DUC Podcast

Listen as we explore issues, ideas and research about wetlands in Canada.

Wetlands are some of the most bio-diverse habitats in the country. Wetlands are vital to the health of a wide variety of mammals, birds, amphibians reptiles plants—and, of course, human beings. We’re interviewing research experts and frontline workers from Ducks Unlimited Canada in lively, engaging exchanges. They’ll keep you up-to-date and up-to-speed on the best information and stories about these vital Canadian ecosystems.

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DUC Podcast Episode 15: Nothing but scum August 2018
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 15: Nothing but scum

This episode is all about stinky, toxic, and beach fouling scum, better known as blue-green algae. You’ve probably seen it in a pond or lake near you. It looks like someone changed their mind about painting their living room pea soup green and dumped gallons of the ill-considered pigment into a nearby body of water.

But it’s not paint. It’s an early form of life on earth called a Cyanobacteria. If the conditions are right (sunlight, high temperatures and lots of nutrients, especially phosphorous), those bacteria can multiply like salmonella on lukewarm chicken. These billions of bacteria cause what’s called a bloom, but not one that smells very sweet.

And, when the bacteria die they can release a toxin capable of causing kidney failure. In fact, in 2014 a blue-green algae bloom in the west end of Lake Erie was so huge it caused the city of Toledo, Ohio to completely shut down its water systems for fear of poisoning Toldeoans.

To learn more about blue-green algae and what’s being done to combat it, podcast host Wayne MacPhail speaks with Katie Stammler.

Stammler lives and works in the Windsor-Essex area, a short hop across the shallow Lake Erie from Toledo. It’s home to the world-famous birder’s paradise Peele Island and is a flat, fertile terrain full of streams, creeks and wetlands that feed the Great Lake.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guest

Katie Stammler is a water quality scientist and source water protection manager at the Essex Region Conservation Authority.  Along with her colleagues (nicknamed the Ladies in Wading), she is helping educate the public about the simple ways they can fight blue-green algae.

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DUC Podcast Episode 14: We're not kidding around July 2018
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 14: We're not kidding around

Frank Lake is a restored wetland near High River, Alta. Waterfowl and shorebirds aplenty flock to its shores or nest in its surrounding prairie grasses, wild rose and scrub. It’s a delicate ecosystem sustained by water diverted from the Highwood River and a DUC, government and industry partnership.

That ecosystem is threatened by an invasive species, leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) that may have arrived in Alberta in a contaminated seed shipment. It’s a noxious and obnoxious weed that chokes out indigenous plants and makes cattle choke. But there are a couple of other living things that have developed a taste for the gross greenery – flea beetles and goats.

To find out how and why DUC is letting them lose at Frank Lake, podcast host Wayne MacPhail connects with Ashley Rawluk, a DUC conservation specialist.

Next, we introduce a brand new feature of this podcast we’re calling Ducktoids—facts about waterfowl that’ll knock your feathers off.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Ashley Rawluk is a DUC conservation specialist based in Strathmore, Alta. She helps manage uplands and wetlands to ensure they’re in good health for ducks, wildlife and people to enjoy. When she’s not finding innovative ways to fight invasive species, she likes to spend time with her kids…goat and human.

Scott Stephens is no quack, but he sure knows about the birds who produce that sound. As DUC’s director of regional operations in the Prairies, Stephens keeps a close eye on conservation efforts across central and parts of western Canada.

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DUC Podcast Episode 13: It's not easy being green June 2018
© Lea Randall/ Calgary Zoo DUC Podcast Episode 13: It's not easy being green

Thirteen is the unluckiest of numbers, so it’s appropriate that this podcast is all about two unlucky wetland dwellers—the northern leopard frog and the Blanding’s turtle. Why unlucky?

Because both are in ecological trouble. The northern leopard frog is endangered in parts of British Columbia; the Blanding’s Turtle is threatened in Ontario.

