July 2022

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Summer Interns Step up to Protect

the Common Snapping Turtle


A snapping turtle instinctively heads toward the water after hatching

Photo: Alex Tran


The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is one of two species of turtle that live in the Gault Nature Reserve (with the paint turtle). In Canada, the turtle is designated as a special concern species, which means that it may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of threats. One of these threats is nest destruction and predation. Every year, conservationists swing into action to protect turtle nests on the shores of Lake Hertel.


McGill students play an important part in these efforts. Yet again this summer, students from the McGill Faculty of Science contributed to the conservation and protection of species such as the common snapping turtle, gaining valuable field experience in the process.


“Every morning, we walk around the shores of Lake Hertel looking for signs that a turtle has laid eggs,” says Savannah Bissegger O’Connor, a first-year biology student.When we discover a nest, we put up a protective cage and signage to alert hikers.”

A Flash of Tropical Colour


Scarlet tanager (Piranga olivacea)
Photo: Daniel Jauvin


In the brilliant ruby of his breeding plumage, the male scarlet tanager brings an astonishing flash of tropical colour to the mature hardwood trees of our forest canopy. The scarlet tanager does indeed fly north from the tropics to North American forests, where the female builds a nest on a branch high in the shady forest. This shy species loves the treetops, where it hunts for insects and larvae to gobble up. When they sing, they sound a bit like a robin with a sore throat. When autumn arrives, the male’s plumage changes to an olive colour similar to that of the female—he’s camouflaging himself in preparation for the long migration to South America.


By Johanne Ménard from the Société d’ornithologie de la Vallée du Richelieu. To learn more about the SOVDR and become a member : info@sovdr.org (This text appeared in issue 8 Nature sauvage.)


Spotted touch-me-not

Abenaki Specialist Michel Durand Nolett on Medicinal Plants


Spotted touch-me-not in flower (Impatiens capensis)

Photo: Alex Tran


Spotted touch-me-not is a plant that grows in wetland areas such as on the shores of lakes, streams or ponds. It can grow to two metres in height. Spotted touch-me-not starts to bloom in July, and its orange flowers with their red speckles have a complex shape reminiscent of orchids.


Abenakis used spotted touch-me-not as an antidote to poison ivy. Just cut the stem of a large plant, collect the sap, and spread it on the rash.


This project was done in partnership with McGill University’s Indigenous Initiatives unit and the Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki. We would like to remind you that, to protect the balance of our ecosystem, you should not remove any natural items from the Reserve.

Anti-tick Tactics


Female black-legged tick

Photo: Morgan Arboretum, McGill University


The black-legged tick is a small arthropod that feeds by latching onto the skin of mammals of all sizes–including humans. Some ticks carry the bacteria causing Lyme disease, which they can transfer to people they have bitten.


Researchers warn that the black-legged tick is increasingly common in southern Quebec and spreading north. Luckily, there are simple precautions that help prevent tick bites while or after hiking.

Notes from the Field


Interns 2022 (from left to right: Nora Bartram-Forbes, Savannah Bissegger O’Connor, Kevin Alexander)

Photo: Alex Tran


The 2022 field season is in full swing, and the Reserve is full of researchers and students again, which is great to see after the last few years. A few weeks ago, three McGill students also joined our ranks for the summer as Field Operations Assistants. Already, their internship has kept them busy with diverse tasks, including invasive plant control, participation in our long-term trillium monitoring project and collecting data from our “HOBO” data logging stations that are dispersed throughout Mont Saint-Hilaire.

Historical Unsung Heroes:

A Traveling Exhibit - July 7 to 31, 2022


Alice E. Johannsen, BSc 1934, McGill Yearbook, 1934​.

Photo: McGill University


Stop by the Welcome Centre in July to discover the traveling exhibit Historical Unsung Heroes: Celebrating 200 years of community builders.


As part of McGill’s Bicentennial celebrations, the university has created a traveling exhibit which will be presented at the Welcome Pavilion from July 7 to 31, 2022. 10 Historical Unsung Heroes are highlighted for their impact on the McGill community and beyond, diversity of origin and circumstance. The exhibit includes large banners of the unsung heroes, among them is featured past director of the Gault Nature Reserve (1970-1979), Alice E. Johannsen.

Blast from the Past

The Very First Scientific Publications at the Reserve


Medeola virginiana, herbarium specimen collected by Paul Maycock

Photo: McGill University


Research has been a central part of the Gault Nature Reserve for a very long time. As a matter of fact, renowned scientists have been meandering through the vast forests of Mont Saint‑Hilaire since the late 19th century.


One such scientist was Thomas Sterry Hunt, professor of applied chemistry and minerology at McGill. In 1860, he published an analysis of igneous rocks in Canada in The American Journal of Science, in which he discussed his observations on Mont Saint-Hilaire.


In the 1870s, Sir John W. Dawson, geologist, and principal of McGill, carried out numerous field studies in geology and botany, and published articles in The Canadian Naturalist in 1877 and 1878.


Brother Marie-Victorin, whose accomplishments include the creation of the Montréal Botanical Garden, collected plant specimens on Mont Saint-Hilaire from 1905 onward. In 1913, he published a report on the mountain’s flora in the Bulletin de la Société Géologique du Québec.


In the summer of 1950, Paul Maycock, a botanist, ecologist, and professor at McGill University, conducted the first comprehensive survey of the forests of Mont Saint-Hilaire. The results, published in 1961, are still used today to track changes in the Reserve’s biodiversity.*

* see article published by Université de Montréal


About our Blast from the Past series

As owner and guardian of the Gault Nature Reserve, we plan to celebrate the university’s bicentennial by publishing a monthly photo in InfoGault. Each photo will capture a moment from the history of this beautiful site.



Réserve naturelle Gault

422, chemin des Moulins

Mont-Saint-Hilaire (Québec) J3G 4S6


Téléphone : 450 467-4010


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