Long active in conservation, Walter served as president of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (now Ontario Nature) and was active in protecting the Niagara Escarpment and emphasizing its importance as a World Biosphere Reserve. He had a long career as Curator and then Director of the Royal Ontario Museum and was a founding member of the Kortright Centre for Conservation.
Among his many published works was the Guide to the Geology of the Niagara Escarpment, a text that aided many Ontarians in their understanding of the processes of its creation. He showed us that to “roam the Niagara Escarpment and explore its special environments provides a unique opportunity to converse with the earth and learn of the importance of time.”
During his tenure as curator of geology at the Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. Tovell participated in scientific cruises for the Great Lakes Institute and is the author of The Great Lakes (ROM, 1979). After retiring in 1975 he helped establish the Dufferin County Museum and Archive and remained heavily involved in its activities until his death in December 2005. He was also a strong supporter of the proposed Escarpment Centre Ontario to be built south of Owen Sound.
Some of the many awards that Dr. Tovell has received are:
* The Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Federation (1993)
* The Niagara Escarpment Commission’s Niagara Escarpment Achievement Award for Individual Achievement (1995)
* The Federation of Ontario Naturalists Ian Shenstone Fraser Memorial Award, for his impressive accomplishments relating to the protection of the Niagara Escarpment (2001)
* The Owen Sound Field Naturalists Life Time Membership award, for his contributions to the understanding of the geology of the Niagara Escarpment (2001)
* The Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Senior Achievement Award, for his tireless and selfless volunteerism (2003)