Local Scientist given one of Canada’s highest honours

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A long-time resident of Merrickville-Wolford has been made a member of the Order of Canada for his work studying reptiles and amphibians across the country. Francis R. Cook was born in Nova Scotia, but moved all over the country with his father’s job. He always had an interest in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), but what really solidified his decision to dedicate his life to the field was a conversation with scientist Shelley Logier at the Royal Ontario Museum when he was only ten years old. “He told me how little was known about reptiles and amphibians,” Francis remembers.

After receiving his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Acadia University, Francis was lucky enough to secure a position as one of the curators in the Zoology section of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “At the time, there were only two jobs in museums in Canada studying herpetology,” Francis says. He worked for the museum, conducting research across the country, for 32 years, with only a short break to get his PhD from the University of Manitoba. “I did my thesis on two different species of toads interbreeding in Manitoba,” he says. “It was great fun.”

Throughout his career at the Museum, Francis also served as the editor of the scientific journal, the Canadian Field-Naturalist. In 2010, he was honored as the Member of the Year of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists Club for his work on the publication and his “exceptional effort to bring the journal up to date.” In 1984, Francis published his first book, an “Introduction to Canadian amphibians and reptiles”, which is still available on Amazon. A true Canadian at heart, Francis has always focused his research on the reptiles and amphibians that live in Canada. “I feel very strongly about this country,” he says.

After his retirement from the Museum in 1993, Francis continued to work as an associate with the Museum of Nature, and was an honourary Curator Emeritus. He maintains contact with all the leading scientists and researchers in his field, and has been working on a number of books that he hopes to publish, one of which is being illustrated by local artist and naturalist, Aleta Karstad.

Francis says that, when he heard that he was being made a Member of the Order of Canada, he was stunned. “It was the last thing I would have thought,” he said. He attributes his success in his field to all the people he has met throughout his lengthy career. “I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.”

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