A conservationist can be a professional biologist, amateur naturalist, landowner, individual or group of people who document flora and fauna, educate others on conservation issues and engage in activities that conserve species and habitats. Alberta’s Notable Conservationists is an online resource that celebrates the people who worked or continue to work towards conserving and preserving wild Alberta. These are the people whose passion and dedication continue to inspire us!
Can you think of a notable conservationist? If you would like to see someone added to our growing list complete this form and email it to:
communications <at> naturealberta.ca
Alberta’s Notable Conservationists is a project brought to you in partnership by the Fish and Wildlife Historical Society and Nature Alberta. For more information on the history of fish and wildlife conservation in Alberta pick up a copy of Fish, Fur & Feathers, an excellent resource documenting exciting stories of fish and wildlife conservation in Alberta.
Click a name below to see a story. Names are organized alphabetically starting with first names.
“The AFGA played a significant role in the provincial Fish and Wildlife Divisions creation and struggle for recognition at the political level. No other agency went to bat for fish and wildlife in the 1950s and 1960s like the AFGA did.” – Ernie Psikla, Retired Fish and Wildlife Officer
Name: Alberta Fish and Game Association
Did you know?
The Alberta Fish and Game Association is the oldest conservation group in the province. It is over 100 years old.
The Alberta Fish and Game Association is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
From the very beginning, the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) has played an important role in influencing conservation practices and policies in Alberta. A list of Alberta’s Conservationists would not be complete without including AFGA. While the organizations influence and contributions are many, we add them to our list as “Notable Conservationists” as a way to celebrate their humble beginnings and recognize the men and women who had a vision of Alberta’s conservation future over 100 years ago. The individual names of AFGA contributors are likely too numerous to list but we do know an early group of sportsmen, which included Fred Green, George Wood and Austin de B. Winter formed the initial Association (Calgary Fish and Game Protective Association) which would grow and accomplish much in the decades to follow and into a new millennium as the Alberta Fish and Game Association.
About the Alberta Fish and Game Association:
As Alberta formed in 1905, there was much talk of building economic prosperity for the new province. The idea of conservation had not yet become a priority for the young province but several sportsmen had already recognized the need for fish and wildlife protection. By coming together, these individuals formed the Calgary Fish and Game Protective Association that would eventually become what we know today as the Alberta Fish and Game Association in 1908. By 1910, the Association was providing input into the Alberta government’s proposed amendments to the Game Act, suggesting changes to length of hunting seasons and licensing among other things. Local Fish and Game clubs were consulted on the notion that sportsmen were active in the field and able to provide input on the status of game. Ben Lawton, Chief Game Guardian relied on this information to help inform conservation initiatives in the province.
Understanding that a united voice would be more strongly heard by members of the Legislature, delegates of twenty-two groups including both rural and city associations, met in Calgary to form the official Alberta Fish and Game Association in 1928. From this time through to the 1940s, the AFGA participated in a variety of conservation issues ranging from game fish hatcheries to transplanting large wild game. The impact of AFGA eventually helped to create the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division by the late 1950s, an important milestone as until this time fish and wildlife had little visibility within the government.
In the 1960’s AFGA began engaging the public in a number of programs including the Alberta Hunter Education Program and the Report A Poacher Program, which remains popular today. In 1997, AFGA helped to establish the Alberta Conservation Association. Currently, AFGA is a registered charitable organization with 25,000 members!
For over 100 years, AFGA has played an important role in influencing conservation practices and policies in Alberta. The following list includes some key events and initiatives in the history of AFGA:
1908 – First local hunting and fishing clubs form to cooperate on first wildlife enhancement projects in Alberta.
1929 – First AFGA annual conference.
1930’s – Key partner in the development of Ducks Unlimited in Alberta.
1940’s – Instrumental in establishing a provincial wildlife protection legislation.
1950’s – Coordinated relocation of elk from National Parks to re-establish wild herds throughout Alberta.
1960’s – Founded Alberta Hunter Education Program. Co-founded Outdoor Observer and Report a Poacher Program.
1970’s – Key partner in Alberta’s first watershed restoration initiative; the Raven River Streambank Protection Project 1974. Founding partner in the Buck for Wildlife Fund (levy collected from hunting and angling licences to support habitat conservation projects).
1983 – Established AFGA Wildlife Trust Fund to purchase significant wildlife habitats.
1984 – Development of the Habitat Steward and Heritage Farmstead Programs to recognize the conservation efforts of private land holders.
1985 – First land secured for wildlife habitat with funds from AFGA Wildlife Trust Fund.
1989 – Founded Operation Burrowing Owl program within Alberta.
1994 – Operation Burrowing Owl Program expanded to Operation Grassland Community to raise the awareness of endangered Grassland wildlife.
1996 – Founded Parkland Stewardship Program to integrate wildlife conservation within environmentally-sustainable farm planning.
2000 – Parkland Stewardship Program helps agricultural producers understand surface water quality issues with a new on-farm water-testing program. 50th parcel of wildlife habitat secured through the Wildlife Trust Fund; a total of 30,000 acres protected to date.
2001 – Operation Grassland Community launches major Youth education program to raise the awareness of species at risk.
2003 – More than 220,000 acres of Alberta’s habitat are under protection, Management, or otherwise involved in Conservation practices through AFGA Programs.
2008 – The Alberta Fish and Game Association celebrated 100 years of Conservation success.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like the Alberta Fish and Game Association:
You can get involved directly with the Alberta Fish and Game Association in a lot of different ways! You can join their Volunteer Stewardship Program, donate or even apply for a scholarship. For more ideas and options, visit the AFGA website.
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Pages 23, 35, 37, 43, 45, 46, 96, 106, 125, 176, 211, 212, 213, 210, 220, 237, 266, 278, 300, 305, 373, 375, 379, 394, 400, 406
Alberta Fish and Game Association
Lloydminster and District Fish and Game Association History
Calgary Fish and Game Association
Fish and Wildlife Government of Alberta
“we are now entered Muscuty plains, and soon shall see plenty of Buffalo, and the Archthinue Indians hunting them on Horse-back…” – Anthony Henday
Name: Anthony Henday, fl. 1750-62.
Did you know?
Henday is the first known European to arrive in present day Alberta.
Anthony Henday is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Early knowledge of Alberta’s natural history was the result of observations made by explorers like Anthony Henday. Henday was sent west by the Hudson’s Bay Company to promote trade with Aboriginal trappers. In 1754 he became the first European to enter into present day Alberta and noted in his journal on this day, “we are now entered Muscuty plains, and soon shall see plenty of Buffalo, and the Archthinue Indians hunting them on Horse-back…” With this written passage, Henday provided the first written information on the flora and fauna of what we know today as Alberta.
Early observations such as Henday’s were communicated by word of mouth or accounts written in journals and passed on to early travelers, which provided valuable information. These accounts also leave a unique historical perspective on Alberta’s natural history.