Take the northern leopard frog. Its habitat, which the little guys are pretty fussy about, is shrinking. Bullfrogs are invading from the U.S., and the leopard frog is prone to a nasty, lethal fungus. As we’ll learn, it takes an egg-cursion from B.C. to Calgary and back again, to put the little “not-easy-being-green” amphibians on the road to recovery. The Blanding’s turtle with its high, helmet back and yellow throat is a distinctive turtle. It’s also a long-lived meandering one that ranges across roads and ATV tracks as it moves to nesting grounds. But those grounds are shrinking and the turtles, which can live up to 75 years old, are threatened by predators and vehicles.

Like ducks, both those fraught frogs and tenuous turtles live a good part of their lives in wetlands. So, as go the amphibians and reptiles, perhaps, so goes the wetlands. To find out more about our loping and leaping wetland friends, and what’s being done to save them from territorial oblivion, podcast host Wayne MacPhail speaks with two experts.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Lea Randall is an endangered species ecologist at the Calgary Zoo, where she works to introduce northern leopard frogs to parts of Canada where their populations are in trouble.

Mark Gloutney is DUC’s director of regional operations for Eastern Canada.

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DUC Podcast Episode 12: The episode where we answer why the duck crossed the road and visit Mexico's wetlands May 2018
© Bob Bellfoy DUC Podcast Episode 12: The episode where we answer why the duck crossed the road and visit Mexico's wetlands

Eduardo Carrera is the CEO of Ducks Unlimited de México, DUMAC for short. He oversees a Ducks Unlimited team that tackles threats to its country’s wetlands much the way a grassroots NGO would.

Folks who live in poor, rural Mexican communities often lack modern sanitation technologies. And, they’re not aware of the impact their wastewater is having on nearby wetlands. So, to save those wetlands Carrera and his colleagues provide those technologies and that education to teachers in the communities, students, and even professionals who need evidence-based resources to help them understand ecological issues in Mexico and beyond. Meanwhile, on the coasts of Mexico, tourism and shrimp farming threaten mangrove wetlands that are the winter homes to migratory birds, including ducks from Canada.

Carrera tells us about these complex issues and the ingenious solutions his team explores every day.

From Mexico, we travel to P.E.I. and the home of Lucy…the black duck. For the past few years, Lucy has raised her family in the garden centre outside a Superstore in Charlottetown. When the kids are ready, Lucille, good mother that she is, waddles her brood to a set of ponds DUC created right across the road from the grocery store. A road that the police close for the Lucy parade. We speak with DUC’s Jana Cheverie about the tale of a migrating mother who’s made wetland education a family affair.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Eduardo Carrera is the CEO of Ducks Unlimited de México, and has been part of the team helping to conserve wetlands for waterfowl for 25 years.

Jana Cheverie is a Ducks Unlimited Canada conservation specialist, based in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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DUC Podcast Episode 11: Keen volunteers and underwear April 2018
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 11: Keen volunteers and underwear

In celebration of DUC’s 80th anniversary, this episode is all about volunteers. Volunteers, those men and women whose passion let’s them eschew pay cheques, have been a vital part of DUC since it’s earliest days.

DUC Podcast host, Wayne MacPhail chats with Leigh Patterson, a DUC staffer who has just finished a quest for Keemen.

Last fall, Patterson wanted to track down some of DUC’s first volunteers, called keemen. Her co-workers told her it couldn’t be done, that it was a crazy quest. Well, she proved them wrong, really wrong. And, about the keeman name? Listen in.

Then, we meet super volunteer, Serge Mathieu. Mathieu love ducks. And he’s a maniac for DUC’s iconic green head logo (as you’ll learn). He is also a manic volunteer for DUC, something he’s been doing for 25 years. The Nicolet, Quebec native was named DUC Volunteer of the Year for Quebec this year.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Leigh Patterson began her career with DUC more than 25 years ago in the mailroom. Today, she’s the editor of Conservator magazine, a dedicated DUC volunteer and an ace Keeman and Keewoman tracker.

Serge Mathieu is a wildlife biologist and long-time DUC volunteer. He resides in La Tuque, Que. with his partner, their two children, and more ducks than he can count.

