People

Joe Bennett – PI

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I’m an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Department of Biology at Carleton University, and co-director of the Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Laboratory (GLEL). My research touches on a variety of themes including conservation prioritization, invasion ecology, optimal monitoring, biogeography and spatial statistics. I have a particular interest in practical questions regarding invasive species control and management to protect threatened species. I also work on theoretical questions regarding the value of monitoring information and the determinants of community assembly in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

 

Jenny McCune – Postdoc

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I study plant communities and how they change over time. Forests, grasslands, and savannahs are constantly changing, with some species moving in and spreading, while others decline and disappear. I try to understand how the way we humans are changing landscapes – via fragmentation and changes in land use – are affecting which plants are thriving and which ones are suffering. It can take decades for the effects of landscape change to manifest in plant communities, so I use data from past surveys, historical aerial photographs, and even microfossils to understand how these changes have unfolded.

I also study a group of rare woodland plants here in southern Ontario, using computer models to target areas for forest surveys. So far my team and I have surveyed over 150 one-hectare forest plots to test these models. Most of the forests in our region are privately owned, so landowners are really important for plant conservation. Along with Dr. Andrea Olive at U. of T., I’ve done in-depth interviews with landowners to understand how they perceive endangered species conservation and what motivates them to help endangered species.

For more information, see my website:  http://jlmccune.weebly.com/

 

Richard Schuster – Postdoc

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Project: Combining full annual cycle population models and conservation optimization to address population declines of migratory birds in Canada.

Primary mentor institutions: Carleton University (Dr. Joseph Bennett), Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Dr. Amanda Rodewald), Environment Canada (Dr. Scott Wilson), Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (Dr. Peter Marra), Boreal Songbird Initiative (Dr. Jeff Wells)

Summary: Alarming declines are currently underway in numerous migratory vertebrate populations, creating an urgent need to understand when and how these populations are limited. My goal for this fellowship is to help improve conservation efforts along the migratory cycle for a suite of bird species breeding in Canada. Specifically, my project will address three questions:

  • How abundant are migratory bird species in landscapes that have differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance in breeding and overwintering habitats?
  • What is the influence of alternative scenarios of habitat loss and protection over large geographic areas on the population trends of migratory species?
  • Which regions are the best candidates for habitat protection, with the goals of maximizing biodiversity protection and minimizing risk of conservation failure?

This project will dramatically advance the development and application of metapopulation models for migratory species over space and time. I will deliver strategic plans that optimize conservation strategies across entire ranges for migratory species and identify portfolios of sites critical to the global persistence of these species. The framework I will develop has great potential to facilitate better-informed and more cost-effective conservation programs, which in turn have a higher likelihood of implementation and success.

Personal website: http://www.richard-schuster.com/

 

Trina Rtwinski – Postdoc

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Research

My research focuses on understanding the circumstances in which roads and traffic affect wildlife populations. I am particularly interested in looking at species traits and their behavioural responses to roads, to determine which species or species groups are most vulnerable to road impacts, and determining ways to mitigate road effects. Most recently, I have focused on two road ecology related projects: (1) determining ways to improve knowledge on the influence of mitigation measures on wildlife populations through experiments, and (2) assessing the effectiveness of mitigation measures intended to decrease road related impacts on wildlife through meta-analysis. My research with Dr. Bennett and Dr. Cooke will involve conducting various systematic reviews; one of which is currently underway focusing on evaluating the effectiveness of non-native fish management projects for the restoration of freshwater ecosystems.

Background

I completed my PhD in 2012, at Carleton University, working with Dr. Lenore Fahrig in the Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Research Laboratory (GLEL) studying road effects on wildlife populations. After taking some maternity leave, I returned to the GLEL as a Post-doctoral fellow where I worked part-time from 2013-2016 with Dr. Fahrig on various road ecology projects while also working as a Contract Biologist for various universities and government e.g., Concordia University (Montreal), Canadian Wildlife Service (Ontario region), University of Melbourne (Victoria, Australia), Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen, The Netherlands). Prior to my PhD, I worked as a Research Biologist for the University of New Brunswick on a long-term study of the population dynamics of the northern flying squirrel in relation to habitat fragmentation in Fundy National Park, NB. Previous education: M.Sc. Biology, Carleton University (2004-2006); B.Sc. Biology (with Honours), Cape Breton University (2000-2004).

