Purchased in 2002 to provide space for the fluid-preserved collection of the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum, for the safekeeping and use of natural history observations, and for research in amphibians, clams, crayfish, and invasive plants, the fprmer Bishops Mills General Store building has great potential for making natural history research and collections more visible and important to people, both locally and across Canada, though this mission is still a little shaky on its feet in early 2006.

Ever since Fred was weaned from Birds onto Leopard Frogs in graduate school, and Aleta was introduced to Land Snails at the National Museum of Canada, we've made it our business to study and publicize those groups of organisms that are widely noticed but not recognized to species, and especially those whose status is rapidly changing, either due to decline of native species, or the spreading of invaders.

Zoned residential upstairs and commercial downstairs, the former Bishops Mills General Store building now houses the fourth-largest collection of freshwater mussels in Canada, the files and land snail collections of the late F. Wayne Grimm, the carefully preserved streamside detritus of the Canadian Library of Drifted Material, plants, skeletons, fluid-preserved specimens, & frozen specimens 'left over from' the dispersal of the collections of the Eastern Ontario Biodiversity Museum, and Fred & Aleta's library & archives.

The Bishops Mills General Store building offers a large open space where visitors can help us investigate local fauna and flora, browse field guides, appreciate the nature art of Aleta Karstad and friends, and purchase books, cards and posters. A large gallery upstairs displays Aleta's current work, and is available for community meetings or other functions. We try to hang an exhibition of paintings there every fall 'Wild Fruits' in 2005, and 'Snail Launch' in 2006.

We are available by appointment throughout the week, as most of our time is spent in lab and studio, or gardening, exploring, or painting outdoors not far away. Contact us by phone at (613)258-3107, or e-mail

Area Map

About us

Courses and Programmes

Limerick Forest

Apprentice Programme

Nature Modelling workshops


The 2001 International Chorus Frog Conference


Canadian Library of Drifted Material.


NEW!! Bio Artistic Inventories

theNatureJournal kit

Karstad books

illustrated nature journals

Darwins Day Phylum Feast


The Bishops Mills Natural History Centre

[The Lab]

30 Main Street, Bishops Mills, County Rd 18,
south and west of Oxford Mills, Ontario

[sorting fishes]

A draft BMNHC Mission & Vision (October 2001 & Jan 2006)

To explore, conserve, and communicate understanding of landscapes and their living communities, so that People may understand natural beauty, balance, diversity, and vulnerability to change & disturbance by human cohabitants.

1) to explore, illustrate, analyse, and interpret natural history and biotic diversity, especially of the settled parts of deglaciated North America, through art, scientific research, conservation of data and specimens, publication, and collaboration with individuals and organizations with like goals.

2) to teach and study the ways in which natural history knowledge is acquired, authenticated, and preserved, both as documents and as museum specimens.

3) to provide and maintain facilities for the care of natural history specimens and records, and to provide information and reference specimens to scientists, students, and the general community. (Draft of 3 Oct 2001: Fragile Inheritance Natural History)

UTOPIAN VISION of BMNHC in 2016: The BMNHC consists of a partnership of four families or single-person households: Fred & Aleta living on the well-insulated Pipers House side of joined houses, with Jennie's family in the Weirs House side, a scientist(s) and family in Apartment 1, and a business manager in Apartment 2 of the Store building. Associates work as volunteers or on contract as funds are available. Fred and Aleta continue to do the work that only they can do, while the scientist(s) continue their programme of research, and the business manager sees that things are done on time, that a maximal number of products are sold, and that naturalist groups throughout deglaciated North America are kept aware of our activities and look forward to our visits to their areas.

Our personal database is up-to-date, with all our journals transcribed, including images, and is actively linked to both the institutions that hold our specimens, and to the Biodiversity Virtual Resources' system of anastomosed databases, where it serves as a flagship example of a biographical data repository, and is recognized as the contemporary equivalent of HD Thoreau's journals. Aleta (� la the Group of Seven) regularly paints, predominantly in oils, the landscapes we visit, and teaches plein air technique, and (� la Louis Agassiz Fuertes) portrays individuals and species in detail, primarily in watercolour.

The NatureList is both a list-serve and a data-entry portal for observations and images, linked to the Biodiversity Virtual Resources system.

TheNatureJournal provides naturalists around the world with the materials and inspiration to keep archival records of their observations. We archive and transcribe historic field notes into both databases and archivally stable volumes, in co-operation with BVR and the National Library. The Canadian Library of Drifted material receives accessions from across the country, and is recognized as a valuable resource for the study of biotic change.

Terrestrial Gastropods of Canada is published, the Canada Land snails list-serve is active, and tNJ portal is a recognized repository for molluscan data. We send regular expeditions throughout deglaciated North America, revisiting both our and others' 30-yrs-later sites, in co-ordination with local naturalists.

Wayne Grimm's material is all data-based and has been transferred to appropriate museums. Residual EOBM and CUMZ specimens have been dispersed to new regional natural history museums across northern Ontario and Quebec, which regularly consult us on matters of policy and direction. The bugs chew their way through as many salvaged carcases as we can provide them with: there is no backlog of frozen material. The Canadian Library of Drifted Material is the only collection we hold on a permanent basis, but there's a substantial standing wave of specimens moving through our cabinets as a result of our expeditionary, research, and salvage work.

By working in clusters of coauthors, and in co-operation with the Storey Lab the Canadian Museum of Nature and other colleagues, we produce a stream of peer-reviewed results of our research. Our book-length popular works are available by download from a website, and are published commercially as publishers are interested in them. Fred and Aleta's financial security is linked to rent paid by the partnership for accommodation in the Store building, and royalty arrangements on commercial and partnership products that continue to be sold.