I grew up in Strathroy, Ontario and was always known as that nature kid. Every small town seems to have one. My childhood "career" started with saving toads from window wells, attempting to catch a "Yellow Monarch" (which I later figured out was a Tiger Swallowtail) and trying my best to let people know that the local Hognosed Snakes that they called puff adders were NOT venomous. Observing and studying nature is a passion that I never outgrew and you can still often find me holding a butterfly net, picking up a snake or keying out a new wildflower.
In grade 10, I decided that the University of Guelph was the place for me and so, three years later I started here in the Biological Sciences program. While I was an undergrad I volunteered at the U of G Wild Bird Clinic, a local Cub Scout group and led a Junior Naturalist Program in The Arboretum. I graduated with honours with a BSc. in Zoology in 1992 and, after a summer working as a Nature Interpreter at the Bruce Peninsula National Park, started as the Interpretive Naturalist at The Arboretum. In 2013, I finished a part-time MSc degree in Environmental Biology studying the nesting relationships between birds and wasps.
I am now The Arboretum's Interpretive Biologist and Education Coordinator. Helping visitors understand The Arboretum is my goal. I design and create signs and brochures that allow visitors to explore The Arboretum at their own pace. I also teach a variety of workshops on topics such as birds, dragonflies and art. As well, I try to link University of Guelph students to our site by offering special lectures and tours for different departments. Keeping track of the wildlife sightings here is another of my jobs and I am happy to say we have a very diverse fauna that inhabits The Arboretum! To see photos of our recent sightings, you can go to our Flickr page.
I have written four bird field guides: Warblers of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America, Sparrows and Finches of the Great Lakes Region and Eastern North America, Hawks and Owls of Eastern North America, 2nd edition, and Waterfowl of Eastern North America published by Firefly Books. These are field guides that focus not only on identifying these birds but also cover aspects of their natural history. One of my favourite outcomes of these books is captured on this video of a 4 year old identifying hawks in my book. Check it out!
I've also written a children's book called Birds A-Z. My son, Nathan, and two of his friends (Cameron and Rhiannon) and I have published a book on dragonflies for families called Dragonflies: Catching, Identifying, How and Where They Live. My daughter, Skye, and I have published a similar book on caterpillars called Caterpillars: Find, Identify, Raise Your Own. Both of these books are designed for families to go out on their own and learn about insects in a meaningful and hands-on way. We are currently working on the next books in the series (Owls, Pond Life, Animal Tracks and Feeder Birds). My most recent books focus on the the incredible diversity of frogs and birds and they are called, appropriately, Weird Frogs and Weird Birds. Weird Frogs was a nominee for the Silver Birch Express section of the Forest of Reading program (hooray for young readers!). I am also a consultant for Chirp and ChickaDEE magazines.
My most recent book is called 110 Nature Hotspots in Ontario and it seems to be very popular. It made number five on the Toronto Star's top ten bestsellers list for Canadian non-fiction. It describes 110 spots that new or experienced naturalists can visit to learn all about what our amazing province has to offer. Another recent book is Falcons in the City: The Story of a Peregrine Family which will teach the reader about the incredible lives of Peregrine Falcons by following one family that nested on an amazed apartment dweller's balcony. I am also working on a Feeder Bird book..stay tuned!
I am a leader for Quest Nature Tours, a Canadian tour company that takes people all over the planet to discover nature. I have led tours to the Canadian Arctic, Greenland and southern Ontario as well as 9 safari tours to Kenya and Tanzania. I have also led tours to the Galapagos Islands, Namibia, Botswana, Sri Lanka, Baja California and a Royal Ontario Museum tour to South Africa. My upcoming tours include Ethiopia, Jamaica and the Pantanal in Brazil.
My other naturalist pursuits include sketching, wildlife watching and cottaging. I also play basketball and swim regularly. I'm also good at making a fool of myself by making bird calls. Watch me compete in the U of Guelph's 2010 College Idol competition to raise money for the United Way.
I live in Rockwood with my wife, Jiffy (OVC 95), our son, Nathan, and our daughter, Skye. Our household is also infested with a dog, some goldfish and many lady bugs.