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Applied Research and Conservation

Through partnerships with organizations such as the City of Toronto’s Park, Forestry and Recreation Department, Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA), and Humber College’s Department of Applied Research & Innovation, the Humber Arboretum is involved in many important research projects and conservation initiatives.

A sign on the edge of a trail reads "Forest Regeneration Zone.  Area Closed. Help us protect this area by keeping out."

Conserving an Environmentally Significant Area

A large section of the Humber Arboretum’s woodlot is designated as an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) by the City of Toronto, affording it special concern and protection. Care of this space includes ongoing monitoring for invasive species, signage and fencing to help prevent soil compaction and plants from being disturbed, and restoration plantings. In the fall of 2016, the City of Toronto planted over 400 new native trees and shrubs in the ESA, only using stock that was grown locally, from locally collected seeds.

The Humber River flows between grassy and treed banks.

Putting Toronto's Ravine Strategy into Action

Launched in 2017, Toronto’s Ravine Strategy brought together community, industry, and government to develop a comprehensive vision for Toronto’s ravine system. That vision is: A ravine system that is a natural, connected sanctuary essential for the health and wellbeing of the city, where use and enjoyment support protection, education, and stewardship. The Humber Arboretum played a lead role in the development of this vision and is committed to the ongoing realization of the Ravine Strategy's goals. The Humber Pond Revitalization Project is one of the first initiatives to put the Ravine Strategy into action. 

Small children in snow suits walk down a hill covered in dry grasses

Places of Natural Discovery – The Forest and Nature Program Pilot

This early years program brings young children outdoors to engage in unstructured inquiry and play-based learning, allowing them to discover the natural world as they explore the grounds of the Humber Arboretum. It’s a cross-disciplinary pilot that builds on other nature education initiatives within Humber College’s Early Childhood Education program. 

The project lead is Louise Zimanyi, a Professor in Humber College’s Early Childhood Education program, who is assisted by Kaitlin Beard, a Registered Early Childhood Educator with Humber College’s Child Development Centre. Three students from the ECE program are doing their placement with the program and are supporting the pedagogical documentation.

A male red-winged blackbird sings from a branch.

Positive Interventions in Nature

Can the benefits of activities that have already been reliably shown to increase positive emotions be amplified when individuals engage in those activities in nature? That's what Humber College School of Health Sciences faculty member Christine Zupo and assistant Giselle Mirabelli are investigating, combining previous work in positive psychology and environmental psychology to look for ways to "supercharge" an individuals' subjective sense of happiness and well-being.

In the spring/summer of 2018 the Arboretum grounds were used to conduct an initial 4-week investigation with further investigations to come.

Three students work together to plant a tree

Frances Ethel Thompson Butternut Conservation Initiative

Part of the walnut family, butternut trees are a native species which are now listed as an Endangered Species under the Provincial Endangered Species Act in Ontario. This is mostly due to butternut canker, a fungal disease which kills these trees by blocking the vessels that allow sap to circulate. First detected in Ontario trees in 1991, the canker can effect healthy trees of any age or size, however some butternut trees seem to be naturally resistant.

Since 2013 the Humber Arboretum has been partnered with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Humber Research, and Humber School of Applied Technology to grow and research canker-resistant butternut trees. Work-study student Kyung Hee (Kelly) Park assisted Humber College faculty member Igino Teolis to complete the first phase of research, “A Comparison of Different Rooting Substrates and Formulations to Improve the Cutting Propagation of Butternut (Juglans cinerea L.).”

A man and woman inspect a large patch of plants.

Controlling Invasive Phragmites Reed

Originally from Europe, Phragmites australis or Common Reed is a highly adaptable plant which can grow in standing water, wet soil, or dry conditions and thus crowd out native species. After having success controlling this invasive plant in her community at Severn Sound, Humber College faculty member Lynn Short and her student assistant Ben Doerksen have undertaken a more official multi-year study using a research plot on Arboretum lands with funding support from Humber College’s Research and Innovation Department.

Lynn’s research partners include the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Department and the Ontario Phragmites Working Group.

Instructor and student look at plants in a greenhouse

Native Pollinator Plant Research

Led by Humber College Faculty Igino Teolis and assisted by instructor Lynn Short, various research projects have been conducted in partnership with TRCA to learn as much as possible to help support the growth of native plants that support pollinators around the city.

In 2018, research was conducted into seed mixes and other factors that can effect plant growth to help facilitate pollinator movement across the city. Humber College student Jana Freeman was a research assistant on the project.

Previously, research into "the effect of fertilizer, salt, and crop on the establishment of native pollinator plants" was conducted with Humber College student Ben Doersken working as a research assistant.

A young man measures a small tree.

ACER/Climate’s Sake Research Plots

The Association for Canadian Educational Resources (ACER), now also known as Climate’s Sake, is a charitable community education organization. ACER has a long-standing relationship with the Humber Arboretum, which includes an Experimental Biodiversity Research Plot devoted to studying the effects of climate change on the growth rate of different species of trees. There is also a monitored Planting 4 Change (P4C) plot which was planted by and is monitored with youth volunteers.