To connect international students to the unique flora and fauna on the University of Guelph campus, the arboretum is inviting students and new Canadians to “Nature in our Backyard,” a guided walk through its lush trails in the “green heart of Guelph.”

The free in-person program delivers a scenic tour through the arboretum on June 22 and July 20, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. both days. Participants will join Marika Bowrin, a naturalist intern at the arboretum who will guide attendees through its hidden gems and offer knowledge to help identify an array of plants, animals, and more.

Nature walks part of ongoing programming to welcome international students to Guelph

The walks are part of ongoing programming the arboretum has created to welcome international students and other newcomers to Canada in the community, Bowrin said. “Nature in our Backyard” was developed in partnership with International Student Experience.

The idea was sparked by a conversation between Justine Richardson, director of the arboretum, and an international student from Europe struck by her first sighting of a cardinal. “She was astounded to see these bright red birds and to learn they’re here all winter long,” Richardson said.

“Coming to a new place can be very daunting,” Bowrin explained. “Having these programs where you can not only learn about the new place you’re moving to, but maybe meet some like-minded people is so beneficial.”

Arboretum offers access to nature that affects physical, mental well-being

The arboretum is a protected expanse of 400 acres that since 1970 has been home to plant collections, manicured gardens, walking trails, natural woodlands, wetlands, meadows, old-growth forest and a garden dedicated to trees from around the world. Open to the public daily from dawn to dusk, it is also a “living laboratory” for students and researchers, many of whom conduct studies as well as coursework within its sphere.

“We are learning so much about how getting out into nature benefits our physical and mental well-being,” said Richardson. “Even if you’re not a huge nature lover (yet), just going for a walk is a great way to de-stress.”

A portion of the walk will focus on the main trail. Depending on the attendees, Bowrin said, she may take folks on more naturalized trails, but pointed out the walks can be modified to accommodate anyone who is interested.

“We know that people are on a continuum of their own connection with nature,” Richardson said. “Our hope is that these programs will engage people where they are and they will learn something new and feel that connection from these walks.”

Dress for the weather, Bowrin recommends, as the walks are scheduled rain or shine. You can register at GryphLife.


Justine Richardson