People passionate about nature

John and Ella Jack

Ralph Bird Award Recipients 1985

John and Ella Jack are amateur naturalists who have made an outstanding contribution to natural history in Western Canada through their leadership and teaching activities in the areas of environmental enhancement and the creation of nature reserves, and in their contributions to herbaria and collections at the Museum of Man and Nature.

This husband and wife team have worked together to foster a love and appreciation of natural history through their work in the Manitoba Naturalists Society (Nature Manitoba/MNS). They have learned about natural history and have passed on their love and knowledge of nature to others through their volunteer leadership activities.

The Jacks are an active couple, serving as sessional naturalists at the Living Prairie Museum, La Barriere Park and for the Manitoba Forestry Association of Hadashville.

From 1969-71, John Jack was president of the Manitoba Naturalists Society. While president he found time to chair a group that spearheaded the effort to have Little Mountain Park established as a natural park. John was a founding member of the Manitoba chapter of the Nation and Provincial Parks Association of Canada and was associated with the formation of the Canadian Nature Federation in 1970-71, serving on the Federation’s board of directors from 1971 to 1978. He provided input to the revision of the National Parks Act in 1972. He was active on the MNS Parks Committee through which he was involved in the proposal to establish Atikaki National Park, and the presentation of major submissions by MNS towards the development of the masterplan for Riding Mountain National Park.

During this time Ella Jack was also active, both in support of John’s efforts and in the service of MNS and its objectives. There was no central office at that time, so much of the typing and coordination fell into her hands. Ella was on the membership committee welcoming people at indoor meetings. Arising from her concern that members did not have the opportunity to meet each other, Ella along with Betty Kyle, introduced the coffee hour after the meetings.
The contributions of both John and Ella have been recognized by MNS as they have been given honorary life memberships, John in 1974 and Ella in 1984. Both have also served as honorary presidents of the Society, John in 1978-80 and Ella in 1982-83.

Neither John nor Ella are professionally trained naturalists. They trained themselves by attending plant identification classes given before the indoor meetings, reading widely, asking questions and learning about the world around them. John is a photographer, and assisted by Ella, has prepared an extensive collection of plant slides. They have recorded flowering dates and have collected specimens of Manitoba plants that have been given to the Museum of Man and Nature. The Jacks have not kept their great store of knowledge to themselves. Instead, through their educational activities, the Jacks have shared their great understanding of natural history and ecology of Manitoba’s plants and animals with others. This is possible the contribution for which they will be best remembered. Through the canoeing, snowshoeing and hiking trips they have led over the years they have infected others with their love of nature, and passed on their knowledge in a low-key fashion.

John and Ella have been serving as resource persons at the Lining Prairie Museum, La Barriere Park and Little Mountain Park where they continue to instill an enthusiasm for nature in adults and children, helping to produce citizens with a better understanding of the natural world.

John and Ella were good friends of Ralph Bird, learned much from him, and shared equally in enthusiastic enjoyment of the world around them. Not only are the Jacks worthy of the honour of being the first recipients of the Ralph Bird Award, it is appropriate that they be honoured in his memory for they exemplify Ralph Bird’s love if life, his understanding of the intricacies of the ecosystem, and his willingness to share this love with others.