Category Archives: teaching

2017 in SmurphCaRE Land

2017 started off with a bang – literally.

I broke my ?&*!! clavicle on 9 January.  This was 24 years after my thesis defence – to the very day.  Weird.

That’s why there’s been a bit of a gap in posting updates – by the time I healed in March, it was nearing field season and conference season so that occupied the rest of 2017 as we had warm weather through mid November.  I had the posts ready but duty called.

Here, then, is the 2017 story of the smurphworld.  Brought to you by Bob’s Slings and Other Things. Yes, when you break your clavicle, think Bob.

Despite the busted clavicle, we launched a successful course in ReWilding and Ecological Restoration. As part of this course, we did a case example working with the Ontario Water Centre – ReWilding Lake Simcoe Project.  This was a good way to launch the course with an on the ground example of how different groups interpret ReWilding.

 

At the beginning of a very warm spell in March, I helped run a workshop under the Centre for Applied Sciences in Ontario Protected Areas banner.  We worked with The Niagara Escarpment Parks and Open Space System Council (NEPOSS) on what we called Big Box Greenspace – meaning they run the risk of becoming subject to ‘high numbers of visitors and an intensity of use beyond the resources of managers to accommodate’.  We had a full house – the extended SmurphCaRE group plus awesome students from my unit, the School of  Environment, Resources & Sustainability, were there – that’s Jonas Hamberg (PhD student) hamming it up as usual below.  I also managed to visit Mount Nemo Conservation Area – a favourite spot of mine on the Niagara Escarpment.  My left arm (the side where the clavicle broke) was just fresh out of the sling.

 

In April, we did the defences for all of my undergraduate thesis students – most of whom focused on various aspects of restoration and conservation ecology – and the cohort for all of my home unit of SERS.  One of the defences is pictured below as is the final SmurphCaRE extended year-end party in April to launch field season 2017 and to say farewell to graduates.  Yes, I know, my extended lab group is huge.  It does include folks in my classes (many of whom join the lab in fall 2018 as thesis students) and some other friends of smurphCaRE.

 

I went up to Peterborough in late April to meet with OMNRF (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) about the 2017 CASIOPA AGM that occurred later in 2017 (see post near the end of this update).  It was nice and warm. Very warm.  Got to see some of the local provincial parks too. I did not actually go into Petroglyphs itself since it was not yet officially open and I don’t abuse my privileges, especially where First Nations’ culture is concerned – I just like their signs so I took some shots of the edge of the Park.  Quackenbush PP is also sensitive (no sign there – this really ensures there is no unauthorized access) but I got to visit the edges of it too – again, it has a lot of cultural value to First Nations so I never have gone in that park without permission and simply walked near its borders where possible.

A big highlight – the Kawartha Highlands PNR’s new access areas are really great – those I could enter.

 

Field season started and my graduate students are really busy even now with analyzing all their 2017 data (and before).  We’ll add some nice pics soon but here is the summary:

  • Jonas Hamberg started working our new $1.1 million NSERC-CRD with The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation and Walker Holdings Inc. as we explore rapid ecological restoration approaches to old quarries.   This project owes much to the efforts of my post-doc, Paul Richardson (who is project manager).
  • Andrew Moraga joined this project later in September as our spatial ecological guru.
  • Heather Cray is finishing her PhD work on restoration ecology in prairies.
  • Michael McTavish is also finishing his PhD on earthworm impacts on conservation and restoration ecology.
  • Patricia Huynh’s PhD on conservation and restoration of urban streams and salamander habitats progresses nicely (funded by another NSERC grant – a Strategic Grant with Bruce MacVicar in Engineering at UWaterloo).
  • Meaghan Wilton is finishing her PhD on greenhouse gas management in the Argentinian Pampas farmlands.
  • Katie Kish (co-supervised by Steve Quilley who is the lead advisor) is nearing the finish line with her thesis on Ecological Economics 2.0:Reincorporating the socio-sphere in ecological economic theory and practice.
  • Tomm Mandryk is finishing his Master’s on conservation and restoration with prescribed burns in alvars, working with the Nature Conservancy.
  • Alex Novacic is in the midst of examining how we can remediate and reforest roadsides; her pic is below – this is one of her field sites

    PPA17 Trt 2 looking towards Trt 3

  • Amanda Shamas and Sheralyn Dunlop are working on a couple of different aspects of trait-based approaches to wetland restoration ecology for their Master’s degrees.
  • Chelsey Greene is out west in Alberta working on her Master’s on how restoration and remediation ecology can fulfill mandates for carbon capture and greenhouse gas mitigation in general as part of urban and landscape sustainability.
  • Ian Blainey started his Master’s on how we can assess impacts of invasives in ecological restoration management for the Cheltenham Badlands, working with the Ontario Heritage Foundation.
  • Cassy Wiens is ramping up her new Master’s project on the role of backyard conservation and restoration in landscape scale urban restoration ecology.
  • Gwyn Govers is finishing her part time MES degree with her penultimate draft of her thesis on how garlic mustard and forest fragmentation impact some of Ontario’s key species of ants.
  • Natasha Lukey successfully defended her MES Thesis (Sara Ashpole, a smurphCaRE alumnus was co-advisor); she worked on managing invasive bullfrogs in the Okanagan corridors in BC. Natasha is pictured here post-defence. Yes, she’s happy. She did a great job.

