Current Fellows

Ontario Northern Boreal

Dalal Hanna, McGill University (PhD candidate) is researching all the different ways rivers contribute to human well-being.  She is  working to develop guidelines for on-the-ground assessments of the diverse benefits rivers provide in order to increase the perceived value of stewardship of these waterways.  In partnership with Four Rivers and the Matawa Education and Care Centre, she is working with youth to test these guidelines and will conduct a baseline assessment on the Kichiiziibii (Albany) river, between Eabamatoong and Marten Falls in  the far north of Ontario.

Jason Beaver, Carleton University (PhD candidate) is studying carbon sequestration in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Using both satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery to map the vegetation that is driving the carbon dynamics in the peatlands, he hopes to further understanding of the delicate processes that facilitate carbon sequestration. His research focuses on the carbon dioxide and methane flux, both important greenhouse gases. The project will help facilitate long-term monitoring and mapping of this critical ecosystem function.

Kirsten Solmundson, Trent University (PhD Candidate), is examing how caribou populations across Canada are exemplifying the patterns of the current mass extinction crisis: range retractions, increasing isolation, and rapid population declines. She is using newly developed genomic technologies to address urgent conservation questions regarding Ontario’s boreal caribou. Specifically, the evolutionary history, evolutionary significance and prevalence of inbreeding in several caribou populations throughout Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. This is urgent research as all caribou ecotypes in Canada are currently at risk of extinction.

Nicole Balliston, University of Waterloo (PhD candidate), is studying the impact of large volume mine dewatering on peatlands in the James Bay Lowlands, the second largest peatland complex in the world. Pumping water out of mines has the potential to lower water tables, which, in turn, interrupts bog-fen-surface water connections and increases the susceptibility of Sphagnum mosses found in peatlands to dry out or desiccate. Long-term drying may also result in peat subsidence and increased decomposition, increasing carbon dioxide release to the atmosphere. This is of particular importance in this area, which is already facing an accelerated rate of warming due to climate change.

Phil Walker, University of Alberta (Ph.D. candidate),  is studying the feeding habits of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in northern Ontario particularly during calving and summer seasons.  Much of what we know about caribou nutrition comes from studying tame animals. This new study attempts to transfer insights from studies of tame caribou to observations of wild caribou landscape use in order to help  resource managers identify nutritionally important habitats and ranges for caribou.

Rebecca Wort, Trent University (PhD candidate), is examining nest site selection by various shorebirds that breed in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. The shorebirds rely on a multitude of different factors when choosing where to nest. Some of these factors may be altered with climate change, changing the way shorebirds select a nest site. Using UAV technology and ground measurements, Rebecca hopes to improve understanding of the future of nest site selection in face of a changing climate. This research will contribute to informed decision making about shorebirds and their nesting habitat.

Tyler Ross, York University (PhD candidate), is studying the movements and habitat selection of polar bears in Southern Hudson Bay and James Bay. Using location data collected from radio-collared bears, he will plot the terrestrial and on-ice movement of polar bears in relation to environmental conditions, including snow and sea-ice characteristics. He will also look at the distribution of polar bear denning habitat along the coast of northern Ontario, and explore how changing sea-ice conditions may be impacting polar bear diets and reproduction.

Northern Boreal Mountains

Alyssa Murdoch, York University (PhD Candidate), is examining the effects of multiple stressors (e.g., climate change, land use change, water quality) on northern fish populations. Her study area is in the Mackenzie Delta of NWT, where Canada’s first all-season highway to the Arctic Ocean was recently opened (the Inuvik-Tuk Highway). For her research, Alyssa will be collecting aquatic baseline information for 60 lakes along the pre-existing Dempster Highway as well as along the new Inuvik-Tuk Highway. Her work aims to investigate how cold-adapted Mackenzie Delta fishes are responding to multiple stressors including climate change, road development, and potential water quality effects.

Emily Chenery, University of Toronto Scarborough (PhD candidate), is examining how climate change is affecting the spread of parasites and diseases into already vulnerable northern ecosystems. Working in partnership with the Yukon government and multiple local stakeholder groups, she is studying how the recent arrival of a blood-feeding parasite called the winter tick might impact local moose and caribou populations. Her research focuses on how to model such threats to improve conservation planning, particularly in situations with significant uncertainty. By using a combination of field, lab and citizen science data, Emily hopes to determine where winter ticks are currently found and how they are affecting host animals to better inform future conservation strategies.

Kiri Staples, University of Waterloo (PhD Candidate), is looking at what makes working together to build complex management plans difficult. Her project will focus on central Yukon, where the potential for future resource development is high. It will identify current understandings of best practice for resource development as well as specific opportunities for change that meet the expectations of multiple governing authorities. These contributions will be critical to ensuring the cumulative effects of resource development are accounted for in decision-making related for the Northern Boreal Mountains region.


Kirsten Reid, Memorial University (PhD candidate) is examining factors behind tree range expansion and biodiversity at high latitudes in the Canadian subarctic. She will be systematically identifying and quantifying terrestrial wildlife, plants, and microbes at 18 sites distributed throughout the region. Her research draws on techniques from microbiology, landscape ecology, entomology, and botany, and will generate detailed species data and biodiversity estimates throughout the Northern Boreal Mountains, specifically in the area that was an ice-free refuge during the last ice age.

William Twardek, Carleton University (PhD candidate), is exploring the migratory behaviour of Upper Yukon River Chinook salmon, that undertake the world’s longest inland salmon migration. His work will investigate the impact that physical barriers (such as a hydroelectric facilities) have on Chinook salmon migration, and will provide further insight on the distribution of spawning sites surrounding the Whitehorse area. Findings from this work may be used to inform the design and operation of fish ladder facilities that are used to help salmon pass physical barriers.

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