Six Engaging and Educational Nature Webinars for Students

January 7, 2022

What should you do if you encounter a black bear on a hike? Why are noctilucent clouds so rare? What does a great grey owl look like close up? 

These are all questions we’ve explored and answered in our nature webinar series throughout 2021, proving that virtual learning can still connect us to nature from our classrooms and homes!

Our webinar series aims to encourage Manitobans to safely spend time outdoors, appreciate the beauty of our wild spaces, and explore nature in our own backyards. More than 4000 folks tuned in to participate in 33 webinars in 2021.

The webinars covered a huge range of topics—from belugas and snake dens to discovering night sky photography and learning how to sketch birds. Best of all, we record each webinar. You can find them on our Vimeo page, free to watch at any time!

With teachers and parents in mind as Manitoba moves back into remote learning, we’ve put together a list of six of our webinars most suitable for young learners. Each one offers entertaining, educational content sure to spark curiosity and complement lesson plans. No dry, boring lectures here!

Want a chance to ask questions during a live webinar? You can find a list of our upcoming sessions here, including Powerful Pollinators, Bat Behaviour, and Monarchs in Manitoba.

The Art Of Night Photography: Learning to Capture the Cosmos

What it’s about: Manitoba astrophotographer Justin Anderson discusses his passion for photographing the night sky and shows dozens of incredible photographs he’s taken throughout Manitoba. He goes over the astronomical events you can witness from your own backyard, including comets, the milky way, noctilucent clouds, meteor showers, and the northern lights.

He also offers photography tips including safety, camera gear, location scouting, and dealing with unfavourable weather conditions.

Why it’s great for students: This webinar is a blend of astronomy and practical viewing tips. Justin does a great job explaining different night sky phenomena in simple terms. He also shows incredible photos (each taken by him!) of each concept he discusses. He offers valuable information for budding photographers including safety, camera gear, and ideal locations to see night sky events.

This is the second webinar Justin Anderson hosted with CPAWS. The first, Chasing the Northern Lights: Capturing the Beauty of the Aurora Borealis, was hosted alongside Scott Young, planetarium astronomer at the Manitoba Museum, who goes into more depth about the science behind the natural phenomenon of the northern lights. This is also a great webinar for those looking for a more science-heavy topic.

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Living Amongst Wildlife: How to be a Good Neighbour in Nature

What it’s about: Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre hosted two CPAWS webinars in 2021, both with special guest appearances by non-releasable wildlife ambassadors. 

The centre takes in sick or injured wildlife (including squirrels, bunnies, songbirds, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, geese, ducks — pretty much anything you’d find in your backyard) and rehabilitates them before releasing them back into the wild. As explained in the webinars, non-releasable wildlife ambassadors are animals who cannot be released back into the wild, usually due to permanent injuries or similar issues.

In Living Amongst Wildlife you’ll meet Ash, the great grey owl, and Elliott, the Eastern box turtle. Education program manager Amy Wilke explains the dangers of feeding wildlife and the high number of phone calls they receive during baby season (March, April and May) when people commonly mistake nests of babies as being orphaned. She also explains the backstory of Elliott, a non-native species to Manitoba, and how harmful human actions led to Ash the owl permanently in their care.

Caring For Manitoba’s Wildlife features Bruce, a Western hog-nosed snake, and Max, a great horned owl. In this webinar, Amy discusses the centre’s most common winter patients, including owls, hawks, falcons, geese and even pelicans.

Why it’s great for students: These webinars help explain the important work of Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre and teach viewers to be more aware of the ecosystems and wildlife living around them. Amy offers great advice on what to do if you find a sick, injured, or orphaned animal in the wild and does a terrific job of explaining the characteristics, details, and backstory of each wildlife ambassador in their care. Plus, the ambassadors are incredibly entertaining and on-screen for most of the presentation! 

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Manitoba’s Snakes: Exploring the Narcisse Snake Dens

What it’s about: This webinar takes you on a virtual tour of the Narcisse Snake Dens, where the biggest concentration of snakes in the world is found. Every spring, the dens come alive with tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes as they slither to the surface from their winter dens. The unique attraction brings researchers, tourists, and media from around the world, including the New York Times, Atlas Obscura, and National Geographic.

Pauline Bloom, regional wildlife manager, explains the types of snakes at Narcisse, why so many snakes live in these particular dens, the biggest threats to the species, and the best time to visit the dens.

Why it’s great for students: Pauline offers incredible knowledge of the Narcisse garter snakes and the unique landscape that attracts them. She encourages viewers to visit the dens and even hold the snakes, explaining how gentle and harmless they really are. It’s an excellent primer for kids or students who plan on visiting the dens someday.

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Wildlife Encounters: How to Safely Share Nature

What it’s about: Janine Wilmot, human-wildlife conflict biologist with the Province of Manitoba, discusses how people find themselves in potentially dangerous encounters with wildlife, actions to take to reduce the risk of a conflict, and how to respond appropriately when interacting with large animals.

Why it’s great for students: The webinar is full of important information about wildlife in Manitoba, and Janine Wilmot breaks down the information very clearly (for example, ‘do’s and don’ts’ when encountering large animals). She also looks at each animal individually—deer, wild boar, coyotes, wolves, cougars, and bears—and explains what to do during each encounter.

She offers useful tips for campers, hikers, and anyone looking to head outdoors on the best way to be prepared.

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Snot For Science: Tracking Stress Levels in Manitoba’s Belugas

What it’s about: Justine Hudson, marine mammal research technician with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, created #SnotForScience, a research project aimed at measuring the stress of Manitoba’s beluga whales using their snot.

In this webinar, Justine discusses how she managed to successfully collect snot, the results of the research, and what it all means for the future of Manitoba’s belugas.

Why it’s great for students: Justine is a great speaker and a wonderful example of a researcher who is just starting out in her career.

She shows a multitude of photos and graphics and explains each step of the research process very clearly and in simple terms. She also discusses the importance of citizen science and how others can get involved with tracking beluga sightings.

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Polar Bears in a Warming Arctic: Why Manitoba’s Melting Sea Ice Matters

What it’s about: Learn from Dr. Andrew Derocher, professor of biology at the University of Alberta and long-time scientific advisor to Polar Bears International, in this webinar on Manitoba’s polar bear population.

He highlights more than 30 years of arctic research, including what changing climate conditions mean for polar bears and other Arctic species.

Why it’s great for students: Although we have nearly 1000 polar bears in Manitoba, most students will never see one in the wild.

The polar bears of Western Hudson Bay are by far the most studied anywhere in the world and offer a model for understanding the effects of climate change applicable across the Arctic and elsewhere.

Dr. Derocher is an engaging, knowledgeable speaker and enhances his presentation with photos, maps, and easy-to-read graphs and charts.

**Note: There are some graphic photos of polar bears eating bearded seals from 34:15 to 25:30.

Read our blog post for even more info about the webinar!

Other neat nature topics worth watching:

The Basics of Sketching Birds: How To Draw Feathered Friends

The Health of Lake Winnipeg: How Community Science Helps Fight Algae Blooms

Rare and Endangered Plants in Manitoba: Hard-To-Spot Species

Nature Journaling: Tips and Techniques for Observing the Outdoors

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