Squirrels and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Analogy

Deborah Dudley

Humans are so self-centered sometimes. I am struck by how often we overlook the fact that we not only live amongst our own species, but we also share space with others—both animate and inanimate. Take my friend pictured here. I’m sure many of you recognize him either with fond memories of his occupation on campus or as a local nuisance. For me, he is a constant reminder that we share the same space in time, both of us crisscrossing campus on a daily basis.

On a more macro level, here in Canton, New York, we’re standing within what is known as the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, an ancient granite bridge from the Canadian Shield to the Adirondack Mountains. This region represents an incredibly rich natural environment and history, a portion of which over the
St. Lawrence Seaway was recognized in 2002 as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, part of a world-wide network of 610 Biosphere Reserves in 117 countries. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere is located at the very center of an intersection, where five forest regions of the North America merge, creating a tremendous variety of wildlife and sustaining a critical pathway for migration of plants and animals. 

St. Lawrence University met with local conservation groups in February to discuss the Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative (A2A) conservation corridor—one of the forest corridors connecting New York State’s Adirondack Park and Ontario’s Algonquin Park. St. Lawrence Land Trust, Clarkson University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, SUNY Potsdam, The Nature Conservancy, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Audubon New York, Indian Creek Nature Center, Wildlands Network, as well as community conservation practitioners, discussed the information needs, priorities and strategies that can be pursued to maintain biological connectivity across the region that is mostly intact, but fragmented by roads and development on both sides of the border.

As someone who is always looking for a good analogy, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere and the A2A seem the perfect places to sit if you’re a community of teaching and learning that is comfortable being at a crossroads of a variety of people and ideas. Not only does the St. Lawrence campus hospitality extend to a plethora of plants and animals—all players in our own campus ecosystem—it’s also an ecosystem of problem-naming and problem-solving, disclosures and discoveries, creativity and methodical research, as well as personal and professional expressions of facts and fictions. The cultural, social, political, and intellectual array that cohabitates on this campus is dizzying but necessary in the core business of preparing informed and critical thinkers of each generation of Laurentians.

My personal migration to the North Country was 11 years ago and to the North American continent by way of my Pilgrim ancestors in 1620. Our Akwasasne Mohawk neighbors came here many hundreds of years before that, and our furry friend on campus, the gray squirrel, or sciurus carolinensis, evolved and migrated to this place somewhere between 33 and 41 million years ago. And yet, here we all are, sharing this space atop the Frontenac Arch Biosphere along the A2A corridor, where a variety of animated others and ideas crisscross campus on a daily basis. 

For more on the A2A Collaborative and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere see:


A curious campus squirrel