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
Zachary MacDonald, Ph.D. candidate
Angelo Filicetti, Ph.D. candidate
Laureen Echiverri, Ph.D. Candidate
Melanie Routh, M.Sc Student
Yinghang Li, M.Sc Student
Diana Stralberg, Research Associate
Federico Riva, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Thea Carpenter, M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Connor Nelson, M.Sc student
Joseph Silva, M.Sc student
Michael Thomson, M.Sc Student
Rob Belanger, Research Assistant
Caroline Franklin, Post-Doctoral Fellow
Clayton Lamb, Ph.D. candidate
Emily Cicon, M.Sc. student
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
scoejay[email protected]
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.

Current Students
hilejay[email protected]
Ashley Hillman
PhD candidate & Research assistant (2017-)
Thesis Project
Estimating ground lichen biomass using UAVs in support of caribou habitat monitoring
Blue Ridge Lumber Lodgepole Pine Genetics Tree Plot UAV Survey Trails

Ashley has been working as the ACE lab's research assistant, and started her PhD in 2020. 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. Previously, Ashley focussed on surveying lichen biomass in caribou ranges, to map important caribou winter forage habitat. She has also worked on numerous other projects, including 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. Her PhD work focuses further on these disjunct species, and on understanding how large boreal lakes can moderate the effects of climate change by providing refuge for cold-adapted species on their shorelines. When she's not in the field, Ashley enjoys botanizing, photography, and climbing mountains. 

rawejay[email protected]
Garrett Rawleigh
PhD 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.

knaejay[email protected]
Michelle Knaggs
PhD candidate (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. 

sutejay[email protected]
Colleen Sutheimer
PhD student (2022-)

Colleen is a PhD student who is researching passive and active recovery of seismic lines for caribou habitat restoration in the northeastern oil sands region of Alberta, as part of the Boreal Ecosystem Recovery Assessment project. While her graduate research has focused on forest and disturbance ecology, Colleen spent many years on the wildlife and research technician circuit doing everything from prescribed burning to assisting in elk captures. Outside of her research, Colleen enjoys hiking, birding, fishing, listening to live music, drinking barley pop, and munching on squeaky cheese curds. 

vilejay[email protected]
Leonardo Viliani
PhD student (2022-)

Leonardo is a PhD student in the Applied Conservation Ecology Lab at the University of Alberta. He grew up in Florence, Italy, where he completed his BSc in Biological Science. He obtained his master's in Environmental Biology at the University of Turin, which focused on conservation biology and insect pollinator monitoring. His academic and research interests are in Landscape Ecology and Biodiversity. The aim of his PhD research is to study how the local environment and climate change affect boreal forest regeneration in the context of a highly fragmented landscape. More precisely the focus of the study is to examine in depth how warmer and drier conditions due to climate change, together with more intense fires, play a role in the recovery of the boreal forest. In his sparetime Leonardo enjoys watching movies and tv series, listening to every kind of music, reading, and cooking.

ludejay[email protected]
Danielle Pendlebury
PhD student (2022-)

Danielle is a PhD student in the Applied Conservation Ecology Lab. She obtained her MSc in the Department of Biological Sciences at the UofA looking at the impact of sedimentation and ocean currents on sponge feeding and filtration, which has implications when designing marine protected areas for sponge reefs. This interest in applied conservation led her into a job first with CPAWS Northern Alberta and then with the Government of Alberta. Specifically, her career and now her PD is focused on better understanding the cumulative impacts of land-use on biodiversity in Alberta, and the ways in which we can implement land-use plans and policies that provide better outcomes for biodiversity on a working landscape. In her free time she loves exploring with her husband and two daughters through hiking, skiing, and camping.

lanejay[email protected]
Alex Lanti-Traikovski
M.Sc Student (2020-)

Complementary to Michelle's project, Alex is researching the role that peatlands play in maintaining hydrologic climate-change refugia for upland boreal tree and shrub species. His research involves studying structure, composition, and productivity, using field methods, in regenerating upland forests adjacent to peatlands that have experienced post-fire drought. Upland forest responses will be related to their hydrological connectivity to peatlands and hydrologic position on the landscape. Alex hopes to acquire knowledge of where and when the eventual northward retreat of upland boreal tree and shrub species are likely to lag behind the rest of Alberta's boreal forest with climate change.

eapejay[email protected]
Emilie Porter
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Emilie is studying innovative ways to monitor vegetation under the supervision of Dr. Scott Nielsen and Dr. Diane Haughland. Using community and environmental DNA, she would like to develop new methods in monitoring lichens, bryophytes, and vascular plants in Alberta that are more efficient and have less impact on the environment than traditional techniques. In her free time, Em enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, and has recently taken up cross-country skiing.

