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Dr. Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad - 2011 Mary Stuart Education Award

Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad are a talented biologist-artist team well-known in Eastern Ontario for their decades of work researching and documenting natural history observations, through a combination of science and art. The Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club (OFNC) is recognizing two of their projects which relate to natural history education - the popular mudpuppy nights and the NatureList. Through both of these activities, many people have had their interest in nature either started or strengthened.

Since 1998 Fred and Aleta have offered "Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills" to interested observers, leading them on a nocturnal outing at the dam on Kemptville Creek at Oxford Mills. The outing is kid-friendly, and has become a regular annual outing for the OFNC and the Macoun Field Club. Most Friday nights throughout the winter, Fred and Aleta - joined by a group of hardy observers -- can be seen in hip waders with flashlights searching the waters for mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus). When spotted, a mudpuppy is dipnetted, admired, photographed, and natural history notes recorded. Through Mudpuppy Nights, the Schuelers have given many youngsters (and even adults) their first "hands-on" experience with wildlife - including teaching them the correct way to hold a mudpuppy in their hands (a very special experience) - and demonstrating to them how much they can learn about biology and conservation through this experience.

Another project that Fred and Aleta have initiated is the Eastern Ontario Natural History e-mail listserv, also known as the NatureList. The NatureList began in 1999 as an e-mail listserv, but since September 2008 has been hosted as a Google group. The listserv provides a lively forum for the sharing of nature observations throughout eastern Ontario with a view to getting them on the public record. As well, list members can help one another with species identification and nature interpretation, and discuss issues of interest. Some recent topics on the NatureList have included a discussion about snapping turtles (they are a species at risk yet hunting is allowed); a note posted from another listserv on the types of fruit and the sequence of their consumption by robins; snow type data from snowpack fields; and posting of first spring sightings of various flora and fauna (first red-winged blackbirds, first returning Canada geese, and so on), which often leads to further discussion by various members of the listserv on related topics. Natural history observations are linked to Fred and Aleta's natural history database which contains some 100,000 records and is growing. Through the interchange of observations, facts and interpretations that occurs on NatureList, the level of knowledge of natural history is raised for a host of amateurs. The listserv is quite lively!

In 2004, Fred and Aleta launched the NatureJournal, an archival journal system that facilitates the recording and preservation of everyone's nature observations.

Over the years Fred and Aleta have also given occasional workshops for OFNC. They have also published a number of illustrated books covering aspects of natural history and conservation.

For their many years of exceptional service raising awareness of natural history conservation in the Ottawa area, the OFNC is pleased to present Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad with the Mary Stuart Education Award for 2011.

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This page was created 28 January 2013
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