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We Are The Centre Of Applied Science In Ontario Protected Areas (CASIOPA)

We provide state of the science workshops and networking for all those interested in protected areas, with an emphasis for solutions based on social, natural, and physical science for best practices in all types of protected areas.

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“Decision Making and Planning in Protected Areas”

October 13 0830-1545 (First Presentation at 0850)

This is a Hybrid Meeting – Limited In Person Attendance and Online Participation

Note that to reduce technical issues, we've changed the online venue to Teams. Those details are below. We will notify those signed up for the old Zoom link of the new venue and url.

Protected Areas are a major path to conserving and restoring biodiversity and ecosystem function and have been promoted under the Aichi Targets as the main path to fulfill our international, national and provincial obligations. Like most jurisdictions, protected areas also serve multiple functions in Ontario where decisions and planning grapple with additional demands such as recreation.

There are the strains of the pandemic, demographic changes in visitors to protected areas, the rise of technology and expectations of visitors in either using or avoiding it in protected areas, and increasing ecological and climate crises that can undermine the very reason a protected area was created.

All of this creates ahistorical challenges for those to work in protected areas management, especially where it pertains to decision making and planning.

This year’s CASIOPA theme of “Decision Making and Planning in Protected Areas” has invited five speakers:

  • Dr. Elizabeth Halpenny (University of Alberta). Dr. Halpenny was a key author on a recent paper focused on evidence-based decision making in protected areas and will lead off the conference.

  • Mr. Trevor Swerdfager (Former Senior Vice-President Operations at Parks Canada; University of Waterloo). Mr. Swerdfager brings his experience in the operation of all national parks to CASIOPA 2022.

  • Ms. Catherine Reining (Wilfrid Laurier University; Western University). Ms. Reining has extensive experience in protected areas, including health parks, healthy people and as coordinator of ParkSeek Canada.

  • Dr. Michelle DiLeo (Research Scientist Wildlife Research and Monitoring Section Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry). Dr. DiLeo’s work on spatial analyses of wildlife is of paramount importance for decision making.

  • Dr. Richard Feldman (Wildlife Landscape Ecologist Wildlife Research and Monitoring Section Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry). Like his colleague, Dr. Feldman has much experience in wildlife management; in particular, Richard will focus his session on protecting bird species.

  •  M. Mhairi Chandler, MES student, Wilfrid Laurier University. Mhairi is studying visitor well being in parks.

As this is our first (partially) in-person conference since the pandemic began, CASIOPA is interested in hearing from a diversity of voices eager to share their research-based and applied experiences in this broad theme.

Decision-making and planning can take many forms, from visitor management, strategic focusing, climate change adaptation, technical approaches (e.g. modelling, spatial analysis, decision support systems, monitoring) through to inter-agency planning in light of the Aichi targets. 

Whether your focus has been on local scale work in a particular protected area or on a more province-wide scale, you are welcome to deliver a contributed session at CASIOPA 2022. 

We plan a facilitated round-table discussion to isolate what our attendees think is their one biggest priority for research and fast action given so many challenges – what one thing would you focus on? We anticipate a variety of responses and it should be instructive to see if attendees have a consensus or categorizations of focal research or actions emerge (e.g. is more based in technical quantitative research, is it more focused on resource deployment, is it more about building partnerships, or is it about engaging visitors?).

There is no fee for the conference. 


As noted above, the venue for the online portion has been changed to reduced technical issues for our host in Peterborough. The new details are:

Microsoft Teams meeting

Join on your computer, mobile app or room device

Click here to join the meeting

Meeting ID: 274 873 639 596
Passcode: otQsTf

Download Teams | Join on the web

Join with a video conferencing device

Video Conference ID: 114 607 700 8

Alternate VTC instructions

Learn More | Meeting options

In-person: The physical location of the conference will be at the Ontario Government Building at Robinson Place – 300 Water Street, Peterborough ON.

An internal registration process has been set up for members of the Ontario public service (CASIOPA Chair Stephen Murphy can assist if you need to be connected to that process). 

If you are NOT a member of the Ontario public service who already has security access to the Ontario Government building and want to attend in person, please contact Stephen Murphy via stephen.murphy [at] for registration and security access protocol.

