Nature entices on mobile devices

News Apr 25, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

An old idiom says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The inference is people, like horses, usually only do what they have a mind to do.

But that’s something Waterloo Region Nature is hoping to change with a new website that’s been designed to not only lead people outdoors, but also engage them with their surrounding environment.

“That’s the idea, and it’s for everybody, not just the enthusiasts,” said Roger Suffling, a longtime member of the naturalist club that includes about 300 active members.

Developed over the past couple years with the help of volunteers, several thousand dollars in grants and a co-op student from the University of Waterloo, EcoPosts.ca is essentially a mobile-friendly guide to nature. The site links to profiles of places and species that are easily accessed on smartphones and tablets by scanning QR codes on signs.

“EcoPosts can show users some items that they might expect — big white pines, migrating geese and beautiful river valleys,” Suffling outlined. “It also takes them to other features that they might never have expected — chickadees that will perch on your hand, peregrine falcons nesting in downtown Kitchener, and prairies full of wildflowers.”

A post entitled “A bird in the hand …” details the 33-hectare F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area in North Dumfries Township that can be hiked in any season. The spot is recommended for snowshoeing in winter and picnics in summer “when bird life, reptiles and amphibians abound amid colourful flora.”

A link to “things to do” includes information about the 4.8-kilometre trail as well as details about seasonal species.

Though there are only 10 EcoPosts so far in Waterloo Region, many more will be added in the months and years ahead.

The practicality of a website as opposed to large, stationary information boards, is that each post can evolve along with Mother Nature. Compared to larger boards that can cost thousands of dollars and are prone to vandalism, the smaller QR code signs are much less expensive at just $12 a pop and can be replaced rather effortlessly.

Not all are located in the countryside, Suffling stressed.

“We’re putting a lot of these posts right in the city — not that we don’t want people to go into the countryside, but a lot of people want to encounter nature on their day-to-day commutes and shopping,” he said. “They’re urban people … but there’s nature in the city.”

Other posts include “Swifts at Work, Pigeons at Play” in downtown Galt near the Main Street bridge. At the Westmount Sports Park on Westmount Road in Waterloo, people can, “learn about wildlife and gardening while the kids play soccer.”

A “where’s next” tab links to other nearby attractions such as The Dorney Garden of native plants and The Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo.

Some posts might take you to a garden market or museum, “because we don’t see this nature thing as being separate and discreet,” Suffling said. “It’s part of living.”

Education, Suffling believes, is vital to environmental stewardship. “I and a lot of the club members look at it from a big picture perspective,” he said.

“We’ve got an area that’s rich with new immigrants and students at college and universities who tend to be very urban and indoors. If people don’t value nature and the environment, then they’re not going to vote for nature and the environment; they’re not going to pressure governments, companies and the NGOs to do the right things in terms of preserving the environment.”

Stephanie Sobek-Swant, president of Waterloo Region Nature and executive director at the rare nature reserve in Cambridge, said she connected with the natural environment at an early age. Growing up in rural Germany, her parents sent her out the door each morning and she usually wouldn’t return until supper.

Yet many adults in Waterloo Region are still unaware of the natural attractions in their own backyard, said Sobek-Swant, who hopes EcoPosts will prove to be a great way to immerse people with their surroundings.

“I hope we can increase the number of posts that are out there and I really hope we do see people using them,” she said.

The official EcoPosts.ca launch is this Saturday at the Huron Natural Area, 801 Trillium Dr., and is part of the City of Kitchener’s Earth Day event, from 1 to 4 p.m.

There will be free activities for the whole family including tree planting, bird-box building and live bird shows from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.

Suffling says it’s “absolutely dramatic” what’s been lost from the local landscape, even in recent decades.

“We’re a very sprawling city,” he said. “That’s been the North American way, but it is changing of course.”

New planning provisions and environmental regulations have improved conditions to some degree, especially when it comes to stormwater management and water quality, Suffling conceded.

“The sad fact is that when people get polled about what’s important to them in politics and that sort of thing, environment comes way down the list,” he said. “So we need to keep reminding them.”

