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Each year, the rare Ages Foundation Fellowship and Bursary Program is offered to students undergoing research on the property. The scholarship program is open to graduate students in any discipline, and helps ensure that successful candidates have the necessary resources to conduct and report their research or inquiry at rare. It also provides the monetary support to allow the students to present their work at a relevant conference or discipline equivalent.

For more information on the rare Ages Foundation Fellowship and Bursary Program, contact rare’s Program Scientist, research at or click here.

Current Scholarship Recipients

Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

2023: Navjot Dhaliwal, PhD student, York University, Department of Geography

Project: Co-Governance in Lake Nipigon: Braiding Western Science and Indigenous Knowledge

Supervisor: Dr. Patricia Wood, Dr. Jennifer Korosi

A message from Navjot: “Navjot Dhaliwal is a PhD student in the geography department at York University, where he is investigating methods to braid different ways of knowing to devise more holistic and collaborative public policies for resource management. His research encourages insights into collective resource management, between the First Nations communities of Lake Nipigon Basin and the federal and provincial governments, to identify guiding principles and best practices that promote Canadian reconciliation with Indigenous communities. He currently holds a Master of Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Calgary. He is a first-generation Canadian of Indian descent.

Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

2023: Danielle Green, MSc student, University of Waterloo, Department of Earth and Environmental Science

Project: Quantifying and characterizing dissolved organic matter (DOM) in aquatic ecosystems

Supervisor:  Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad; Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen

A message from Danielle: “Canada’s watersheds have recently recorded a rise in browning (colour change) of inland and lake waters, characteristic of increased dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Inland waters have an important role in the carbon cycle and increased DOC can cause a greater release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere and storage of carbon in soil and sediments. Browning of Canada’s freshwater ecosystems has negative impacts on water quality, effecting drinking water quality, recreational activities, fisheries, and biodiversity. Removal of DOC causing colour change of lakes and rivers is expensive and complex, however is necessary to provide potable water to communities that depend on these water bodies. The objective of my research is to determine the chemical and biological characteristics of carbon in browning lakes and rivers and develop methods for these analyses. I am honoured to have received the Ages Foundation bursary and am excited to expand my research project to study the DOC composition of aquatic systems at rare.” 

Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

2023: Cameron Butler, PhD student, York University, Department of Social Anthropology

Project: Fertilizing Southern Ontario: Tracing phosphorus through agribusiness value chains

Supervisor: Dr. Shubhra Gururani

A message from Cameron: “My project follows phosphorus, an essential fertilizer component for industrial agricultural production, through agribusiness commodity chains in southern Ontario, Canada, to explore how their practices shape planetary mineral cycles. I trace how value chain operations are changing in response to growing public scrutiny around the unethical, colonial sourcing of phosphate rock, the unsustainable depletion of phosphate reserves, and the worsening eutrophication caused by phosphorus-rich farm runoff polluting water systems. I am conducting fieldwork across a number of different sites, including the recently announced Holland Marsh phosphorus recycling facility, fertilizer industry events, fertilizer producers, and local farms. Across those field sites, I’m interested in how people’s relationships to and through phosphorus—as a commodity, a resource, waste material, environmental problem, etc.—are shifting and being reimagined. At rare, I plan to explore how farmers and community garden organizers contend with the multitude of decisions around fertilizer selection and application, crop selection, irrigation systems, testing technologies, and labour practices, in the face of pressures coming from government regulators, public opinion, and fertilizer producers. I’m excited and very appreciative to have the support from the Ages Foundation and the team from rare to help me in doing this research.”

Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

2023: Lake Ellsworth, MSc student, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology

Project: Factors driving the abundance of insectivorous bats over agricultural field margins – Mist-netting capture surveys and nocturnal insect sampling

Supervisor:  Dr. Andrew MacDougall

A message from Lake: “The only mammals capable of true flight, bats are unique and highly specialized animals. 8 species of bat can be found in Southern Ontario, and they all have a ravenous appetite for insects, capable of eating 70-100% of their body weight per night! This provides a valuable ecosystem service to farmers and broader society by helping to keep insect populations under control.  

