Over half of prairie wetlands have been lost, primarily by drainage for agriculture. These wetlands provide us with many important services – they purify water, store carbon, stabilize soils, and support biodiversity, especially important North American waterfowl populations. There’s hope that we might regain these functions by restoring drained wetlands. My research asks questions about the nature and trajectory of the recovery of restored prairie wetlands, with a specific focus on whether restored systems function the same as their natural counterparts.
Recently, the loss of wetlands has been identified as the major culprit in such costly environmental and human issues as the flooding in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba and the eutrophication/toxic algal blooms in Lake Winnipeg. My hope is that these issues spur greater awareness and interest in the ecology and conservation of prairie wetlands and that my research can play a part in growing our scientific understanding of this important ecosystem.
On Being a Killam Laureate
I am incredibly grateful for the support of the Killam Trust as this scholarship allows me to focus fully on doing the best research that I can. My aunt, Linda Hutcheon, is a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and was a 2005 Canada Council Killam Prize winner. I’ve always been immensely proud of her many accomplishments, so the chance to also be recognized by the Killam Trust is a real honour.
Why University of Alberta?
The University of Alberta was a natural choice for me — there is a strong Biological Sciences department, excellent support for graduate students and I was given the resources I needed to pursue research that I’m passionate about. Being in Edmonton allows me to stay in close proximity to the unique ecosystem I study and facilitates my ability to connect with organizations outside of academia that share my concern for the conservation challenges facing this area.
Life Outside of Work
I think that many field biologists and environmental scientists choose their career path out of a love for the outdoors and concern for the health of our environment — I’m no exception. I love to spend time in nature, especially hiking, canoeing, or photographing my surroundings. I try to share my love of nature and science by volunteering in science outreach, particularly with children and young adults.
I also love to travel, especially if I can combine it with one of my other hobbies: improving my Spanish language skills, flamenco dance, making and eating good food, seeing new wildlife (especially birds), and exploring new landscapes.