Origins and History of The Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club


  • Daniel F. Brunton 216 Lincoln Heights Road, Ottawa, Ontario K2B 8A8



Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club, Ottawa Natural History Society, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Trail & Landscape


The Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC) represents an unbroken chain of organized, non-governmental natural history investigation and education dating back to the early days of the city of Ottawa itself. The Club originated in 1863 with the formation of the Ottawa Natural History Society which became the Natural History branch of the Ottawa Literary and Scientific Society in 1870, from which the OFNC formally separated in March 1879. Since that time, it has grown into Canada’s oldest and largest regional natural history organization and has produced a diverse and internationally recognized publication program. Since 1880 The Canadian Field-Naturalist and its predecessors have constituted the scientific core of the OFNC’s publication program, with Trail & Landscape being an important Ottawa Valley publication since the late 1960s. The importance of both publications to the growth and health of the organization is reflected in the major surges in Club membership experienced when each of these publications was established. The focus of membership activities has changed over the history of the OFNC, with enlightened natural resource management, then original scientific research and local exploration directing energies in the early decades. By the early years of the 20th century the publications program become the raison d’etre of the Club, almost to the exclusion of local field activities. A renewed interest in field discovery and the growth of conservation awareness in the 1960s, however, rekindled local activities and re-established the balance which has sustained the organization throughout its history. Natural environment education has remained a critical theme within OFNC programs and activities. Over and above inspiring the professional careers and private interests of thousands of individuals for more than a century, the OFNC has had an important and lasting impact on the conservation of natural environment features and landscapes in Canada and North America.