Thirty Years Later - the old page. For the current Thirty Years Later pages go to
The present page was composed on of 30 January 2003, and revised 30 August 2006.

[places we've
made observations over the past 30 years]

Thirty Years

From 1970 to 1990 we were freelance associates of the National Museum of Natural Sciences (NMNS, now Canadian Museum of Nature, CMN). We were the major contributor to the museums's herpetological, crayfish, and skeletal collections, and we contributed fish, land and freshwater mollusks, lichens, mosses, and vascular plants from all across Canada. Aleta collected in Kenya in 1972, illustrated Freshwater Molluscs of Canada, and since 1975 has been preparing watercolour portraits from life of all Canadian amphibians and reptiles for Francis Cook's monograph of these classes. Fred collected Birds for the ROM throughout Canada south of the high Arctic in 1970-1975, while his Ph.D thesis was based on NMNS specimens, and he was or led almost all of the NMNS's post-1980 herpetological expeditions.

Our three Canada-wide trips (1976-1977, 1985-1986, 1987-1989) that were supported by advance royalties for books were largely devoted to collecting for the NMNS. Our goal was to contribute to the biotic inventory of northern North America by providing "preserved series of specimens... for traditional, contemporary, and foreseeable research into spatial and temporal change in Canada and associated areas." (draft Mission Statement for the NMNS, 31 October 1986), and we made collections and landmark monitoring observations towards this end both around home and where we travelled.

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Bishops Mills
Natural History

Eastern Ontario
Biodiversity Museum

Thirty Years Later: Databasing, Up-grading, and revisiting observations recorded in naturalists' field notes from coast to coast to coast.

Naturalists' field notes and first-hand observations are historically unique, while well-documented collections preserve an irreplaceable slice of time and place. The effort spent in conserving natural history collections and specimens is justified, and their value is increased, by replication and re-visits in later years, which convert initial exploration into continued monitoring.

We have spent the last thirty years in exploration and monitoring of Canada's biota, From 1970-1990 we travelled all across Canada as independent museum collectors; artist and herptologist. Since 1990 we've travelled less, but we've undertaken vigorous collecting of large invertebrates in eastern Ontario and adjacent areas, especially Unionid Mussels and the drifted shells of land snails, and have monitored a variety of species around home.

To increase and conserve the value of these records, we have resolved that our field work from now on will be directed towards "30-years-later" revisits to places where we and others collected in the 1970s-1980s. We will work at digitizing our old field notes, assembling & improving museum curatorial data about the specimens, going back and comparing what we're able to find there now with what we found then, and we will use this as an educational vehicle for naturalists and governments to teach the value of field notes and specimens. The relevance of this exploration is most graphically illustrated by the fact that the Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata, is now extirpated from the jurisdictions (Vermont & Newfoundland) where we collected the first specimens in 1975 and 1976.

Our field work before the founding of the EOBM included:

1970 Florida, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana (FWS).
1971 Mt Hermon, Massachusetts, James Bay & central Ontario, Florida, northern New York (FWS).
1972 Cochrane, Moosonee, & Long Point, Ontario, Atlantic Canada (FWS); Kenya (AK)
1973 New England-Delaware, Ontario-British Columbia
1974 NW Quebec
1975 Subarctic Canada, New York, New Jersey.
1976- 1977 Transcanada (Newfoundland-Vancouver Island - Canadian Nature Notebook trip)
1978 Toronto
1979-1985; 1987; 1989-2002 Grenville Co, Ontario
1980 N Manitoba, British Columbia,
1981 SW counties, Ontario
1982 SW counties, Ontario
1983 Tobermory Islands, Kenora district, Cochrane District, SW counties, Ontario
1984 New Brunswick; Cochrane District, Tobermory Islands & Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
1985-1986 Canada & northern USA (Fragile Inheritance trip)
1987 Cochrane district, Niagara Frontier, Ontario, New England.
1987-1989 Vancouver Island, Prince Rupert-Prince George, Haida Gwaii, Vancouver, Interior, & Bella Coola, British Columbia (Birds of the West Coast trip)
1989 British Columbia-Ontario
1990 Bruce Peninsula, N of Georgian Bay, Cochrane district, Ontario
1992 Cochrane area, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
1993 Sooke area, Vancouver Island, B.C., Cochrane area, Bruce Peninsula, Mattawa Area, Ontario
1994 Lake Ontario Waterfront, Ontario (A Place to Walk trip)
1995 Cochrane area & eastern Ontario
1996 Lake Ontario Drainage, eastern, Outer Bruce Peninsula, southern Renfrew Co & south-central Ontario, eastern Lake Ontario drainages, New York.
1997 Bruce Peninsula, Niagara escarpment, Sudbury & Cochrane dists, South Nation drainage, Lanark & Renfrew Cos, Ontario.

