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Post-Doctoral Fellows

Moro Akin-Fajiye (2019 – Current)

I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Fraser Lab, working on understanding how priority effects of early and late successional native species interact with soil amendments and erosion control to shape plant communities after heavy disturbance, such as that which occurs after pipeline construction. I am also studying the implications of seed mix diversity of grasses, forbs and legumes on species diversity, cover and invasion resistance in the presence/absence of soil amendments. I am generally interested in plant invasion ecology and understanding the response of invasive species to changing environments. I received my PhD from Stony Brook University, where my research focused on understanding the response of spotted knapweed to disturbance and competition.

Email: makinfajiye@tru.ca

Jay Singh (2019 – Current)

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Fraser lab at Thompsons Rivers University, Canada. I received my Ph.D. from Montclair State University, USA. As a soil microbial ecologist, my research focuses on understanding microbial community dynamics and soil functions in disturbed soil ecosystems. I use high throughput sequencing and bioinformatics to study the microbial community. I am currently involved in a couple of exciting projects seeking to understand ecosystems functioning in mines and arid grasslands. The first project focuses on studying the impacts of relic DNA on microbial diversity and soil enzymatic activities in reclaimed mines. The other project examines the effect of grazing on the microbial community, plant community, and ecosystem function. My research, in general, attempts to understand whether microbes can be used for bioaugmentation to improve soil functionality. In my free time, I like taking macro pictures of bugs.

Email: jsingh@tru.ca

Laura Weber Ploughe (2018 – Current)

I am a plant community and ecosystem ecologist with a general interest in how systems respond to climate change.  Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow at TRU and am currently working on mine reclamation projects that include soil amendments, such as biosolids.  I am interested in understanding how different soil amendments affect plant community composition, productivity, and invasive species success and how climate change may impact these site. I received my PhD from Purdue University where my research focused on climate change, specifically on precipitation changes, and the impacts on plant communities and ecosystem processes. I am involved in several international experiments, including DroughtNet and NutNet.

Website: https://ploughel.wixsite.com/ploughel

Email: ploughel@yahoo.com

Master of Environmental Science Students

Nate Dungey (2020 – Current)

Restoration of a disturbed semi-arid grassland using priority effects and soil amendments to promote native plant communities and prevent invasion by exotic species

My research tests successional theory and priority effects to restore native grassland plants after a major disturbance using different soil amendments. Priority effects entail different sowing orders of native successional plants to determine the best combination which promotes the establishment and growth of native plant communities and prevents invasion of exotic species in grassland restoration. Grasslands provide numerous important ecosystem services, and once disturbed are challenging to restore or reclaim. My study will aim to understand how we can better restore grasslands after a major disturbance, such as pipeline construction.

Email: nate.dungey21@gmail.com

Sarah Bayliff (2019 – Current)

Examining the effects of irrigation, fertilization, and mowing on plant productivity and soil carbon levels of perennial cropping systems

My research examines the use of irrigation, fertilization, and mowing for production of perennial cropping systems. These three commonly used agricultural techniques can be used to alter plant productivity which also affects levels of soil carbon. Increasing soil carbon also increases carbon sequestration, allowing agricultural producers a way to combat their greenhouse gas emissions. My study attempts to better understand how these practices can be used to achieve optimum plant productivity and carbon sequestration, increasing the sustainability of perennial cropping systems.

