Georgian Bay Day at Killbear Park

After 3 days of intensive science at CanBIC-4, time for some fun—though not relaxation!

After 3 full days, Martin Stillman offered participants in CanBIC-4 a day of R&R in Killbear Provincial Park. Boarding a big yellow school bus (it’s been over 40 years since I last rode one in high school!) we were taken to the park, where we split into 2 groups. I’d opted for the “kayak in the afternoon” group (we’ll see later how that worked out) so my group started the morning with a talk on snakes.

An Eastern Foxsnake found in Ontario

Jimmy, a domesticated Eastern Foxsnake

The star of this “show-and-tell” presentation was undoubtedly Jimmy, an Eastern Foxsnake, which is an endangered species. Jimmy was illegally taken from his natural home to live in an apartment, during which time he became thoroughly domesticated. Jimmy has now lived in the park’s visitor centre for 11 years and he loves to be handled by visitors.


Jimmy, an Eastern Foxsnake

Jimmy enjoying a snuggle!

View along Georgian Bay at Killbear park.

Our group then headed out for a walk along the Georgian Bay shore to learn all about lichens. Our guide Jessica had done extensive research to prepare for our learned group. While Jessica pointed out various species of lichens, she told us many interesting facts about them: the symbiotic relationship (or not?) between a fungus and a photosynthetic parter (green algae or cyanobacterium); their classification and distribution; modes of reproduction; their chemistry and finally applications, such as dyes.

For me the most provocative fact was that 3 species of lichens are able to degrade the toxic form of prions, which normally are very resistant to degradation. Yes, lichens have prions, though since they have no central nervous system they are not subject to the diseases that prions can cause. So why would some specific lichens be able to degrade toxic prions?

Some leafy lichens


Very bright green lichens!


Strange black lichens

Kayaking on Georgian Bay

The morning group kayaking on Georgian Bay.

After a picnic on the beach, it was my group’s turn to go out kayaking on the bay, in tandem boats (excuse me, kayaks!). After a quick tutorial on how to put on the “skirt” that seals you into the kayak (our first challenge), how to paddle, and the responsibilities of each team member (brawn in the front, brains in the back—of course I was in the back for lack of the former), we set off for some exercise.

And exercise it was! Many of us had opted to kayak in the afternoon, thinking it would be warmer and indeed it was. However, the wind had come up in the early afternoon, leading to choppy water and a much harder row for those of us out there. We didn’t make it as far as the morning group, and on our way back, against the wind, the shore seemed to remain out of reach, until we finally arrived. And that is when it happened—trying to get out of the kayak I didn’t coordinate very well with my partner and ended up “sitting down” in the water. Yikes!

Finally, some relaxation: time for a BBQ and convivial talk to end the day, before returning to Parry Sound.

If there’s one word that characterises Martin, it has to be energy—boundless energy—and one needs plenty of it to keep up with him, even in fun!

A view of Georgian Bay at Killbear Park Myself on the rocky shore of Georgian Bay Killbear Park shore

All photos copyright Denise Parent

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One Response to “Georgian Bay Day at Killbear Park”

  1. […] the wilderness of Georgian Bay, I was off to discover the old world charm of Quebec City, host of the 96th Canadian Chemistry […]

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