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Volunteer Spotlight: Fiona McKay

By: Marnie Clement, KLT Volunteer, Development Committee

Fiona McKay has developed a new passion for orchids: non-phalaenopsis orchids, that is.

Normally that’s all you’d need to know to understand Fiona, because like most KLT volunteers she has a shared passion for things “of nature”, but here at the KLT we’re willing to go the extra mile for you so we are featuring her in our latest Volunteer Spotlight!  And you’ll have to read all the way to the end to find out what a non-phalaenopsis orchid is.

Fiona has a B.SC Hon in Wildlife Biology from the University of Guelph and a GIS Application Specialist Diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College. She is also an accomplished desktop publisher having co-produced and published a retriever training magazine with her partner, Dennis, for over 25 years.

She worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources for 34 years, in research, programs and policy, retiring in 2015.  In the ‘90’s, she worked in MNR’s head office at the same time as Ian Attridge, which is how she first heard about the organization.  She later worked directly with KLT staff while administering MNR’s Conservation Land Tax Incentive program and in her role as Land Securement Policy Advisor.

Fiona enjoys working with the KLT because she believes the work it does is important and consequential.

“I feel my past expertise lends itself to helping KLT in a number of areas and I like the relaxed but committed attitude of staff,” she said.  “I feel they bend over backwards for the volunteers, and as an organization they are well-structured, disciplined and productive.”

Her favourite memory from her time volunteering with the KLT was when she was out with Thom Unrau, KLT’s Land Stewardship Manager, on Boyd Island.  As they circumnavigated the island, they came across an exhausted, sodden eastern gray squirrel trying to swim across the east channel to the island.  They were able to give it a lift by rescuing it with a rake, and when they got about 50 meters from the island, it jumped back into the water and swam the rest of the way.

“And we got it videoed!” Fiona said.

Photo: Fiona this year releasing some turtle hatchlings in one of the wetlands near KLT’s Emily Creek Protected property!


She is concerned about the pressure on land these days and said organizations like the KLT are important and have to step up to the plate when government is not doing so.

“Protecting the environment seems to be a luxury that is only indulged in when economic times are good,” she said.  “When things are not, it’s the first to go.”

Fiona has always had a connection to the outdoors and as a child enjoyed camping and canoeing with her family, hiking and scuba diving.  These days she is more likely found tromping around old fields or wetland areas on her property with her binoculars and dogs, working in her gardens around the house or heading off on a birding excursion to a Central or South American country. Or in KLT’s office working on GIS or securement committee reports.

And now what you’ve all been waiting for.

Fiona loves to spend time working in her garden but specifically with her orchids.  She has developed a strong interest in non-phalaenopsis type orchids and enjoys finding new ones.  Phalaenopsis orchids, commonly known as moth orchids, are those you see at the local grocery store. They include about 70 species and are often featured in design magazines or floral displays. Non-phalaenopsis orchids are the rest of the 28,000 species, such as dendrobiums, bulbopyllums, epidendrums and vanilla (yes, that vanilla!), from terrestrial ladies slippers and jewel orchids to elegant and stunning spider orchids. In the right conditions they can display showy blooms for months.

And now you know more about orchids AND Fiona!

Posted September 19, 2019.

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