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DUC Podcast Episode 10: Of wheat and peat March 2018
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 10: Of wheat and peat

In this episode, we learn about a kind of wheat ducks love, not to eat but to hang out in. Winter wheat is a hardy strain of grain that can survive even a -40 winter. In the spring, when other crops are barely in the ground,  winter wheat is showing off its first leaves. It grows like mad and attracts ducks looking for a nesting ground.

Then we’re off to another duck playground – peatlands. Peatlands are the unsung heroes of climate change. Beneath their soggy, sodden surfaces are millions upon millions of metric tons of carbon in the shape of plant matter. The cold temperatures and oxygen-starved waters of the bogs sequester all that carbon. That’s good because released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it would crank up the global thermostat like a chilblained grandad on a cold winter’s night.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Lee Moats is a third generation farmer and professional agrologist in Riceton, Sask. During his career with DUC, he helped raise the profile (and support for) winter wheat. To show his thanks, plant breeder Brian Fowler named a winter wheat variety he developed after Moats.

Pascal Badiou is a research scientist for DUC’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research. In general, his research focuses on the ecology of wetlands and large shallow lakes. In particular, he’s interested in the role wetland restoration and conservation can play in regulating water quality and quantity in agricultural watersheds of the Canadian Prairies. Pascal has been conducting research to determine the importance of wetlands in carbon cycling and how these systems can be managed to mitigate against climate change.

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DUC Podcast Episode 9: World Wetlands Day and the curious courtships of drakes February 2018
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 9: World Wetlands Day and the curious courtships of drakes

In this episode, we celebrate World Wetlands Day, which is on February 2nd. This year, that event is highlighting wetlands for a sustainable urban future. We’ll learn how those moist, mushy and fecund habitats do just that.

Then, twelve days after World Wetlands Day comes Valentine’s Day, which is mushy in its own right. And, it’s an event that’s a tad bittersweet for the lovelorn. It turns out that drakes have tons of techniques for attracting a mate, and female ducks know just how to clue into the sometimes curious courtship rituals.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Lisette Ross is a wetlands biologist and senior wetland specialist at Native Plant Solutions. For her, urban wetlands are some of the most valuable real estate in growing, sprawling cities, worldwide. Without them, the millions of people flooding into cities would miss out on the diversity, cleansing powers and spiritual uplift of these vital habits.

Lauren Rae is the national conservation biologist for DUC. She explains how a curious combo of burbling, burping, and dancing help drakes and their mates find love.

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DUC Podcast Episode 8: The zen of wildlife photography January 2018
© Brendan Kelly DUC Podcast Episode 8: The zen of wildlife photography

In this first podcast of 2018 we talk with Brendan Kelly, a conservationist and avid photographer from Paradise, Newfoundland. Kelly explains how taking the time to wait for his natural subjects allows him to tune into their habitats and appreciate them as remarkable, intelligent animals.

Find samples of Brendan Kelly’s work on Instagram at @__brendankelly__.

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  • Look me in the eye: When photographing wildlife, there’s no shame in getting down to their level.
  • Slow motion: Movement is everywhere in spring. With camera in hand, it can be hard to keep up.
  • Staring at the sun: All photographers want to bottle that perfect sunset. Results greatly vary.
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DUC Podcast Episode 7: How to freeze a frog and cook a goose December 2017
© Jeope Wolfe DUC Podcast Episode 7: How to freeze a frog and cook a goose

On the hard, frozen surface of winter wetlands, it looks like all is calm, all is bright.

But if you could plunge beneath that icy crust, as if a pond or marsh were an aquatic Creme Brule, you’d see a slow, but still-living world where mammals fish, insects and amphibians might not thrive, but they survive. They’re hunkered down to wait out that season that makes our brave Canadian hearts swell with pride.

Jacques Bourgeois explains how dragonflies turn into snowbirds, frogs freeze and thaw like Butterballs and fish use chemistry to their advantage. Oh, and turtles? They breathe from an unexpected orifice.

