Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 06, 2006

Parks, Protected Spaces Focus of Workshop

The University of Guelph is hosting scientists and conservation agencies from around the country March 9 and 10 to discuss the conservation of natural areas and their constituent plants and animals.

The gathering will include federal and provincial/territorial parks agencies, university researchers and conservation groups. Participants will share approaches to selection and design of parks and protected areas during a workshop sponsored by the Parks Research Forum of Ontario at the Ramada Inn.

U of G biologists Prof. Tom Nudds and PhD student Yolanda Wiersma were instrumental in bringing the event to Guelph. Both are part of a recent movement to apply scientific rigour to designing protected spaces in Canada.

Wiersma, a former Fulbright Scholar, will give one of the featured presentations at the forum. She will discuss diversity and representative protected areas for mammals in Canada Thursday at 1 p.m. Robert Pressey, a leading conservation biology expert from the University of Queensland, will give the keynote address at 9 a.m.

Nudds said that today’s preservation mantra is far different from when national parks such as Banff were created in the 1880s. Back then, national parks were playgrounds for the well-to-do and were considered “islands of civilization in a sea of wilderness.” Now they’re viewed as just the opposite: islands of wilderness in a sea of civilization. And rather than guarding those areas piecemeal and as an afterthought, groups from researchers to lawmakers and even industry are working to ensure their protection before allowing development such as forestry, mining and tourism, Nudds said.

That idea is embodied in recent legislation, from Canada’s National Parks Act of 2000 to a provincial parks bill currently making its way through the Ontario legislature. And it’s an idea that Wiersma has explored during her graduate studies at Guelph.

She has pinpointed about 50 candidate protected areas that collectively contain representatives of most of the country’s mammalian species. She hopes her studies will help protect natural lands in northern Ontario and across the country.

“I wanted to be a park ranger when I grew up,” said Wiersma, a native of Grimsby, Ont., who worked as an interpreter at Georgian Bay Islands and Pukaskwa national parks. “I was fascinated by the idea of protected areas.”

More information

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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