, Wes Moir
© Wes Moir

2024 Fellows

Brian Newton, Brian Newton
Brian Newton © Brian Newton

Brian Newton

Brian Newton is a Master of Science student studying wildfire ecology at Wilfrid Laurier University. Driven by a deep appreciation for the balance and beauty of northern ecosystems, Brian has participated in field campaigns across Northern Canada. He is now studying the effects of changing wildfire regimes on the boreal forest of the central Yukon.

Over the last several decades, increasing climate change has led to more frequent, severe, and large wildfires in Canada's north. This could be threatening the boreal forest's ability to absorb wildfire and recover its fundamental form and function. Changes have already been observed of evergreen forests transitioning towards broadleaf woodlands following wildfire. Brian will be quantifying how frequently these changes have been occurring over a longer timeframe reaching back to the mid-20th century.

Changes in forest composition have significant impacts on wildlife habitat, the global carbon cycle, the Canadian economy, and the ways of living of northern communities. I will be working with the Yukon Government, Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation, WCS Canada, and Canadian Forestry Service to generate spatial products that can identify crucial areas for conservation and protection under the modern wildfire regime.

Tabatha Rahman, Tabatha Rahman
Tabatha Rahman © Tabatha Rahman

Tabatha Rahman

Tabatha Rahman (PhD candidate, Université Laval) is examining how past environmental conditions and geomorphological processes have controlled ground-ice formation in northern Manitoba, within Canada’s largest permafrost peatland. She is interested in determining how current ground-ice volume and distribution will influence landscape evolution under a warming climate. Permafrost and ground-ice research remain scarce in Manitoba, reducing northern communities’ abilities to predict and mitigate the risks associated with ground thaw, and making conservation efforts more difficult. Through the study of ground-ice distribution, permafrost thaw, and landscape evolution, this study will support proactive adaptation to risks associated with rapid environmental changes affecting natural habitats, hydrology, biogeochemical cycling, infrastructure stability and traditional land use.

Wes Moir, Wes Moir
Wes Moir © Wes Moir

Wes Moir

Across central Yukon, aquatic ecosystems face many stressors including placer mining, wildfires, and hydroelectric generation. These stressors disrupt river flows, increase sediment in watercourses, alter water temperature, and fragment habitats. Many stressors frequently occur together which makes protecting aquatic ecosystems challenging. A useful way to study stressor impact is by looking at benthic macroinvertebrates (“water bugs”) found in streams because they are diverse, sensitive to different stressors, and are easy to collect. Working with the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, I will assess how benthic macroinvertebrate traits (e.g., feeding preference, breathing type, movement style etc.) change when exposed to different stressors. By understanding how these traits respond, we can establish clearer links between specific stressors and aquatic health. This knowledge will guide better decision-making for hydroelectric and placer mining activities, ultimately improving the protection of aquatic ecosystems in the Yukon.

Zachary Fogel, Zachary Fogel
Zachary Fogel © Zachary Fogel

Zachary Fogel

I am evaluating the effect of industrial mining on the abundance and distribution of wolverines (Nähträ), lynx (Ninju), and marten (Tsǔk) in the Yukon’s Klondike Goldfields, in the Traditional Territory of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation (THFN). All three species are bioculturally significant for THFN, who have identified mining as a threat to furbearers and other species. To address this threat, I am collaborating with THFN and Yukon Department of Environment to quantify the effect of mining activity on wolverines, lynx, and marten. I monitor these species using trail cameras and quantify mining activity and disturbance using sound recorders (ARUs) and aerial imagery. My research will inform regional land use planning, promote compatibility between biocultural and economic interests, and support THFN’s stewardship of the land and its inhabitants.

Natasha Ayoub, Natasha Ayoub
Natasha Ayoub © Natasha Ayoub

Natasha Ayoub

Natasha Ayoub (PhD student, University of Waterloo) is working to identify unknown rearing and overwintering habitats, as well as movement patterns and annual variability in habitat use by juvenile Chinook salmon in the Yukon River watershed. This investigation will use the isotopic chemical marker strontium (Sr) and will analyze ratios (87Sr:86Sr) found in water samples and adult Chinook salmon otoliths to determine important temporal and spatial use by these fish while in the freshwater phase of their life cycle. With the focus on land use planning in the Yukon right now, Indigenous, and non-Indigenous natural resource managers and salmon agencies have identified extensive knowledge gaps surrounding juvenile Chinook salmon and their use of rearing and overwintering habitats. By identifying habitat use and patterns, land use planning in the Yukon can be better supported, and we can work towards ensuring that healthy, connected habitats continue to be available for these fish.