About Anthony Henday:
Henday was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1749. He was originally from the Isle of Wight, the largest island of England located in the English Chanel. His experience as a fisherman likely served him well as he transitioned into employment with HBC as a net-maker and labourer.
At about this time, the French had established fur-trading routes in the western interior of North America. This compromised British trading along Hudson Bay. Access to trade goods through indigenous networks meant that interior groups like the Blackfoot no longer needed to travel east to posts on Hudson Bay. Because of this, Europeans needed to establish inland trading posts to increase trade with the Blackfoot.
Henday volunteered to travel inland on behalf of the HBC, a trip that would involve a rigorous journey on rivers, lakes, and prairies, largely unknown to Europeans at the time. He began by travelling Hayes River, in northern Manitoba. Eventually, with the help of Cree guides, made contact at Aboriginal settlements. In October of 1750, near present day Red Deer, Henday arrived at the impressive camp of the Archithinues who we know today as Siksikas (Blackfoot). He was the first Englishman to meet with the Blackfoot and was in awe of the prairie buffalo herds and the extraordinary hunting skills of his hosts, the Blackfoot.
The Blackfoot however could not be convinced to travel to York Factory, a trading post located on the southwestern shores of the Hudson Bay. Continuing the expedition with his Cree guides, Henday traveled past Sylvan Lake to the North Saskatchewan River and eventually back to York Factory with many stories to tell and a journal documenting some of his adventures. After a bout of ill health Henday returned inland though there is less documentation of his later journeys. Eventually he retired from HBC in 1762 and is remembered as a bold and enterprising explorer.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Anthony Henday:
Observe and document the world around you. Write in a journal, take photos outside, draw the things in nature that interest and inspire you.
Anthony Henday’s route shown in green:
“In order to more effectively enforce the provisions of the Game Ordinance the placing of more guardians on salary is recommended. It would be the duty of these guardians to patrol certain districts and to act on information furnished by the local guardians .” -Benjamin Lawton
Name: Benjamin Lawton, 1867 – 1931
Did you know?
Benjamin Lawton was Alberta’s first Chief Game Guardian and helped to form game preserves in the province to help protect the pronghorn. In the early 1900s the pronghorn was at risk of extinction with numbers thought to be under 1000! By protecting this habitat, Alberta’s pronghorn populations were able to recover after overhunting and several harsh winters. Today, pronghorn status is listed as sensitive meaning the species is not at risk of extinction but requires special protection to prevent it from returning to risk.
Benjamin Lawton is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
You may be familiar with the work of Fish and Wildlife Officers. They work to protect Alberta’s fish and wildlife resources by ensuring provincial and federal laws are followed. But before there were Fish and Wildlife Officers, there were Game Guardians. As Alberta’s first Chief Game Guardian, Benjamin Lawton advocated for the expansion of volunteer Game Guardian roles into salaried positions that could more effectively enforce the Game Ordinance and protect Alberta’s natural resources in the early days. He is considered to have been a far-seeing individual who contemplated the future of conservation enforcement in Alberta.
About Benjamin Lawton:
It is impossible to look at the fascinating career of Benjamin Lawton without looking at the history of Alberta’s Game Guardians. Formation of game preserves and national parks in the early 20th century brought greater awareness for the protection of fish and wildlife outside of these areas. As more people settled in the early days of the newly forming province of Alberta, fishing and hunting needed to be regulated to prevent over harvesting of natural resources. This was especially important for the sake of the new settlers who could suffer serious consequences if these resources became depleted.
The Northwest Territories Council passed its first Ordinance for the Protection of Game in 1883. Game Guardians were appointed to enforce the Ordinance and ensure regulations were adhered to. Game Guardians were also responsible for managing problem wildlife, educating the public, and assisting biologists with data collections. Game Guardians were the first generation of Fish and Wildlife Officers in Alberta before Alberta was even a province!
Benjamin Lawton became Alberta’s newly appointed first Chief Game Guardian in 1906 and was tasked with managing over 200 volunteer Game Guardians.
In Lawton’s first report in 1906 (link) he requested an end to the voluntary program because of its ineffectiveness. Game Guardians faced a number of difficult challenges, travelling vast areas and difficult terrain at their own expense. A letter sent to Lawton gives an example of the kinds of trials volunteer Game Guardians faced.
“Anyhow, I managed to cripple two horses out of three- one so bad I had to leave it behind. I had got these horses for this trip from a third party and had to get them shoed all around. Now don’t you think that I should be entitled to pay for the use of these horses while out of my district? Kindly let me know what you think of this; no matter which way I figure it, I will come out loose anyhow”. – Henry Riviere, Game Guardian (1916)
There were also circumstances where volunteer Game Guardian might witness a neighbor violating the Game Act. If a report were made, a Guardian would have concern about suffering consequences for his actions in the place that he lived. Being a game guardian was a serious responsibility that could not be taken lightly.
These were some of the reasons that Lawton argued against the continuation of the volunteer program. Lawton advised that non-resident; salaried Game Guardians could act without fear of retribution. His requests did not go entirely unheard. In 1916, Lawton had a small paid staff of Game Guardians. A group made up mostly of seasonal employees. However Lawton would not see the volunteer program ended in his own lifetime.
Regardless, Lawton is remembered for doing what he could to improve working conditions for his staff and the Game Guardians and for effectively enforcing the Ordinance in a time when resources were very scarce, especially during the years after the First World War.
After a 25-year career with the Game Branch, Benjamin Lawton passed away in 1931
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Benjamin Lawton:
If you see or suspect any illegal activity related to fish or wildlife call the Report a Poacher line. It’s available 24 hours a day and is toll-free in North America. 1-800-642-3800
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Page 28, 37, 82, 104, 105, 219, 386
Annual Report of the Department of Agriculture of the Province of Alberta 1905-6
My Wild Alberta Issue 6, February 2010
Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 by George Colpitts
Losing the Game: Wildlife Conservation and the Regulation of First Nations Hunting in Alberta, 1880-1930 by Brian Louis Calliou (thesis)
Lethbridge Daily Herald, August 29, 1925
Name: Charles Camsell (1876 – 1958)
Did you know?
With his brother, Charles Camsell staked a claim in the Yukon during the gold rush. This experience helped him to develop an interest in exploration and eventually geology. He would go on to become on of Canada’s most prominent geologists.
Charles Camsell is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Charles Camsell was an early naturalist, explorer, map-maker and Canadian geologist. He is a major figure in the history of geology in Canada with explorations that included the documentation of Alberta. His detailed studies contributed a great deal of understanding to the geology of western Canada.
About Charles Camsell:
Charles Camsell was born in Fort Liard, Northwest Territories in 1876. He was one of eleven children born to Sarah and Julian Camsell. His father was a Hudson’s Bay Company employee (factor) in charge of operations for the region.