Nature entices on mobile devices

New website puts outdoors in the palm of your hand

News Apr 25, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

An old idiom says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The inference is people, like horses, usually only do what they have a mind to do.

But that’s something Waterloo Region Nature is hoping to change with a new website that’s been designed to not only lead people outdoors, but also engage them with their surrounding environment.

“That’s the idea, and it’s for everybody, not just the enthusiasts,” said Roger Suffling, a longtime member of the naturalist club that includes about 300 active members.

Developed over the past couple years with the help of volunteers, several thousand dollars in grants and a co-op student from the University of Waterloo, EcoPosts.ca is essentially a mobile-friendly guide to nature. The site links to profiles of places and species that are easily accessed on smartphones and tablets by scanning QR codes on signs.

“EcoPosts can show users some items that they might expect — big white pines, migrating geese and beautiful river valleys,” Suffling outlined. “It also takes them to other features that they might never have expected — chickadees that will perch on your hand, peregrine falcons nesting in downtown Kitchener, and prairies full of wildflowers.”

A post entitled “A bird in the hand …” details the 33-hectare F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area in North Dumfries Township that can be hiked in any season. The spot is recommended for snowshoeing in winter and picnics in summer “when bird life, reptiles and amphibians abound amid colourful flora.”

A link to “things to do” includes information about the 4.8-kilometre trail as well as details about seasonal species.

Though there are only 10 EcoPosts so far in Waterloo Region, many more will be added in the months and years ahead.

The practicality of a website as opposed to large, stationary information boards, is that each post can evolve along with Mother Nature. Compared to larger boards that can cost thousands of dollars and are prone to vandalism, the smaller QR code signs are much less expensive at just $12 a pop and can be replaced rather effortlessly.

Not all are located in the countryside, Suffling stressed.

“We’re putting a lot of these posts right in the city — not that we don’t want people to go into the countryside, but a lot of people want to encounter nature on their day-to-day commutes and shopping,” he said. “They’re urban people … but there’s nature in the city.”

Other posts include “Swifts at Work, Pigeons at Play” in downtown Galt near the Main Street bridge. At the Westmount Sports Park on Westmount Road in Waterloo, people can, “learn about wildlife and gardening while the kids play soccer.”

A “where’s next” tab links to other nearby attractions such as The Dorney Garden of native plants and The Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo.

Some posts might take you to a garden market or museum, “because we don’t see this nature thing as being separate and discreet,” Suffling said. “It’s part of living.”

Education, Suffling believes, is vital to environmental stewardship. “I and a lot of the club members look at it from a big picture perspective,” he said.

“We’ve got an area that’s rich with new immigrants and students at college and universities who tend to be very urban and indoors. If people don’t value nature and the environment, then they’re not going to vote for nature and the environment; they’re not going to pressure governments, companies and the NGOs to do the right things in terms of preserving the environment.”

Stephanie Sobek-Swant, president of Waterloo Region Nature and executive director at the rare nature reserve in Cambridge, said she connected with the natural environment at an early age. Growing up in rural Germany, her parents sent her out the door each morning and she usually wouldn’t return until supper.

Yet many adults in Waterloo Region are still unaware of the natural attractions in their own backyard, said Sobek-Swant, who hopes EcoPosts will prove to be a great way to immerse people with their surroundings.

“I hope we can increase the number of posts that are out there and I really hope we do see people using them,” she said.

The official EcoPosts.ca launch is this Saturday at the Huron Natural Area, 801 Trillium Dr., and is part of the City of Kitchener’s Earth Day event, from 1 to 4 p.m.

There will be free activities for the whole family including tree planting, bird-box building and live bird shows from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.

Suffling says it’s “absolutely dramatic” what’s been lost from the local landscape, even in recent decades.

“We’re a very sprawling city,” he said. “That’s been the North American way, but it is changing of course.”

New planning provisions and environmental regulations have improved conditions to some degree, especially when it comes to stormwater management and water quality, Suffling conceded.

“The sad fact is that when people get polled about what’s important to them in politics and that sort of thing, environment comes way down the list,” he said. “So we need to keep reminding them.”