 

Cassie Hill – MSc

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After receiving my B.Sc. in Biology from Eckerd College in 2014, I spent three amazing months as a wildlife conservation intern with Transfrontier Africa in Hoedspruit, South Africa. My time there consisted of working alongside an anti-poaching team, using telemetry for population and location data, collecting scat data for predator-prey dynamics, and assisting in invasive species management.  After this, I spent time living in Connecticut and Florida working as a veterinary assistant before realizing I wanted to continue helping animals and the environment on a broader scale.  While working in Dr. Bennett’s lab, I’ll be researching restoration ecology, critiquing past efforts, and working to find more effective methods to restore ecosystems.

 

Shawna Masson – MSc

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I am a recent graduate of Trent University, where I completed an Honours thesis on how environmental changes affect the foraging patterns of Arctic foxes. I have spent the past two summers in a remote Arctic field camp on Coats Island, Nunavut assisting in an Arctic shorebird monitoring program. An avid bird watcher and photographer, I will be researching the species diversity of song birds within a managed forest area in North Western New Brunswick for my masters at Carleton University.

 

Calla Raymond – MSc

 

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I recently graduated with my B.Sc. in Biology from Wilfrid Laurier University. My research at Laurier focused primarily on sexual selection, where I investigated how experience affects female mate choice in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. My primary area of interest is conservation and my work in the Bennett lab will be focused on assessing the value of information, in order to improve the decision making process associated with endangered species conservation.

 

Hanna Rosner-Katz – MSc

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I graduated from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Science with my B.S. in Plant Science in 2014. During my time there I worked as a Research Assistant for the Plant Pathology Herbarium and volunteered in the Hortorium. The first summer after graduating I had the opportunity to intern with the Natural Areas department at Cornell Plantations where I was able to work alongside the botanist researching the effects of deer herbivory on native woody and herbaceous vegetation growth and abundance. We also worked to collect seed from the rare fen plant Trollius laxus and understand its population viability, sparking my interest in rare plant ecology and conservation. I then went on to work as a seasonal field technician for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in the mid-Atlantic domain, collecting important data on plant diversity, phenology, and productivity for use by researchers across the continent. Most recently I worked as a botany technician in the Conservation department of a forestry company, scouring appropriate habitats for rare and sensitive plant species for preservation. As a member of Dr. Bennett’s lab, I will help to lead the field work in 2017 in which we conduct surveys for plant species at risk in Southern Ontario in order to create and refine species distribution models and utilize these models for future detection of sensitive plant species.

 

Emily Cormier – Honours

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I am an undergraduate student currently studying at Carleton University in Honours Environmental Science with a concentration in biology. I am interested in freshwater sciences and especially ecological biotic and abiotic interactions within the environment.

This year I will be completing an undergraduate thesis under the supervision of Dr. Bennett. My thesis will study the viability of using diatom functional traits in place of traditional diatom species analysis methods when assessing the quality of lake systems. I am excited to find the outcome of this study as well as to learn new things in the process.

 

Meagan Harper – Honours

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I am a fourth year Environmental Science student at Carleton University, working on my Honours thesis. I have an Associate Degree from the United States, and have lived in both Canada and the United States as a child of a military member. I have a pragmatic view of environmental management and believe that we should use the best possible science to do the best we can with our limited resources.  My current thesis is focused on creating a way to systematically prioritize invasive plant species to assist land managers in better utilizing limited budgets.  My other interests include Brownfield restoration, sustainable development and just being outdoors! In addition to my university studies, I am a Green Associate with LEED and have taken an introductory project management course with ECO Canada. I currently work as a lifeguard/swimming instructor with the City of Ottawa.

 

Elizabeth Robson Gordon – Honours

I am an Environmental Science Honours Student who is passionate about plants, ecology, food systems & food security.

My honours research project explores conservation funding allocation among different taxonomic groups and whether human bias worsens biodiversity outcomes by inefficient prioritization of resources. i.e. Do we spend so much on certain charismatic taxa while other efficient-to-conserve taxa are ignored?

I have been awarded the OPIRG-Carleton Undergraduate Research Bursary for my thesis project, and am the 2015 recipient of the Donald R. Wiles Scholarship in Environmental Science.

 

Jade Pon – Undergraduate Volunteer

 

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