The first event of the gathering was an optional hike on the Nature Conservancy of Canada's Prairie Smoke Alvar, a 274 hectare property located on the Carden Alvar. In case you don't know what an alvar is, you can learn more here! This hike was definitely my favourite part of the gathering. We walked along an ATV right-of-way that ran through the property and got to see many interesting things. There was an osprey nest on top of an old windmill, fresh bear tracks and scat, fossils in the exposed limestone and a DeKay's brownsnake. The snake was especially cool because I didn't even know they existed, let alone ever seen one before, as we're out of its range here in Desbarats. After the hike, we made our way to Geneva Park for the rest of the gathering.
I attended six different sessions in total throughout the gathering. I learned more about BioBlitzes, including effective ways to set up, promote and run them. So if you're in the area next summer, make sure you come to the TKC BioBlitz as it's going to be the best one yet! There was a very informative session on invasive species, mainly focusing on dog-strangling vine. I'm very thankful that we haven't had problems with it on our properties, as it's takes and lot of time and energy to manage it successfully. Another great session was about how all land trusts are also water trusts. Dan Kraus, from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, explained how all land trusts are critical in protecting water, even if there is no wetlands, streams, rivers, lakes or ponds on the property as they can still absorb tons of water and store it in the ground, protecting it for the future.
I also learned about the challenges of conservation easements, species at risk in Ontario and the Natural Heritage Database, a new tool being developed which land trusts can use to catalog species more effectively. In between all of these sessions was plenty of time for networking with other conservation professionals. Over breakfast one morning, I was talking with a gentleman who worked out in Alberta for the Western Sky Land Trust. He explained how he would go to properties where there were dinosaur bones sticking out of the ground and nobody batted an eye as they were common. Imagine I found a dinosaur bone on TKC property? There were many other wonderful people that I met who are doing great things across Ontario and Canada for conservation.
I'm hoping I have an opportunity to go back again next year and learn even more!