PhD, Environmental Biology and Ecology, University of Alberta; MSc, Natural Resources Management, University of Northern B.C.; Dip. Tech., Fish, Widlife and Recreation, British Columbia Institute of Technology; BA, Linguistics, University of Victoria
Freshwater Ecology, Wildlife Ecology and Management
My current research focuses on wetland ecology as it relates to wildlife habitat and management. Semi-aquatic mammals are of specific interest. Along with investigations into water quality and quantity, I study how the presence of beavers affects pond morphometry and biodiversity. Other research interests include how human-wildlife interactions affect access to critical habitats by wildlife and how those impacts can be mitigated using adaptive management approaches. My research approach is largely empirical, based on field studies, which are then analyzed using statistics and GIS. Much of my work has been conducted in protected areas and adjacent private and public lands.
My main teaching interests include: freshwater ecology and management, wildlife ecology and management, environmental impact assessment, geographic information systems, and statistics for the natural sciences. Linking theory and practice is an important part of my approach to teaching, which often has my students finding themselves applying classroom material to field-based activities.
Integration of both physical and human phenomena in understanding natural resources, their dimensions and boundaries. Basic concepts in resource analysis and management: the decision-making process, management frameworks and strategies, legislation and regulation, impact assessment, the role of perceptions, attitudes and behaviour, and the impact of public participation/interest groups in the development of natural resources. Prerequisite: One of AUBIO 253, AUENV 120, AUGEO 120, 230, 231, consent of the instructor. Note: Credit may be obtained for only one of AUENV 324 and AUGEO 324. Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Fees Payment Guide in the University Regulations and Information for Students section of the Calendar.Fall Term 2020
History and theory of environmental impact assessment; legislative and policy frameworks; role in resource planning; methods and techniques for the assessment of impacts; future directions. Prerequisites: One of AUENV 324, AUGEO 324, and AUBIO 253. Note: Credit may be obtained for only one of AUENV 425, AUGEO 425. Requires payment of additional student instructional support fees. Refer to the Fees Payment Guide in the University Regulations and Information for Students section of the Calendar.Fall Term 2020
Experimental design, data presentation and analysis; descriptive statistics, probability distributions and statistical hypothesis testing; parametric and nonparametric tests, correlation and regression; use of statistical software. Prerequisites: Mathematics 30-1 or 30-2; one of AUBIO 111, 112, AUCHE 110, AUCSC 111, AUENV 120, AUGEO 120, AUMAT 110, 116, 120, AUPHY 102, 104, 110. Notes: The course does not count toward the major in Mathematics and Physics or the minor in Mathematics. Credit may be obtained for only one of AUSTA 213, 215, AUPSY 213.Fall Term 2020 Winter Term 2021
Started: 2017 to present
Increasing industrial expansion into natural landscapes raises concerns regarding traditional foods of Canada’s indigenous peoples. Along with our MSc candidate, Melissa Dergousoff, Dr. William Shotyk and I are identifying the degree to which commonly hunted animals by Alberta's indigenous peoples, beavers in particular, are exposed to metals from anthropogenic sources (e.g., Ag, Be, Cd, Pb, Sb, Tl). We are using inductively coupled plasma quadrupole mass spectrometry (ICP-QMS) and (ICP) sector field mass spectrometry (ICP-SFMS) to conduct comparative analyses of trace elements in livers and kidneys previously harvested by local trappers at industrial and natural sites in central and northern Alberta. All analyses are conducted in the metal-free, ultraclean SWAMP lab facility. Along with understanding the degree to which traditional foods might be affected by industrial byproducts, these analyses will allow us to refine methods for handling, preparation, and digestion of the tissues which yield excellent blank values and maximized sensitivity. Additionally, this research will allow us to assess ecological health of aquatic habitats that support important semi-aquatic species. This research was funded in part by an Alberta Conservation Association Biodiversity Grant.
Shotyk, W., Bicalho, B., Dergousoff, M., Grant-Weaver, I., Hood, G., Lund, K., and T. Noernberg. 2019. A geochemical perspective on the natural abundance trace elements in beaver (Castor canadensis) from a rural region of southern Ontario, Canada. Science of the Total Environment. 672: 40–50. doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.03.303
2020 - 2025
This research examines how the interplay between environmental variables (e.g. soils, vegetation, hydrology, climate) and beaver ecology (e.g. population dynamics, habitat alterations) affects persistence of beaver dams and tipping points where dams fail. While beaver activities increase biodiversity and productivity, dams do break, leading to catastrophic flooding. In response, we are quantifying key variables in beaver-modified landscapes to predict persistence of dams in associated aquatic systems. In addition, spatial and temporal variables will be identified that can inform risk management for beaver release. Moreover, we are assessing the influence of active maintenance of dams, population dynamics, and related environmental variables on the probability of dam persistence. These data will aid development of flood-risk models for agricultural lands adjacent to wildland areas and how they are potentially affected by failure of beaver dams. Research outputs will aid resource managers in balancing biodiversity and flood risk. This research is funded by a NSERC Discovery Grant.
Started: 2008 to present
Through the use of bathymetric mapping and GIS modelling, my research team and I have been investigating the role of ecosystem engineering by beavers in increasing ecological connectivity between what are otherwise isolated morainal wetlands. This research has quantified both biotic (i.e., aquatic macroinvertebrate, amphibian) and abiotic (e.g., soil displacement, water storage, resilience from drought) responses to beaver modifications to pond boundaries (i.e., digging channels) and the basin itself. Building on this research, we are currently investigating which factors influence distribution and habitat selection of semi-aquatic mammals (i.e., beaver, muskrat, river otter, and mink) within Alberta’s southern mixed-wood boreal forest. In particular, we are quantifying spatial diversity of semi-aquatic mammals in the Beaver Hills Biosphere, and determining the relationship between species occurrence and habitat composition, including aquatic connectivity, to test for interspecific associations. This research involves field surveys, camera traps, and water sampling for environmental DNA (eDNA). This current research is partially funded by an Alberta Conservation Association research grant.
Past research is published in: Canadian Journal of Zoology (2020) 98:210–218; Freshwater Biology (2015) 60:198–208; Animal Conservation (2015) 18(3):287–294; Wetlands (2014) 34:19–29; and Herpetological Review (2014) 45(1):18–20.