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Friday Keynote – Jim Duncan

Biodiversity- A Love Story

A man has his face close to a small owl that he is holding.
Jim Duncan of Discover Owls

Jim will be our Keynote Speaker on Friday, October 14, 2022.

The relationship between humans and nature over time and cultures will be explored, including the early history of conservation in North America.

This will include conservationist philosophies about stewardship espoused by early naturalists and environmentalists like ‘Grey Owl’ and Thoreau, the shift to a focus on formal academic or scientific approaches and a resurgence of the role of citizens and natural history (Citizen Science). A diverse range of examples will be used to illustrate the important relationships between education, research and conservation. This review of the ethical and environmental principles and practices provides a basis or rationale for educators to invest time and limited resources in taking children of all ages outdoors.


Dr. James Duncan, born in Montréal, Québec, obtained a Ph.D. in 1992 from the University of Manitoba for research on the Great Gray Owl. He worked as a conservation zoologist for the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Conservation Data Centres 1992-1999 after which he took on the role of Manager of the Manitoba’s Biodiversity, Habitat and Endangered Species Unit. Jim recently retired as Director of Manitoba’s Wildlife and Fisheries Branch. Throughout his career Jim has been active in local, national, and international biodiversity conservation initiatives.

Jim claims that his various jobs were simply a way to support his obsessive habit of studying owls with his life partner and fellow zoologist, Patsy. He has researched owls for over 30 years, has banded over 2,500 owls, and has published hundreds of articles, papers and several symposium proceedings on owls. His three beautifully illustrated books “Owls of the World” (2016 & 2018), “Owls of North America” (2013), and “Owls of the World” (2003) are an example of the importance Jim places on sharing scientific knowledge with the public in an engaging manner.

He and Patsy initiated the Manitoba Nocturnal Owl survey over 25 years ago from their farmhouse kitchen in 1991. This ‘little survey that could’ has now spread to other provinces and covers all of Canada. It provides information on owl habitat use and population trends for Bird Studies Canada. It is an example of how to engage the public in conservation in a manner that has become known today as “Citizen Science”.  Jim also initiated a short-term volunteer Manitoba Dragonfly Survey and has coordinated the Balmoral Christmas Bird Count for decades, including recently a new Christmas Bird Count for Kids at an elementary school near his home in Balmoral, Manitoba.

In retirement, Jim established a social enterprise called Discover Owls which conducts education, research and conservation programs on owls in Manitoba and around the world. To date he has delivered over 400 live owl presentations to school classrooms and other venues and has delivered over 160 lectures and keynote talks on owls and conservation in Manitoba and around the world.

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