildings, houses, and stores. We might think ducks will just fly away and find another pond or marsh to live a happy life. But that's wrong! Ducks can't just get up and walk away from what used to be their home. To find a new home means ducks have to waddle or fly for days or even weeks. Most likely the majority of those ducks will not survive. So, please think before you do something that might save a lot of innocent duck lives!
Dawn Saunder

To the editor:
I'm really concerned about the wetlands. Is there anything that we can do to make the wetlands safe so animals don't have to worry about getting killed? A place where there is peace, where the baby animals can run and fly by themselves? A place where they can wander free? I am ten years old and would like to learn more about the wetlands. Let's all get together and clean the wetlands.
Tamara Savage

To the editor:
We are very concerned about the marsh. We are concerned about the development and the pollution lake gas from boats, better sewage treatment and littering. The wetlands are being destroyed because of the buildings being built over the marsh. The pollution is causing acid rain, and that is destroying the marsh. We want everybody to stop destroying our wetlands and marshes. The pollution and purple loosestrife is killing our animals.
Timothy Sukhu and Michael Neblett


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Editor's Note:

See the December 1995 edition of Amphibian Voice for a review of the fully integrated multimedia frog dissection "The Digital Frog CD-ROM". The Adopt-A-Pond programme supports the CD-ROM based dissection for reasons outlined in our review. After discussions with teacher Lynda Bolzon, we felt she had a valid perspective on the value of lab dissections which we want to share with you.

by: Lynda Bolzon
Science Teacher
Scarborough Board of Education

Once again we approach that time of year where vertebrate dissection comes alive in our classrooms. Every year I ponder over the ethical considerations and ask myself the eternal question; To Dissect or Not to Dissect? In my seven years as a highschool teacher my final decision has always weighed in favour of dissection. I have reflected heavily on the subject in the past years, particularly in view of ever increasing budget cuts and certainly dissections specimens are not inexpensive. So why do I favour dissection?

Part of my answer stems from my own personal experience as a young highschool student. I will never forget that first experience where with great trepidation I dissected my first specimen. I initially wanted no part of the ordeal but by the time my partner and I made the first few incisions in the small amphibian before us the whole world of biology seemed to unravel before my eyes. I remember clearly that feeling of absolute amazement as I saw first hand how perfectly all the organs of that frog fit so neatly into place. My passion for biology had rose to a new level.

Another part of my answer stems form my experiences as a graduate student at University. My passion in biology led me to pursue an M.Sc. Degree in Microbiology prior to my becoming a teacher. I worked with the Rabies virus and was involved with a research team that was attempting to develop an effective vaccine to protect wild animals from developing rabies. In order to test and develop an effective vaccine, trials had to be conducted on experimental animals before the vaccine could be considered safe and effective for used on wildlife. It was difficult for me initially to come to terms with this -- that a few animals had to be sacrificed in order to save a majority from a horrific disease that could also kill humans. This doesn't relate directly to the dissection issue but discussion with students prior to and following the dissection component allows students to express their feelings and viewpoints on these types of issues from a more personal viewpoint than if they never had an opportunity to dissect in the classroom.

I would be naive to think that all teachers regard dissection in the same way that I do but that brings me to my next point. I think the question to dissect or not to dissect should be addressed by every teacher on an individual basis. If a teacher does not see any benefit of dissection or feels strongly against it, then it will be very difficult for that teacher to pass on any positive experiences to the students. For that particular teacher perhaps, alternatives to dissection should be seriously considered. I tell my students that they are privileged to have an opportunity to dissect an animal in the classroom. I prepare them in advance and make my expectations very clear to them that they should work hard to learn as much as possible because this living being has been sacrificed solely for their benefit.

In order to help student prior to and throughout the dissection a number of computer programmes are available which allow them to visualize the dissection on the screen. I highly recommend the computer programme, The Digital Frog (Digital Frog International, Trillium Place, RR#2, Puslinch, Ontario, N0B 2J0, (519) 766-1097), which guides students through dissection with very good quality video photos of the specimen. A number of shortcomings is that the photos don't reflect the variability observed in living specimen and secondly you are limited to your ability to zoom into certain areas to emphasize a component of an organ or surrounding organs. The programme does a wonderful job of informing students about the entire ecology of the frog including an audio component of frog calls. Although I was impressed with the programme I have not found to date a complete alternative to dissection. These computer programmes can be of great assistance if available to students in the classroom. The reality, however is that most schools have limited access to computers and having one or two computers in the classroom is just not enough to enable a teacher to use the computer as a complete alternative to dissection.

I'm certain that I will continue to ponder the benefit of dissection in the classroom and I think that it is my responsibility not only as a teacher but also as an environmental citizen to continue to question, but to date I firmly believe that experience has had positive impact on my students.


by Heather Gosselin
Adopt-A-Pond programme

Adopting a pond may not even require you to leave your backyard! A grade 5/6 class from the Institute of Child Studies, a lab school ran by the University of Toronto, adopted a threatened urban wetland. The wetland, found off of Bathurst just north of St.Clair, is behind one of the students backyards. Its existence is threatened by neighbours who believed it to be a mosquito breeding ground.

The wetland had obviously been impacted by its urban environment containing a shopping cart, bike, suitcase and numerous plastic bags. After a spontaneous general cleanup of the wetland, students took turns dip-netting the wetland. They were ecstatic to find water striders, snails, water boatman, numerous plant species and toad tadpoles!

It is a good idea for educators to quickly inventory the wetland in advance of the class to familiarize themselves with the best areas for access and sampling. The inventory also familiarizes educators with the wild life species found in the wetland. No more than five to seven students should be in the wetland at one time. Taking turns reduces the stress placed on the wetland. Set up a separate study site with white wash tubs containing pond water and pond life so that students waiting to dip-net can get a head start on learning about pond life.

We hope that neighbours realize the importance of this wetland as an urban wild life resource, and also as an educational tool. The day was filled with mud, bugs, "soakers" but more importantly learning, laughter and fun.

photo: A pond study is a great way to learn about the importance of wetlands and the wild life that depend on them. A student from the Institute of Child Studies' lab school looking for tadpoles.

Michelle Barraclough
W.A. Porter Collegiate

The first icy fingers of winter have visited the pond and left their cold remains on the surface. But beneath the depths an entire community of wildlife is waiting to appear.

Last spring we had observed dragonflies laying their eggs, water striders and water beetles enjoying themselves, snails and other aquatic life easing and oozing their way into our pond. The new shrubs and bushes provide a habitat for many species of birds, including the first-time sighting, at least in our school yard, of a killdeer. Over the summer the area developed and we had a multitude of lilies, snowflakes and water hyacynths in the pond. As well as pickerel weed, cattails, marsh marigolds and many other plants developing in the bog area. The insects that summered at our vacation spot included lady bugs, and we did not see one mosquito!

As for maintenance, the school board agreed not to spray any herbicides or pesticides in the area and we had some weeding to do in September. As our bushes develop less weeding should be required and the animals, birds and insects, should have full access to this watery wonderland.

Over the next semester we are looking forward to documenting the changes that are already occurring in the area. To that end, we are planning to become involved with a project that collects, documents and uses the information for a better understanding of our environment.

Our thanks go to Ray Shivrahan, from Picov's Water Garden Centre and Fisheries who helped us construct the water ecosystem, and Canada Trust for financing the project.

We are planning our grand inauguration of the U.N. Peace Water Garden in May'96 and we hope to have the Honourable H. Jackman as our guest to officially open it. If you would like further information please contact Ms. Barraclough, or Mrs. Doukas at W.A. Porter Collegiate, Scarborough at (416) 396-3365.


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