In the course of this work we've always aspired to the standards of record-keeping established by the Grinnell tradition (Steven G. Herman. 1986. "The Naturalist's Field Journal: A manual of instruction based on a system established by Joseph Grinnell" Buteo Books, Vermillion, South Dakota. 200 pp.). We have not, however, adhered strictly to the classical Grinnell format, but have each developed our own record-keeping systems.

Aleta, on the one hand, integrates design, illustration, observation, and data (Karstad, Aleta. 2000. "Drawing from Life" Trail and Landscape 34(3):110-116). Fred, on the other, has adapted the Grinnell system of precisely geo-temporally referenced, hypothesis-testing, observations to computer and GPS technologies (Schueler, Frederick W. 2000. "Navigating as Naturalists with the Global Positioning System" Trail and Landscape 34(1):35-40; and 2001, "Interest is paid on deposits in your provincial databank" The Boreal Dipnet 5(2):1-3).

Our goal, since 1993, has been to have all this electronically available in a database formatted to contain both records of individual species encountered and a coherant narrative of our activities. This database currently contains 45,500 records, and grows by about 3-5K records in most years. Since 1996 locations have been mostly based on the GPS (see Schueler, Frederick W. 2000. "Navigating as Naturalists with the Global Positioning System" Trail and Landscape 34(1):35-40.).

We employed these methods in our exploration of the Lake Ontario Waterfront (Karstad, Schueler, & Lee Ann Locker. 1995. "A place to walk: A naturalist's journal of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail" Natural Heritage/Natural History, Toronto. 159 pp.). As data entry for each year is completed, we plan to bind narrative output as archival quality volumes distributed in several libraries. Copies of the database are deposited in interested public institutions (currently the Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre).

Historically, our formats for field notes have been:

1969-1984: illustrated narrative in pre-bound volumes (AKS)
1969-1972: Grinnell-style field notes, specimen catalogue & journal (FWS)
1973-1984: Specimen catalogue and 8.5×11 inch journal pages & NMNS herpetology & ichthyology datasheets (FWS)
1985-present: illustrated narrative on watercolour paper looseleaf (AKS)
1985-1989: Specimen catalogue and 8.5×11 inch journal pages & NMNS datasheets, with contemporary text entry of non-specimen observations and narrative (FWS).
1990: Specimen catalogue and 8.5×11 inch datasheets in a variety of formats, contemporary entry of herpetological observations into database (FWS).
1999-present: ?day-planner' database records entered on handheld computer (AKS).
1991-present: 5.5×8.5 inch journal pages & datasheets derived from NMNS format, with ongoing entry into database (FWS).

In September, 2001, Eric Hoffman came to the CMN to sample the Leopard Frogs Fred had preserved as dried skins in the 1970's for his thesis. Eric's Ph.D. thesis deals with on the mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA-based phylo-geographic history of Leopard Frogs. Fortunately the DNA is not degraded by drying, as it is by preservation in formaldehyde. He and Fred also collected samples at some of the sites sampled from 1971-1980 to see how much genetic drift and colour change there had been, and to allow neutral-allele-based calculation of effective population sizes in both the 1970's and 2001. It was at this point that we realized that the future had arrived: thirty years of tumultuous environmental change was enough justification for us to go back to the places we'd visited in the past, and to leave a clear account of what we saw as change and stability, rather than waiting for future generations to puzzle over our accounts of location and conditions.

We have accordingly resolved that our future field work will emphasise Thirty-years-later revisits, and that we'll seek grant support and museum (ROM, CMN, EOBM) collaboration for digitizing old field notes in the uniform format of the EOBM database, increasing the precision with which our early field notes and catalogues are geo-referenced, referencing these co-ordinates and the field notes to the curatorial data for specimens held by museums (CMN & ROM), revisiting sites, and comparing what we're able to find there now with what we found then.