Email: sarah_bayliff@yahoo.ca

Brandon Williams (2019 – Current)

Using prescribed burns to reclaim and restore native grassland habitat on disturbed mine sites

Mine reclamation and closure plans have historically focused on returning disturbed lands to a vegetative community, often without consideration of the pre-existing natural vegetation, resulting in sites dominated by non-native agronomic species. Once established, agronomic grass communities often dominate, restricting native species, and enter a stable state with little successional advancement. Regulatory standards, local community engagement and mines operating on Indigenous territories have now shifted their closure objectives towards community-engaged closure which places more value on ecosystem function and native biodiversity. Large scale disturbances, notably fire, have historically structured grasslands both naturally and through Indigenous cultural use, and can alter successional trajectory. My research is testing the effects of prescribed burning in a 24-year old mine-reclaimed, agronomic-dominated closed tailings storage facility as a means of shifting an agronomic community to a native grassland. Our objectives were to test the effects of prescribed burning in the field and in a controlled greenhouse experiment to assess: a) plant biodiversity; b) soil nutrients; and c) native plant ecosystem reclamation. Fire severity was modified within the greenhouse trial at three levels (high, moderate, low) and held constant (moderate) in the field. Fire severity adjustments were made via modifying the fuel load and time of burning per treatment. This experiment provides a novel approach in mine reclamation.

Website: www.brandon-j-williams.com

Email: Brandonwilliams@protonmail.com

Kristi Gordon (2019 – Current)

Grazing trials: Quantifying the effects of cattle grazing management systems on native grassland health

My research will investigate the impacts of three cattle grazing systems (extensive, management-intensive, and targeted) on native grassland health. I’m particularly interested in monitoring the changes in invasive plant abundance, soil organic carbon, and forage quality. Additionally, I will test the addition of native seed mixtures post-grazing for their ability to increase plant biodiversity and decrease invasive plant abundance.

Email: kristi_gordon@hotmail.com

Kyle Gillich (2019 – Current)

Hydrology: observing snow accumulation, melt rates, and soil moisture in strip-harvested forest stands

The Goudie Agroforestry Pilot Project (GAPP) includes experimental silvopastures within a BC Southern Interior, lodgepole pine forest. Mid-rotation forest stands have been thinned with various widths of strip-selection (10m, 15m, and 20m) and seeded with agronomic forage species. Differences in hydrological function are being compared across various strip-widths and topographical aspects. // Analyses of the hydrological functions associated with these harvesting treatments are pertinent to forest, range, and watershed management. Greater understanding of the water balance at an operational scale will be applied to forage and timber production, as well as flood, wildfire and climate change mitigation.

Email: gillickk16@mytru.ca

Ashley Fischer (2018 – Current)

Grassland reclamation post-mining: investigating topsoil stockpiling and local soil inoculations

Through my MSc research, I aim to provide new information on the approaches of ecological restoration with an emphasis on aboveground-belowground linkages. Specifically, I am investigating the compositional nature of stockpiled topsoil and the ability to facilitate native grassland reclamation post-mining. Additionally, my work will investigate the approach of applying native microbial communities through local soil inoculations as an amendment to degraded soils.

Email: ashley.grant.94@gmail.com

Chantalle Gervan (2018 – Current)

A Bug’s Life: invertebrate response to mine reclamation

My study addresses how the age of reclamation and the type of soil amendment used affect invertebrate community composition. Invertebrates are a good environmental indicator because they mediate the relationship between plants and ecosystem processes, are sensitive to the environment, and are high in abundance and species richness. The objective of this study is to further understand the reclamation trajectory as well as evaluate invertebrate community composition compared to un-mined sites. Plant community data and invertebrate samples were obtained in 2017 and 2018. Moving forward, I am going to conduct an experimental study looking at the invertebrate response to drought, using rainout shelters, on reclaimed mine sites.

Email: chantallegervan@hotmail.com

Rachel Whitehouse (2018 – Current)

Ecologically based weed management in rangelands

I am a graduate student at Thompson Rivers University interested in finding long term practical solutions to invasive weed problems to help preserve our native ecosystems and benefit the ranching sector. Currently I am studying integrated weed management in spotted knapweed infested rangelands in Merritt BC by using combinations of herbicide, soil amendment and seed mixes. I hope to change the status quo of weed management and shift the focus from killing the weeds to long term ecosystem restoration.

