Aurora Coltman

Silhouette Intern

McMaster University will soon be exploring the method of conservation corridors in its own backyard.

Conservation corridors are plots of land conserved or restored that acts as a bridge to connect multiple plots of larger land. This connection promotes animal movement and migration, potentially bettering living conditions for wildlife.

McMaster professors Susan Dudley and Chad Harvey have organized a group of student volunteers who are working to help create a conservation corridor. The corridor is situated between the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and Cootes Paradise, off Lower Lions Club Road near Wilson Street.

“McMaster has the good fortune, and it looks like kind of by accident almost, of holding a really nice piece of property that has tremendous ecological diversity on it,” said Dudley, referring to the plot, which was purchased by the university in the 1960s for $1.

However, the plan for the land does not end at transforming it into a conservation corridor –the project will also transform the land into the McMaster Conservation Corridor Teaching and Research Facility. The 48 hectares of land will serve primarily as a research facility for science students, but the space will not be closed off to the public.

Dudley and Harvey hope to be able to employ the Smithsonian Dynamic Forest Plot Technique, in which land is divided into 20 by 20 metre gridlocks. All flora and fauna within each grid will be tagged and placed.  As records are updated, it presents an opportunity to show what prospers where, and how to better use the space.

The two professors are able to go forward with their plan after receiving a grant of $5,000 from President Patrick Deane’s Forward with Integrity movement in December 2012, and having the grant matched by the Faculty of Science. Most recently, they received a $140,000 grant from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

Dudley explained that with the grant money, the group would be able to build the gridlock, resettle the trail on the property, manage the space, and provide maintenance for it. They hope to be able to hold long-term experiments on the property in the future, such as scrutinizing the flow of fauna through the plot, and conducting other observatory experiments involving insects and bees.

“What we’re thinking about is we may start to put in native plants, we may ask schools to grow some special plants that you would have to plant in rather than sow as seeds,” said Dudley.

The group of McMaster students and professors have high hopes for the project, and fully intend to realize those goals.

“We have a chance to learn a lot from this site,” said Dudley.

In using their grants and dedicated volunteers, Harvey and Dudley plan to take full advantage of that chance to have the project move forward and to become a leading resource in forestry.

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