We will be limited to 25 external (non members of the Ontario public service) attendees in person.

Currently, restrictions likely dictate that external in person attendees will have to have lunch off-site, hence the reason for an extended lunch break.   


0830-0845: Allows for people to login or be seated

0845-0850: Welcome

0850-0940: Elizabeth Halpenny
Inspiring action! Leveraging park visitation to support nature conservation
Well-designed and delivered environmental communication, park interpretation, and responsible recreation opportunities can inspire climate change and biodiversity conservation action among citizens visiting our parks and protected areas. This presentation reports the latest scientific evidence that documents how visitation to parks fosters park advocacy and nature stewardship.

0940-1030: Trevor Swerdfager
Balancing Aspirational Principles and Pragmatism: Operational Decision-Making in Canadian Protected Areas.  The talk will look at the challenges of addressing key principles such as maintaining ecological integrity, science based decision-making, Indigenous rights and interests while simultaneously working within pragmatic budgetary, organizational and political contexts.

1030-1100: Health Break

1100-1150: Catherine Reining
Planning for People in Parks: Building advocacy, awareness, and opportunity for park visitation

This presentation explores progress, challenges, and an emerging action agenda in establishing effective health promotion tied to visitor experiences afforded by protected areas in Canada, with an emphasis on the Healthy Parks-Healthy People movement.

1150-1300: Lunch Break (catered for those in person)

1300-1330: Michelle DiLeo
Evaluating spatial variation in adaptive capacity in fragmented landscapes
The talk will examine how measuring spatial variation in key life-history and climate-related traits for focal species can provide indicators of adaptive capacity and help us manage landscapes in a way that promotes persistence in the face of climate change. It will draw on examples from work on an endangered butterfly in Europe, where the author and colleagues have characterized variation in dispersal ability, habitat selection, life-history traits, and genetic variation at scales ranging from local landscapes to the entire species’ range.The talk will address how similar questions can be answered in the absence of detailed ecological studies and at scales relevant for natural heritage system and protected areas planning in Ontario.

1330-1400: Richard Feldman
Managing protected areas for bird migration. One of the most pertinent objectives in parks and protected areas management is getting a handle on what the visitor experience will look like in the future. With climate change, the biodiversity that one experiences while hiking or canoeing or photographing is going to be different than what it is now. Arguably, changes to seasonality are driving many of the changes in biodiversity. Some species may be advancing and others delaying the timing at which they take on specific forms and functions, leading to altered species interactions. Hence, it becomes critical to monitor how seasons unfold and identify the different ways species are altering their seasonal cycles, also known as their phenology. In Canadian parks, bird migration is one of the most obvious and engaging seasonal processes. To successfully migrate in the fall, many birds fuel up on fruit. However, earlier springs may be advancing fruit production to the point where fruit is scarce, just when migratory birds need the resource. In this talk, I describe my participation in citizen science efforts to monitor changes in fruiting phenology at Acadia National Park in Maine, USA, including how seasonality and phenology became key concepts in advancing public understanding of climate change effects on ecosystems.

1400-1420: Mhairi Chandler (co-authors Chris Lemieux and Catherine Reining)
Park visitor’s experiences and health and wellbeing outcomes in coastal parks: A regional case study in New Brunswick

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Canadians’ mental health and wellbeing and motivated many to seek nature for stress relief, relaxation, and to socialize. While recent studies have shown that spending time in nature has measurable positive benefits to one’s health and well-being, there is a lack of evidence linking health and well-being outcomes to experiences provided by coastal ecosystems housed in protected areas (e.g., beaches, wetlands, seagrass). Coastal areas are a highly dynamic interface between land and sea and are important spaces for both biodiversity and humans. This presentation reports on the preliminary findings of a study conducted at Fundy National Park, New Brunswick. Over 400 people participated in the study. The presentation will discuss patterns of park visitor’s interactions within coastal areas through outdoor recreation activities and how these activities have impacted their mental health and wellbeing. Finally, the presentation will provide policy and management planning recommendations focused on developing stronger conservation efforts that protect coastal areas while providing benefits to people and nature.

1420-1440: Health Break

1440-1540: Roundtable discussions (what one innovation do you think is feasible to implement in the next 4 years?)

1540-1545: Summation

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December 02, 2021

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