As a young man, Camsell developed skills in a number of areas including building cabins, trapping, fishing, canoeing and teaching. While uncertain of his future at the time, all of these experiences would prove valuable for his future career as an explorer and geologist. Despite his affinity for the north, he headed south to attend the University of Manitoba, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Science in 1894. A trip to the Yukon after graduation is credited with igniting his interest in exploration and geology. Camsell would eventually attend Harvard where he was awarded a PhD in Geology.
An important meeting occurred by chance in 1900 when Camsell encountered James MacIntosh Bell from the Geological Survey of Canada. Bell was on his way to Great Bear Lake and Great Slave Lake, areas that Camsell had previously explored. Further to this, Camsell was able to speak the aboriginal languages of the area and was asked by Bell to join the party as a summer field assistant. This trip helped to launch Camsell’s career as a geologist but was not without its challenges. As Bell and Camsell headed south into what is now Alberta, their supplies dwindled and the weather was not cooperating. Hungry, they came across an empty camp with a supply of caribou meat. They consumed the meat leaving behind goods as an offering of thanks. With the help of aboriginal guides, Bell and Camsell continued surveying and made their way to Great Slave Lake: the return journey to Edmonton by canoe proved slightly less challenging. The trip took months but they arrived safely in December of 1900.
In the following years, Camsell would continue to prospect, often with Bell looking for iron, gypsum, quartz and other minerals while surveying the land. By 1904, Camsell accepted an appointment to the Geological Survey of Canada. Ten years later he was promoted to Geologist in Charge of Exploration and was given the task of exploring the remaining unsurveyed parts of Canada. When he enlisted in World War 1, Camsell was responsible for seeking out minerals important to the war efforts including potash, tungsten and magnetite.
Upon returning from the war, Camsell continued his career. In1920, he was promoted to Deputy Minister of Mines and Resources, a role he served well with his practical knowledge and first hand experience for almost 30 years.
The advancement of his career had taken him to Ontario to conduct his work but Camsell continued to make trips to the North to the land he had grown up with and much admired. He likely marveled in his later career at being flown into locations that early in his life had taken him months of treacherous travel to reach.
Camsell retired in 1945 and in 1954 published his autobiography, Son of the North. He died in Ottawa in 1958.
1900- Begins work as a summer field assistant with James McIntosh Bell
1904- Begins career with the Public Service of Canada
1920- appointed deputy Minister of Mines
1929- Establishes the Royal Canadian Geographical Society
1935- Made Companion of Order of St. Michael and St. George by King George V.
1936- Appointed to Deputy Minister of Mines and Resources
1946- Retires from the Public Service of Canada at 70 years old
1954- Publishes autobiography, Son of the North
How to be a Notable Conservationists like Charles Camsell:
Explore the north! Alberta’s climate can sometimes make heading south a more appealing option, especially during the winter months, but beautiful locations in Alberta’s north are worth the trip!
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Pages 12, 77
Historical Timeline of the Northwest Territories
The American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers
Arctic Profiles, Charles Camsell
Ainsworth Books, Son of the North
“You’ve had so much pleasure in the natural places you’ve worked in and been to, you have a feeling of obligation. Because you’ve been given so much, you owe the land itself something.” -Dawn Dickinson
Name: Dawn Maureen Dickinson, 1930 – 2013
Did you know?
At 42 years old, Dickinson completed her B.Sc. with first class honours in zoology from the University of Alberta. Four years later in 1976, she completed her masters in zoology.
Dawn Dickinson is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Dickson’s contributions to conservation in Alberta spanned many decades. Despite the ups and downs on the road to conservation success, Dickson remained dedicated to her work and passion. “You think you’re making progress, but they never seem to stop,” she once said regarding the inevitable setbacks she encountered in her conservation work. It is because of this tireless dedication that she is a “Notable Conservationist”.
About Dawn Dickinson:
Dickson grew up in England where she developed a love of nature through frequent walks around the southeastern coastal counties known as the South Downs. In her twenties, she returned to Alberta; the place of her birth and accepted a summer job-surveying elk for Alberta Fish and Wildlife in Medicine Hat. During this time, her exposure to conflicts involving land use ignited a life long interest and dedication to conservation.
In later years, her work as a biologist took her across Western Canada and the Arctic before she returned to Medicine Hat and became an active volunteer. For more than 30 years, Dickinson lived in southeastern Alberta. She worked with passion for the benefit of prairie habitat and wildlife conservation. A long-time Executive member of the Society of Grasslands Naturalists, she played a major role in virtually all conservation issues in which the organization has been involved. Other groups, such as the Alberta Wilderness Association, Nature Alberta and, in the early 1990’s, Project Swiftsure benefited from her volunteerism.
Dickinson was always willing and able to speak or write from a scientific perspective and did so very effectively in many public forums including workshops and open houses. She organized many ambitious events including the Cypress Hills Forest Management Workshop and the Meridian Dam Forum; the latter being the first time the public heard a balanced perspective of the effects of the proposed dam.
Her discipline and determination to base decisions on sound science resulted in many honours for her work as a professional zoologist, biologist and naturalists. These included the City of Medicine Hat Civic Award for the Environment (1997); Canadian Nature Federation Volunteer Award (2003); Nature Alberta’s Loran Goulden Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the Natural History of Alberta (2003); Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species Conference Award (2004); Alberta Wilderness Defender Award (2005) and Nature Alberta’s Honourary Lifetime Award (2008). Dickinson was widely respected for her credibility and integrity. She had a no-nonsense approach to environmental issues and is remembered for her ceaseless dedication as a biologist and naturalists.
Dickson was also a productive writer. Aside from her scientific reports, her works include film scripts for Karvonen natural history films, Flight of the Deer, Caught in the Spin and Prairie River; a wildlife and canoe guide to the South Saskatchewan River.
While remembered for her tireless work towards conservation issues, Dickson also took time to enjoy the natural world that so inspired her through canoeing adventures, painting, photography and poetry. She is remembered as a fearless environmentalist who was able to combine her tenacity with grace and humour.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Dawn Dickinson:
Get involved! Volunteer with a Naturalists Club near you or discover what conservation issues are close to your heart and learn more about them.
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Pages 391, 394
Alberta Wilderness Association Article (2006)
Nature Alberta Magazine Article (2013)
The Sagebrush Chronicle (Grassland Naturalists, 2013)
“Our programs are based on sound science, delivered by conservation experts and achieve real landscape-level results. This time-tested formula has been moving all of us toward a healthier future for the past 75 years.” – Greg Siekaniec, Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Chief Executive Officer
Name: Ducks Unlimited est. 1937
Did you know? In Canada we lose 80 acres of wetlands every day.
