Overview of the ACE
practical theory in support of real-world solutions -
Our lab studies the conservation ecology of species to ecosystems
with the goal of understanding the processes affecting their
distribution, dynamics and interactions. We seek to apply
our results to land use planning and stewardship problems
in order to prioritize the conservation of species diversity
and landscapes, the sustainable management of our natural
capital, and the recovery of our endangered and threatened
biological resources. Below we briefly describe the main
research topics currently being addressed by our lab members.
for more details.
focal ecosystem research explores biodiversity relationships,
patterns and dynamics of fire-prone, xeric woodland and
savanna ecosystems of temperate North America (pine barrens,
oak barrens, rock outcrops, etc.). These ecosystems make
excellent model systems for studying conservation, biodiversity
and restoration questions given their patchy nature (connectivity
and area effects), their dependence on fires to maintain
savanna-like conditions, and the limitation of nutrients
and moisture that often drive species diversity. We are
currently examining the ant, bee, and plant diversity
of pine barrens near Edmonton (including the post-fire
dynamics associated with the May 2009 Bruderheim fire).
Focal species &
- Much of our research focuses on the habitat, behaviour
and population ecology of rare or threatened species in
support of their maintenance and recovery. Currently we
are working on grizzly (brown) bears in the Rocky Mountains
of southern Canada (this has been our main research focus
since 2000) and more recently greater short-horned lizards
in southern Saskatchewan (Grasslands National Park). In
addition to our focal species conservation studies, we
have used species distribution modeling for conservation
planning and scenario analysis.
are currently designing field experiments to examine regulating
factors of biodiversity. This includes a landscape scale
connectivity and species-area study for the boreal forest
using a natural experiment designed around small lake
islands, a long-term meso-scale biodiversity experiment
based on manipulations of disturbance, soil pH, and fertility.
And, finally, this research area involves the examination
of top-down regulation of biodiversity by grizzly bears.
- Most often our research approach is to combine field-based
studies with laboratory computer modeling and analysis (GIS,
landscape simulations/scenarios, remote sensing, agent-based
modeling, etc.). We are not tied, however, to any single
methodology or discipline. In fact, we encourage problem-orientated
and interdisciplinary approaches to our research
whereby the question (hypothesis) and application
are the most important elements, not the method itself or
traditions associated with a particular discipline.
Support and Partners
Dr. Nielsen is a participant
in the Land
Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS) program
sponsored by NSERC CREATE.
We shall never achieve
harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute
justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations
the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive.
- Aldo Leopold, 1938 (Conservation)