INVASION ECOLOGY  |  PhD work

I am interested in the relationship between non-indigenous fish invasions and riverine habitat modification – particularly dams and impoundments. Once important aids to navigation and sources of power, dams are increasingly viewed as outdated, obsolete obstructions to the natural flow of rivers. In invaded watersheds, such as the Laurentian Great Lakes, there is concern that dam removal may facilitate the colonization of tributary river systems by aquatic invasive species. On the other hand, reservoir habitat created by dams is particularly vulnerable to invasion by non-indigenous fishes such as Round Goby and Common Carp. Through a combination of field surveys and experimental work, I am developing models to predict outcomes of dam removal on the distribution and impact of non-indigenous fishes in Great Lakes tributaries. My work will identify the environmental conditions and infrastructure that facilitate or inhibit the spread, establishment, and impacts of invasive fishes to aid in decision-making for flow restoration projects.

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WETLAND ECOLOGY  |  MSc work

Large tracts of pristine boreal forest are being destroyed as oil sands development continues in northern Alberta, and this land must be reclaimed after the mining is completed. The landscape prior to mining is composed of 30-60% wetlands, mostly peatlands, which are critical habitat for rare and traditional-use plants, fish, migratory birds, amphibians, as well as larger fauna. Thus far wetland reclamation efforts have constructed a few small shallow marshes. Future constructed wetlands are projected to cover 450 km2 of the post-mining landscape, and regulators require a way to assess the health of these extensive areas. My MSc research used wet meadow and emergent plant communities as indicators of marsh health, comparing vegetation in oil sands constructed marshes to appropriate natural analogues. My work has provided practical guidance for wetland reclamation in the oil sands and developed an assessment tool (vegetation-based Index of Biological Integrity) to determine if oil sands reclaimed marshes are effectively replacing the pre-existing wetlands.

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