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Mrs. Cratchit makes a small goose into a family feast. And she renders it delicious and delicate. But, how did she pull off that Christmas miracle? DUC’s Pat Kehoe shares secrets for goose goodness.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Jacques Bourgeois is the communications and marketing coordinator at Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre in Manitoba.

Pat Kehoe is Ducks Unlimited Canada’s director of international partnerships.

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DUC Podcast Episode 6: The hunter conservationist and the radar birds November 2017
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 6: The hunter conservationist and the radar birds

In this episode, we explore the intersection of conservation and hunting. Can you both care about wildlife and its habitat and take an animal’s life?

Next, rain, snow and sleet show up on meteorologists’ radar screens. But sometimes weather boffins spot something else on their glowing monitors. Something else that has nothing to do with clouds, forecasts or humidex reports.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Winifred Kessler, PhD, is a Certified Wildlife Biologist® and member of DUC’s board of directors.

John Sauder is a CBC TV meteorologist.

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DUC Podcast Episode 5: The rebirth of a lagoon and duck's cold feet October 2017
© Lisette Ross DUC Podcast Episode 5: The rebirth of a lagoon and duck's cold feet

Niverville sounds like the name of a town in a fairytale. But the community, nestled in the Red River Valley, had a giant-sized problem with a sewage lagoon that no longer could serve the farming burg’s burgeoning population.

In 2011 Niverville had to decommission its overtaxed and 37-year-old pond of poop before it could build a new one. But, what to do with the 48,000 cubic metres of biosolids – human waste – that had built up in the facilities’ two containment cells? Bureaucrats and engineers told the town fathers they had two options. Cart the biosolids to a landfill site or spread it over farmland, valuable farmland, farmland the Niverville sludge would put out of commission for months.

Jim Buys, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer wasn’t happy with either traditional and expensive option. A trade show meeting with  Native Plant Solutions, the consulting arm of Ducks Unlimited Canada, pointed to another option. The ecological consultants and Buys came up with option three, a ecological white knight ready to slay the giant that lay fallow in the town’s south end.

It was risky journey. It took a lot of experimentation and research. But the town’s journey was, in fact, a fairytale full of hope, heroes and happy endings.

Then, picture this: it’s winter and there are ducks on a frozen pond. Tell me you didn’t ask the same question I asked Jim Devries, a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Jim Buys is the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Niverville.

Jim Devries, PhD, is a research scientist with Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Institute for Wetland and Waterfowl Research.

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DUC Podcast Episode 4: Bling for birds and name that duck! September 2017
© DUC DUC Podcast Episode 4: Bling for birds and name that duck!

This episode is all about getting intel on birds: what they look like, where they hang out and where they go when they migrate.

We start with the fine art of bird banding. Researchers find a bird they want to track and, as Beyoncé might say, “put a ring on it.” We’ll discover the history, purpose and process of avian bling.

Then, we travel to Cape May, New Jersey where we chat with a birding expert and author who wants to help us identify birds in their habitats. Richard Crossley has created a series of books, including one on ducks, to help us do just that.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Like the waterfowl populations he helps to protect, Pat Kehoe knows no boundaries. As DUC’s director of international partnerships, he travels throughout North America helping build and develop conservation relationships.

Richard Crossley is an internationally acclaimed birder, photographer and award winning author of The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl. Crazy, wildly passionate, driven and single-minded are just a few of the words used to describe his love of birding and the outdoors.

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DUC Podcast Episode 3: Duck feathers and drones August 2017
© Tye Gregg DUC Podcast Episode 3: Duck feathers and drones

Eider feathers, or down, aren’t just for duvets. In fact, a hormone in those feathers called corticosterone, can indicate the stress eider ducks have been under as they molt. Yukon-based eider researcher Jane Harms explains that stress can be due to nearby predators or sometimes changes in their environment. So, not only can the stress hormone indicate eiders’ health and their ability to reproduce, it may also be an indicator of climate change. Get under cover and tune into the tale.

