The visitor centre at Algonquin Park was host to the second annual TEDxAlgonquinPark. This year's theme was "Think Outside", and it brought together eight speakers who interestingly all shared a common thread and an enthusiastic crowd to hear their stories.


Kevin Callan, "The Happy Camper", is a wilderness author and avid canoeist. He was the first presenter, and talked about how the average duration that people camp has changed over the years to the point where we only go for a night or two. He noted that you really need to stay out in the wilderness longer to connect with it... and yourself.


Dr. Martyn Obbard, a research scientist discussed the ongoing issue about how bears can be a nuisance.  Rather than simply blame the bear, he wanted to look deeper and research why bears behave the way they do. By looking at how the bears are simply consuming food for a future advantage in winning a mate, perhaps we can take away ideas on how to better deal with them.


Lyndsey Mask is the Educational Coordinator with Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre  in Renfrew County. Using the natural environment as a classroom, she not only educates youth about nature, but guided the TEDxAlgonquinPark attendees in song. She stressed the importance of connecting youth with Nature and to learn to "Be Still" and learn about what is going on around you.


Jeffrey McMurtrie, is the creator of Jeff's Map, a series of excellent maps of Algonquin (and now Killarney) spoke about the benefit of a map. The sinking feeling that a map could actually be incorrect, became the driving force behind Jeff's effort to create a better map. Jeffrey went on to describe how a map can be more than just a directional aid.


Eric Davies has a PhD and is creating theoretical and applied tools for restoring an urban biodiversity. Through his research across North America he has found that most trees in urban environments are non-native. Visually they are appealing, however it turns out it is effecting our biodiversity. Less insects, and in turn birds are utilizing the trees, and he hopes to reverse the trend.


Boris Issaev, is co-founder of Parkbus, which is a service that connects campers with national and provincial parks. Through his research he has found that there are barriers to camping which have decreased the numbers over the past few years. Hoping to change that, Boris implemented the Parkbus service, but hopes that it is the beginning of a bigger picture that helps get people to enjoy the outdoors more often.


Chris Soucy is Vice President of Business Development for Thoth Technology Inc. He fell in love with a radio telescope that he saw while paddling in Algonquin Park years ago, and has since found a job working with it. He helped revitalize it, and now due to it's accuracy, it used for deep space exploration.


Preseton Ciere is an avid canoeist and his passion of the outdoors showed when he spoke of the Paddle in the Park contest that he helped create. There is nothing better than sharing the experience of the outdoors with someone and this contest both helped people to have an excuse to explore nature and share their lucky stories with others on the internet upon their return.


The theme was "Think Outside" and each of the speakers certainly had great insight into it, however when reflecting on their talks on the drive home, I noticed something deeper. They all shared a common thread. Kevin spoke about the average camping trip changing from 20 days to a weekend, Dr. Obbard was hoping to change our minds about how we view bears and Lyndsey's effort to have us break out in song was to change how we approach nature with youth. Jeffrey changed the way we look at outdoors maps.

The neat thing is that is wouldn't be hard to bring about the change. Take up Kevin's suggestion and try camping for a longer duration to connect with nature and Eric Davies suggests planing a non-native tree. Jeffrey and Boris both offer services to make it easier for you to embrace the outdoors, to buck the changing trend as more people should embrace the outdoors for the numerous benefits.


Each of the videos will be made available on YouTube, and we will be sure to let you know when they are posted. The entire set of photos I took are available on Flickr. This year's TEDxAlgonquinPark talks were fascinating. Their purpose is to hopefully teach you something new, or give you a different take on something you may already know, which creates the catalyst for great discussion.