Some of the diverse faces of ACE Lab: Our on-campus members gather for a group photograph on campus at a Fall 2016 lab meeting. Not all are able to attend; several are off-campus on various projects and professional engagements.
Staff & Students
Tobias Tan, Research Technologist
Catherine Denny, Research Assistant
Sean Coogan, Postdoctoral Fellow
Courtney Hughes, Ph.D (Conservation Biology)
Caroline Franklin, Ph.D. (Conservation Biology)
Jacqueline Dennett, Ph.D. (Conservation Biology)
Federico Riva, Ph.D. (Conservation Biology)
Charlie McLellan, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Zoltan Domahidi, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Michelle Knaggs, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Rob Belanger, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Caroline Martin, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Ryan LaPointe, M.Sc (Forestry)
Lingfeng Mao, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Matt Robinson, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Caitlin Willier, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Eleanor Stern, Summer NSERC student
Claudia Castillo-Ayala, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Catherine Denny, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Jian Zhang, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Andrew Braid, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Aaron Bell, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Jennine Pedersen, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Quinn Barber, M.Sc. (Forest Biology)
Tyler Bateman, B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Nikhil Lobo, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Claudia Lopez, Ph.D. (Wildlife Ecology)
Krista Fink, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Cassidy van Rensen, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
David Roberts, Graduate Research Associate
Kristine Teichman, M.Sc. (Ecology)
Carl Morrison, M.Sc. (Ecology)
Sarah Rovang, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Ruth Greuel, Research Assistant
Aaron Shafer, Post-Doctoral Fellow
James Glasier, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Kim Ives, M.Sc. (Wildlife Ecology)
Sean Coogan, M.Sc. (Wildlife Ecology)
Qiting Chen, B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Kelsey Bernard, B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Faculty & Staff
Scott Nielsen
Professor (2008-)

Scott is a professor of conservation biology in the Department of Renewable Resources. He has a BSc in biology and MSc in natural resources from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a PhD in ecology from the University of Alberta. His lab studies biodiversity conservation and endangered species issues by integrating field and geospatial data with landscape modeling approaches to assess and predict biotic responses to rapid environmental change. We use this information to understand the impacts of environmental change and to guide mitigation and management actions. When he's not working on his research projects, Scott enjoys canoeing, woodworking, experimenting with perennial agriculture, woodlot management and prairie restoration on his northwest Wisconsin farm, enjoying time at his cabin in NW Ontario, and of course spending time with his family.
Diana Stralberg
Research Associate (2016-)
Focus Project(s)
Identifying locations and drivers of multi-species climatic macro-refugia for North American trees and songbirds

Diana's research focuses on broad-scale conservation planning in the context of a changing climate, with an emphasis on boreal forest systems. She is currently working with the AdaptWest project to develop methods for predicting common macro-scale climate refugia for North American songbird and tree species in the face of future warming. Diana completed her PhD at the University of Alberta in collaboration with the Boreal Avian Modelling project, and previously worked as a Landscape Ecologist at Point Blue in California.
Ashley Hillman
Research Assistant (2017-)
Focus Project(s)
Estimating ground lichen biomass using UAVs in support of caribou habitat monitoring
Blue Ridge Lumber Lodgepole Pine Genetics Tree Plot UAV Survey Trails

Ashley is the ACE lab's coordinator and research assistant. She has a broad background in field research, and has spent many seasons in the boreal trudging through peatlands and swatting away insects. She spends most summers conducting plant surveys and measuring forest characteristics. Ashley is focussing on surveying lichen biomass in caribou ranges, in order to map important caribou winter forage habitat. She has also worked on numerous other projects, including establishing long term warming plots to observe the effects of climate change on terrestrial lichens, transplantation of terrestrial and arboreal forage lichens within Central Mountain caribou range in BC, and quantifying populations of disjunct alpine and arctic plant species that occur on the north shore of Lake Superior. When she's not in the field, Ashley enjoys birding, photography, and climbing mountains.
Jacqueline Dennett
Research Associate (2019-)

