TRU Science

Abstracts - Environmental Science Seminar Series

Winter 2020

Thursdays from 4 to 4:50 p.m. in S203

View the full seminar schedule.

January 23

Speaker: Dr Jennifer Psyllakis
New paradigms in resource management and how training should respond

Abstract: Natural resource management challenges are becoming more complex. Impacts from climate change are pushing systems beyond recorded ranges of natural variation, multiple land-use pressures and authorities for management are shared across jurisdictions, and the public is demanding greater accountability and transparency of governments and corporations. Effective natural resource management is increasingly delivered through collaborative approaches to share costs, include multiple jurisdictions, and to build trust among many interested parties. Training programs for resource management professionals should respond to these changing circumstances. In my presentation I will provide current examples of challenges and success stories with attention to foundational skills in governance, philosophy and communication that are consistently important for success.


January 30

No seminar


February 6

Speaker: Richard Klafki

Results you can walk on: How the Nature Conservancy of Canada uses environmental science and research to achieve on-the-ground conservation success

Abstract:  In nature conservation, there are always far more potential projects than we can possibly take up. So, when choosing conservation actions, how do we assess which will have the biggest and best impact for habitat and species? The Nature Conservancy of Canada partners with environmental scientists and conservation researchers to ensure we are asking the right questions and making the best decisions. The result is demonstrably successful conservation projects that connect on both local and landscape levels to make a real, tangible difference for plants, wildlife and human communities. Join Richard to find out how environmental research conducted on grizzly bears and burrowing owls helps inform NCC’s conservation planning leading to successful on-the-ground actions that protects these species.


February 13

Speaker: Dr Garrett Whitworth

Can an industrial byproduct be beneficially reused to enhance agriculture crop production and reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere? 

Abstract: Biomass-fueled power-plants produce carbon-rich ash as a by-product, which usually ends up being transferred to industrial landfills. We examined whether this ash by-product could be used effectively in agricultural crop production, a use that would benefit food production, reduce inputs to landfills, and benefit the economy. The ash by-product was therefore assessed for use as a type of biochar (stable carbon-rich solid originating from biomass) amendment to soil. The ash by-product was found to contain both macro- (potassium, phosphate, calcium and magnesium) and micro- (manganese, boron, molybdenum, copper, zinc) nutrients, as well as moisture and nutrient retention properties that would be beneficial to agricultural crops.  The ash was slightly modified and then added to agricultural soils at application rates ranging from 0 to 13 dt/ha. The amendment treatments lead to yield increases as high as 11.11% in the first year and 61.44% in the second year. Additionally, incorporating this stable, high-carbon by-product into agricultural practices has the added benefit of sequestering carbon in the soil, preventing its decomposition into carbon dioxide that would be released into the atmosphere.


February 20



February 27

Speaker: Dr Joe Nocera

Home to roost: Understanding how chimney swifts use roosts in order to conserve them

Abstract: Chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica; “swifts”) are synanthropic aerial insectivores that spend the day in flight when not roosting or nesting. They are a federally threatened species due to severe population declines.  Swifts use communal roost sites that are generally limited to very large masonry chimneys, which are uncommon and widely dispersed. Over the past decade, our lab has studied how swifts use these roosts both within the roost itself and at large spatial scales.  We first examined large-scale spatial variation in the maximum size of swift roosts at the northern edge of their range to identify where larger roosts occur. We found that larger roosts were more predominant at more northerly latitudes, especially north of 45°. We have also investigated fine-scale patterns of chimney swift positioning inside roosts where swifts showed a strong preference for clinging to the south-facing wall and clustered more when ambient air temperature was warmer (opposite to what we might expect). With this thermoregulatory conundrum, we then examined the thermal aspect of chimneys used by swifts. To do so, we identified upper and lower thermal limits influencing the selection of chimneys. We found that chimney occupancy by swifts was negatively correlated with maximum and mean chimney temperature. These results indicate an upper temperature threshold (~35°C) that restricts chimney swift occupancy of a chimney, but no lower critical temperature. Subsequently, we discovered (for the first time) that swifts regularly change roosts. Thus, we sought to quantify the connectivity among roost sites on the breeding grounds of chimney swifts. We used automated radio telemetry (MOTUS) receivers to provide fine scale location and movement data. We observed multiple instances of roost switching, which allowed us to develop a connectedness network and begin quantifying the importance of certain roosts. We use a case study of one roost chimney that was scheduled for removal to illustrate the importance of retaining it. We will use these movement data, and our previous knowledge of roost use, to identify further sites that are the most central to the conservation of swifts.


