Our trainees are involved in research ranging from predator-prey interactions, to modeling of species' range changes due to climate change or air pollutant deposition in B.C., to analyzing functional genomics between species (scroll down to see project summaries & placement experiences)
Estimating differential vertical motion in Grand Banks region using Glacial Isostatic Adjustment models
Supervisor: Georgia Fotopoulos
Research Project: I am determining how direct and indirect effects of climate change influence the distribution of moose across North America using ArcGIS to develop a map of historic and current southern limits of moose, and to generate climate and habitat spatial data to be used in species distribution models.
Professional Placement: Kawartha Land Trust (Peterborough, ON) – this work in 2016 involved mapping and spatial analysis using GIS, specifically focusing on developing spatial information for conservation projects on Clear and Stoney Lakes in the Kawarthas.
Research Project: I will be conducting fragmentation analysis of protected areas in Ontario, which will be followed by overlaying a Circuitscape analysis to identify corridors between them. I will then model the network into the future with climate change and determine if it mismatches species at risk distributions.
Professional Placement: Kawartha Land Trust (Peterborough, ON) – this work in 2017 involved using spatial analysis to identify potential wildlife corridors in the Kawarthas to help prioritize land securement decisions, as well as providing technical expertise during Land Securement Committee meetings.
Research Project: I will be studying the population dynamics of small-mouth salamanders (Ambystoma texanum), a Species-At-Risk in Canada that can only be found on Pelee Island in Lake Erie. Amphibian species are difficult to gather enough information for a population estimate due to their cryptic nature. This problem is compounded in my project due to a separate lineage of female salamanders that can incorporate small-mouth and blue-spotted salamander (Ambystoma laterale) DNA into their genome. This unisexual complex makes determining the species of an individual salamander virtually impossible using traditional methods (e.g. by sight), but fairly easy using genetics. My project will develop a non-invasive technique of DNA extraction that we can combine with a standard mark-recapture method to estimate the population size of the small-mouth salamander in Canada.
Professional Placement: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Peterborough) in the fall of 2017
Research Project: Habitat loss and fragmentation together are considered to be primary drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide. Habitat fragmentation can also catalyze increased genetic drift and decreased gene flow between habitat patches, leading to loss of genetic diversity and reduced population fitness and long term viability. I will be exploring the effects that habitat configuration has on pollination dynamics and seed dispersal in Heliconia tortuosa, a tropical keystone plant species. Specifically, I will be determining the relative and combined response of pollen- and seed-mediated gene flow in varying degrees of tropical forest fragmentation, i.e. patch size and patch connectivity. This will be accomplished be quantifying different measures of genetic diversity, spatial genetic structure and contemporary pollen flow, and correlating these findings with habitat configuration. Ultimately, it is hoped that conservation strategies can be developed to maintain and promote gene flow between habitat patches to sustain long term population viability of H. tortuosa, which is dependent on hummingbird pollination.
Professional Placement: Credit Valley Conservation (Mississauga, ON) – this work, starting in Jan 2019, will involve quantifying functional connectivity along CVC’s jurisdiction using connectivity modeling, in conjunction with the Centre for Urban Environments at University of Toronto Mississauga.
Research Project: The Canada lynx, which is federally threatened in the contiguous United States and provincially endangered in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, has undergone a contraction of its historic range throughout North America by approximately 40%. Potential causes include climate change, habitat degradation, forest management techniques, and competition with other predators, including the closely-related bobcat. As the southern range boundary of the lynx has contracted northward, the bobcat has conversely expanded its range into territory formerly and currently occupied by lynx. My research aims to investigate the hierarchical habitat selection of these two species and the potential for their competition in sympatry. I will be assessing the current state of knowledge of factors that limit lynx and bobcats at each level of resource selection, and then use snow-tracking and GPS data from lynx and bobcats on the North Shore of Lake Huron in conjunction with land-cover data to address knowledge gaps. Specifically, I will combine literature review and/or meta-analysis with spatial analysis and modelling, which will inform conservation efforts of the Canada lynx.
