WCS Canada

2018 Fellows

Ontario Northern Boreal


Amelia MacDonald, Trent University (MSc candidate), is studying the endangered rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a long-distance migratory shorebird. Red knots travel long distances and Ontario’s James Bay lowlands are a critical stopover site on their journey back to Arctic breeding grounds.  Amelia is looking at population trends by monitoring arrivals on the James Bay coast as part of broader efforts to protect the tiny bird’s flyway.


Cale Gushulak, Queen’s University (PhD Candidate), is documenting the timing and nature of the hottest period in the recent geological history of northeastern Ontario.  He is using his experience in mapping pre-historic climates to help create a picture of what the province might be like under very different climate conditions and to model changes that may occur in the boreal forest as a result of human-induced climate change.

Hannah Mackellar, Trent University (MSc candidate), is studying the breeding strategies and migration habits of migratory shorebird species, including the rapidly declining Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). Her work will examine how breeding behaviours and breeding habitat quality connect to the birds’ ability to complete long migrations.  She is focusing her study in the Coastal James Bay area, a major rest stop for migratory birds where climate change is having many negative effects. Hannah is hoping that this work will aid in the development of effective conservation plans for the species increasingly threatened by climate change.

Mary-Kate Craig, University of Guelph (PhD Candidate) is looking for ways to effectively engage indigenous communities in conservation and carbon sequestration projects. She will be researching the benefits of such projects for indigenous communities and documenting best practices.  She will also be looking at how communities might participate in Ontario’s evolving carbon market system.


Lauren Jarvis, University of Toronto (PhD Candidate) is studying how aquatic ecosystems respond to climate change and human development across Ontario by studying key predatory fish species (lake trout and walleye).  These species have different temperature preferences and therefore can provide insight into the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems. Her work will help resource managers better understand the potential impacts of climate change on fisheries.

 Adam Kirkwood, Laurentian University (MSc Candidate), is studying the decomposition of organic material in permafrost peatlands in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, and the associated release of greenhouse gases and methyl-mercury. He is looking at how decomposition rates change along a north-south axis and studying the microbial communities present at different latitudes. The project will help us better understand the likelihood of decomposition – and greenhouse gas releases – from different permafrost areas.
 Nikole Freeman, University of Guelph (PhD candidate), is investigating the impact of food availability on the growth rate of nestlings, their body condition and survival in gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis). Gray jays breed in the late winter and rely on food cached during the previous fall to feed their young until fresh food becomes available. By changing the availability of food throughout the nestling period, Nikole hopes to determine how the size of a birds’ food caches effects the development of chicks and thereby the survival of the species.

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.


Daria Martchenko, Trent University (PhD candidate), is studying the population structure and dynamics of the North American mountain goat in northern British Columbia and Yukon. Daria is gathering genomic information about mountain goats in order to determine which populations are genetically distinct and what their ranges are. Daria hopes to use these data to estimate historical and current population size and ranges to inform conservation and management decisions.

Emily Chenery, University of Toronto Scarborough (PhD Candidate), works in the Quantitative Global Change Ecology Lab and is examining how climate change could affect the spread of parasites. She is working in partnership with the Yukon government and multiple local stakeholder groups to examine the current extent and potential future impact of winter tick on native cervid species, particularly moose.  Her research focuses particularly on how to model such threats to improve conservation planning, particularly in situations with significant uncertainty.

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.

 Rachael Derbyshire, Trent University (PhD student), is examining how changes in primary prey density (e.g., snowshoe hare) 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 species and characteristics of the habitat (such as snow depth and hardness) influence population sizes northern predators. Understanding what influences lynx movement and foraging behaviour will allow for accurate predictions of population stability in the face of current and future environmental change.

Lucas Brehaut, Memorial University (PhD Candidate), is examining how wildfires could help create the conditions for new tree growth in tundra ecosystems, thereby facilitating the range expansion of forest caribou. He is undertaking a large-scale field experiment using artificial tree-seeding in both burned and unburned treeline sites across the sub-Arctic. Throughout the season, Lucas will monitor the sites closely for signs of growth or other changes. The information he gathers will then be used to create a model that predicts where wildfires and other changes in the treeline driven by climate change might lead to an expanded range for forest caribou.

 

Eric Palm, University of Montana (PhD Candidate), uses remote sensing and GPS collar data to better understand caribou habitat selection in northern Canada and Alaska.  He will be using drones to collect field data on lichen cover in low-elevation spruce and pine forests and compare the maps generated by this data to caribou habitat usage to better understand the conditions that are most attractive to caribou.