March 5

Speaker: TRU MSc students

MSc Showcase

⇒Note: this event will be held in the Food Training Court cafeteria, starting at 3:00 PM


March 12

Speaker: Dr Josie Vayro

Adventures in primatology

Abstract: Conservation is rapidly becoming or already is a central issue in most research on wild animals. Primatology is no different. I carried out my doctoral research in Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, a community conservation area in central Ghana, between 2010 and 2017. My study focused on female life-history, reproduction, and infanticide avoidance in Colobus vellerosus, a small arboreal monkey. I documented female life history traits, patterns of mating relative to group makeup and male membership, and female stacked investment in offspring. As is typically the case, my time in the field, as well as my research findings, led me to more questions, in addition to a few answers. The major theme that continued to resurface was how behavioural ecology could get at the nuances of conservation as it relates to (local) people. I have since shifted my research focus to conservation as a social issue, and how incorporating local people back into conservation strategies is necessary in the development of practical and realistic conservation goals and policy.


March 19 - CANCELLED

Speaker: Dr Cory Sheffield

Canada’s Bees: Diversity, ecology, and conservation status

Abstract: There are approximately 900 species of bee in Canada representing diverse ranges of phylogenetic and ecological diversity, which will be reviewed in this presentation. Ecological specialization on pollen of certain plants, or for cuckoo bees, on specific bee hosts can contribute to rarity and/or increased extinction risk for some species. Most of Canada’s bee species are found in specific ecozones, the Western Interior Basin of British Columbia, the Prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the Mixedwood Plains of southern Ontario and Quebec. Pressures in these areas also contribute to the conservation status of many of their bee inhabitants, which will also be discussed.


March 26 - CANCELLED

Speaker: Dr Francois Haman

Survival in the cold: Not one size fits all

Abstract: Humans are particularly well adapted to lose heat in warm, dry conditions, but in contrast, they are extremely vulnerable to cold conditions. Without proper training, equipment and shelter, life is limited from minutes up to a few days. However, even when perfectly prepared to face the cold, individuals respond to cold in diverse ways based on differences in morphology and physiology. If fact, recent findings clearly show that each individual produces heat using different methods (e.g. shivering, brown fat), uses muscles in different ways during shivering and uses different metabolic fuels to produce heat. Clearly, these varieties in cold response could greatly influence cold tolerance and survival strategies especially during rescue operations at sea and during military operations in the Arctic.



Speaker: Dr Vikram Misra

Bats and emerging diseases: Are we the cause of viruses spilling over from bats to other animals?

Abstract: Most people find bats threatening. This is probably because we are often wary of the unfamiliar. There is, however, a more “real” reason to find them threatening. In the past few decades, several viruses have spilled over from bats to people and other animals, causing serious and fatal disease. You have likely heard of Ebola; there about a dozen others. Bats are threatened as well. The needs of the ever-growing human population have resulted in the destruction of habitat needed by bats to survive. Closer to home - a little over a decade ago a new fungus was introduced to North America. This fungus is threatening some of our bat species with extinction. In the spring of 2009, people in the state of New York began to notice hundreds of dead bats near winter hibernacula. The fungal diseasecalled White Nose Syndrome for the white furry fungal growth around their faces and the skin of their wings, has spread rapidly westwardkilling millions of bats and driving some species to local extinction. Our research suggests that there may be a connection between the perception of bats as threatening, especially as vectors of deadly diseases, and what we, as humans, do to threaten them.