With generous support from the Weston Family Foundation, WCS Canada is able to award annual fellowships to graduate students to support field research relevant to WCS Canada’s conservation objectives at our two long-term conservation sites: the boreal region of northern Ontario and the northern boreal mountains of Yukon and British Columbia. Here is a short report on what our Fellowship program has accomplished.

Fellowship Awards

WCS Canada will award one-year fellowships of between $5,000 and $20,000 each. The amount of funding awarded will be determined in part by the applicants’ financial needs and the number of applications received.

The Fellowship awards are intended to:

  1. Support research that is relevant to WCS Canada’s conservation objectives at our two long-term sites in the boreal region of Northern Ontario, and the Northern Boreal Mountains of Yukon and British Columbia. Research that takes place outside of these sites, but that generates relevant conservation information may also be eligible. 
  2. Provide all or partial funding for graduate-level, field research activities for students to carry out their thesis-related research. Fellowship awards are not intended to support student stipends; however, stipends and salaries for field assistants are eligible.

 Fellowship awards are available for project activities beginning on or after April 1 of award year.

Eligible Applicants

Fellowship applicants must be pursuing a graduate degree in conservation science, or in a related field such as landscape ecology, natural resources management/conservation, conservation planning, conservation biology, environmental studies, wildlife/plant/fisheries ecology or socio-ecological studies. 

Individuals who have received a WCS Canada Weston Family Foundation Fellowship award in a previous year may reapply. 2020 Fellows who have projects that have been extended beyond one year in response to COVID-19 may also re-apply for 2021. Applications to support an additional year of the same project will be considered. Applications from past grantees for new projects will also be considered. For example, a student that received a Fellowship award for Master's research may submit an application to support their PhD research.

Eligible Projects

The proposed research project must help advance WCS Canada’s conservation objectives at one of its two long-term sites (the boreal region of northern Ontario or the boreal mountains of Yukon and British Columbia - please see map below) or increase conservation knowledge that is relevant to one or both of these sites. Relevant research areas include, but are not limited to, studies of: aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems; wetland, riparian, and peatland ecosystems; species management/conservation; ecosystem connectivity; ecological changes resulting from climate change; sustainable harvesting of fish and/or wildlife; and socio-ecological effects of natural resource development or management, especially cumulative effects of multiple development projects. 

Eligible Expenses

Expenses related to thesis related research costs are eligible including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Lab fees and other analytical costs. 
  • Research equipment, material and supplies. 
  • Travel to, from and around research sites. 
  • Travel in support of collaborative activities. 
  • Travel related to attending and presenting at conferences will also be considered. 
  • Shipping and postage costs.
  • Stipends and salary costs relate to field support including field assistants. 
  • Other costs related to the needs of the research project or that have the potential to expand the scope and impact of the research project. 

Stipends for graduate students are not eligible for Fellowship support.

Application Guidelines

Fellowship applications must include the following:

  1. Applicant Information Form can be downloaded here;
  2. Cover Letter outlining how the proposed research addresses WCS Canada’s site-based conservation objectives; 
  3. Curriculum Vitae of the student; 
  4. Research Project Description (3-5 pages) including project goals, objectives, methods, and conservation relevance;
  5. COVID-19 Risk Assessment listing how ongoing COVID-19 conditions and restriction might impact the project and how you plan to respond/adapt to each situation or scenario, including the possible need for mandatory quarantine for anyone traveling into the Yukon territory; 
  6. Project Budget using the budget template which must include the amount requested from WCS Canada and the complete budget for the project, with committed or pending support from other sources itemized;
  7. Letter of Support from the student’s academic supervisor. Supervisors may choose to submit their letter of support directly.  

We ask that documents 2 to 7 be consolidated into one PDF file. If the Letter of Support is being sent separately then combine files 2 to 6. 

Applicants are strongly advised to ensure that their proposed research follows accepted ethical guidelines for research in the North before submitting proposals.  Examples include the First Nations Information Governance Centre’s Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP®) standards, First Nations Ethics Guide on Research and Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge, Principles of Ethical Métis Research, Tri-Council Policy Statement (2018) - Chapter 9, entitled “Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada, ACUNS Principles for Conduct of Research in the North, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Research Institute Guide for Researchers. 