Jacqueline's focus is on culturally valued vascular plants in the Oil Sands Area, working with Indigenous communities and other partners to develop research projects focused on conservation and mitigation for these species in a rapidly changing, fragmented landscape. Her work includes developing online plant atlas' for species such as pitcher plant, as well as partnering in community-driven projects. She was previously involved in the Terrestrial Vascular Plant Monitoring Project for the Lower Athabasca, and completed her PhD in Conservation Biology at the University of Alberta in 2018.
Federico Riva
Post-Doctoral Fellow (2019-)

Federico's PhD, supervised by Scott Nielsen and John Acorn, revealed many responses in butterfly behaviour, diversity, and distribution to the habitat fragmentation associated with in-situ oil sands. He is now expanding his research to incorporate a strong spatial focus by including elements of landscape ecology and systematic conservation planning, while remaining fond of community ecology, biodiversity theory, and (of course) butterflies.

Check out his website at:

Current Students
Jessica Stolar
Ph.D. candidate (2011-)
Thesis Project
Climate change effects on rare plant and butterflies of Alberta

Jessica's research is on conservation planning in the presence of climate change. Specifically, she is using environmental niche modeling to describe current species distributions for 200+ rare vascular plants and butterflies in Alberta and projecting changes in their distribution (potential habitat) with climate change. This will be used to identify gaps in the current conservation reserve design in Alberta and to recommend important sites in Alberta for future conservation. The output of this work will be posted on the Alberta Species Conservation Atlas page.
Zachary MacDonald
Ph.D. candidate (2015-)
Thesis Project
Island butterfly biodiversity & biogeography

Zachary is studying what island traits (size, isolation, habitat heterogeneity, etc.) may be contributing to patterns of biodiversity (butterfly, plant and bird taxa) observed on islands occurring on Lake of the Woods, ON. The main focus of his research is on butterfly ecology—specifically on how butterflies perceive and utilize their island habitats. When dealing in matters of conservation, investigating how the taxa we wish to preserve perceive their environments is paramount. Though studying biodiversity on these naturally occurring islands, Zachary hopes to shed light on how habitat fragmentation may be affecting levels of biodiversity found on anthropogenic habitat islands, which are created through various human practices and developments. Apart from catching butterflies, Zachary enjoys both playing and coaching tennis, as well as travelling, mountain biking, backpacking, and fishing. 

Co-supervised by John Acorn
Angelo Filicetti
Ph.D. candidate (2016-)
Thesis Project
Forest recovery and successional trajectories on seismic lines

Angelo is studying the recovery/regeneration of seismic lines created by oil sands exploration and extraction, the largest contributor of forest fragmentation in northeastern Alberta. Seismic lines contribute to changes in biodiversity and in particular, to declines in woodland caribou. However, natural rates of recovery on seismic lines are largely unknown. Understanding where natural recovery is occurring or is arrested, as well as how fire affects these processes, is therefore a priority. Lastly, Angelo is examining the effectiveness of active restoration treatments and where they will be most beneficial.
Christopher Souliere
Ph.D. candidate (2017-)
Thesis Project
Assessing landscape carrying capacity in grizzly bears to forest harvests and wildfire through modeling and simulation

Christopher Souliere is a PhD student in the Applied Conservation Ecology (ACE) Lab at the University of Alberta. He obtained his Masters in Biology at Carleton University, which focused on simulating the detection patterns of birds flying past marine radars. His PhD research focuses on modeling and simulating grizzly bear food resource supply, distribution and behavior in the Alberta Foothills. In particular, he is examining the effects of fire and forestry clearcuts on bear food supply, as well as exploring optimization analyses that consider bottom-up factors within forest harvest planning tools. He is also interested in investigating methods that estimate population size; and developing agent-based models to simulate grizzly bear population dynamics and behavior in changing landscapes, with the aim of answering questions that remain pertinent to management objectives. Apart from research, he enjoys climbing, skiing, golf and flying RC aircraft. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a research assistant at the National Wildlife Research Centre (NWRC) in Ottawa.
Lee Hecker
Ph.D. candidate (2017-)