Ducks Unlimited is a “Notable Conservationists” because:
Ducks Unlimited (DU) is a nonprofit organization and leaders in waterfowl habitat conservation in Alberta and around the world. While DU has a long history in Canada, the organization’s impact also extends across North America, Mexico, New Zealand and Latin America. With approximately 600 000 members worldwide, DU has found success by placing emphasis on research and science. Some conservation methods applied by DU include acquiring land, educating landowners, restoring wetlands and watersheds and replanting forests.
About Ducks Unlimited:
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) established it’s first office in Alberta a year after Ducks Unlimited Incorporated (DUI) was established in the United States in 1937. The needs for an organization like DUI arose out of concern for protecting waterfowl nesting habitats, which were threatened due to agricultural practices and drought conditions of the 1930s. The main function of DUI was to raise funds for preserving and rehabilitating waterfowl habitat in Canada as waterfowl in the United States breed in the Canadian prairies.
The first order of business for DUC in Alberta was to review Many Island Lake in southeastern Alberta, which had existed as a bird sanctuary since 1917. By the 1930s, the sanctuary was at risk of being shut down due to falling water levels. Further to this, the influx of settlers to the area increased strain on inflowing creeks during a time of drought. In the 1930s, the lake was drying up. DUC began investigations that resulted in the building of a dam to raise the water levels. This successful initiative allowed the sanctuary to continue as a valuable habitat for waterfowl.
In the early days of DUC, focus was made on large wetland projects in southern Alberta where irrigation spillwater was readily available and the chances of restoring these wetlands would result in increased waterfowl populations. Through the decades, DU projects grew in number and scale based on needs identified through research and indicated by science. In the 80s, reduction in nesting success became the primary area of concern throughout the prairies. DUC undertook another key initiative called the Wetlands for Tomorrow project. Together with the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division, a five-year plan was developed to secure 20 of the most valuable waterfowl staging and moulting lakes in Alberta. Acquiring land continues to be one of DU’s primary conservation methods.
During a time of sharp decline in waterfowl numbers across North America, an ambitious management plan was undertaken. The North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) was established in 1986 with the goal of creating 1.5 billion dollars in habitat improvement and 3.6 million acres of Canadian prairie restoration before the year 2000. This international partnership was successful.
A recent DUC Alberta success story includes the acquisition of the Buffalo Hills Conservation Ranch, located south of Calgary, Alberta. It is the most significant land acquisition in DUC’s history and recognized as some of the best breeding waterfowl habitat in North America. The total acquisition includes just under 6000 acres. The launch was celebrated in September of 2013.
That same year, Duck Unlimited celebrated 75 years of conservation success. Today, Ducks Unlimited has become the largest waterfowl and wetland conservation group in the world. In North America it is estimated that DUI holds more than 12 million acres of conservation land. In Canada alone, DUC’s successes include over 9000 projects and the conservation of over 6 million acres of habitat, which will remain as a conservation legacy for Albertans and Canadians.
“While others are telling us what we can’t do, DU has been showing us what we can do.” -John Wayne
Select Milestones in DUI’s History:
How to be a “Notable Conservationists” like Ducks Unlimited:
You can be part of Ducks Unlimited Canada’s continuing success by becoming a member! Learn more here.
Fish, Fur and Feathers: 46, 176, 256, 260, 274, 275, 277, 281, 287, 289, 290, 295, 306, 311, 320, 343, 371, 377, 379, 394, 396, 406
Ducks Unlimited Alberta
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ducks Unlimited USA
Ducks Unlimited Canada turns 75 with Exceptional Edmonton gala
How Duck Unlimited Works
Ducks Unlimited YouTube
Ducks Unlimited Canada and Shell celebrate the launch of Shell Buffalo Hills Conservation Ranch
“ Charlie and Winnie were ordinary people with extraordinary passions.” -Myrna Pearman
Name: Charlie Ellis (1902 – 1990), Winnie Ellis (1905 – 2004)
Did you know?
In the 1950s, Charlie Ellis began placing bluebird boxes on his land. The first year he did this, two bluebirds arrived. In the third year, fourteen showed up. As the years went on he put up more boxes and continued monitoring them. By the 1970s, there were more bluebirds on the Ellis land than anywhere else in the world. Some winter seasons, bird feeding for various species used two tons of sunflower seeds!
The Ellis Family are “Notable Conservationists” because:
In 1980, Charlie was able to negotiate the selling of the farm to Union Carbide with the condition that the land becomes an asset of a non-profit company (Ellis Bird Farm Ltd.). In doing so, the Ellis family was able to create a place where wildlife conservation, industry and agriculture exist together. Today the Ellis Bird Farm continues the passionate work of the Ellis Family. Winnie’s gardens continue to grow and be a refuge for wildlife and the bluebirds continue to return to Charlie’s nesting boxes. While passion and dedication are common characteristics of our Notable Conservationists it is the foresight of this naturalist family to ensure the lasting protection of a very special area that continues to remind of us their contributions.
About the Ellis Family:
The Ellis family settled on a ranch near Calgary in 1886 after leaving Ontario. Eight years later their son John, married a schoolteacher named Agnes. John and Agnes were the parents of Charlie and Winnie. In 1906 the family moved to Lacombe county where they built a two-storey farmhouse and continued to enlarge the farm.
In 1950, John and Agnes passed away leaving the family farm in the care of Charlie and Winnie. The farm was a place the Ellis family grew to love and they developed a deep connection and familiarity with the natural world around them. In the mid-1950s, Charlie Ellis became concerned with the decline of mountain bluebirds and put up his first bluebird box. He would later establish a trail of more than 300 nest boxes for bluebirds, chickadees, purple martins and flickers. Together with Winnie, Charlie maintained the trail around the farm. The Ellis farm became known as a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife and Charlie became known as Mr. Bluebird; a title given to him by naturalists Kerry Wood.
Winnie focused much of her talents and efforts on growing orchid and flower gardens designed to attract wildlife. Thanks to Winnie, the backyard became a haven for wild creatures to enjoy numerous birdbaths, bird feeders and ponds.
Charlie and Winnie worked to improve the habitat for many species on the farm but they are remembered particularly for leading the way in bluebird conservation. In the early 1980s, Charlie began to consider the long-term preservation of the bluebirds and the Ellis farm should he no longer be able to care for the property and the nest box trail. The Red Deer River Naturalists suggested the Ellis family continue the family legacy by forming a non-profit company which is how today’s Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. came to be.
Charlie and Winnie chose to sell their farm to Union Carbide. The sale included an agreement that Union Carbide would work closely with the Red Deer River Naturalist Society to ensure the continued operation of Ellis Bird Farm Ltd. MEGlobal Canada, which currently operates the Prentiss site, is now the major funding partner of Ellis Bird Farm and has committed to funding the site until 2027.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Charlie and Winnie Ellis:
Create a wildlife sanctuary in your own backyard! You don’t need an entire farm to make a haven for wildlife; you can build your own NatureScape! You can also plan a visit to Ellis Bird Farm and enjoy it as Charlie and Winnie intended!