There are many threats to bats in Ontario, ranging from habitat loss to an invasive disease called White Nose Syndrome. Despite their fascinating biology and the critical position, they occupy in the food web, bats are understudied compared to many other species, and with their populations under increasing pressure, it is important to better understand how land-use choices and agricultural management can benefit natural populations while still allowing human needs to be met.  


I am excited and grateful to have the opportunity to conduct research at RARE, which will allow for a comparison of bat activity across a gradient of landscapes, ranging from intensely managed agricultural fields to restored and protected conservation areas. I’m honoured to have received the rare Ages Foundation Scholarship and know it will help me in my research efforts! “


Previous Scholarship Recipients

Alannah Grant, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology, Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

Project: Influence of environmental and maternal stress on early neurogenesis rates in urban and rural eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

Supervisor: Dr. Amy Newman

A message from Alannah: “I am excited and honoured to receive the Ages Foundation Fellowship for my work at rare, especially considering all the interesting and meaningful research that goes on here. My research focuses on the effects of environmental stress (via urbanization) on the physiology and development of eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), using a comparative approach (urban vs. non-urban) with rare serving as our non-urban site. As the fastest growing habitat type on the planet, urban environments encroach upon existing ecosystems and habitats at a pace never seen before, yet the severity and implications of these alterations are largely unexplored. As part of a long-term study, my project marks the 6th year of grey squirrel research at rare, a site highly valued by this study as a preserved green space and natural habitat opposed with the ever-growing urban landscape. Knowledge regarding the impact of urban habitats gained by this research may aid in the design of more accurate and meaningful conservation strategies as well as reinforce the necessity of urban adjacent forests for wildlife impacted by human growth.”


Megan Schmidt, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Geography and Environmental Management, Ages Foundation Fellowship Recipient

Project: Carbon dynamics in Southern Ontario Swamps

Supervisor: Dr. Maria Strack

A message from Meg“Peatlands play an important role in water storage and filtration, habitat, and carbon cycling and though we have a lot of swamps in Southern Ontario, we don’t know much about them. I am working on identifying the characteristics of swamps across Southern Ontario to understand their role in production and uptake of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The field data I gather will also be used by another student to model the future of these gases in swamps in the context of climate change. Working with rare has given me access to many more swamps to add to my study and our understanding of these unique ecosystems.”Carolyn Morris, PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology

Claire Schon, MSc Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Biology, Ages Foundation Bursary Recipient

Project: Biological control of introduced Phragmites australis

SupervisorDr. Rebecca Rooney

A message from Claire“Invasive Phragmites australis is a threat to wetland biodiversity and integrity across North America and insect-based biological control is an emerging tool which may aid in the suppression of Phragmites australis. Specifically, I am interested in assessing the damage inflicted on Phragmites australis by moth biological control agents at both the level of the individual plants and the wider plant community.  I am particularly excited about my field research at rare due to the incredible array of native wetland vegetation on the property that may benefit from the suppression of this aggressive wetland invader. Thank you to the Ages foundation and rare Charitable Research Reserve for the bursary!  This support will allow me to continue my research on the property and share my work with a wider audience.”

Sarah Marshall, MES Candidate, University of Waterloo, School of Planning, Ages Foundation Bursary Recipient

Project: Landscape connectivity analysis for conservation planning in Waterloo Region

Supervisor: Dr. Jeremy Pittman

A message from Sarah“As habitat fragmentation accelerates in southern Ontario, land trusts like rare fill an important gap by protecting sensitive lands from development. In my research, I will be working with the raresites Land Securement Committee, which identifies priority areas for conservation land securement, by studying Landscape Connectivity Analysis tools to determine best practices for their Land Securement Strategy, due for revision in 2023. I am delighted and thankful to receive the Ages Foundation Scholarship from rare and am looking forward to continuing to work with this excellent organization.”