It's a truism that everybody is interested in the old question "Are things getting worse?", which makes them nominally interested in historical data, but there has been no routine way of updating these data, or general routines for checking up on whether species or conditions persist at particular sites over the decades (except for ?re-doing' atlasses, as Ontario birders are now doing - but ?reatlassing' doesn't incorporate the pre-atlassing history of the taxon in the region, or unsystematic observations of associated phenomena).

For some records we'll convert the data into paragraph-length ?quantum' accounts of the observations that would be required for deciding if the historically-observed species or phenomenon persists at each site, and then try to replicate these observations ourselves, encourage others to convert their old notes to this form, and to attempt replications. This is what we've always hoped future generations would do with our work, and we might as well get down to doing it now, while we're still here to go back and recall what some of the more cryptic scratchings in our field notes meant. Here's an example for the Rideau River:

"Cambarus bartonii at the mouth of the Jock River: Jock River above and below the Old Hwy 16 bridge, MAP:31G/5, UTM 18TVF 442 118. 45.25948N 75.71081W. Cambarus bartonii was present in 1975 (FWS 5671, CMN 76-1920-34) but not seen since, but since this species lives deeper in the substrate than other Crayfish, and is often uncommon, is more nocturnal than the Orconectes species that have been displaced by O. rusticus, nocturnal searches or exhaustive searches might still turn up specimens to show that the species persists here. EOBM made a preliminary nocturnal search in 1999 without seeing any. FWS."

We'll seek support from a range of foundations or granting agencies, as well as from those who have an immediate use for the databased records. This project will largely direct our field & curatorial work and peer-reviewed publications for the next several years. The efficiency with which we can record data and prose has been greatly increased by technological advances - GPS, hand-held computers, and databases - so our fieldwork is no longer followed by a such a daunting backlog of unentered observations.

Proposed products: 1) upgraded and computerized FWS/AKS field notes/catalogues for observations and museum specimens, also possibly the Ontario notes of Franklin D. Ross and Paul W. Schueler that are in our care,

2) field notes and summary accounts of revisited sites (approximately 100/field season), including our current interests in Molluscs, invasive plants, etc., as well as the herps, Crayfish, Birds, etc., that we were noting in the earlier era,

3) analysis of how phenomena and taxa have been degraded, persisted, or enhanced,

4) publication of results in whatever form seems appropriate, and hung on the internet, including....

5) Facimile reproduction of AKS journal pages from visits and re-visits as a book with facing-page prose by FWS.

We also hope to revisit the manuscript book Fragile Inheritance: A painter's ecology of Glaciated North America, returning to many of the places we described in 1984-1987 and to make arrangements to publish this book in a "20-years-later" form.

Thirty Years Later projects already underway or published:

We've incorporated database records of our specimens from the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Royal Ontario Museum into our database.

Desroches, Jean-François, Frederick W. Schueler, and Isabelle Picard (submitted) Unstriped Northern Two-lined Salamanders (Eurycea bislineata) from Ontario and Québec. Herp Review.(including 30 years of observations of the unpatterned morph at the Jock River)

Jean-François Desroches, Isabelle Picard, Frederick W. Schueler, and Louis-Philippe Gagnon. A Herpetological survey of the James Bay area of Québec and Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist. (preliminarily submitted)

Hoffman, Eric A., Frederick W. Schueler, Adam G. Jones, and Michael S. Blouin. 2006. An analysis of selection on a color polymorphism in the northern leopard frog. Molecular Ecology 15:2627-2641.

Gibbs, James P., K. Kristian Whiteleather and Frederick W. Schueler. 2005. Changes in frog and toad populations over 30 years in New York State. Ecological Applications 15(4):1148?1157.

Hoffman, Eric A., Frederick W. Schueler, and Michael S. Blouin. 2004. Effective population sizes and temporal stability of genetic structure in Rana pipiens, the Northern Leopard Frog. Evolution, 58(11), 2004, pp.2536-2545.

Schueler, Frederick W. 2002. Field Notes from The Jock River. I: Amphibians, Crayfish, Unionids, & Dobsonflies just above the Rideau. Trail and Landscape 36(2):68-71.

draft of 30 January 2003, revised 30 August 2006, fws