Professional Placement: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Peterborough) – this work in 2016 involved a variety of OMNRF initiatives and field biology work, including bat surveys, flying squirrel surveys, muskrat surveys & vegetation sampling.
Research Project: Human landscape alteration, such as tropical deforestation, may affect plant populations beyond initial reduction of population size due to habitat loss, by changing the behavior of pollinators and/or seed dispersers. Recent forest fragmentation in the surrounding area of Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica has affected habitat use of trap-lining hummingbirds, resulting in pollen limitation and reduced seed set of the red twist heliconia (Heliconia tortuosa) in small isolated forest fragments. Whether changes in pollination patterns could be leading to a population decline may depend largely on the effect of forest fragmentation on seed dispersal. I will be determining how forest fragmentation affects plant population dynamics and spatial distribution including indirect effects through alteration of animal-mediated pollination and seed dispersal patterns. I will also predict the effects of human landscape alteration and improve the effectiveness of landscape-scale conservation management. This project represents one of the first attempts to use empirical data to fully parameterize population models in a fragmented tropical system and could serve as a template for research in other systems.
Research Project: My research focuses on exploring the reliability, resolvability and utility of various multi-platform remote sensing data for geological applications. While remote sensing data is becoming a more prominent aspect of a geologists workflow (in particular for site investigation), the various spatial and temporal scales of available data implies that there is no straightforward application. The uncertainty in the data sets as well as innumerable processing options, requires that each type data set is investigated thoroughly before the utility to the overall geological workflow can be established. In particular, focus is placed on environmentally sensitive regions with available synthetic aperture radar data on a relatively large scale (tens of kms) and smaller scale rock and fossil studies using very close-range LiDAR data.
Professional Placement: Land Conservancy of Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox Addington (Kingston, Ontario) – this work involved looking at past & future changes in climate to estimate how they will impact land cover in order to inform the selection of areas to protect (July 2017)
Research Project: Since the dawn of industrialization, elevated emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides have disturbed ecosystems on a global scale as a result of transboundary air pollution. High levels of acidic deposition to soils and surface waters have been associated with declining biodiversity and forest productivity. Accordingly, emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides have been regulated since the 1980s in North America and Europe through a number of national and international agreements, which has resulted in their significant decline. My research engages statistical and dynamic models to perform systematic assessments and scenario simulations of long-term trends in sulphur and nitrogen deposition and their impact on soils, surface waters and plant species diversity.
Research Project: As concerns over industrial emissions grow, so too does our need to understand the effects it may be having on our natural resources. Acidic deposition owing to industrial emissions and can lead to soil acidification, potentially leading to significant adverse effects on the surrounding flora and fauna. Soil exchangeable base cation pools are essential to prevent soil acidification. My project involves assessing the spatial variability of soil exchangeable base cation pools in forest soils and their ability to resist change from acidic deposition. The study is being carried within the Kitimat Valley, British Columbia, which after recent industrial development may receive increased sulphur deposition. Soils can vary greatly within a region, as such I will be assessing the magnitude of spatial variability within the study area and using predicted acidic deposition estimate the length of time required for any potential adverse effects to occur.
Professional Placement: Rio Tinto Aluminium (Kitimat, BC) – this work in July 2016 involved conducting soil sampling and establishing long-term soil monitoring plots for the Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) program that is required by the BC Ministry of Environment; working with an environmental consulting company to establish an urban air quality monitoring network within the Kitimat Valley in BC; and completing safety training.