John Foster, John Foster
John Foster © John Foster

John Foster

My MSc Geography thesis forms part of a larger collaborative project between the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun (FNNND) and Carleton University's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies. This work aims to explore the cumulative effects of surface disturbances on water quality in the Traditional Territory of FNNND, specifically the Stewart River watershed. Using empirical-statistical modelling, I will examine how surface disturbances caused by wildfires, permafrost thaw, and anthropogenic land-use impact key water quality parameters, including temperature, suspended solids, trace metals, and organic matter.

During summer 2024 three synoptic water quality surveys will be performed on 40 subwatersheds selected across a gradient of impact. After returning from the field, geospatial techniques will be used to examine how their composition and configuration can be linked to the observed variations in physical and chemical water quality.

The study aims to: a) improve our understanding of how landscape influences freshwater environments, and b) advance spatially-explicit methods for empirical water quality monitoring in the Northern Boreal Mountains. The outcomes of this project will support evidence-based regional land-use planning, contribute new tools for watershed characterization, and help quantify the cumulative effects these disturbance stressors are having on aquatic environments in the Stewart River watershed.

Julien Gullo, Julien Gullo
Julien Gullo © Julien Gullo

Julien Gullo

My current research focuses on the movement and habitat use behaviours of a population of Stone's sheep (Ovis dalli stonei) responding to hunting activities on the landscape. Working closely with the BC provincial government, the Tahltan Central government, guide-outfitters, the Wild Sheep foundation, and local sheep hunters, I will focus on the effects of increases in human activity on Stone's sheep habitat selection, movement patterns, and range fidelity in a remote and ecologically intact region in northern British Columbia- the Spatsizi Plateau. Using GPS telemetry, hunter contributed data, and remote sensing, my work will help ensure the sustainable use of Stone's sheep.

Samantha Mitchell, Samantha Mitchell
Samantha Mitchell © Samantha Mitchell

Samantha Mitchell

Peatlands, covering 3% of the Earth's land surface, are critical carbon stores and play essential roles in the global climate system. The peatlands in Sudbury, Ontario, have been significantly impacted by 19th and 20th-century smelting operations, resulting in acid sulphate and metal contamination. Despite a decrease in industrial pollution over the past 50 years, the plant communities, soil chemistry, and microbiomes in these areas remain altered.

My research project aims to investigate how variations in pollutants, hydrology, and plant communities influence carbon accumulation in Sudbury's peatlands. Using palaeoecological tools, my study will reconstruct historical changes in plant and microbial communities and hydrology. By analyzing plant fossils, pollen, and testate amoebae, my research seeks to understand temporal changes and link pollutant concentrations to palaeoecological and hydrological data through geochemical analyses.

Pollutants near smelters can hinder vegetation growth, alter microbial composition, and affect moisture availability, thereby impacting carbon accumulation. Previous studies indicate that vegetation may adapt to pollution, influencing carbon sequestration. Moisture availability is a crucial factor in carbon storage, with drier conditions leading to reduced accumulation. My research will enhance the understanding of the complex relationships between past, present, and future carbon sequestration in peatlands affected by smelting.

Keisha Deoraj, Keisha Deoraj
Keisha Deoraj © Keisha Deoraj

Keisha Deoraj

My 2024 Fellowship Project is part of an existing joint-monitoring project, Learning from Lake Sturgeon, co-created by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and Moose Cree First Nation in 2016. Learning from Lake Sturgeon is a co-created effort to learn more about river ecosystems of the Moose Cree Homeland through scientific research and Moose Cree perspectives, including Elders and youth. We make observations about the health and behaviour of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens), which, in turn, informs us of the health of the rivers they call home. We refer to lake sturgeon specifically from the Moose Cree Homeland as their name in the Moose Cree language, namew. Most rivers in the Moose Cree Homeland have been disrupted by hydroelectric development. Moose Cree First Nation is using the information we collect to find ways to reduce the damage done by the dams, particularly regarding the health and condition of namew. We focus on namew because they are ecologically, culturally, and spiritually important to Moose Cree, and because namew need healthy rivers to thrive. While studying namew is only a small part of understanding the river ecosystems of the Moose Cree Homeland, thriving namew are a positive indicator of their overall health.

Claudia Haas, Claudia Haas
Claudia Haas © Claudia Haas

Claudia Haas

My research looks at how northern wildlife food webs are anticipated to change from anthropogenic disturbance. My research would look at three disturbances at different trophic levels of the food web: 1) changes to plants biomass (bottom trophic), 2) northern range expansion (mid-trophic), and 3) predator removal (top trophic). I am working with partners to ensure that my research questions and use of data are appropriate and directly applicable to NWT land management priorities. I will use the camera data from the Northwest Territories Biodiversity Monitoring Program (NWTBMP) to measure direction and strength of trophic interactions in places experiencing these different disturbances throughout the NWT.