There were no wild turkeys in Ontario for the better part of a century. The species was extirpated in 1909, but in the early ’80s, wild turkeys were successfully reintroduced. Now, they are abundant in parts of the province with a total population of more than 70,000. However, their success story is not quite that straightforward.
Previous attempts to reintroduce the species in Ontario failed. They disappeared after just a few years, as they failed to survive in human-altered landscapes.
To ensure the continued success of their reintroduction, wild turkeys need to be monitored. Trent’s partnership with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) helps ensure their future is secure.
How the Trent-MNRF collaboration contributes to provincial wildlife management
Research by Environmental and Life Sciences Ph.D. student Jennifer Baici is using citizen science to estimate wild turkey populations. Using the online applications eBird and iNaturalist, Baici invites Ontarians to catalog their sightings.
The project is building knowledge of wild-turkey population across the province’s huge land area but it is not only of academic interest. Ms. Baici’s research is supervised by MNRF scientist Dr. Jeff Bowman and it will contribute directly to Ontario’s wild turkey management plans.
This type of collaboration is one of the benefits of having MNRF on campus.
Academic and government researchers are integrated in a centre of academic excellence in the DNA building that is unique in Canada. It houses a MNRF office and lab space, Trent faculty offices and labs, shared labs and graduate student offices. MNRF researchers like Professor Bowman serve as adjunct professors in the Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate Program. They work on Government of Ontario priorities and also supervise Trent graduate students.
It is a mutually beneficial relationship that gives government researchers access to university resources and students exposure to government processes and norms.
Symbiosis: A mutually beneficial relationship
“One example of how we benefit as government researchers is bioinformatics,” Prof. Bowman says.
This type of computer analysis of biological data and statistics has become an important part of wildlife management.
MNRF has responsibility for species management but Trent has better access to the high-performance computer infrastructure needed to carry out the necessary analysis.
On the flip side of that equation, Prof. Bowman has witnessed Trent students reap real benefits from their experience with government research.
“I’ve seen many Trent students that have gone on to work for MNRF or other similar agencies. Twelve graduate students that I’ve trained have gone on to work for government following graduation.”
Learn more about Trent’s Environmental and Life Sciences program.