Research Project: In 2013, Rio Tinto Aluminium (RTA) received a permit to increase emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) from 27 to 42 tonnes per day at their aluminum smelter in Kitimat, British Columbia. In concert, RTA established an Environmental Effects Monitoring program to ensure that emissions of SO2 do not impact ecosystem health in the Kitimat Valley. Spatial maps of soil properties, such as exchangeable cations, exchangeable acidity, organic matter content, and bulk density, are essential to assess the potential impacts of the SO2 emissions on forest ecosystems; however, they are not available for the Kitimat Valley. My study aims to apply state-of-the-art digital mapping techniques to predict forest soil propertiess in the Kitimat Valley. These predictive maps will allow me to assess the spatial variation of the soil properties, and assees their buffering capacity against predicted sulphur deposition based on permitted SO2 emissions.
Professional Placement: Rio Tinto Aluminium (Kitimat, BC) – this work in July 2016 involved safety training, and working with Rio Tinto staff on study design and field sampling.
Research Interests: I have a highly applied and multidisciplinary background involving the use of small unmanned aircraft systems (drones) and their geospatial data products for wildlife, habitat and environmental monitoring. Drawing on this experience, I will be developing two online graduate-level geomatics courses that will emphasize cutting-edge technologies, student autonomy, and creative and resourceful use of commercial and freeware analytical tools to tackle real-world geomatics tasks. With a strong focus on specific areas of application (eg. biology, agriculture, forestry, geology, water resources, etc.) prefaced by theoretical fundamentals, the aim of these courses will be to equip students with the knowledge, problem-solving abilities and hands-on skills required to hit the ground running in their professional careers.
Research Project: Wild turkeys were hunted to extinction in Ontario in the late 1800’s, but have since been reintroduced to the province from populations in the northeastern United States. This species has been successful in re-establishing populations throughout their native range in southern and central Ontario. Wild turkeys have also been able to colonize regions north of their native range primarily due to the expansion of Ontario’s agricultural industry and increasing winter temperatures. When colonizing novel landscapes, species often face unique survival and reproductive challenges. My research aims to investigate these challenges, while also exploring aspects of turkey social behaviour. Through genetic analyses and the use of VHF/GPS transmitters, I aim to explore determinants of winter flock size and membership, the genetics and inter-relatedness of winter flocks, flock information transfer and movement patterns, and the impact that supplemental food sources, made available through the agricultural industry and residential bird feeders, have on winter survival.
Research Project: Roads act as barriers to the movement of many animal species. However, road effects often vary between species- some will not attempt to cross, treating them as impassable features of the landscape; others will attempt crossings but may suffer mortality during the crossing. In my research, I want to identify which factors (such as habitat availability & connectivity, traffic volumes, and road construction features) drive higher levels of road mortality; which species are more vulnerable to road mortality or to the physical barrier effect; how these aspects of the barrier interact in their impacts on metapopulation dynamics within the landscape; and how these impacts can be mitigated through the construction of passageways. I will be working in the Greater Toronto Area with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). The results of these projects will help to model the impacts of roads on landscape connectivity and habitat fragmentation, and can better demonstrate the threat that roads pose to several vulnerable species.
Professional Placement: TRCA (Toronto) – this work involved analyzing data helping to model impacts of roads on habitat fragmentation and recommend mitigation measures in the summer of 2017.
Research Project: As part of a collaborative research program with Blazing Star Environmental, my research aims to improve detection protocols and identification of critical habitat for at-risk snake species like the Massasauga rattlesnake and Eastern fox snake. These species are elusive, yet often present in areas slated for development in central Ontario. In aiming to develop more reliable protocols for assessing the presence or absence of these cryptic species, my research will have implications for how biological surveys are carried out by developers and their consultants, as well as for the protection and stewardship of lands inhabited by these strikingly beautiful animals.
