Nova Scotia·Sharing our planet

How Nova Scotians can help save the province's endangered species

Volunteers with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute have spent a total of 13,000 hours working to save endangered species, but executive director Amanda Lavers says more must be done.

Organizations eager for volunteers to plant milkweed, count birds or search for turtle eggs

Volunteers measure a wood turtle. (Submitted by Katie McLean)

This is part of a series of stories from CBC's Information Morning about species that are struggling to survive in Nova Scotia, and the people who have vowed to save them.

Volunteers with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute have spent a total of 13,000 hours working to save endangered species from disappearing in Kejimkujik National Park.

But executive director Amanda Lavers says more must be done.

She's encouraging Nova Scotians to get involved in bringing vulnerable species back from the edge of extinction, whether that means planting milkweed, counting birds or looking for turtle eggs. 

"Whether it's in the grocery store, or in their gardens or when they're hunting and fishing … we can try and turn around this trend that the World Wildlife Fund identifies about so many wildlife populations in decline," Lavers told CBC's Information Morning.

Don't have to leave your backyard

One way people can help is by planting milkweed in their backyards for the endangered monarch butterfly.

Milkweed is the only plant monarch butterflies use to lay their eggs, said Lavers. The native plant species usually grows in waterways and rivers, but can survive in people's backyards.

Sebastian Conyers, a participant with Youth Leading Environmental Change, teaches members of the public about wood turtles. (Submitted by Katie McLean)

Other efforts require a bit more work, like venturing into the woods at night in search of turtle eggs.

Three of Nova Scotia's four turtle species are at risk of extinction, including the Blanding's turtle.

In June, the institute sends a team of volunteers out at night to patrol areas where they're known to nest. 

"And then we quite carefully try to help them out by putting covers over their nests so that their nests will be safer during the summer in the ground as they're developing," said Lavers.

In June, Blanding's turtles will come out of the water and onto land in order to lay their eggs. (Tarissa Holmes)

The Clean Annapolis River Project is engaged in a similar project to protect wood turtles, which tend to live closer to humans in communities such as Kingston, Greenwood, Lawrencetown and Aylesford.

Keeping an eye on these vulnerable species is vital work, said Katie McLean, the project's species-at-risk program leader.

"They're pretty much a critical component of the program. Without our volunteers we wouldn't have a wood turtle program," she said.

The Clean Annapolis River Project is hosting its annual Christmas Bird Count and looking for new volunteers to replace an aging cohort. (Rob Porter/Hamilton Naturalists' Club)

Saving species at risk has an impact on the volunteers, too, said Lavers.

Kids who've become involved in Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute's Blanding's turtle initiative have ended up studying the topic in school and even going into careers in conservation, she said. 

"I think it can be quite transformative."

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning

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