Nature entices on mobile devices

New website puts outdoors in the palm of your hand

News Apr 25, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

An old idiom says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The inference is people, like horses, usually only do what they have a mind to do.

But that’s something Waterloo Region Nature is hoping to change with a new website that’s been designed to not only lead people outdoors, but also engage them with their surrounding environment.

“That’s the idea, and it’s for everybody, not just the enthusiasts,” said Roger Suffling, a longtime member of the naturalist club that includes about 300 active members.

Developed over the past couple years with the help of volunteers, several thousand dollars in grants and a co-op student from the University of Waterloo, EcoPosts.ca is essentially a mobile-friendly guide to nature. The site links to profiles of places and species that are easily accessed on smartphones and tablets by scanning QR codes on signs.

“EcoPosts can show users some items that they might expect — big white pines, migrating geese and beautiful river valleys,” Suffling outlined. “It also takes them to other features that they might never have expected — chickadees that will perch on your hand, peregrine falcons nesting in downtown Kitchener, and prairies full of wildflowers.”

A post entitled “A bird in the hand …” details the 33-hectare F.W.R. Dickson Wilderness Area in North Dumfries Township that can be hiked in any season. The spot is recommended for snowshoeing in winter and picnics in summer “when bird life, reptiles and amphibians abound amid colourful flora.”

A link to “things to do” includes information about the 4.8-kilometre trail as well as details about seasonal species.

Though there are only 10 EcoPosts so far in Waterloo Region, many more will be added in the months and years ahead.

The practicality of a website as opposed to large, stationary information boards, is that each post can evolve along with Mother Nature. Compared to larger boards that can cost thousands of dollars and are prone to vandalism, the smaller QR code signs are much less expensive at just $12 a pop and can be replaced rather effortlessly.

Not all are located in the countryside, Suffling stressed.

“We’re putting a lot of these posts right in the city — not that we don’t want people to go into the countryside, but a lot of people want to encounter nature on their day-to-day commutes and shopping,” he said. “They’re urban people … but there’s nature in the city.”

Other posts include “Swifts at Work, Pigeons at Play” in downtown Galt near the Main Street bridge. At the Westmount Sports Park on Westmount Road in Waterloo, people can, “learn about wildlife and gardening while the kids play soccer.”

A “where’s next” tab links to other nearby attractions such as The Dorney Garden of native plants and The Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo.

Some posts might take you to a garden market or museum, “because we don’t see this nature thing as being separate and discreet,” Suffling said. “It’s part of living.”

Education, Suffling believes, is vital to environmental stewardship. “I and a lot of the club members look at it from a big picture perspective,” he said.

“We’ve got an area that’s rich with new immigrants and students at college and universities who tend to be very urban and indoors. If people don’t value nature and the environment, then they’re not going to vote for nature and the environment; they’re not going to pressure governments, companies and the NGOs to do the right things in terms of preserving the environment.”

Stephanie Sobek-Swant, president of Waterloo Region Nature and executive director at the rare nature reserve in Cambridge, said she connected with the natural environment at an early age. Growing up in rural Germany, her parents sent her out the door each morning and she usually wouldn’t return until supper.

Yet many adults in Waterloo Region are still unaware of the natural attractions in their own backyard, said Sobek-Swant, who hopes EcoPosts will prove to be a great way to immerse people with their surroundings.

“I hope we can increase the number of posts that are out there and I really hope we do see people using them,” she said.

The official EcoPosts.ca launch is this Saturday at the Huron Natural Area, 801 Trillium Dr., and is part of the City of Kitchener’s Earth Day event, from 1 to 4 p.m.

There will be free activities for the whole family including tree planting, bird-box building and live bird shows from the Canadian Raptor Conservancy.

Suffling says it’s “absolutely dramatic” what’s been lost from the local landscape, even in recent decades.

“We’re a very sprawling city,” he said. “That’s been the North American way, but it is changing of course.”

New planning provisions and environmental regulations have improved conditions to some degree, especially when it comes to stormwater management and water quality, Suffling conceded.

“The sad fact is that when people get polled about what’s important to them in politics and that sort of thing, environment comes way down the list,” he said. “So we need to keep reminding them.”