Professional Placement: Blazing Star Environmental (Oshawa, ON) – this work involved assisting with species-at-risk surveys of reptiles in Eastern Georgian Bay area in 2018 and developing protocols for sampling cryptic species that will lead to a technical report for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Research Project: The Earth’s response to loading and unloading processes is seen through Glacial Isostatic Adjustment (or Post-Glacial Rebound), as evidenced by crustal deformation and vertical motion. Unloading since the Last Glacial Maximum approximately 21,000 years ago has led to vertical crustal motion of varying magnitudes, spatially distributed over a massive region where glaciation had occurred, thus leading to differential vertical motion. In the interest of resource exploration, differential crustal motion can impact hydrocarbon reservoirs by causing surface erosion, deformation, and tilting. As a result, hydrocarbon trapping structures can be destabilized and fluid leakage may occur, leading to tertiary migration of subsurface fluids – including oil and gas â€“ throughout the subsurface. In this project, I will use Glacial Isostatic Adjustment models in conjunction with a number of geophysical and geological data sets to estimate differential vertical motion in the Grand Banks region offshore Newfoundland. These results will be compared to those of previously published literature to interpret the extent and effect of vertical motion on hydrocarbon migration pathways.
Research Project: I will be genomically examining the boreal caribou of the Lake Superior islands. These populations are of high conservation concern; this species is experiencing population declines and range retractions, and these populations represent the southernmost extant caribou of the discontinuous range. These Lake Superior populations may represent a unique evolutionary unit, due to isolation from other Ontario caribou. Public concern is rising as one Lake Superior island population is currently experiencing a population crash due to predation by newly invasive wolves. I will compare genomes from several Ontario and Manitoba populations to assess if the Lake Superior populations are unique from other Ontario boreal caribou. I will also investigate local adaptation in these populations, by searching for functional genes in the Lake Superior populations and by comparing historic genomes to current representatives. This research will inform wildlife management decisions for these populations. If the Lake Superior caribou are genomically distinct and locally adapted, they could qualify for federal protection as a Designable Unit (DU, under COSEWIC). If they are classified as a protected evolutionary unit, interference may be necessary to prevent the population from being decimated by wolf predation.
Research Project: When I was younger, I hoped I would have a pill I could just pop in my mouth that would provide me with all the food energy I needed. Also, being from the isle of Saint Lucia, I often find myself being re-energized by the sun’s rays. So, imagine how interesting it was to find out about Euglena, a single-celled protist that survives autotrophically and heterotrophically! I have also become fascinated by Euglena’s ability to survive in toxic metal polluted environments. Thus, my research project will focus on enhancing sulfur group production of Euglena under metal stress conditions, in order to further enhance metal sorption. If the results are promising, Euglena could be used as a novel and effective bio-remedial application tool.
Research Project: I am interested in exploring the relative effects of various factors on the landscape genetic patterns of the wild bee community across the agricultural zone of Alberta, Canada. This study aims to explain spatial genetic structure, connectivity and diversity of six common bee species through developing a variety of models and evaluating their suitability for each species. I plan to use these comparisons to evaluate and disentangle the relative effects of canola agriculture, species sociality, body size and parasite prevalence on Bombus ternarius, B. rufocinctus, Halictus confusus, H. rubicundus, Andrena lupinorum and Hylaeus affinis. This study should serve to assess the relative influence of various threats to the bee community and guide conservation management in Alberta. I also hope this study will provide a useful framework for identifying species more likely to be a greater risk of decline, based on their characteristics and habitat.
Professional Placement: Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (Edmonton, AB) – this work will involve working with ABMI to develop a habitat suitability model for the native bee community in the spring and summer of 2018 that could be useful to managers for pollinator conservation.
Research Project: Both Northern (Glaucomys sabrinus) and Southern (G. volans) flying squirrel populations have been experiencing massive geographical range shifts over the past few decades, likely due to both climate change and urbanization. These species are also difficult to trap, which makes monitoring of population changes challenging. In order to monitor these rapid changes, I will be building a complete library of ultrasonic calls in both species to compare differences in calls between species and dialects within species to improve acoustic monitoring techniques. I also want to explore the relationship between their calls and behavior to better understand what behaviours may be occurring during calls, and to be able to infer how these species interact with each other. Finally, I want to study the potential use of echolocation in both species to understand how flying squirrels interact with their surroundings, and the characteristics that allow these species to glide successfully in low visibility. By understanding why flying squirrels use ultrasonic calls, we will be able to better monitor these species through time and potentially gain more insight into the mechanisms driving this rapid species displacement.