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Page 317
Ellis Bird Farm
Ellis Bird Farm History
Lacombe Regional Tourism
Charlie, Winnie and the Bluebirds by Myrna Pearman
Ellis Bird Farm Social Media: Facebook , Twitter , Youtube , Flickr
“I know of no prettier sight than a flock of Redwings flying back and forth over their nesting grounds in the morning sunlight, trilling their lovely call note and spreading their scarlet wings to show the gorgeous scarlet and cream-edged shoulder patch as they hover over the next.” -Eliza Cassels McAllister
Name: Eliza (Elsie) Cassels McAlister 1864-1938
Did you know?
Elsie Cassels McAlister was the first woman to hold an official position in a Canadian natural history society. She was vice-president of the Alberta Natural History Society (ANHS) between 1917 and 1924.
Elsie McAlister Cassels McAlister is a “Notable Conservationists” because:
Elsie is remembered as a knowledgeable naturalist, conservationist, educator and dedicated member of the Alberta Natural History Society who helped create the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary.
About Elsie Cassels McAlister:
Elsie Cassels McAlister was born in St. Mary’s Lock south of Edinburgh. Her mother was Janet Reid and her father was a schoolmaster named Archibald McAlister. She met and married William Cassels whom she established a homestead with, south of Red Deer near Penhold, Alberta in 1889.
Elsie began her involvement in the Alberta Natural History Society (ANHS) in 1902 after moving to Red Deer. As an early member, she helped establish purple martin colonies at Sylvan Lake. McAlisteer’s involvement in an early campaign for the creation of a provincial park covering the Red Deer River Canyon was unsuccessful in 1906. However the idea would evolve over the years into the development of the Red Deer Bird Sanctuary. This initiative was undertaken successfully years later while McAlister was vice-president. A formal application to the Commissioner of Canadian National Parks was made in 1923 to have the land designated as a Federal Bird Sanctuary. The Red Deer Bird Sanctuary was renamed The Kerry Wood Nature Centre and Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary in 1986. Today, it is incorporated as Waskasoo Park. It covers almost 300 acres and includes five kilometers of trails.
McAlister’s time was often in demand as a bird lecturer and she made presentations to both public groups and naturalist societies. Her audiences ranged from school children to women’s groups and covered topics from bird identification to preservation of natural habitats. Those who knew her often cited her approachable demeanor, energy and knowledge of the natural world: attributes that likely contributed to her success as an educator and speaker.
McAlister also wrote articles and contributed her observations to The Canadian Field-Naturalists between the years of 1920 to 1935. Her work was also published in the Red Deer Advocate.
McAlister was actively involved in fieldwork for over 40 years of her life. Her keen interest in the flora and fauna of the Red Deer area are documented in correspondence with respected naturalists, ornithologists and friends including one of Alberta’s renowned biologists, William Rowan. While homesteading, McAlister relied on subsistence hunting but was strongly opposed to shooting birds for collection or research. Her impressive ability to identify birds by sight and call were developed through a lifetime of observation and years of experience in the field.
Elsie Cassels McAlister passed away from a stroke, November 12, 1938.
“Mrs. Cassels knows her birds as mothers know their children. She will remain forever young, for she lives in a world of nature and nature never grows old.” -Annie L. Gaetz
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Elsie Cassels McAlister:
Like Elsie, you can get involved in a naturalists club in your area. Visit the Nature Alberta Club Directory to find the one nearest to you!
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Page 312
Red Deer River Naturalists
Alberta Natural History Society
Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, City of Red Deer
Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, Waskasoo Environmental Education Society
Thesis by Ernestine Crossfield: A Natural Adaptation: Elsie (McAlister) Cassels, Scottish Immigrant and Naturalists on the Albertan Prairie (1997)
“He was a prime example of how to grow old gracefully” -Camrose Canadian (News)
Name: Francis (Frank) L. Farley 1870-1949
Did you know? Frank Farley was the grand uncle of Canadian author and environmentalist, Farley Mowat.
Frank Farley is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Frank Farley was a naturalist, ornithologist, author and authority on North American birds. He was equally active in the community as he was with his naturalist work. This included detailed documentation of bird life throughout Alberta, as well as work within Miquelon Lake Bird Sanctuary. Farley was also a positive influence on other naturalists and conservationists including his great nephew, Farley Mowat.
About Frank Farley:
Frank Farley was born in St. Thomas, Ontario in February 1870. He began bird watching activities in Ontario and many of his notes and observations from this time are on record at the Royal Ontario Museum. At 22 years old, he moved to Red Deer, Alberta where he owned a farm for a number of years. After selling the farm in 1907, he moved to Camrose, Alberta and established a real estate business. Farley’s continued passion for birding and conservation fueled his active career as a naturalist. He traveled throughout Alberta to gather information on Alberta birds and authored many works, the majority of which can be found in the Canadian Field-Naturalist.
In 1936, Farley embarked on an exciting trip to Churchill, Manitoba to collect samples of eggs from nesting northern birds. He invited his great nephew along to assist him on the journey and to share his experiences. Farley Mowat never forgot the trip and credited the experience with instilling a lifelong passion for the north; he grew especially keen on wolves.
Farley also served as warden of Miquelon Lake Bird Sanctuary after it’s creation in 1921. For the following decade Farley was a dedicated caretaker of the site. Budget cuts in the 30s released Farley from service however Farley remains a memorable part of Miquelon Lake Provincial Park history.
In 1932, Farley published “Birds of the Battle River of Central Alberta”. His other publications include “Birds Observed at Grande Prairie City District” (Ottawa Naturalist, March 1917), “Changes in the Status of Certain Animals and Birds during the Past Fifty Years in Central Alberta” (Canadian Field-Naturalist, January 1926), “The European Starling in Alberta” (Canadian Field-Naturalist, October 1935) and “Carlton House on the Saskatchewan” (Canadian Field-Naturalist, March 1946).
Farley became an associate of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1946 and was made a full member two weeks before he passed away in Camrose, Alberta on October 22, 1949 at 79 years old.
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Pages 256, 320
Atlas of Alberta Lakes, Miquelon Lake
Wikipedia, Miquelon Lake
Important Bird Areas Canada, Miquelon Lake
Parks and Protected Areas (Volunteer Newsletter- Spring 2014)
Camrose Founder Days
Article: One last hurrah for iconic Canadian author?
Royal Ontario Museum (Fonds – Frank Farley)
Heritage Resources Management Information System (Frank L. Farley Fonds)
Red Deer River Naturalists (Frank Farley History)
Globe and Mail: Farley Mowat
“I am prepared to stand before my Maker, the Ruler of the entire Universe, with no other plea than that I have tried to leave things in His Vineyard better than I found them.” -Grant MacEwan
Name: John Walter Grant MacEwan, 1902 – 2000
Did you know?