Julia Aplin, MES Candidate, York University, Department of Environment and Urban Change, Ages Foundation Bursary Recipient

Project: Embodiment as Kinship: Human Tree Relations

Supervisor: Dr. Leesa Fawcett

A message from Julia: “I am very grateful to rare for supporting my work. I grew up in Cambridge, beside the Grand River and it is especially meaningful to be returning to do my research in this place I love. I am a collaborative interdisciplinary artist with over 30 years of professional experience in creation and performance. In my arts-based research methodology I will be investigating embodied aesthetic practices that foster relationships with the more than human world, particularly trees, to help shift current anthropocentric notions and support a non-extractive paradigm.

Lauren Witterick, PhD Candidate, University of Western Ontario, Department of Biology, Ages Foundation Bursary Recipient 

Project: The effects of predator-induced fear on the brain and behaviour in wildlife

Supervisor: Dr. Liana Zanette

A message from Lauren: “My research looks at the enduring effects of predator-induced fear on the brain and behaviour in wildlife.  I use audio playbacks of local predator and non-predator species to manipulate the level of perceived predation risk in free-living animals, then quantify the enduring effects on the brain using techniques from laboratory studies on post traumatic stress disorder to understand how effects on the brain can contribute to fear induced demographic effects demonstrated in field studies.  I have had a wonderful experience working with the team at rare for my research!”

Sumia Ali, MA Candidate, McMaster University, School of Earth, Environment & Society, Ages Foundation Bursary Recipient 

Project: What are the experiences of Black women in Toronto in regards to air quality/air pollution?

Supervisor: Dr. Bruce Newbold

A message from Sumia: “I spent this past summer being a part of the lands team at rare, which gave me the opportunity to work on protected land, butterfly monitor, and survey invasive species. During this time, I got to witness rare’s commitment to use research to further the development of communities across Ontario. I appreciate rare’s support of my research. This scholarship will go towards my master’s research on air quality and the experience of Black women in Toronto. I seek unpack issues of environmental injustice in urban spaces.”

Allen Tian, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University, Department of Biology

Project: Developing a community science environmental DNA sampling kit for rapid, low cost, distributed biodiversity surveying in Southern Ontario

Supervisor: Dr. Yuxiang Wang and Dr. Stephen Lougheed

A message from Allen: “Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an emerging tool in conservation and ecological research that allows us to detect species of interest by simply collecting a water sample. Due to the simplicity of sampling, eDNA is ideal for community science projects, where public collaboration can both massively scale up data collection and analysis and connect stakeholders with the ecological issues that affect them. I treasure the opportunity provided to me by the Ages Foundation Fellowship at the rare Charitable Nature Reserve, which will allow me to develop and test a novel, self-preserving eDNA sampling kit and survey the aquatic biodiversity present at rare. By developing this kit, I hope to develop the foundations for a citizen science project spanning Southern Ontario, engaging community members in surveying biodiversity and species ranges, early detection of invasive species, and large-scale monitoring of vulnerable species.” 

Michelle Bomberry, PhD Candidate, Brock University, Department of Educational Studies

Project: Ędwadewáyęsta Ohwęjádeh: We Learn From the Earth

Supervisor: Dr. Debra Harwood

**This scholarship was funded by the Battat Foundation**

A message from Michelle: “Nya: weh (thank you), I am appreciative to receive the 2021 rare Ages Foundation scholarship! I am new to working with rare and will be engaging my Indigenous community and documenting the significance of land (earth) based education. Historically, Haudenosaunee communities adhered to the Guswenta (or Two Row Wampum) which is a treaty describing two rows symbolizing two paths or two vessels, travelling the same river together. One, in a canoe for Indigenous people – their laws, their customs and their ways. Together each group travels the river, neither will try to steer the other’s vessel. It is through continued land-based Indigenous education, that Indigenous communities will lead their narrative.”