Research Project: I will be analyzing seawater samples collected from the Canada Basin in the Arctic to determine the composition of dissolved organic matter (DOM). DOM plays a significant role in nutrient cycling in the environment. Through analysis using high resolution mass spectrometry, I will be able to identify sources and controls of DOM in the Arctic. The results will be used to determine the composition of DOM and its spatial distribution in the Canada Basin.
Professional Placement: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Vancouver, BC) – this work involved collecting marine water samples off the BC coast as part of a Coast Guard research trip in September 2018, and processing samples using immobilized metal-ion affinity chromatography (IMAC) at the University of Victoria in September 2018.
Research Project: Producing sustainable agricultural crops yearly is a challenge for farmers, given changing weather patterns and climate change. Soils within a farm field are typically treated as a uniform unit, receiving equal applications of fertilizers, pesticides, etc., which can lead to excess fertilizers and harmful impacts to the surrounding environment. To help solve these issues, my research will be looking at the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) equipped with multispectral sensors to create different vegetation indices. These indices show vegetation health over a certain area and outline areas that are succeeding and those that are not. Using these maps, along with a large number of soil samples, I hope to find a link between vegetation health and soil nutrients, which could be used as a more cost-effective method compared to costly and time consuming soil sampling techniques used currently. This could ultimately help to use fertilizers in a more precise way, while reducing negative impacts to the environment.
Professional Placement: Deveron UAS (Toronto, ON) – this work will involve developing applications of drone technologies for agricultural purposes in the summer of 2018
Research Project: The Municipality of Kitimat, located along the northern coast of British Columbia (BC), Canada, is home to the Rio Tinto Aluminum (RTA) smelter. In 2015, RTA completed a development resulting in a permitted increase of sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from 27 to 42 tonnes per day (t/d). Since 2011, ongoing studies have been conducted by RTA in-part to evaluate atmospheric sulphur (S) concentrations and deposition. Monitoring efforts have yet to produce sufficient measurements of particulate sulphate (SO42-) and sulphur wet deposition – critical constituents of atmospheric S processes which can serve as indicators of the potential extent and rate of acidic S deposition. My research is intended to evaluate atmospheric S composition and total S deposition throughout the Kitimat region via the application of atmospheric sampling and inferential deposition modelling methods.
Professional Placement: Rio Tinto Aluminium (Kitimat, BC) – this work involved routine air sampling and safety training with RTA as part of the Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) program conducted in the summer of 2017.
Research Project: My PhD work will focus on spatial ecology and ecophysiology of Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidae blandingii) in their northern range limit of Ontario. As with most turtle species in Ontario, this species is considered threatened. My general goal is to investigate how movement behavior and energy expenditure in this species are influenced by habitat quality and if there are differences between sexes and within the activity season. Since part of my study area is being altered for residential development, I will have the opportunity to study how anthropogenic influences such as habitat destruction and construction of artificial habitat affect the behavior and energy budget of this turtle. To address these issues, I will use GPS telemetry and accelerometry.
Research Project: Yearly, vast swaths of Canadian forests are changed from a variety of driving forces, such as wildfires, forest harvesting and the creation of logging roads etc. Remote sensing technologies, specifically the use of satellite imagery offers a cost effective and efficient platform for monitoring large scale landscape changes such as those mentioned above. Significant research has been conducted to detect changes, and the attribution of change agents to forested areas across Canada, and algorithms have been developed to monitor these events with high accuracy. Comparatively, less research has been dedicated to the monitoring of recovery after a site is disturbed. My research will focus on monitoring the recovery of disturbed forest ecosystems in the Kenora Forest Management district of Ontario, using the change detection algorithm developed by the Canadian Forest Service. The results of this research can be adopted by regional foresters as a cost effective method to monitor the recovery of forests within their district.
