Submitted story – By Breana Harkins
Encouraging and promoting activities that lead to the appreciation, preservation, and conservation of Chatham-Kent’s natural heritage is part of the Sydenham Field Naturalist’s mission, explains President Denise Shephard.
Denise is a naturalist and landowner in Chatham-Kent. She has lived and worked in the area all of her life. Denise resides in Wallaceburg, which is also the base for Sydenham Field Naturalists.
The Sydenham Field Naturalists is a nature club for Chatham-Kent. Even though it is based in Wallaceburg, people come from Lambton County and the surrounding area for indoor and outdoor meetings. These meetings feature nature related speakers who are brought in with expertise in different areas.
The club also hosts outings and anyone is welcomed to attend. The outings include nature walks through different types of landscapes such as wetlands, woodlots, and prairies. She emphasized that these walks expose people to nature and are very informative; “If you are going with our group on a walk you are always going to learn something,” Denise said. This is because many people involved with the Field Naturalists come with different expertise and interests and love to share nature related information about the area.
For example there are birders, geologists, ecologists, along with plant and butterfly experts who identify different native species during the walks. She believes these nature walks are very rewarding and are a key way they get new members interested in joining the club.
Restoring areas within Chatham-Kent is a large role of the club as well; money is raised mainly through bingos, community donations, and grants. The club not only participates in their own restoration projects, but also donates to other nature groups involved in similar activities. One restoration project recently completed by the club and its partners is the Peers Wetland.
Denise also owns land where she undertakes restoration work. When she first bought the land she took twelve acres of hay field out of production and returned it to its natural state through the planting of prairie grass with the help of the Rural Lambton Stewardship Network. She also created additional habitat by putting in an acre of wetland, which then grew to a large complex of five more connecting ponds.
Many species now reside on her property including a beaver, wild turkey, deer, garter snakes, southern flying squirrels, and many migratory birds such as Orioles, Warblers, and Wood Ducks.
Denise is very passionate about protecting natural features that already exist and about the creation of more habitat. She aims to accomplish these goals through work on her own property and projects done by the Sydenham Field Naturalists.
She is someone that the community of Chatham-Kent should commend and admire for all her work in the field of restoration.
Students in a Restoration Ecology class at Western University, in collaboration with Carolinian Canada Coalition and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, interviewed members of the Chatham-Kent community about their connection with nature. The resulting stories celebrate these connections and the this story is a highlight from the project.