Out of respect for other living things, MacEwan became a vegetarian in his 40s. This could not have been a small decision for MacEwan who had been a Professor of Animal Husbandry and lived a public life in the beef capital of Canada!
Grant MacEwan is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Grant MacEwan is well known for his accomplishments as a politician, professor, agricultural scientist and storyteller. He used his writing talents to further environmental awareness and advocacy; over the course of his life he wrote thousands articles and speeches cautioning about issues ranging from forest protection to air pollution. In 1966 he completed the book Entrusted to my Care. He was a dedicated naturalists and outdoor enthusiast.
About Grant MacEwan:
John Walter Grant MacEwan was born on August 12, 1902 near Brandon, Manitoba. He was the first son of Alexander and Bertha Grant and named after his maternal grandfather. As a child, he enjoyed spending time outdoors and exploring the natural world around him. He attended school in Brandon where he took great pleasure in observing nature on his daily walks to and from school. As a young student, he was frustrated by the lack of historical Canadian content in the school curriculum. Later in life, he would go on to write a number of books on Western Canadian history.
MacEwan’s grandfather inspired his interest in agriculture. By the age of 12, he was focused on becoming a farmer and raising livestock. Undoubtedly, his experience being raised on a farm also contributed to this interest.
As MacEwan approached adulthood, he decided to study agriculture in southern Ontario. At the age on 19, he boarded a train with a single suitcase and headed to Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). During this time he studied horticulture, politics, animal husbandry, Canadian literature, animal nutrition, botany and more. He was an active student who excelled in his studies.
In 1927, MacEwan received fellowship to study at Iowa State College of Agriculture in Ames, Iowa. After that year’s harvest in Canada, he was off to the United States to further his education. After completing his master’s degree, MacEwan was offered a position as assistant professor in Animal Husbandry and the University of Saskatchewan and returned to Canada.
In 1931, he met his future wife at a Halloween party. Phyllis Cline was a grade school teacher, the two dated for four years before marrying in the summer of 1935. In 1939, while living in Saskatoon, they welcomed a daughter who they named Heather.
In 1946, MacEwan accepted an appointment at the University of Manitoba as the Dean of Agriculture; a position he held until 1951. Soon after he become even more actively involved in politics, in 1955 he won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.
MacEwan’s later years were not exactly spent in what would be considered a traditional retirement. He spent eight years as Lieutenant Governor, up until the age of 72. After this time, he produced the majority of his historical books and remained very active. In his eighties, he continued to ride horses and enjoyed regular morning walks and hikes. His thoughts never far from nature, he would often visit foothill country, backpacking on his own. He also built a log cabin in the traditional way, with no nails and no power equipment. It was a place where he could further enjoy connecting to nature.
J.W. Grant MacEwan died on June 15, 2000 at Calgary, Alberta at the age of 97. He received a state funeral at Robertson-Wesley United Church in Edmonton, Alberta on June 20, 2000 and was buried in the Union Cemetery in Calgary.
Dr. MacEwan was the recipient of a number of awards and honours including:
Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Alberta, 1966
Honorary degree, Doctor of the University of Calgary, 1967
Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Brandon, 1969
Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Guelph, 1972
Honorary degree (LL.D.) University of Saskatchewan, 1974
B’Nai Brith Humanitarian Award 1970
Canadian Brotherhood Council Award 1972
Officer of the Order of Canada, O.C. 1974
Premier’s Award for Excellence 1977
Dr. MacEwan was also the first patron of Nature Alberta.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Grant MacEwan:
No matter how busy life gets, always make time for nature. Whether that is a camping trip or an evening walk, commit to connecting with nature regularly.
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Pages 4, 72
MacEwan University Namesake
Grant MacEwan’s Prairie West
Legislative Assembly of Alberta
The Honourable Dr. J.W. Grant MacEwan O.C., LL.D
CBC News Canada: Albertans Remember Grant MacEwan
Saskatchewan’s Environmental Champions
Appaloosa Horse Club of Canada Hall of Fame
University of Alberta
J.W. Grant MacEwan Bibliography
” My idea of peace and comfort was a tent by a clear brook anywhere north of 50 degrees of North Latitude. A ground-sheet and blankets enough, a side of salt pork and a bag of flour… for glory I had the stars and the Northern Lights.” -Joseph Burr Tyrrell
Name: Joseph Burr Tyrrell, 1858 – 1957
Did you know?
In 1880, Joseph Tyrrell received a law degree from the University of Toronto. Had his doctor not advised him to work outdoors to improve his health, he may have never had a chance to make his memorable discoveries!
Joseph Tyrrell is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Tyrrell was a geologist, historian and explorer of the vast areas of western and northern Canada. During his journeys he gathered information by earlier explorers and filled in missing information on existing maps especially in the areas of the Northwest Territories. He is best remembered for his discovery of Dinosaur beds in southern Alberta. However he added extensively to knowledge in the areas of geography, botany, entomology, mammalogy and ornithology.
About Joseph Tyrrell:
In 1858, Joseph Burr Tyrrell was born in Weston Ontario it what would one day become modern day Toronto. A serious childhood illness left him with permanent hearing impairment and some vision loss but this did not deter his ambitions.
Through his youth, he was intrigued by the natural world. While his father encouraged his education in law, Tyrrell studied other topics in his spare time. He had a broad interest in the sciences, especially topics like biology and botany. His interests in the natural world were so keen he conducted and published his own research in the Ottawa Field Naturalist newspaper.
Once Tyrrell completed his law education at the University of Toronto in 1880, he continued to study for the bar and worked at a local firm. Having had a bout with pneumonia in the years previous, he struggled with ongoing heath issues. His physician advised him that working outdoors could restore his health so Tyrrell found a position at the Geological Society of Canada (GSC) as an assistant. His first assignment was to sort through hundreds of rock specimens.
Tyrrell developed a reputation for being dedicated to his work and he was invited to participate in a GSC survey of the Canadian Pacific railroad route through the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in 1883. Lured by adventure, Tyrrell wasted no time in accepting the post to gain more experience. By 1884 he was leading his own field party at just 26 years old. It was on this mission in southwestern Alberta while searching for coal deposits in the Red Deer River valley that a giant skull was discovered. Recognizing the unique nature of this discovery, Tyrrell unearthed the specimen and had it sent to Philadelphia for closer inspection. The specimen turned out to be the first of its genus ever discovered, a smaller cousin of Tyrannosaurus rex laternamed Albertosaurus sarcophagus.
“I was climbing up a steep face about 400 feet high. I stuck my head around a point and there was this skull leering at me, sticking right out of the ground. It gave me a fright.” – J.B. Tyrrell
While Tyrrell was not a palaeontologist, his discovery sparked what would be known as the Great Canadian Dinosaur Rush in the Red Deer River valley where many more discoveries were made. Tyrrell also found rich coal deposits in the area that would later become a large mining center and present day Drumheller.