Professional Placement: Kawartha Land Trust (Peterborough, ON) – this work involved providing technical GIS expertise for land securement purposes in the fall of 2017
Research Project: I will be investigating the effectiveness of camera trap methodology in evaluating habitat selection of Canada lynx and bobcats. I will do this by comparing camera trap data to the more commonly used GPS telemetry data, from lynx and bobcat trapped and collared in Hedley, BC. Camera traps are an important technology for studying wildlife, and are most commonly used for density estimation and wildlife monitoring/inventorying. GPS telemetry, along with other methods commonly used to study habitat selection, are often expensive, labour intensive and invasive to the study animal. The non-invasive nature of camera trap methodology makes if of particular interest for a broader application in wildlife studies. I aim to validate the use of camera traps for large-scale application in studies of habitat selection, over the use of GPS telemetry which is often invasive and stressful for wild animals.
Professional Placement: Nature Trust of BC (North Vancouver, BC) – this work will involve working with Nature Trust staff to conduct baseline monitoring and develop survey methods for small mammals on their Okanagan area properties in the summer of 2018
Research Project: I am broadly interested in the intersection between animal behavior, physiology, and ecology. My MSc work will focus on this intersection in snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), which I study in the Kluane region of the Yukon Territory. Snowshoe hare populations rise and fall with a regular period between population peaks of 8-11 years. This well-known cycle is one of the most striking features of the North American boreal forest. As the hare population begins to decline, major predator populations increase with a lag of 1-2 years behind the hares. Predators can account for up to 95 percent of hare mortality during this time (not a great time to be a hare). Under such disparate year to year changes in predation risk, hares may be able to respond with changes in behavior, physiology, and reproduction as trade-offs in favor of increased survival. By collecting physiological, energetic, and behavioral data over a period encompassing a cyclic peak and decline, we will be able to show the degree to which these yearly and seasonal changes are occurring. Taken all together, this will broaden the understanding we have of how predators influence prey in cyclic systems.
Research Project: The success of certain species can be explained by understanding the evolutionary basis of how these behaviours may allow a given species to adapt to specific ecological pressures. My objective is to determine the impact of two specific behavioural factors on the social living strategies of the eastern wild turkey. I’ll be looking at 1) the predator avoidance strategies of the Eastern Wild Turkey in relation to mixed species flocking with the White Tailed Deer, and 2) the role of social structure at the roost and the importance of hierarchy in thermoregulatory benefits and predator avoidance. In the winter, we use rocket nets to trap turkeys in order to put GPS or VHF tags on, leg bands, and collect blood and morphological measurements. Through telemetry, I then collect data from these tagged turkeys in order to answer my questions.
Professional Placement: Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (Peterborough, ON) – this work involved researching various topics for possible policy change (eg. wild boar management plans & spotted gar range), creating an R script for wild turkey harvest data, and creating copy for OFAH website on wild turkeys over the winter of 2018
Research Project: I am examining how changes in primary prey density influence the foraging and movement behaviour of Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in the Kluane region of the Yukon. This study is part of a multi-year collaborative project which aims to understand how prey, conspecifics, and habitat heterogeneity (including abiotic factors such as snow depth and hardness) influence population dynamics in a northern predator. A mechanistic understanding of what factors influence lynx movement and foraging behaviour will help inform the drivers of current patterns of population dynamics, and allow for accurate predictions of population stability in the face of current and future environmental change.
