Research and Collections: How About Stewardship?

By Emma Lehmberg and Cassandra Robillard

Did you know that the Canadian Museum of Nature not only houses the most extensive collections of Canadian flora and fauna, but also works to conserve local land?

The Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) was established to study and protect the property surrounding the museum’s research and collections facility, called the Natural Heritage Building, in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau, Québec. Seventy-six hectares of mixed wetland, lowland and upland forest have been protected from large-scale development.

Marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata) in bloom

Many wildflower species, including this marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata), are commonly found on the property. Image: Emma Lehmberg © Canadian Museum of Nature

Emma Lehmberg and Cassandra Robillard peek from behind branches of an evergreen.

Your friendly environmental-monitoring duo for 2012. From left: Emma Lehmberg, Cassandra Robillard. Image: Brian W. Coad © Canadian Museum of Nature

This entails a number of activities, including hydrogeological surveys (to understand groundwater movement), biological surveys, property maintenance, and acting as a liaison between the museum and the local community with regard to environmental issues on and near the property.

This summer, we are proud to introduce ourselves as this year’s EMP field team: Emma Lehmberg and Cassandra Robillard. We’re both students with a love of biology and enthusiasm for educating others about the natural world. Over the next few months, it will be our focus to spearhead the program’s various projects for the season.

Current Projects for 2012

Natural Education
Running guided tours of the property for fellow staff members and groups such as natural-history clubs and biology classes. We’ll demonstrate the kind of work that we do in the field, while teaching them about the local plants, habitats and wildlife. We also hope to establish an outdoor information network that will allow self-guided nature interpretation of a previously established trail network.

The flower of a white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), with a spider at the centre.

A spider blends in on the petal of a white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). Image: Brian W. Coad © Canadian Museum of Nature

Preparing a web page on the Environmental Monitoring Program for the museum’s web site,

Looking at ways to deal with European glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), an invasive non-native shrub that is a serious threat to native forests. We’ll also surveying for ticks in the interest of the health and safety of people on the property.

A woman wearing portable GPS equipment in a forest.

Cassandra Robillard checks the GPS while the team works away from the trails. Image: Emma Lehmberg © Canadian Museum of Nature

We are also excited about the possibility of participating in the Barcode of Life (BOL) project. This is an international initiative to sequence the DNA of all known multicellular species for the purpose of future molecular identification of unknown specimens.

Our aim is to compile a collection of specimens that represent the full diversity of plant species in the area around the research and collections facility, and hopefully submit these to the BOL project for DNA sequencing and coding. Many specimens have been collected in past EMP initiatives, and we hope to fill in the gaps with field collections of our own, including specimens of mosses.

Two species of moss.

Two species of moss grow together on the side of a trail. Image: Emma Lehmberg © Canadian Museum of Nature

As the summer progresses, we will certainly be busy doing all of these things, and maybe much more! And because we love to share our work, we hope that we’ll be able to share that with you.

Collage: Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) and Foamflower (Tiarella sp.) in bloom.

Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), seen here at left, is abundant on the property. Right: Foamflower (Tiarella sp.). Images: Emma Lehmberg © Canadian Museum of Nature

This entry was posted in Education, Fieldwork, Research, The green museum and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Research and Collections: How About Stewardship?

  1. Chuck Clark says:

    I’d like to know the boundaries of the area described in the blog post. I put up an aerial of the NHB recently, perhaps someone could describe the area? How much of the area in the photo is open to the public? Any dangerous land owners nearby…that sort of thing.

    aylmer CMN building 3533


  2. Noel Alfonso says:

    Dear Chuck Clark:
    My name is Noel Alfonso. I am the co-ordinator of the Environmental Monitoring Program. If you contact me directly at, I will send you a map of the property boundaries with the classified types of forest and other habitats. The land is a mix of climax cedar forest, mixed upland and lowland deciduous forest, vernal pools and open meadows. There is a rough trail system, which for now we are using for monitoring work and scheduled school group interpreted tours and biology teacher workshops. Museum management will be deciding on future levels of access. The neighbouring areas consist of residential and light industrial development.

  3. Pingback: Backyard Biodiversity: Exploring the Museum’s Outdoor Habitats | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

  4. Pingback: The Woods Were Lovely, Dark and Deep | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

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