2017-04-20 14.52.23

 

In May, I was invited to Galiano Island BC to help officially launch REGEN – the new Restoration Ecology Education Network that Eric Higgs (U Vic) and I have been organizing for a couple of years.  This was with the Templeton Foundation and we discussed the intersection and tensions between culture, religion and restoration ecology.  Eric, Jim Harris, and me had a great evening to close the event on Galiano Island; before that, it was many days of great discussion and journeys with people like Emily Gonzales, Carol Hall, Erin Beller, Willis Jenkins, Katie Suding, Jeanine Rhemtulla, Val Schaefer, Jeremy Kidwell, Steve Jackson, John Volpe, Allen Thompson, Loren Wilkinson, Dan Spencer, and Chad Wigglesworth.

 

June brought me to Edmonton Alberta where the North American Forest Ecology Workshop kindly invited me to do a plenary on Anticipation Ecology: Determine When and How to Initiate Forest Restoration and Reclamation.  I got to catch up with a lot of people, including my former Master’s student Kylie McLeod, who is working for Ducks Unlimited out west.

 

The next big event was the 2017 Ecological Society of American conference in Portland Oregon.  Michael and Heather presented; Michael had won the 2017 Braun Award from ESA and got a big moment in the sun (literally – it was a blistering 41 C; the smoke from the forest fires soon blotted out the sun in spots).  Many of the great gang was there – Richard Hobbs and Gillian Henderson, Loretta Battaglia, Cara Nelson, Pam Weisenhorn, Katie Suding, Steve Jackson, Lauren Hallett, Lizzie King, Kris Hulvey, Jonathan Bauer, Anna Groves, Chad Zirbel, Nancy Shackleford, Brandon Bestelmeyer, Keith Bowers, and so many more.   A highlight for me was visiting one of my favourite places – the Cascade Head region of Oregon and then down the coast.  Spectacular!

 

 

I had to do SER 2017 in Brazil in absentia; it has been a bit of a trying 2016-2017 in some regards (the broken clavicle was icing on the cake, shall we say), so I ended up focusing my attention elsewhere during the meeting, sadly.  My contributions were handled by Loretta Battaglia, Pati Vitt, and Pam Weisenhorn.  They are awesome. No pix because I was not there physically.  2019 is in South Africa so that will make up for it.

The fall and early winter of 2017 brought more research grants (a big one as part of the Global Water Futures – we’re advertising for PhD students so see that separate post).

Related, we won a nice grant from Microsoft to get access to their Azure platform for machine learning and big data analysis.  I’m also part of a OMNRF Big Data group that will meet in March 2018. Good times.

Fall is for teaching my now 3rd year course in Restoration Ecology!

IMG_20170913_093523

The end of September saw our big 20th Anniversary of CASIOPA – we’re overhauling the website site right now in 2018 so I’ve left the post update there lag but we had a full house with speakers like Nik Lopoukhine, Christina Davy, and Pamela Wright.  Lots of great fields trips thanks to OMNRF’s Susan Cooper. Alumni from my home unit of SERS and SmurphCaRE attended; this included Nigel Finney, Kelly Moores, Scott Parker, and Lindsay Campbell.

 

Perhaps the biggest thing from 2017 was the publication with Stu Allison (the real leader here) of our Routledge Handbook of Ecological and Environmental Restoration. This has some truly exceptional authors so buy a million copies today.  (there is a less expensive e-version so it is pretty affordable given it is over 400 pages of rock-em sock-em restoration ecology).

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“Excellent….”

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Bookending fall’s start and finish, Smurph lab did the social whirl – grad house on a warm Sept day and a good Sushi bar meal near xmas; the SmurphCaRE gang prospers:

 

I still have to add some of the 2017 publications (I am at that stage of career where the process is the best part – mentoring the next generation is fun) so there will be a few more updates but this is a pretty good reflection.

What will 2018 bring?  No broken bones for me, I hope.

It is the Silver Jubilee of the journal I edit – yes, Restoration Ecology.  And I led off with an editorial where I am not too kind to shady politicians, am not too fond of splitters rather than joiners, but talk about the best of who we are in restoration ecology and where we might go – so the message for 2018 is hope.