Research Project: Natural and anthropogenic sources of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the atmosphere contribute to the deterioration of air quality, as well as environmental and human health. The regional characterization of aerosols can be difficult owing to the cumulative influence of multiple emission sources. Furthermore, observations of PM speciation are limited due to the general lack of chemical analysis of PM2.5 samples at monitoring sites. As such, my research includes a multiregional assessment of the contribution of long-range and local emissions to regional-scale particulate matter characteristics engaging a combination of remote sensing, trajectory analysis, and air quality & chemical transport models simulation. This understanding could strengthen the development of local and regional scale air pollutant mitigation and science-based emissions reduction and adaptation policies.
Research Project: I will be examining habitat selection, movement and corridors of Canada lynx and bobcat in southern B.C.
Research Project: I am examining the effects of anthropogenic and natural disturbance on boreal caribou populations using spatially-explicit capture-recapture (SECR). SECR is a relatively new method, expanding on the traditional capture-mark-recapture method by incorporating spatial data into the models to determine population densities and the relationship of density to various covariates. I am interested in applying this method to boreal caribou for the first time and determining the effect that anthropogenic disturbances have on boreal caribou densities. I am also exploring the genetic structure of populations, including inbreeding, individual fitness and familial relationships, as well as inter- and intra-specific population dynamics.
Research Project: My research sets out to test how maternal effects influence the responses of offspring in snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), as well as how maternal behavior is influenced by risk exposure. I will be building on the past work done in the Kluane Lake region of Canada’s Yukon Territory on the physiological, behavioural, and morphological characteristics of free-ranging female and young (leverets) during the increase phase of the 8-10 year snowshoe hare/lynx cycle in 2015-2016. I will be comparing data collected during this phase (when natural risk is low) to data collected during the decline in 2018-2019 (when natural risk is low) in order to understand temporal variations in maternal effects and behavior of snowshoe hares.
Research Project: The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a widely distributed mammal that has adapted to a number of different environments that vary on both longitudinal and latitudinal scales. My research will focus on how this species has adapted to its various environments, and why this is important in the face of climate and anthropogenic change. Specifically, I will be employing a comparative genomic approach to identify the genetic underpinning of various adaptations. To achieve this goal, I will look at black bears inhabiting different regions and environments across North America, and identify phenotypic variations. I will then fully sequence, assemble, and annotate the genomes of the bears exhibiting these variations. Finally, I will compare these genomes to one another, highlighting genetic signals of adaptation relating to the traits I have identified. My research aims not only to gain insight into the genomic regions influencing adaptation in black bears, but also to provide high quality reference genomes for future study.
Research Project: My research will focus on employing geospatial methods to collect & analyze historical datasets pertaining to a region northwest of Kelowna, B.C. This will be accomplished by producing maps & visualizations with ArcGIS to properly contextualize & communicate historical data. The outcome of this research will be a geological site model incorporating geophysical, geochemical, geological and metallogenic perspectives.
Research Project: I will be studying how urbanization affects gene flow in common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), the host plant of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). My research aims to inform the construction of sustainable cities that also function as resilient ecosystems for flora and fauna.
Research Project: Check back soon!
Research Project: I am broadly interested in characterizing the genetic structure of amphibian populations in order to better inform wildlife management policy and our understanding of amphibian conservation biology. My current research will focus on how the prevalence of amphibian pathogens relates to the underlying genetic structure of amphibian populations and how disease dynamics are influenced by host genetic diversity. I am also interested in determining acquired immunity in amphibian hosts, particularly over metamorphosis. My research will utilize next-generation sequencing techniques and recent advances in genome-wide reduced representation genomic analysis.
Research Project: My research involves the study of two species of Ontario freshwater turtles near Ottawa, the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) and the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Specifically, I will be using accelerometers to determine activity patterns when turtles roam freely, as direct observation is difficult since both species are found in dense swamp or marsh. Since the deployment of accelerometers as biologgers remains relatively uncommon, this research will aid in further validating the technology. Understanding these species’ movements & behavioural patterns more clearly may also contribute to better informed conservation and land use policies.