Lee is a PhD student who is investigating the ecology of the Ronald Lake herd of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) in northeastern Alberta. This small herd roams a home range that expands from the oils sands north to the south eastern tip of Wood Bison National Park, putting them at the front lines of conversation biology. Specially, Lee is exploring the herd's response to anthropogenic and natural (i.e., wild fires) disturbances, the selection of specific calving grounds, and the how wood bison transform their landscape. In his spare time, Lee enjoys backpacking, diving, skiing/snowboarding, playing basketball and soccer, photography, and biking. When he is adventuring, Lee is happy.
Laureen Echiverri
Ph.D. Candidate (2017-)

Project Title: Seismic lines and their edge effects on understory vegetation. 


Laureen is studying the edge effects of seismic lines on understory vegetation in Alberta's boreal forest. Her thesis examines how these linear corridors affect the richness, composition, and population dynamics of the understory vegetation in the adjacent forest. In addition, she explores how regeneration on these linear clearings might be improved.
Michelle Knaggs
Ph.D. Student (2019-)

Michelle is researching how peatlands and other landscape factors may influence the persistence of upland boreal forest in the face of climate change (increasing drought and fire). The project is part of the new 'Alberta Refugia and Vegetation Transitions' group and the work will take place in northern Alberta using a combination of field sampling and remote sensing techniques.
Amy Macleod
M.Sc. student (2015-)
Thesis Project
Sympatric relationships between grizzly & black bear in Glacier National Park, Montana

Amy is interested in ecology and conservation of Rocky Mountain bears, her masters is focused on using DNA and stable isotope analysis to investigate the diet of bears in Glacier Park, Montana. In her spare time, she can be found hiking with her dog, cross country skiing, and traveling.
Thea Carpenter
M.Sc. student (2015-)
Thesis Project
Songbird responses to in situ energy extraction in lowland boreal forests

Over the past few years Thea has had the opportunity to take part in projects that involve traipsing under mature pine, blundering through willow thickets, tromping over old spruce downfall, and squelching in peatlands to monitor boreal songbird populations.  She is keen to gain a better understanding of how we can apply ecological principles to further the conservation and management of these captivating habitats.  In particular, she is interested in mechanisms driving songbird responses to habitat modification by anthropogenic disturbances.

Co-supervised by Dr. Erin Bayne
Graeme Nordell
M.Sc Student (2018-)

Graeme is working to compile data on invasive plant species in the fragmented forests of northern Alberta. Through existing vegetation counts and his own examination of soil seed banks, he hopes to demonstrate the extent to which these linear disturbances may act as corridors of invasion. When Graeme isn't stretching his nature-legs, he loves board games, craft beer, and going to the movies. If anyone can't remember the name of "that one actor who was in that movie about the thing", he's the guy to ask!
Connor Nelson
M.Sc student (2018-)

Connor is studying linear disturbances caused by oil exploration in the boreal forest of northeastern Alberta, and how they effect the local pollinator communities. He is gathering a wide variety of insect samples with the hope of understanding how these disturbances impact the behavior and community structure of the pollination networks in the area. Connor is broadly interested in entomology, evolution, and ethology, but beyond research, he enjoys teaching, hiking, and cooking!

Co-supervised with Dr. Carol Frost.
Joseph Silva
M.Sc student (2018-)

Joe is studying the recovery of lichen biomass after forest fires in northwestern Ontario. His research consists of remote trips by canoe and portage into Woodland Caribou Provincial Park, which is a part of Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pimachowin Aki. Joe hopes to improve our understanding of caribou-fire ecology to inform conservation strategies for woodland caribou. Joe has extensive field work experience in Canada’s forest industry and academic research. When not sorting lichen, Joe enjoys hiking, fishing, canoeing and exploring new places across Canada.

