A Black-Crowned Night-Heron.

The “Nature Snoopers”: a legacy in photos

Special thanks to Kandyd Szuba, a family friend of the Meissners, who helped donate the Meissner’s photo collection to Ontario Parks and contributed to this article.

Meet the “Nature Snoopers.”

To their friends, Erwin and Annie Meissner were the “Nature Snoopers.” Everywhere they went, they were “nature snooping” – down every back road and down every hiking trail, they would be on the lookout for new discoveries.

For decades, this inseparable duo explored Ontario’s provincial parks and the natural world, snapping photos of their findings. It was a great passion to share what they learned with their friends and family.

Erwin and Annie Meissner.
Erwin and Annie Meissner

Unfortunately, Erwin and Annie passed away recently. After their passing, their massive photo library of Ontario’s flora and fauna was donated to Ontario Parks.

Today, we want to look at this legacy they’ve left behind.

A deep appreciation for nature

To the Nature Snoopers, nature could be appreciated anywhere and everywhere, but Ontario’s provincial parks represented the best aspects of the province.

white-tailed deer fawn
A White-Tailed Deer fawn at Mississagi Provincial Park

They held a special place in their hearts for Algonquin Provincial Park and Misery Bay Provincial Park.

False Morel.
False Morel at Algonquin Park

They explored Rondeau Provincial Park to observe Red-headed Woodpeckers, skinks, and the unusual trees of the Carolinian forest.

They visited Chutes Provincial Park, taking in the incredible views of the rushing waterfalls, and they went to Lake Superior Provincial Park to embrace the fantastic scenery.

Short-tailed Weasel

Erwin and Annie created memories at every destination they visited, often with their children who they took camping to Ontario’s parks frequently while growing up. Later in life, they moved north for more room to explore.

Citizen scientists

The couple were dedicated citizen scientists. They helped found three groups dedicated to enjoying nature: the Penokean Hills Field Naturalists, the Massey Nature Study Group, and the Sheriff Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.

Their goal was to help others find the same inspiration they drew from the natural world themselves.

An adult Cecropia Moth.
An adult Cecropia Moth

They gave countless talks on the north shore of Lake Huron about orchids, wildflowers, and wildlife, and led hundreds of people of all ages on field trips.

Erwin and Annie also participated in volunteer citizen scientist programs, including the Christmas Bird Count, the Nocturnal Owl Survey, the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, and more.

ring-necked pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Over the three years of the last Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, Erwin, with help from Annie, spent over 420 hours atlas-ing. He even won the Golden Eagle Award from the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas for showing “true atlas spirit by going beyond what is expected of atlas participants.”

A passion captured; a legacy preserved

Thankfully, their discoveries were captured on camera all along the way.

A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar.
A Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

Their photo collection depicts all the unique, strange, and wonderful aspects of Ontario’s natural world.

The Meissners

Erwin and Annie made exploration and citizen science their life’s work. We are sad that they are no longer with us today to share their many years of wisdom and experience, but we are also thankful for the legacy they’ve left behind.

The images that the “Nature Snoopers” captured will be used for years to inspire a new generation to explore nature’s endless wonder.

We are only guardians of our natural world, preserving it for future generations to discover themselves.

Nobody demonstrated that more clearly than Erwin and Annie Meissner.

What will your own legacy be? Learn more about how to leave a legacy with Ontario Parks.