Tyrrell went on to make many important mineral discoveries and to write major works on early Canadian explorers, but his discovery of the world’s richest paleontological dig brought him lasting fame.
10 years after his great dinosaur discovery, Tyrrell married Edith Carey. Together they had three children, Mary (1896), George (1900) and Thomas (1906). Many of Tyrrell’s expeditions were completed under considerable hardships; returns from lengthy trips away could be delayed due to weather or other mishaps. At times, rumors spread that Tyrrell and his party had been lost. While renowned for his adventures, Tyrrell struggled to make ends meet. He began other business pursuits including a wise investment in the Kirkland Lake gold mine in Ontario. A business move that would eventually make him a millionaire.
In total, Tyrrell spent 17 years working for the CSC between the years of 1881-98.
In his 70s, Tyrrell purchased a farm north of Toronto and began a profitable apple orchard. He continued to write scientific literature, and edited the journal of explorer David Thompson. David Thompson’s Narrative was published in 1916. Tyrrell’s son George went on to manage the orchards, which are now the site of the Toronto zoo.
Tyrrell died at his home in Toronto at the age of 98.
In 1985, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta opened, named in his honour
Important dates in the career of J.B. Tyrrell
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Joseph Tyrrell:
Follow your passion! You don’t have to be a professional to get out and explore the world around you. Discoveries are always waiting to be made!
Fish, Fur and Feathers: Page 12
Historica Canada 2
Royal Tyrrell Museum
The Barren Lands
Four Centuries of Geological Travel, Geological Society Special Publication 287
Measuring Mother Earth: How Joe the Kid Became Tyrrell of the North by Heather Robertson
“My love of nature developed in early childhood and increased steadily.” -Kerry Wood
Name: Edgar Allardyce “Kerry” Wood, 1907 – 1998
Did you know?
Edgar Allardyce Wood adopted the name “Kerry” while a Boy Scout. Knobkerries are clubs used for pounding tent pegs. To those closest to him he was also known as “Nobby”. Named for the family dog that followed him everywhere.
A friend once remarked, “you know, he (the dog) looks like you! Only your bushy eyebrows are black. We should call you “Nobby”, would you mind?”
To which Wood replied, “Not at all. I’ve never liked Edgar”.
Kerry Wood is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Wood spent his entire life learning about the province’s flora and fauna and sharing that knowledge with others.
He has been recognized for his work as a naturalist and for helping to create 26 wildlife sanctuaries in Western Canada. His many awards include an honorary Doctorate of Laws, granted to him by the University of Alberta in 1969.
About Kerry Wood:
The youngest of three sons, Kerry Wood emigrated with his family from New York to Canada in 1908 and eventually west to Calgary, Alberta where he began school. The family moved again to Red Deer in 1918 where at the age of 12 he joined the Alberta Natural History Society and the Boy Scouts.
When the family planned a move to British Columbia in 1922, Wood who was not yet sixteen years of age decided to remain behind to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a writer. He spent the following years living off the land. During those two years he faced starvation, illness, and loneliness. Some of these memories are recounted in his book Wild Winter. This challenging time was made a bit easier by friendship. An Aboriginal man who provided advice on observing, stalking, and tracking wildlife saw the young man was in need of nourishment and invited him to his camp to share the family’s stew.
Wood survived this time and continued to write. He was able to create a modest yet steady income from his writing. By the 1930s he was one of only a few full-time freelance writers in Canada able to survive solely on his writing income during the depression era.
Before the age of 20, Wood collected detailed data on the population cycles of field voles, snowshoe hares , and ruffed grouse. This valuable information was submitted to the Canadian Wildlife Service and as a result, Wood was offered an honorary doctorate from the University of California, which he politely declined. He was also offered an honorary position from Cree Chief, Sam Goodeye of Hobbema. To this offer Wood is said to have replied, “Honours mean nothing, but Honour is everything”. Wood’s wife explained that he came to regret declining this offer from the Cree Chief, his good friend.
A prolific writer, he wore out at least 19 typewriters in his career. He wrote more than 20 books, 6200 short stories, 8000 articles and 9000 newspaper columns. Over 500,000 children are estimated to have enjoyed his books. His ability to combine humour in his storytelling held great appeal for children but was equally enjoyed by all ages. Wood went on to win Governor General’s Award for Juvenile Fiction for his books The Map-Maker (1955) and The Great Chief (1957) and was awarded the first Vicky Metcalf Award in 1963 for his sustained contribution to Canadian juvenile literature.
On February 10, 1936, he married Marjorie Marshall. Together, they had three children named named Rondo, Heather, and Gregory.
In 1981, the City of Red Deer together with the Red Deer Regional Planning Commission began collaborating on plans to develop a system of parks and pathways now known as Waskasoo Park of the Red Deer River Valley. The planned site was to be home of a nature interpretation centre. Due to Woods long time involvement with the facility established onsite, it was decided to request his permission to name the facility the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, which it is known as today.
Wood’s wife Marjorie was honored in a similar fashion around the same time for her own life-long contributions and service when an art and traveling exhibit gallery in the Nature Centre was named the Majorie Wood Gallery.
The official opening of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre was held August 4, 1986. That same year also marked the 50th wedding anniversary for Kerry and Marjorie Wood.
Kerry Wood passed away peacefully at home in 1998, his beloved wife Marjorie passed away in 2002. Their legacy lives on at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer, Alberta and in the many stories left behind for children and adults alike to enjoy.
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Kerry Wood:
Build your knowledge about the plants and animals in your own backyard and in your community and share it with young people and others around you.
“I was there at a time when the angling population was growing. The fish populations were relatively stable and in short, it was a good time to be around. ” -Martin J. Paetz
The above audio interview was graciously donated by: Porcupine Stone Productions
Name: Martin J. Paetz, 1921 – 2002
Did you know?
Martin J. Paetz was Alberta’s first provincial fisheries biologist. He was hired in 1952 and by the year of his retirement in 1883, he was the Director of Fisheries.
Martin J. Paetz is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
Paetz shaped the regulatory framework in Alberta Fisheries for many years. He made great effort to explain and interpret the details of fishes and fish habitats in Alberta to anyone interested in learning more. He also co-authored Fishes of Alberta and is remembered for his part in helping to lay the foundation for Alberta Fisheries.
About Martin J. Paetz:
Martin Paetz was born and raised on a farm near Hanna, Alberta. He developed an interest in the natural world early in life while attending public school. He credits three people in particular who encouraged him throughout his career. The first being a teacher who was a naturalist that planned field trips to observe birds and animals. The second was a neighbor and fisherman who would take him on trips and teach him about angling and later in his life, his mentor Dr. R. B. Miller from the University of Alberta. Miller replaced William Rowan in the 1950s as the Chair of the Zoology Department.
