WCS Canada

2015 Fellows

Cole Atlin, University of Waterloo (PhD Candidate), is studying conflict in land use planning and assessment in the mining developments in the Ring of Fire in Northwestern Ontario and the Northern BC/ Yukon. She is attempting to determine which methods of planning and assessment generate the best opportunities for mutually beneficial outcomes for Indigenous communities, conservationists, proponents, Provincial and Federal governments, and other affected parties. She is also attempting to determine whether processes that manage conflict more effectively result in more sustainable outcomes via historic case analysis, interviews and conflict mapping and analysis.

 Ontario Northern Boreal

Alex Sutton, University of Guelph (MSc Candidate), is investigating how long-term climate change and increasing climatic variability is influencing reproductive success in gray jays. Gray jays are a resident species of the northern Canadian boreal forest and populations at the southern edge have shown dramatic declines since the 1980’s. Evidence suggests that climate change is contributing to this decline, however the climatic mechanisms responsible remain unknown.

Alexandra Anderson, Trent University (PhD student), is studying the stopover ecology of migratory shorebirds using coastal sites along James Bay, Ontario.  Allie is researching how prey availability and predation risk interact to influence shorebird spatial use, movement, and length of stay at these subarctic stopover sites in order to identify important areas and resources for shorebirds on fall migration.

Lorna Harris, McGill University (PhD candidate), is studying how peatlands in the Hudson Bay Lowlands respond to changing environmental conditions.Lorna is conducting gas and hydrological measurements and vegetation surveys to determine how these compare between pristine peatlands and those drained for mining activities.
Meredith C. Purcell, Trent University (PhD Candidate), is using genetic techniques to investigate the differential histories of moose in North America. Meredith’s work focuses on clarifying moose subspecies ranges and identifying signatures of selection that may have been imprinted on the moose genome during the Pleistocene and Holocene. She attempts to correlate environmental factors to variation in climate-related genes that contain quickly mutating trinucleotide repeats in order to identify differential adaptation within moose in Ontario. Her research aims to identify environmental factors that may affect moose in a changing climate.

Northern Boreal Mountain

Andrea Sidler, University of Regina (MSc candidate), is investigating Common Nighthawk activity patterns and habitat preferences in the northern boreal forest. Due to steep population declines, Nighthawks are a Threatened species in Canada and while the boreal forest represents a significant portion of their breeding range, it has remained largely un-surveyed for these birds. As well as identifying peak activity periods across the summer to help optimize protocols for future management efforts, Andrea will be using abundance and habitat data to examine factors that influence site occupancy and use of the boreal forest as breeding grounds.

Brent Lewis, University of Waterloo (MSc Candidate), is studying Arctic Grayling in the Little Nahanni River watershed of southwestern Northwest Territories. His work will focus on Arctic Grayling occupancy throughout the Little Nahanni watershed in an effort to develop a broad-scale occupancy model for detecting Grayling in northern mountain streams. This model will link Grayling occupancy with environmental characteristics that are required for various life stages of Grayling development. Arctic Graylings are a top level predator in many northern stream ecosystems and often show sensitivity to various disturbances thereby indicating stream health. This research will help provide northern resource managers with the habitat and distributional data they require to monitor Grayling populations and report freshwater health in various local watersheds.

Kristin Denryter, University of Northern British Columbia (PhD candidate), is studying the role of nutrition in the conservation of caribou in northern British Columbia. She uses tame caribou, as a habitat assessment tool, to evaluate the nutritional value of plant communities in the boreal forest and mountains during summer and early autumn when nutritional demands are high for calf-rearing and replenishment of body reserves for winter.  Information generated through her research will provide baseline data that may be useful to habitat conservation, restoration, and monitoring.
Megan Goulding, University of Calgary (MSc student), is studying the relationships between host tree allocation of resources and survival against bark beetle attack in the southwest Yukon. Megan is using tree-core analysis and cone production data to determine how white spruce (Picea glauca) allocation of carbon to growth, reproduction, and defense, affects spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) attack. Her research will also address post-attack consequences for host tree survivors, and is based around a large-scale spruce beetle outbreak in the region from 1990 to 2007.
 Nelson Zabel, University of Waterloo (MSc candidate), is characterizing the aquatic food web and exploring mercury dynamics within Kluane Lake, southwestern Yukon. He is also determining past lake state, including primary producer communities and water conditions. Kluane Lake is an important source of traditional food to First Nations, but the lake has received almost no scientific study to date. Nelson’s research will help establish ecological baseline information regarding trophic structure within the lake, as well as provide more information on mercury in glacially-fed lakes, and food safety and security for the Kluane First Nation and communities surrounding the lake. This baseline will aid in further resource management and conservation efforts, especially in light of global climate change.