[Fred and Aleta at Fishing Lake 23 May 2015]

Fred and Aleta in pursuit of Ligumia nasuta at Fishing Lake 23 May 2015.

We're situated on the Smiths Falls Limestone Plain in Bishops Mills, Grenville County, Ontario, Canada.

We work at learning, writing about and illustrating the landscape and the natural communities that we live among and have studied, both locally and all across the glaciated part of North America.

Forty-five years ofquotes and sayings from the Pinicola commonplace book

Aleta Karstad's blog - paintings and expedition journals

Doing Natural History

Home Place for Doing Natural History in Bishops Mills

illustrated nature journals

our books

recent books - Library of One Thing And Another

[out behind the Bishops Mills Natural History

Marigold the Dog, Fred, and Aleta, Christmas 2008.

About Us

Our work is natural history exploration (by collecting specimens and data that document the distribution and abundance of species), interpretation (through popular books and workshops in methods of illustrated journal keeping), illustration (primarily in ink, watercolour, & oils), & analysis (of distribution, abundance, and geographic variation of organisms).

In the past, the species we focused on were predominantly Amphibians and reptiles, but recently we're increasingly working with Crayfish, invasive alien Plants, uncommon species of trees, and various Mollusks: the many species of land snails which are an under-appreciated aspect of Canada's biodiversity, and the subtly lovely Unionid mussels which are our largest invertebrate animals, threatened by siltation, pollution, and invasive alien species.

After a couple of decades when our "work" focused on exploration across Canada in the preparation of popular books, and collecting for the National Museum of Natural Sciences, in 1993 we began to call ourselves the Biological Checklist of the Kemptville Creek Drainage Basin, hoping to create a database that would contain records of all organisms in the drainage basin, based on information computerized by governments, museums, & other inventory-compilers, naturalists' field notes, and the scientific literature. In 1997 we initiated the founding of the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum to provide a home for the orphaned natural history collections of Carleton University, and in August 2002, opened the Bishops Mills Natural History Centre to further accommodate natural history collections and provide space for all of our endeavours in research, curation, art, and education.

From 2006-2009, we worked with Robert Forsyth, and others, with the support of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to complete the late Wayne Grimm's book on introduced terrestrial Gastropods – Grimm, F. W., R. G. Forsyth, F. W. Schueler, & A. Karstad. 2009 [2010]. Identifying Land Snails and Slugs in Canada: Introduced Species and Native Genera. Identification des escargots et des limaces terrestres au Canada: Espèces introduites et genres indigènes. Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Ottawa. iv+168 pp.

In 2009-2010, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, we undertook revisits to the places we explored in the 1970s and 1980s across Canada, from sea to sea to sea, that we call the Thirty Years Later Expedition, testing the hypotheses we formed then about the course of possible ecological change. This has generalized to nomadic "art and science" visits to places we're called to by various causes, including the Nature Conservancy Canada, the New Brunswick Museum's bioblitzes of Protected Natural Areas, and sites where unfortunate habitat destruction has been proposed. All of this recent activity is reported and illustrated by Aleta's blog of paintings with journal notes.

Since then we've taken to themed exploration in each year, producing an online print-on-demand book (or at least calendar) from each years exploration - the most recent focused project was a survey of streams crossing the proposed Energy East pipeline route, which is documented in its own blog of survey results and paintings.

You can find out more about our activities than it's likely anyone would legitimately want to know, through our annual letters: 2016 "we're home... in Weirs House, heated by wood pellets, the corpses of invasive alien shrubs, and standing dead victims of alien pathogens... In the field we live in the Boler trailer, pulled by our 2003 Ford 150 pickup. Our characteristic foods have been fruit and leaf smoothies with bannock made from home-milled Kamut grains (Aleta) and Oats-and-weeds microwave quiche (Fred)." 2015 - "Discoveries in the course of the 2015 scramble have included the rare Nosey Pondmussel Ligumia nasuta & the even rarer narrow-gauge snail Acella haldemani in Fishing Lake, several previously unknown populations in Ontario and BC of the beautiful introduced landsnail Cepaea nemoralis, [and] the generalization that modern bureaucracies operate on the principle of 'guilty until grudgingly acknowledged to possibly be innocent...'" 2014 - "a year dedicated to our survey of the route of the proposed Energy East pipeline, as well as to whatever it was we were doing before we set off in pursuit of it, other than the Polar Vortex winter having burned up more than all of our firewood, and having killed off almost all of our water-hibernating frogs." 2013 - "It's widely affirmed that our life is excessively adventurous, and here's an opportunity to test that hypothesis. Briskly looking forward to a day of work, we started out by trying to use the van to pull down the partially cut top of the Black Locust tree on the slope of the Septic Drumlin, at which point the the rope snapped and took out the internet cable, broke the Weirs House window the cable comes through, and hurled a bike cable 100 m into a Manitoba Maple near the Goat Yard" - 2012 - "For organic beings, there's no news as big as descendents, making the naisance, on 15 May 2012, of Samuel John Tanner, followed by his triumphant progression in natural infant hygiene and 'executive control,' the highpoint, and turning point, of our year" - 2010 - Only 24 hours in each day: this year we've made some exciting progress and also some unprecedented decisions" - 2009 - "Thirty years of boxes: In September we hit upon the expression 'altruistic free-lancing for essential but meagrely understood ideals' to describe what we've been doing" - 2008 - "we're now carefully studying how we're going to progress into the great 'yikes!' at the end of the Snail Book contract" - 2007 - "Waiting for the Snails: ...the themes that were acted out in the course of the year: worrying about money, Crayfish, Chickens & Rabbits, support from our friends, Marigold the Dog, vehicles, conservation struggles, incessant communication, Rory Tanner, and late nights" - 2005 "each step... has required both the interminable carrying of heavy loads of stuff from one staging area to another and the tedious peer-reviewed composition of carefully-worded communications."