Carolyn Morris, PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia, Department of Zoology

Project: The effects of DOC collected at the rare Charitable Research Reserve on the ionoregulatory response of freshwater fish to acidic waters and metals

Supervisor: Dr. Christopher Woods

Alannah Grant, MSc Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology

Project: Influence of environmental and maternal stress on early neurogenesis rates in urban and rural eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

Supervisor: Dr. Amy Newman

A message from Alannah: “I am excited and honoured to receive the Ages Foundation Bursary for my work at rare, especially considering all the interesting and meaningful research that goes on here. My research focuses on the effects of environmental stress (via urbanization) on the physiology and development of eastern grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), using a comparative approach (urban vs. non-urban) with rare serving as our non-urban site. As the fastest growing habitat type on the planet, urban environments encroach upon existing ecosystems and habitats at a pace never seen before, yet the severity and implications of these alterations are largely unexplored. As part of a long-term study, my project marks the 5th year of grey squirrel research at rare, a site highly valued by this study as a preserved green space and natural habitat opposed with the ever-growing urban landscape. Knowledge regarding the impact of urban habitats gained by this research may aid in the design of more accurate and meaningful conservation strategies as well as reinforce the necessity of urban adjacent forests for wildlife impacted by human growth.”

Erika Myler, MSc Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology

Project: Application of environmental DNA metabarcoding for fish community assessment in the Eramosa and Grand Rivers

Supervisor: Dr. Robert Hanner

A message from Erika: “I’m working on the Eramosa and Grand Rivers to characterize local fish communities by collecting and analyzing DNA shed by fish into the water. This innovative approach to multi-species detection, called environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding, circumvents the need to capture or sight an organism to determine its presence and, in many cases, is more sensitive and cost-effective than traditional biological survey efforts. I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received from rare to conduct this study as a jumping-off point for my thesis work.”

Grant Jensen, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Biology 

Project: Assessing the microbial community response throughout the winter transition and fertilizer amendments in agricultural soils 

Supervisor: Dr. Laura Hug 

A message from Grant: Climate change threatens to increase the frequency of freeze-thaw cycling of agricultural soils in the Northern hemisphere as they lose their insulating snowpack. This may allow for premature consumption of pre-winter amended fertilizer, by microbes that would otherwise be less active, and compromise agricultural yield come the growing season. My research aims to use laboratory microcosm experiments with soil gathered from rare fields to assess the extent of this fertilizer potency loss, and to wholistically assess the microbial community within fertilized agricultural soils throughout the non-growing season. I am extremely thankful to rare for the Ages Foundation bursary and use of their sites for sampling for the opportunity to address pressing issues to our food security!”

Aleksandra Dolezal, PhD student, University of Guelph, College of Biological Science

Project: Investigating mechanisms of insect crop colonization, aggregation and damage
Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

A message from Aleksandra: “My research goal is to answer the question: how do insect pests rapidly find crop plants and aggregate- sometimes in extremely high numbers- resulting in crop damage? This question has been the motivation of many ecologists seeking to find ultimate explanations for insect colonisation and abundance patterns in agricultural fields (e.g., resource concentration hypothesis and natural enemy hypothesis). I set out to test four core factors that can be especially influential on insect pests in agricultural fields: plant resources, predators, climatic factors, and human factors especially agrochemicals. During my fieldwork, COVID-19 became a global pandemic and presented many challenges for conducting research. I am grateful that rare allowed me permission to conduct my fieldwork and for their support with this bursary. This project would not be possible without the help of rare Charitable Research Reserve.”


Elaina Greaves, MSc Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
Project: Impact of hybridization on native crabapple (Malus coronaria) by domestic apple (Malus domestic) in southern Ontario
Supervisor: Dr. Brian Husband

A message from Elaina: “I am honored and excited to receive the Ages Foundation bursary! I have been working at rare for the past two years completing hand pollinations on native crabapple trees around the property. My research uses controlled and open pollinations in the field to study the ecological and genetic impacts of mating between native crabapple and domestic apple. These two closely related species have the ability to cross-pollinate and create hybrid individuals, which can alter the genetic composition and harm the survival of the native crabapple population. By completing these pollinations and subsequent genetic analysis, I can evaluate the impact of hybrid pollinations on the number of pure crabapple seeds produced and on the likelihood that seeds form asexually.  I feel very lucky to be working on the rare property because it has the biggest native crabapple population that we know of in Southern Ontario, so it is the perfect place to conduct my research!”