Co-supervised with Dr. Stan Boutin
Lindsey Dewart
M.Sc. student (2018-)

Lindsey’s research takes place between Wood Buffalo National Park and the Alberta oilsands investigating the top-down limiting factors of the genetically unique Ronald Lake wood bison herd.  She will be developing a wolf predation risk model relative to seasonal bison habitat use, quantifying wolf predation on the herd relative to associated environmental conditions and analyzing wolf diet content within the Ronald Lake bison home range.  Lindsey also guides wildlife trips, dabbles in photography and in her spare time, enjoys the outdoors with her trusty four-legged sidekick fishing, skiing, biking, running or climbing.
Michael Thomson
M.Sc Student (2019-)

Michael is taking part in the Transatlantic Forestry Master (TRANSFORM-M) program leading to dual degrees in both conservation and forestry. Michael recently completed the European portion of his degree where he used an integrated modelling framework to predict how the road network expansion of Colombia would impact their primate population. Michael is now in the process of completing the Canadian portion of his degree and is working with Angelo to study the impacts of linear disturbances created by oil sands exploration on lichen abundance in recently burned jack pine stands.
Melanie Routh
M.Sc Student (2019-)

Melanie is studying the changes in vegetation composition and structure of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and moose (Alces alces) preferred winter browse (seral shrubs) and its implications on woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), in post-wildfire boreal forest of different successional stages in northern Alberta. The "apparent competition" between the three ungulate species has not been studied intensively in relation to limitations in winter forage. Melanie is hoping her research will help researchers and conservationists understand the recovery rules for woodland caribou following disturbances. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking with her boyfriend, and seeing new places across Canada.
Christine Kuntzemann
M.Sc Student (2019-)

Christine is studying drivers of the fire regime and fire-refugia in the Alberta boreal plain via remote sensing. Through her research, she hopes to increase our knowledge of what factors contribute to the creation of fire-refugia in areas with limited topography and vast peatland/upland complexes. She also plans to create a predictive map of areas considered most and least likely to burn under various climate conditions that can be used by industry for forestry, conservation, and safety planning. She has several years of field experience in the boreal and looks forward to developing skills in remote sensing. In her spare time she enjoys wildlife photography, aquascaping, and fostering for a local animal shelter.
Garrett Rawleigh
M.Sc Student (2019-)

Garrett is studying wood bison selection of wetlands in northeastern Alberta. This will involve classifying the diverse wetlands used by the Ronald Lake bison herd and modelling their preferences based off of GPS location data. Outside of research, Garrett enjoys watching and playing hockey, camping, and reading.
Yinghang Li
M.Sc Student (2019-)

Li is pursuing a graduate degree in forestry, focussing on forest ecology, GIS, and remote sensing. This includes surveying ecological issues in Alberta and Canada in the form of GIS mapping. Specializing in wood science and engineering research during her undergradutate study at Beijing Forestry University, China, Li is keen to design and manufacture wooden furniture and woodworking products. In her leisure time, Li prefers to enjoy natural scenary and visit art galleries.

Collaborators & Co-supervisors
John Acorn
Faculty Service Officer
Areas of Expertise: Entomology & Environmental Communication
Lu Carbyn
Adjunct Professor
President, Nature Alberta
Areas of Expertise: Wolf & Bison Ecology
Mark Edwards
Adjunct Professor
Curator of Mammalogy, Royal Alberta Museum
Areas of Expertise: Population & behavioural ecology of mammals; wildlife conservation & management
Rob Belanger
Research Assistant
Caroline Franklin
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Clayton Lamb
Ph.D. candidate
Sean Coogan
Postdoctoral Fellow
Jacqueline Dennett
Ph.D. (Conservation Biology)
Federico Riva
Ph.D. (Conservation Biology)
Rob Belanger
M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Ryan LaPointe
M.Sc (Forestry)
Lingfeng Mao
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Eleanor Stern
Summer NSERC student
Claudia Castillo-Ayala
M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Catherine Denny
M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Jian Zhang
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Andrew Braid
M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Quinn Barber
M.Sc. (Forest Biology)
Tyler Bateman
B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
David Roberts
Graduate Research Associate
Carl Morrison
M.Sc. (Ecology)
Ruth Greuel
Research Assistant
Aaron Shafer
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Sean Coogan
M.Sc. (Wildlife Ecology)
Qiting Chen
B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Kelsey Bernard
B.Sc. (Conservation Biology)