ISSN 1188-603X

No. 491 April 23, 2015 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, 1809 Penshurst, Victoria, BC, Canada V8N 2N6


From: Erich Haber, Stittsville, ON

Canadian botanist, John Montague Gillett, "Jack" to most of us who knew him, died peacefully in Ottawa, December 27, 2014 after a long career, first at the Central Experimental Farm (CEF), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and then at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Jack was born and grew up in Ottawa, the only child of Elizabeth and John C. Gillett. His life-long interest in botany began during his high school years when he was asked to type out a doctoral thesis dealing with a botanical subject for one of the staff. Following his secondary school years at Glebe Collegiate Institute, Ottawa, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served in Canada and oversees between 1940 and 1945. Jack became a mechanic and serviced radar units in Lancaster bombers which unfortunately caused some hearing loss due to the noise of the engines that were also being serviced.

Jack used his veterans allowance to fund his post-secondary education at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario (1945-1949). In the summers of 1946-1948, he returned to Ottawa to work at CEF planting trees at the Arboretum and assisting in the herbarium of the former Division of Botany and Plant Pathology. On graduating in May 1949 with an honours B.A in biology and chemistry, Jack joined the staff at the CEF herbarium. He took leave that fall to begin his doctoral thesis on the genus Gentianella at the Missouri Botanical Garden, majoring in plant taxonomy and morphology. He received his Ph.D. from Washington University, St. Louis, in 1952, on the basis of his thesis, A Revision of the North American Species of Gentianella.

On returning to the CEF in 1952, Jack initiated the first of what would be numerous field surveys throughout Canada, including one along the proposed route of the St. Lawrence Seaway with W.G. Dore. As told by a former colleague at the CEF, Jack was a fun-loving companion on field trips and was always helpful in assisting with plant identifications. Jack also enjoyed speaking with botanists and naturalists and provided encouragement and advice. After a 20 year career at the CEF, in 1972, Jack took the position of curator and head of the Vascular Plant Section at the herbarium at what is now the Canadian Museum of Nature. Jack continued with his floristic studies, especially the flora of the National Capital Region, as well as his taxonomic studies of various plant groups, and in particular clovers. He retired from the Museum in 1983 but maintained his affiliation and continued to work as Curator Emeritus.

Jack described several new taxa, including: two new subspecies of gentians: Pribilof Dwarf Gentian (Gentianella tenella subsp. pribilofi J.M. Gillett; and Yukon Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis detonsa subsp. yukonensis (J.M. Gillett) J.M. Gillett) as well as the Great Lakes Wheatgrass (Agropyron psammophilum J.M. Gillett & H. Senn. This was later transferred to the genus Elymus as a subspecies. Jack also described three new species and three subspecies of clovers: Dedecker's Clover (Trifolium dedeckerae J.M. Gillett); Rollins' Clover (Trifolium rollinsii J.M. Gillett); Siskiyou Clover (Trifolium siskiyouense J.M. Gillett); Beatley's Clover (Trifolium andersonii ssp. beatleyae J.M. Gillett); Cascade Clover (Trifolium eriocephalum ssp. cascadense J.M. Gillett); Martin's Clover (Trifolium eriocephalum ssp. martinii J.M. Gillett).

He also made a number of significant contributions as a long-time member of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club (OFNC) on which he served as a council member in various capacities from 1958 to 1970. Jack received the Anne Hanes Natural History Award from the OFNC in 1996 and was awarded Honorary Membership in 2000.

Jack and Gladys, his first wife, were married in 1956. They had two children, Peter (1958) and Kimberley (1960). Jack had many interests and skills. He played piano and collected stamps and minerals. He also loved trains and studying languages. His bookcase contained instruction manuals for French, Latin, Spanish, Chinese, Cree, Inuit and Russian. He could nap readily, loved skinny-dipping, picnics in cemeteries, garage sales, and going on weekly Saturday outings "house shopping" with Gladys. They never did make another house purchase after 45 years of looking. Gladys died in 2001 after a long battle with Hepatitis C contracted from a blood transfusion.

Jack was introduced to his second wife, Elizabeth Snowdon, over dinner, in 2002, by his close friend Michael, who was Elizabeth's brother, while she was visiting from New Zealand. They obviously forged a close friendship after Jack visited Elizabeth shortly afterward in New Zealand. Over the next 12 years they spent six months in NZ avoiding Canadian winters and six months during the warm seasons at Jack's home. They married in 2007.They continued with Jack's passion for travel by cruising around Australia, exploring NZ and onward to Fiji, Bali, and Samoa.

Jack died peacefully on Saturday, December 27, 2014 in his 97th year. He had made many professional contributions to taxonomy and floristics and was ever so helpful in assisting others. Kimberley and Peter remarked at his memorial gathering that their father had a true zest for life and for all that it had to offer.

A more detailed version of this tribute, including Jack's publication list, will appear in an upcoming issue of the Canadian Field-Naturalist.


From: Tory Stevens

The Ecological Reserve Program began in the 1970s. Over the next 45 years 155 ERs were established. Currently BC Parks manages 148 ERs as one of a suite of designations in the protected areas system. Seven ERs have been repealed either because they were amalgamated with another (Kingcome/Atlatzi Rivers), integrated into National Park Reserves (Saturna, Anthony Island, East Copper/Jeffrey/Rankine Islands, Brackman Island and Kerouard Islands) or returned to UBC (UBC Endowment Lands). The most recent designations were Ospika Cones ER (2001), Francis Point ER (2004) and Det San ER (2009). All the ERs are designated and managed under the Ecological Reserves Act and the Park Act for educational and scientific purposes. Although recreation can occur in many areas, it is not encouraged.

Recently BC Parks began a Long-term Ecological Monitoring Program (LTEM) with sites established throughout the protected areas system in the province. Although the Ecological Reserves account for just over 1% of the land in the system, they contain 19% of the LTEM sites so far.

The BC Parks Conservation Risk Assessment database records 1738 special features in Ecological Reserves including cultural, geological, and biological features and species-at-risk. There are currently 20 active research projects under way in Ecological Reserves. These projects are overseen by BC Parks local area supervisors who manage Ecological Reserves along with the other protected lands in their Management Areas.

For more details on a case by case basis visit our website at or the website of the Friends of Ecological Reserves:

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