Joe Johnson is a naturalist who pursues knowledge and the understanding of nature for its own sake. In Nova Scotia his mother nurtured his love of nature by taking him and his younger sister out for walks in the nearby woods and up a local escarpment-like mountain. It wasn’t until he took biology at Acadia University that Joe’s knowledge of plants finally exceeded that of his mother. Joe won a medal for being the top student in his class at graduation.
After graduation, Joe headed west and took work in Western Canada, then at Long Point Bird Observatory where he heard about the naturalist and botanist’s paradise that the Bruce Peninsula was. He made Wiarton his home and worked mostly on contract for the MNR and as a Naturalist for Cyprus Lake and Inverhuron Provincial Parks and did studies for the Grey-Sauble Conservation Authority. During this time, he embarked on a remarkable career of community and professional contributions. Joe is now considered to be the recognized expert on the vascular flora of Grey-Bruce.
For OSFN, Joe has led nature hikes and worked with the Plant Committee on five of OSFN’s landmark publications including A Checklist of Vascular Plants For Bruce and Grey Counties, A Guide to the Orchids of Bruce and Grey Counties, The Asters, Goldenrod and Fleabanes of Grey and Bruce Counties, A Guide to the Ferns of Grey and Bruce Counties and Rare and Endangered Species of Grey and Bruce Counties. See Publications on this website for more information.
Joe’s community contributions in Grey and Bruce Counties are considerable. He has been involved in 175 Christmas Bird Counts, which must be some sort of record for our area. His list of involvement in many nature surveys goes on and on with Joe putting in long-term commitment in many activities. For 16 years, he was involved in the following activities – compiler in 2 different sessions for the CBC in Wiarton, the Breeding Bird Survey and the Forest Bird Monitoring Program. He spent 14 years monitoring an Amphibian Road Call Count, 13 years on the Marsh Monitoring Program and 12 years on the Red-shouldered Hawk and Spring Woodpecker Survey. 11 years on both the Shorebird Survey and the Nocturnal Owl Survey -9 years, 7 with the Red-necked Grebe Survey and he did a plant watch survey for blooming dates to keep track of global warming for 6 years. During this time he had also been a diligent participant in the Ontario Nest Record Scheme. Some of Joe’s accomplishments are measured in areas covered as well as years. He has been involved in two Ontario Breeding Bird Atlases covering 13 squares where the typical involvement was one or two squares. He has done 10 squares for the Ontario Tree Atlas. A square is usually defined as an area 10 Km X 10 km.
In his professional life, Joe has made major contributions, which hopefully will have an effect on the way the Province of Ontario treats nature. He did numerous and very intensive life science reports for MNR that included 20 ANSIs (Areas of Natural Scientific Interest) plus 2 other ANSI equivalents for MacGregor Point Provincial Park and Oliphant plus many environmental impact assessments. However, Joe’s finest achievement was compiling a major report on the vascular flora of the Grey-Bruce. This MNR report was divided into 3 regions emphasizing locally and provincially rare species and is remarkable for both its completeness and vastness, and for displaying Joe’s expertise.
Joe’s future has him returning to Nova Scotia as soon as he finishes his book on the Vascular Flora for the Bruce Peninsula outlining status, distribution, habitats and blooming dates. Joe is truly one of the great all round naturalists found in our area and a worthy recipient of OSFN’s highest award.