Wetlands are delicate ecosystems. So the last thing researchers really want to do is churn up those wetland waters just to sample them. But what if a flying robot could do that for them? How? We do a flyby visit with a young inventor, Nathan Hoyt, who worked with a small team of high school students to figure it out. Plus, they’re making a business out of it. Listen in. We promise we won’t drone on.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Jane Harms is the program veterinarian with the Department of the Environment in Yukon.

Nathan Hoyt is a student at the Fredericton High School and is now a co-owner of  Eco Drone Water Collection. If you’d like to learn more about his fledgling company visit ecodronewatercollection.com.

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DUC Podcast Episode 2: Of fish ladders and duck eggs July 2017
© Sean Landsman DUC Podcast Episode 2: Of fish ladders and duck eggs

Why do maritime fish fight currents, waterfalls and man-made barriers to get to inland ponds and lakes to spawn? What barriers do they face? How does that odd behaviour help the ecology of wetlands? And, how can we make their job easier? We talk with Nic McLellan, the Atlantic Science Coordinator for Ducks Unlimited Canada, to find out. Plus, we discover what tracking road race runners has to do with counting fish.

Did you know ducklings have their own social network? No spoilers, but you’ll be amazed by how those little ducks make sure they all share the same birthday, thanks to a quick chat we had with Dave Howerter. He’s the Director of National Conservation Operations at Ducks Unlimited Canada. Dave’s up on the equivalent of bird Twitter.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Nic McLellan is a conservation programs specialist for Ducks Unlimited Canada in Atlantic Canada.

David Howerter, PhD, is DUC’s director of national conservation operations.

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DUC Podcast Episode 1: We take flight June 2017
© Brian Wolitski DUC Podcast Episode 1: We take flight

In this episode you’ll meet carp in a marsh and a researcher in the field. First, the carp.

In it’s heyday, the 1930s, the Delta Marsh, near Lake Manitoba, was home to a huge numbers of waterfowl. It was one of the great duck hunting destinations in North America. And, it attracted royalty, celebrities and hunters from all over the world. That was, before the carp. The invasive species muddied the marshes water, stirred up the bottom and generally made life miserable for the aquatic plants that called the marsh home. No plants, no ducks. Then scientists perfected the carp barrier and the marsh is bouncing back (see how it works). You’ll hear the story of a remarkable recovery.

Next we pay a short visit to Matt Dyson a University of Waterloo field researcher. He tells us what it’s really like in the woods, bogs and muck of the north as he does the real, on the ground work of a deep woods scientist.

Ducks Unlimited Canada Podcast Episode Guests

Dale Wrubleski, PhD: Dale is Ducks Unlimited Canada’s lead research scientist at Delta Marsh. Trained as an entomologist, Wrubleski has more recently become an expert on native fish species and on the invasive carp that threaten the famed Manitoba wetland.

Glen Suggett: Glen grew up near the shores of Delta Marsh in the 1970s. Over the years, he’s seen the health of the iconic wetland deteriorate, as well as unsuccessful attempts to improve conditions. Rather than become discouraged, Suggett’s a part of the team working to restore Delta Marsh for the next generation. Together with Gordon Goldsborough, PhD, and members of the Delta History Group, Suggett authored Delta: A Prairie Marsh and its People, a book that introduces readers to the people who have relied on and enjoyed the marsh over the years.

Gordon Goldsborough, PhD: Few people know the history of Manitoba’s Delta Marsh as intimately as Gordon Goldsborough, PhD. A Winnipeg-born research scientist and natural storyteller, Goldsborough’s connection to Delta dates back to his days as a student at the University of Manitoba. As a water quality specialist, and professor at his alma mater, Goldsborough enjoys sharing the many reasons why Delta Marsh is so important for people and wildlife.

Matt Dyson: Matt’s Twitter feed, much like his life, is anything but boring. The University of Waterloo student’s tweets alternate with images of cougars and ravens eating duck eggs. The photos of ravenous predators—captured by trail cameras—are part of Dyson’s ongoing doctoral research that takes him to northern Alberta each spring. While battling the landscape’s rugged elements, he’s studying the impact a changing boreal forest is having on predators—and in turn, on duck populations.

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