Photo: Ontario Parks
A citizen scientist is someone who, with or without a scientific education or background, holds a genuine interest in the world. Citizen scientists gather information, record their findings and share their knowledge with others to promote understanding. One particular group of citizen scientists is called the Six Mile Lake Conservationists Club. But not only do they go out and gather information about the natural world in their community, they also use that information to stop developers from destroying the land.
“We started out as a concerned citizen’s group about development on the lake. We lost the battle and the development happened. That was six years ago,” says Anne Lewis, the club’s president. “We started studying the area to fight the developers.”
Since its inception, the club has assembled various projects to protect and preserve the land and animals they live with. They designed a wildlife-friendly road, blocked large parts of forest from loggers and have raised community awareness about the fragility of the local environment.
“We are quite involved in promoting awareness in loons. We started the Get the Lead Out program,” says Lewis. The program involves the club’s members heading out in boats to meet fishermen and trade their lead-based tackle for lead free pieces.
Over the years, the group has slowly increased in size, growing to over 50 families. To keep everyone involved, Six Mile Lake holds reptile and bird presentations, as well as benthic studies that examine the bottom of the lake. One major project the group has is their summer inventory check. Select members of the organization head out into the surrounding forests and lakes and monitor the types and numbers of animals and plants that are there.
“We take inventory of the species that are here. If you don’t know the species there are, it’s hard to build a case to protect them,” says Lewis. “We monitor different species that are on the decline and raise awareness of them. We’re taking steps towards making changes in people’s attitudes.”
So far, it’s worked. The community’s families have become more aware of their impact on the land around them and have started changing. The previously declining rattlesnake population has started rising as people have stopped killing them and started seeing them as living creatures instead of mindless predators. “They’re not out there to hunt you,” says Lewis.
In upcoming years, the club plans to keep itself busy with more presentations, inventory checks and loon nest platform designing. The local flora and fauna can rest assured that these citizen scientists will continue to protect them.
“If we can’t keep the habitat alive for the wildlife, it won’t be there for us,” says Lewis.