Fellowship awards will be conditional upon applicants providing copies of approved permits for research and evidence of compliance with necessary animal and/or human ethics review and welfare protocols. 

Application Submission

Electronic submissions in a single PDF to be submitted  by email to wcscanadahr@wcs.org with the subject "2021 Weston Fellowship Application". 


General:   Tina Dias (bdias@wcs.org)
Ontario Northern Boreal:   Dr. Connie O'Connor (coconnor@wcs.org)
Northern Boreal Mountains:
  Dr. Don Reid (dreid@wcs.org)

Reporting Requirements

Recipients of Fellowship Awards will be required to report on the progress of their projects and provide a final report. Reporting requirements include providing photos and video footage of field work activities. Examples of videos submitted by previous Fellows can be found on the WCS Canada YouTube channel

Long-term site descriptions and WCS Canada’s conservation agenda:

Ontario’s Northern Boreal (ONB)

Northern Ontario contains the world’s largest intact boreal forest, the third largest wetland, and the second largest peatland complex. Its sheer size (450,000 sq. km), remoteness, low human population density, lack of a permanent transportation or energy infrastructure network, and, as-yet, small industrial footprint make it a stronghold for a number of species that have experienced range reductions in the rest of Canada, including caribou, wolverine, and lake sturgeon as well as the most southerly sub-population of polar bears. It is also a homeland to approximately 40,000 First Nations Peoples (including Anishinabeg and Muskegowuk) In the last two decades, First Nations  in this region have experienced a mineral boom in staking, exploration, and mining, intensifying with the discovery of a world-class nickel-chromium deposit (the “Ring of Fire”). In 2010, the Government of Ontario formally committed to protecting at least 50% of the landscape and creating a new relationship with First Nations to support sustainable development through community-based land-use planning  processes. 

Our vision is that Ontario’s Northern Boreal Landscape remains the largest intact boreal landscape in the world with thriving populations of iconic fish and wildlife species within a dynamic landscape, supporting healthy and resilient communities of First Nations pursuing traditional resource use and limited industrial development.


  • To use conservation principles to inform regional and community planning and environmental assessment processes
  • To use scientific information to inform conservation of fish and wildlife 
  • To provide information to First Nations communities to support planning goals and objectives
  • To develop and encourage best practices in industrial development that addresses conservation and traditional resource use 
  • To advance the science necessary to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in Ontario’s northern boreal, particularly with First Nations

Northern Boreal Mountains (NBM) 

The Northern Boreal Mountains and Yukon encompasses approximately 855,000 sq. km in northwestern Canada, incorporating diverse boreal, taiga, and tundra ecosystems.  Resident aboriginal peoples rely on their harvests of wildlife and fish, including the longest-distance migration of salmon in the world.  Much of the region is still wilderness, supporting robust populations of barren-ground and mountain caribou, grizzly bears, wolverine, and lynx, and significant breeding populations of many boreal bird species.  Much of the region was part of the Beringian refugium during the last ice age, and that geographic isolation led to significant speciation and endemic wildlife.  Lowland forest and riparian habitats support the majority of the region’s biodiversity but these habitats are poorly covered by existing conservation lands. WCS Canada is focusing on the NBM because of the mix of conservation opportunity and threat the region currently faces.  

Our vision is that the full suite of wildlife species continues to thrive, with robust populations conserved across the diversity of ecosystems, throughout the boreal mountains of northwest Canada.


  • To contribute to the identification and designation of a full suite of ecological benchmarks or protected areas in the Northern Boreal Mountains
  • To contribute new science or scientific interpretations to enhance conservation of fish and wildlife in the Northern Boreal Mountains
  • To develop best management practices for the integration of wildlife and ecosystem conservation into natural resource management and human uses of wild places  
  • To partner with and enhance the technical and scientific capacity of government agencies and other organizations which have a conservation mandate
  • To develop assessments of the risks to biodiversity inherent in climate change and pursue research regarding suitable adaptation strategies to be applied in concert with various partners

WCS Fellowships

The WCS Research Fellowship Program (RFP) is a small grants program designed to build capacity for the next generation of conservationists by supporting individual field research projects that have a clear application to the conservation of threatened wildlife and wild places. 

Key Staff

Gillian Woolmer
Director, Finance and Operations
Marilyn Katsabas
Manager, Finance and Operations
Tina Dias
HR and Finance Administrator






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