sbuejay[email protected]
Sebastian Buitrago Gutierrez
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Sebastian was born in Nevia, a small town in Colombia, and moved to the capital city (Bogota) where he completed his BSc in Biology at the National University of Colombia. His research interests are landscape ecology and wildlife management, with a strong preference for mammal species. His thesis is focused on the study of wood bison movement and habitat selection during summer in the Ronald Lake area in Northeast Alberta. In his free time, he enjoys outdoor activities like cycling and hiking, but also watching movies and listening to podcasts.

hcoejay[email protected]
Hailey Cole
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Hailey is an MSc student co-supervised by Dr. Anne McIntosh and Dr. Scott Nielsen, researching plant functional traits in anthropogenically disturbed forest ecosystems near Fox Creek, Alberta. These disturbed ecosystems may have recovered naturally or were actively reclaimed, but have not been further evaluated to determine if recovery/reclamation objectives have been reached. This research is part of a larger project with Natural Resources Canada studying the Fox Creek area. Outside of research, Hailey enjoys hiking, running, and watching movies. 

squejay[email protected]
Spencer Quayle
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Spencer is a master's student working on the interaction between seismic line regeneration and hungry ungulate populations in the Lower Athabasca regions. In the summer he migrates to northeast Alberta to measure and stare closely at thousands of saplings and shrubs. Luckily he likes saplings and shrubs. In the winter, the plan is to keep tabs on the ungulates through an array of wildlife cameras.

kegejay[email protected]
Kalene Gould
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Supervised by Dr. Scott Nielsen and Dr. Mark Edwards, Kalene's research focuses on better understanding how various spatio-temporal factors impact the carrying capacity of the Ronald Lake bison herd in northern Alberta. With previous experience working in community with Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, this project aims to support species stewardship through both western science and Indigenous ways of knowsing. Whenever possible, Kalene can be found hanging upside down practicing aerial or playing board games with friends.

rpaejay[email protected]
Rebecca Paton
MSc Student (2022-)

Rebeeca is a MSc student researching black bears in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region under the supervision of Dr. Scott Nielsen and Dr. Mark Edwards. Her project involves studying black bear movement and behaviour within a gradient of disturbance and assessing the effectiveness of aversive conditioning, a common bear management program conducted on worksites. This research will inform bear management practices to reduce impacts on black bear populations and the likelihood of human-bear conflict. Outside of her research, Rebecca enjoys hiking, watching movies, and reading.

zacejay[email protected]
Zach Madsen
M.Sc Student (2022-)

Zach is from Colorado, USA. He grew up in the mountains, and they are his favourite place to be all year round. His project investigates the expansion of shrubs in alpine tundra outside of Jasper National Park. Shrub expansion is a result of warmer climates and earlier snowmelt, however there is little understanding between the relationship of shrub expansion and extreme terrain variability found in the alpine. Zach's work consists of looking at how shrubs respond to warming and snow removal, and how they influence other plant communities around them. When he is not working on his project, Zach likes to go for hikes, swim in lakes, climb mountains, or snowboard.

danejay[email protected]
Danique Boissonneault
M.Sc Student (2023-)

Danique is studying the influence of forest edges on the boreal upland mixed-wood forest in fragmented areas in northeastern Alberta. Her project involves different-sized disturbances to investigate how their edges influence tree recuitment and growth differently. This project aims to fill the knowledge gaps regarding small footprint edge-effects in the upland forests of the Alberta oilsands region. Aside from her research, Danique loves hiking, paddling, and skiing.

wanejay[email protected]
Iyesha Madushani Wanigasinghe
M.Sc Student (2023-)

Iyesha is studying innovative methods of photo-based vegetation monitoring under the supervison of Dr. Scott Nielsen and Dr. Diane Haughland. Her research involves the application of convolutional neural networks to photo IDs and photo plots, with a focus on monitoring lichens, bryophytes, and vascular plants in Alberta. Iyesha earned her B.Sc degree in Botanty and a course-based Master's degree in GIS and Remote Sensing fromt he University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. In er free time, she enjoys nature walks, hiking, photography, and listening to all kinds of music.

mshejay[email protected]
Molly Sharp
M.Sc Student (2023-)

Molly is a MSc student researching interspecific relationships between black bears and wood bison. Her research will explore black bear predation risk on the Ronald Lake bison herd during the spring calving season. Molly loves all animals and she has been practicing as a Registered Veterinary Technologist for 4 years. In her free time, Molly enjoys exercising, hiking, and reading.

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
Lindsey Dewart
M.Sc. student
Jacqueline Dennett
Research Associate
Lee Hecker
Ph.D. candidate
Graeme Nordell
M.Sc Student
Christine Kuntzemann
M.Sc Student
Zachary MacDonald
Ph.D. candidate
Angelo Filicetti
Ph.D. candidate
Laureen Echiverri
Ph.D. Candidate
Melanie Routh
M.Sc Student
Yinghang Li
M.Sc Student
Federico Riva
Post-Doctoral Fellow
Thea Carpenter
M.Sc. (Conservation Biology)
Connor Nelson
M.Sc student
Joseph Silva
M.Sc student
Michael Thomson
M.Sc Student
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)
Aidan Sheppard
PhD student