Email: rwhiteho@ualberta.ca

Piotr Dzumek (2017 – Current)

Nitrogen cycling in soil amended post-mine tailings

I am an international student from Poland, where I worked in forestry and resource exploration. Since I was young, I have had a great interest in the environment and ecology, and I often find myself outside during my free time. My Masters project involves the observation of nitrogen cycling in degraded post-mine soils. I’ll be running an experiment where various soil amendments will be mixed with tailings in order to form a complex substrate which I will use to compare the growth of various plants. During the course of my experiment, samples of soil will be collected and analyzed to detect the soil microbial communities engaged in the nitrogen cycle. My other hobbies include photography, riding my motorcycle, and travelling.

Email: dzumek.piotr@gmail.com

Nicholas Peterson (2015 – Current)

Use of native seed of British Columbia’s interior grasslands, seed storage & germination trials using smoke application on First Nations traditional foods and medicines

Having a First Nations heritage from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, the importance and health of the grasslands of British Columbia is of a paramount concern for me. My research interests include revegetation and restoration of grasslands in British Columbia. I want to ensure higher success rates of native seed used in future restoration and reclamation projects. I also want to help broaden the understanding of cultural restoration by using plants significant to local First Nations people.

Email: nicholas@growinggarlic.ca

Sabina Donnely (2013 – Current)

Using genetics to restore grasslands

I am a graduate student at Thompson Rivers University interested in restoration ecology and population biology. Currently I am studying the importance of seed source during restoration of grasslands and the impact of climate change on grassland species with broad spatial distributions. Bunchgrass biogeoclimatic zones are a valuable ecosystem in British Columbia and are difficult to restore after a major disturbance, especially in light of climate change. Restoration attempts may be hindered because seeds used may be sourced from locations with different climates, different soils and different evolutionary histories. I collected seeds of Pseudoroegneria spicata (Bluebunch Wheatgrass), Festuca idahoensis (Idaho Fescue), Hesperostipa comata (Needle and Thread Grass) and Calamagrostis rubescens (Pinegrass) from various geographically distant populations in a north to south range from California to British Columbia. These population groups were tested for (1) their physiological and morphological response to transplantation to a common garden in Kamloops, British Columbia and (2) the relative competitive impacts of selected distant Bluebunch Wheatgrass genotypes on Kamloops populations. The results will ultimately provide important information on selection of the most appropriate genotype for grassland restoration in the BC southern interior and give insight into the potential of intraspecific migration.

Email: sabina.donnelly@gmail.com

Coordinators & Assistants

Matthew Coghill (2015 – Current)

Research Associate

I have been a part of the Fraser Lab in some capacity since 2015. During my time here, I have had the great fortune of participating in many other students projects as a helper as well as conducting my own Master of Science project where I looked at the soil legacy effects of spotted knapweed. I also collected data for a variety of international projects, including PlantPopNet, HERBDIVNET, and BIODESERT to a small extent. While I enjoy collecting field data, I have a great amount of experience with data analysis and spatial modelling using open source tools. I defended my Master of Science in March, 2021 and I am now back at the Fraser Lab to assist with ongoing projects, as well as to help coordinate the large lab.

Email: matthewcoghill@live.ca

Steven Kega (2017 – Current)

Research Associate

I am an ecosystem ecologist. I hold a M.Sc. in Environmental Science from Thompson Rivers University, British Columbia and a bachelor’s degree in Soil and Water Management – Agriculture Engineering, and Environmental Sciences department from the University of Rwanda (College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences, and Veterinary Medicines).

My recent work focussed on evaluating the potential for increasing forage productivity, enhancing soil carbon storage and soil water availability on a native forested range as well as assessing the impact of the integrated forage-tree model on carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation. The goal of my work is to assist foresters and ranchers to work together and optimize their operations on a shared land base. My passion and dedication for ecosystem management increased my interest in exploring more novel technologies such as the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)/drones technology for remote sensing applications equipped with multispectral, hyperspectral, and LiDAR sensors as additional tools to assess ecosystem change and land management.

Email: stevenkega@gmail.com