Miller had approached the government years before Paetz became his student regarding the need for provincial biologists. With Alberta’s oil finds in the 1940 the economy boomed in the 1950s. This allowed the hiring of biologist, the first of which was Paetz.
When the first position became available, Miller encouraged Paetz to apply and provided him with reference, which Paetz explained, “stood me in very good stead”.
The early days must have been a wonderful time to be a fisheries biologist in Alberta. Much of Alberta remained untouched, industry was just beginning and lakes and streams were full of fish. For Paetz however, this meant the start of a huge undertaking of work. There were many streams that the government had little knowledge or data of and there were few records on fish populations.
As a result, Paetz who was based in Edmonton had the opportunity to travel across the province collecting large amounts of data on lakes and streams of every major drainage system in Alberta. Biological research was conducted through fish stocking, hatching and rearing experiments. Paetz spent approximately ten years surveying waterbodies and determining their suitability for fish.
After ten years in the field, Paetz was offered a higher position in administration. While this removed him much of the fieldwork he had previously done, he found great satisfaction in drafting fishing regulations for the province. He believed scientific investigation was imperative to fish and regulation development.
By 1961, Paetz became the Chief Fishery Biologist. Through the 1970s there was much emphasis within the Fish and Wildlife division on the protection and development of critical fish and wildlife habitat.
In addition to the many scientific papers he wrote, Paetz made great effort to explain and interpret the details of fishes and fish habitats in Alberta to anyone interested in learning more. He co-authored Fishes of Alberta (1970) with Joe Nelson from the University of Alberta. The book is considered a must have guide for fish information and habitat in Alberta.
Paetz who had originally attended the University of Alberta to pursue his dream of becoming a biologist earned three graduate degrees. In 1972 he completed his PhD in zoology.
After his retirement in the 1980s, Paetz continued to work as a consultant for the provincial government and occasionally lectured in fish and wildlife law at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Dr. Martin Paetz passed away in July 2002 at the age of 81. He was a husband, father, mentor and a friend, and a dedicated advocate for the fishes of Alberta.
Major Events in Fisheries Management over the course of Dr. Martin Paetz’s career:
1952 – Martin Paetz, Alberta’s first fisheries biologist, is hired by the provincial government
1962 – The Alberta Fisheries Act (1950) is repealed and replaced by the Fishery Act.
1969 – The Fish Marketing Act is passed repealing the Fishery Act (1962)
1982 – A Fish and Wildlife Policy for Alberta is released
How to be a Notable Conservationist like Martin Paetz:
Surround yourself with people who share your interests in the natural world and explore together. Consider becoming or finding a mentor naturalists and of course, head out into the field to explore!
“… the final criterion of human success is not the material output of science… It is the sum-total of moral and spiritual values expressed in one simple word- integrity- that matters most, and of integrity, science is at least one of the world’s outstanding exponents.” – William Rowan
Name: William Rowan, 1891 – 1957
Did you know?
William Rowan had many talents. Had he not chosen to follow his interest in nature, he might have become a concert pianist!
William Rowan is a “Notable Conservationist” because:
William Rowan is one of Alberta’s most renowned biologists. Recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work in migration, Rowan remained a local figure and contributed to many aspects of Alberta’s natural history. His work helped chart the course for the study of ornithology worldwide. Biologist Julian Huxley described Rowan as one of the best experimental zoologists of the 20th century.
About William Rowan:
William Rowan was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1891 to parents of Irish and Danish decent. He spent his childhood in Europe fascinated by nature, often spending his time drawing his discoveries and studying eggs, bugs and bird nests. As a young adult he developed a thirst for adventure which sent him to the Canadian frontier. He arrived in Gleichan, Alberta via the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908. Having arrived in the centre Alberta’s ranching district, he soon found work as a ranch hand. He worked in this capacity for three years and used his free time to draw and photograph the wildlife of his new home.
This experience on the Canadian frontier reawakened Rowan’s childhood interest in nature. In 1911 he returned to England to study science and the University College. His studies were interrupted when he enlisted in the London Scottish Regiment during the First World War. In 1917, he completed a BSc (Honours) in Zoology and soon after married and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In 1920, the University of Alberta was 12 years old. The university’s first president, Henry Marshall Tory discovered Rowan in Manitoba and encouraged him to move to Alberta where he would have the opportunity to found a department of zoology at the university. Rowan accepted and remained chair of the University’s Department of Zoology for 35 years.
Rowan was very active within his areas of study and in the community. In 1921 he joined the Alberta Fish and Game Association and was elected chairman of the songbird committee. He was also a member of the Edmonton Bird Club and continued to practice art, another life long interest.
As early as 1924, Rowan began his famous migration experiments. He used a sparrow trap beside his house to catch dark-eyed juncos. Despite objections from H. M. Tory who was not keen on ornithology, Rowan built two large aviaries at the far end of his garden on campus to experiment with the effect daylight hours would have on migratory bird species. By artificially lengthening the exposure the birds had to daylight hours, Rowan was able to promote spring behavior in the birds in the middle of an Alberta winter. The birds appeared to be seasonally disoriented; they were ready to head north in winter and singing as if it were spring! This work earned him a DSc degree from the University College. The work continued, this time with the use of crows.
Rowan assembled 500 crows and kept them in chicken-wire cages on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. The experiment attracted much attention at first from users of the High Level Bridge and then by the general public. There was an experimental group of birds whose cage was lit by artificial light. The other was a control group, which experienced the natural shortening of the season’s daylight. To carry out the experiment, the entire community seemed to get involved! Local stores provided supplies and Rowan encouraged people to help locate the crows once released. Rewards were offered for the crows with the yellow dyed tails and with the help of the community, Rowan was able to account for more than 50 per cent of the crows. The experiment’s results were conclusive: crows from the experimental group went north and photoperiod was clearly linked to the mystery of migration.
Rowan’s work became widely recognized and his approach inspired other scientists worldwide. Today photobiology is a distinct research area; Rowan is considered the founder.
While this research was ground breaking, Rowan’s interests were not limited to science. He was a public educator, volunteer, author, artist, musician, photographer, teacher and humanitarian. His favorite natural areas included Beaverhill Lake and Cypress Hill Provincial Park. Rowan retired in 1956 and passed away one year later at the age of 66.
“Many-sided, many-gifted, Dr. Rowan was a man of the keenest, boyish enthusiasms. No one who had spent five minutes in his company would ever forget him. He made the science that was not a science meaningful to a whole province; and as an artist, lecturer, and man he served his time and his generation well.”
How to be a Notable Conservationist like William Rowan:
Take part in citizen science projects! You don’t have to be a world-renowned biologist to contribute to the study of the natural world. Citizen science projects are a fun way for you and your family to experience the excitement of discovery while helping researchers collect valuable data.