Guardians of our natural heritage, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and similar institutions have as their mission to protect plant and animal species, while studying their behaviours, needs and environments. Such establishments use ingenious means to share their knowledge with the public at large, stimulating our senses and provoking our emotions, which ultimately transforms our perspectives on the world.
For privileged contact with living collections
Visit an ecosystem near you
In accordance with their missions, museological institutions build environments adapted to the needs of living species, just as they adapt storage spaces to accommodate objects in their collections. Some transform their natural sites into open-air displays; others transform buildings, aquariums, vivariums and other venues so that visitors can view specimens evolving in their natural habitats.
For example, Zoo sauvage de St-Félicien has recreated authentic habitats to accommodate over 75 animals from the boreal forest and exotic regions. As for the Biodôme, it has built a real “house of life,” in which fascinating American ecosystems have been replicated. Take a break along the pathways to observe the interactions between plants, animals and the natural elements. Be patient and keep your eyes open – these creatures have clever hiding places.
For a completely immersive experience, every autumn the Musée du Fjord invites us to attend the arrival of the migrating geese, in the baie des Ha! Ha! This event raises the question: who’s observing whom?
Zoo sauvage de St-Félicien, CC BY-NC-SA
Meet remarkable animals
Animals are at the heart of our ecosystems. These stars have a lot to teach us.
Take, for example, the Atta ants living at Montréal’s Insectarium. They work as a team, carry significant loads and make use of collective intelligence in the face of obstacles. They are models of endurance and productivity.
At the mini-farm of the Centre de la Biodiversité du Québec in Bécancour, little ones are invited to pet characters from their picture books. For adults, the Urban Fauna, Odd Neighbours! exhibit helps tame the animals that rummage through our flowerbeds and gnaw at the buds on our garden shrubs. Not an easy task!
For a more intimate experience, partake in a tactile adventure at Exploramer in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, or Station exploratoire du Saint-Laurent in Rivière-du-Loup. In their touch pools, gather starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins and other inhabitants. You will most certainly be amazed by the adaptive mechanisms of these species!
Combine practicality and pleasure at Zoo sauvage de St-Félicien. There you can accompany the zookeeper to give orphan animals a bottle, or even to hide surprises and prey for the Amur tigers.
Whale-watching excursions to see the great giants of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence are organized by Exploramerand the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac. The experience is as exciting as it is instructive. Sign up for a whale song course, and let your vocal chords resonate at the Interpretation Centre! Who knows – perhaps the large cetaceans will answer your call…
Centre d'interprétation des mammifères marins, CC BY-NC-SA
Take a walk in a living herbarium
Plants play a fundamental role in maintaining equilibrium in our ecosystems; humans and animals can’t live without them.
The pathways and seacoast of the park and bay reveal the importance of the Mitis River in the microclimate that characterizes the Jardins de Métis. The 3000 species and varieties of native plants surrounding Estevan Lodge remarkably illustrate the life and work of Elsie Reford, philanthropist and founder of the gardens.
Similarly, the Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière wouldn’t have its full heritage value without its forest, situated on the upper terrace of Pointe Platon. A model of old growth forests that have witnessed centuries, it features over 250-year-old giant trees, prompting contemplation and reflection on the passage of time.
Cultivation, study and interpretation are the Montréal Botanical Garden’s challenges. Showcasing 1000 species of trees and shrubs from the temperate zone, the Arboretum is an eloquent example of its know-how. A stroll through the flowerbeds of economical, medicinal and poisonous plants is not only full of information, but the knowledge gleaned can also be quite useful if you venture out off the beaten path. The landscapes and plant combinations in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations Gardens translate the traditions and beliefs of their respective peoples with poetic sensibility.
Leave your mark
There is much to do for those who wish to understand and protect biodiversity. So much that more and more zoos, natural sites and gardens are calling on citizens to assist with increasing their knowledge.
Do you have your sea legs? Climb aboard the JV Exploramer, truly a floating laboratory. Collect data to evaluate water quality, such as temperature, salinity and acidity. Participate in the marking of waved whelk, which will enable scientists to evaluate their size, movement and changes in a future capture.
You are more comfortable with both feet on solid ground? The Montréal Botanical Garden and Insectarium challenge you to the Mission Monarch. Your task consists of regularly observing the presence of caterpillars on milkweed plants, then entering your observations in the online project portal. The information gathered enables researchers to compare the potential of various habitats and to recommend adapted conservation methods.
Let’s eat! Support the restaurants and fish markets serving up the rare flavours of the numerous edible species of the Saint Lawrence River. These establishments are recognizable by the Smarter Seafood logo, linked to Exploramer’s certification program, which promotes the sound management of marine resources. Bon appétit!
Smarter Seafood at Exploramer, CC BY-NC-SA