I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough, and hold cross-appointments with the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Physical & Environmental Sciences. A mathematical ecologist by training, I am broadly interested in understanding how climate change, land use change, and other anthropogenic influences alter the dynamical interactions that shape ecosystems. My research blends the development of modelling and statistical tools with field data collection and the analysis of existing long-term datasets, in an effort to identify the mechanisms driving change, forecast likely future impacts of global change, and propose mitigation strategies to address pressing conservation and wildlife health concerns. I take a global perspective and work on a variety of systems, ranging from the High Arctic to the tropical rainforests of Central America. Current efforts primarily focus on (a) global change impacts on large mammals, and (b) global change impacts on parasitism and disease spread. I am also a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), an Associate Editor of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, and help organize the EEB Conservation Science Group
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow (co-supervised by Susan Kutz, University of Calgary)
My research interests span population biology, spatial ecology, wildlife health, conservation, and mathematical modelling. My postdoctoral research involves developing and applying mechanistic models to understand parasite dynamics in migratory host populations. This work began during my PhD when I was working on sea-louse parasites of wild and farmed salmon in BC. I am currently applying the theory we have developed to barren-ground caribou in the Arctic, where climate change is altering the development and mortality of environmentally transmitted parasites such as Ostertagia gruehneri. I am based at the University of Calgary, co-supervised by Susan Kutz in the Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
My research is concerned with the effects of climate change on the spread of wildlife diseases. I use physiological and population dynamics models to understand how multiple temperature dependencies affecting different life-cycle stages contribute to parasite distributions. In particular, I am interested in how warming temperatures are contributing to a recently observed range expansion of muskox and caribou lungworms in the Canadian Arctic.
PhD Candidate (co-supervised by Marie-Josée Fortin)
My research is at the intersection of disease ecology and computational modeling. I seek to identify key determinants influencing the occurrence and potential spread of the trematode parasite, Ribeiroia ondatrae, and predict its current and future distributions. R. ondatrae is a parasite that infects snails, amphibians and fish, and birds and mammals, throughout different stages of its lifecycle, and is best known for the malformations it causes in amphibians, such as the growth of additional limbs. My work utilizes mechanistic host-parasite models and machine learning to study how the cumulative effects of temperature on parasite and host demographic traits ultimately influence the parasite’s ability to spread under different climate scenarios.
I am a marine biologist turned mammal parasitologist and aspiring ecological modeler, with a focus on conservation biology. My work uses a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches to understand the effects of different human activities on wild animal populations. Currently, I am studying the effects of land-use change on host-parasite dynamics. My dissertation focuses on parasite transmission between domestic dogs and wild felines in the Osa peninsula, Southern Costa Rica. This work involves understanding the prevalence as well as the distribution and spatio-temporal overlap among host species. Data collected in the field are then used to estimate parameter values for epidemiological models informing the relative role of each species, which can inform wildlife disease management strategies.
PhD Student (co-supervised by Nicholas Mandrak)
WCS W. Garfield Weston Fellow, 2018
My main research interests lie in predicting how changing environmental conditions affect the ability of species to establish and thrive in novel locations, particularly invasive species, parasites and diseases of wildlife health concern. I am working in partnership with the Yukon government and multiple local stakeholder groups to examine the potential impacts of the ongoing range expansion of winter ticks (Dermacentor albipictus) into Yukon. Using a combination of fieldwork, modelling and citizen science, I aim to develop new approaches to understanding population dynamics of species with little data but potentially large implications for conservation policy and practice.
My research uses the laws of mass and energy conservation to understand ecological systems through dynamic energy budget (DEB) theory. As energy is a currency that transcends levels of organization, DEB models allow us to link the energy acquisition and use of individuals to trends at the population, community, and ecosystem levels. My work combines DEB theory with data on the physiology and population dynamics of polar bears to determine how much energy polar bears require to grow, survive, and reproduce, and thus, how the reduced access to seals that comes with sea ice loss impacts the viability of populations.
Currently PhD Student at Simon Fraser University
Melissa wrote her MSc thesis on the bioeconomics of fisheries and aquaculture (2016) and was co-supervised with Martin Krkošek. Melissa is now a PhD student in Isabelle Côté’s lab at Simon Fraser University, studying multiple stressors, ecosystem resilience, and integrated ocean management.
Currently PhD Student at Oxford University
Jessica conducted a meta-analysis on the thermal sensitivity of helminth parasites for her BSc thesis to facilitate predictions of how climate change will impact parasite ranges globally. Sponsored by a Rhodes Scholarship, Jessica is currently working towards a DPhil in Zoology at Oxford University where she studies the behavior of top marine predators in the Antarctic, and especially penguins.