Meet our Environmental Team!
LISA STATON, Forest Discovery Director: Lisa graduated from Niagara College with a General Arts and Sciences diploma followed by a Guelph University Environmental Conservation Certificate. She is a certified Interpretive Guide and Forest School Practitioner. She also has her High Five Certification; Ecological Land Classification Certification; Museum Exhibit Certification as well as Wilderness Survival training. Lisa has been working in this field for over 10 years.
MELANIE STEWART, Forest Discovery Program Coordinator: Melanie graduated from Lakehead University with an Honours Bachelors of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism and a Bachelors of Education. Recently, she received her Masters in Sustainable Development through the University of Sussex. She is passionate about outdoor experiential education and bringing the natural world to everyone.
LOUIS HARRIS, Environmental Education and Community Engagement: Louis is a member of the Six Nations with a Bachelor of Science from the University of British Columbia with a Double Major in Zoology; Earth and Environmental Science with an interest in Herpetology and Igneous Rock Petrology. He is also a graduate of Niagara College’s Primary Care Paramedic Program and a certified paramedic. We are thankful for Louis’ leadership with Indigenous Education and Health and Safety Support.
Heartland Forest has seven active environmental projects.
- Pond and Garden Habitats – Ontario Power Generation Biodiversity Grant
- Wet Meadow Restoration, Exploration and Education – Niagara Community Foundation Environment Grant
- Woodworking for Wildlife – McCall MacBain Foundation
- Bat Monitoring – TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
- Seasonal Forest Program – Bosch Community Fund
- Invasive Species Centre – Purple Loosestrife Removal
- Invasive Species Centre – Phragmites Removal
Pond and Garden Habitats – Ontario Power Generation Biodiversity Grant
Heartland Forest is on year three of a three-year Urban-Wetlands Biodiversity Project. The project has focused on naturalizing much of the landscaped area adjacent to the Nature Centre and includes habitat rehabilitation and enhancement, native plantings, species at risk monitoring as well as outreach programs comprised of environmental education and citizen science components.
The goal is to increase understanding of the importance of biodiversity within the area surrounding the Nature Centre and the importance of habitat conservation and restoration. Citizen Science programming will be incorporated into community events, habitat creation workshops and curriculum-based biodiversity and species at risk programs for our adventure camps, school bookings, work-experience programming, and inter-generational programming such as Early-On visits. Year Three grant objectives include:
- Fish Pond Fish Survey
- Marsh Monitoring Program (MMP)
- Wood Duck Boxes for Fish Pond
- Monarch Butterfly Tagging
- Native Plant Labeling
Wet Meadow Restoration, Exploration and Education – Niagara Community Foundation Environment Grant
Heartland’s outdoor space includes 4 kms of trails meandering through grasslands, wetlands and the largest stand of Carolinian Forest in the Niagara Peninsula. Within the grasslands is our wet meadow which is a type of wetland with soils that are saturated for part or all of the growing season. Heartland Forest’s wet meadow is located adjacent to the tributary headwaters of Thompson’s Creek that empties into the Welland River and ultimately Lake Ontario. Restoration of our wet meadow is desperately needed, specifically to reduce spreading thickets and remove invasive species like common buckthorn, purple loosestrife and common reed.
Native plantings in combination with large scale removal and burning of invasive species will help to restore and protect this natural area. The restoration would provide enhanced habitat for breeding insects, amphibians, and other invertebrates, help to improve water quality, control floods and recharge groundwater. Included in the many species that would benefit greatly with the restoration of this habitat are several species at risk including the Wood Thrush, Eastern Wood-pewee, and the Monarch butterfly as well as the threatened Barn Swallow. As part of the project we will create a new nature exploration area adjacent to the wet meadow, an accompanying educational program as well as a new exhibit within the Nature Centre.
Wood Working for Wildlife – combining environmental conservation & wood working– McCall MacBain Foundation
Creating projects that create environmental awareness are often referred to as ‘wood working for wildlife’. Habitat creation projects can include bird houses, bird nesting boxes, bat boxes, roosts, platforms and native bee and bumble bee boxes. These projects are great for volunteer citizen science initiatives as well as for exposing youth to a variety of career choices.
With this project we will invite youth 10+ to be citizen scientists for a day and help create habitats for our new Nature Exploration Area (Niagara Community Foundation Environment Grant). The area will be comprised of six learning stations – each with a theme.
- Mammals of the Forest – Flying Squirrel Boxes & Bat Boxes
- Pollinators – Native Bee & Bumble Bee Boxes
- Spiders and Insects – Bug Hotel (May 19 th PD Day Project)
- Wetland Eye Spy – Turtle Sunning Platforms & Mallard Boxes & Salamander Boards
- Birds of Niagara – Bird Feeders & Owl Nesting Boxes
- Burrowing Animals (muskrats, voles, chipmunks) – Build a Burrow that children can crawl
Participants will learn the basics of operating various machines and tools required to create their
projects, including wood burning, how to operate a scroll saw, drill press, hand saw, and various
Bat Monitoring – TD Friends of the Environment Foundation Grant
With funding support from TDFEF, we have initiated a citizen science bat program which includes:
- bat and aerial insect monitoring,
- bat maternity roost survey,
- educational programming for schools, day camps and general public celebrating bats and the forest
- community including indigenous teachings, forest habitat onsite exhibit within our Nature Centre featuring the forest community with an indigenous perspective
- wetland restoration and buffer plantings along the forest edge, and workshops including bat house building to promote stewardship, conservation, indigenous teachings and community engagement.
- Discovery Atrium Meadow Exhibit – Ontario Power Generation Niagara Plant
Seasonal Forest Program – Bosch Community Fund
Heartland Forest, in connection with the Bosch Niagara community, is the recipient of a first-time grant. Our Seasonal Forest Program, designed for K-3rd grade students, will bring interactive, place-based educational experiences to approximately 4,200 young learners. These students will have the unique opportunity to visit the forest multiple times throughout the year, with the curriculum thoughtfully connected to the Ontario curriculum. Themes like native plantings, invasive species, modern human impacts, and species at risk will broaden their knowledge and instill a deep appreciation for nature. The grant will underwrite essential materials, curriculum development, and support for teachers to integrate the program into the classroom seamlessly. This initiative is a testament to the commitment that Heartland Forest is nurturing the environmental stewards of tomorrow.
Invasive Species Centre – Purple Loosestrife Removal
Heartland Forest has identified numerous groupings of purple loosestrife throughout its wet meadow, forest edge and forest wetlands, resulting in the elimination of wildlife habitat and the risk of habitat loss due to invasion/competition of purple loosestrife. Of specific concern on our property is the threat to Swamp Rose-mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), a Species at Risk (Special Concern).
The purpose of our project is to eliminate the invasion of this plant into our unique Carolinian forest ecosystem, our wet meadow and grassland areas. This project will provide a “window” for native species to regenerate, enhance our wet meadow habitat, and to prevent invasion into our Carolinian forest.
Invasive Species Centre – Phragmites Removal
The main purpose of this project is to eliminate or impede the invasion of phragmites into our unique Carolinian forest ecosystem, restored wetlands and standing water ecosystems, with our biggest concern being the existing populations within our wet meadow/pollinator trails and the forest edges. Heartland Forest has identified isolated pockets as well as large monoculture stands of Phragmites in 2,500 square meters of affected area.