Student research leads to walking tour

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Locating an abundance of Northern Paper Wasp along the Minden River Walk was a “major, exciting find” for Caleb Brown, as the Trent University student worked with the Haliburton County Master Gardeners to track pollinators as part of his U-Links project this past year.

Brown’s was just one of 20 Trent University and Fleming College research projects presented at U-Links Celebration of Research March 25 in the Great Hall at Haliburton School of Art + Design. He was one of three students who presented their findings in front of the first in-person gathering in four years.

Brown added the Northern Paper Wasp’s nesting grounds have been under competition from the newer European Paper Wasp, but they are winning out in Minden. That’s a good thing, he added, since they are the native species. They’re finding food in the flower gardens along the River Walk, and, in turn, helping the gardens to thrive.

Another highlight of his research, said Brown, was finding Monarch butterflies. “I think the Monarch butterfly has kind of become the forefront of conservation. It’s definitely an icon and we recognize that its population is dwindling, but we did see them along the trail, and they really liked a lot of the flowers that were there.”

Brown said a lot of people think you need to plant milkweed to attract Monarchs, but that’s actually for the caterpillars, while adult Monarch will harvest nectar from almost any flower.” For example, he said they found Monarchs on Canadian sunflowers.

Brown added the change from turf grass to a diverse range of flowering plants has been a boon to pollinators and insects in general. He said they found at least 20 different categories of insects. He added more insects also attract birds and other wildlife.

Shelley Fellows, of the Haliburton County Master Gardeners, is the project lead for ‘stepping into nature’ – which is the result of the Trent and master gardeners’ collaboration. They’re developing a multi-media walking tour of the diverse flora and fauna along the Minden River Walk Trail.

They worked with Brown last fall to produce a detailed inventory of the insects that form part of an “incredibly rich and diverse community along this beautiful riverfront trail,” Fellows said.

She added visitors to ‘stepping into nature’ can access audio tracks, photos and detailed information on the plants and insects found along the trail via a smartphone app called PocketSights.

The tour also contains tips and descriptions on how to naturalize property, how to manage shoreline erosion and how best to deal with the Canada Geese.

Fellows said ‘stepping into nature’ also received financial support from the Haliburton County Development Corporation and community donors. It will launch in May.

Sadie Fischer, environmental program coordinator with U-Links, said, “we feel it’s important to host this event so that we can showcase all the hard work the students are putting in to produce valuable information that can actually inspire change in our communities. It’s a really good way to bring people together and educate them on some of the most pressing issues we’re seeing in the County.”