Kyle Schang, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

Project: Understanding tree range expansion
Supervisor: Dr. Andrew Trant

A message from Kyle: “Within southwestern Ontario are two unique ecoregions: the Carolinian Deciduous forests to the south and the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region to the north. As pressures from climate change force Carolinian tree species northwards, they must navigate their way through a complicated mosaic of agricultural land and urban centers. I will be looking at how Carolinian species northern range limits are shifting in response to these increasingly aggressive pressures. The rare Charitable Research Reserve provides the unique opportunity to study these relationships being located right along the Carolinian/Great Lakes-St. Lawrence ecotone. I am extremely grateful for both this award and the opportunity to conduct awesome science at rare.”


Rohit Verma, MES Candidate, University of Waterloo, Faculty of Environment
Project: Using an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to determine the relationship of Canopy Temperature Depression to Beech Bark Disease Severity in Southern Ontario
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

A message from Rohit: “My study will explore whether an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) equipped with thermal infrared camera technology can be used to collect accurate canopy temperature measurements of American Beech trees to identify healthy, declining, and dead trees at rare. If successful, canopy temperature measurements and UAVs may be a potential method used by ecosystem managers to efficiently identify declining tree species within large forested landscapes. I am very grateful for receiving this scholarship and for the opportunity to collaborate with rare on this project!”

Nathanael Harper, MSc Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Biology
Validating eDNA metabarcoding of vernal pools with conventional amphibian survey methods
Supervisor: Dr. Paul Craig and Dr. Barb Katzenback

A message from Nathanael: “Human disturbance, pollution, and climate change place immense pressure on amphibians species across the country. Reliable knowledge of which amphibian species are breeding in a water body is essential for effective conservation and management efforts. I study the cells shed by amphibians into the surrounding environment. The genetic material within these cells is called environmental DNA (eDNA), which can be characterized via next-generation sequencing. As a whole, this technique is called eDNA metabarcoding, and it allows non-invasive detection of the amphibian community with a waterbody. My research focuses on applying this technique to vernal pools located across the rare properties in order to determine the effectiveness of eDNA metabarcoding for monitoring local amphibian communities. I have been incredibly lucky to be involved with rare over the past few years and am thrilled at this opportunity to contribute to monitoring efforts on rare properties and throughout the Grand River Watershed!”

Heather Townsend, MSc Candidate, University of Waterloo, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Disentangling the effects of ice formation and the non-growing season on phosphorus and nutrient mobility in agricultural soils
Supervisor: Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen and Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad

A message from Heather: “Annually frozen mid-latitude soils store a significant proportion of global organic carbon; however, the ongoing displacement of climatic zones has led to increased winter temperatures that may alter carbon mineralization. Shifts in precipitation regimes associated with winter warming have impacted the occurrence of insulating snowpacks thereby increasing the depth of freezing experienced by soils during the non-growing season. Moreover, the presence of ice in soils has recently been linked to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in soil pore space and depleted oxygen conditions in agricultural soils. Agroecosystems represent a major non-point source of nutrient loading where changes in soil conditions may result in shifts in carbon and nitrogen cycling with cascading effects to water quality and greenhouse gas production. My research aims to address knowledge gaps associated with winter soil processes by isolating changes in redox conditions induced by soil freezing through a series of unique laboratory experiments using agricultural and wetland soils. I am ecstatic to have received this bursary and continue to work with rare, as its unique setting represents both active and remediated agroecosystems.”

Kevin MacColl, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Integrative Biology
The effects of nutrient enrichment on the community structure and functioning of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
Supervisor: Dr. Hafiz Maherali

A message from Kevin: “I am honoured to be receiving an Ages Foundation bursary for the work I do at rare. I have been conducting research at rare for the past two years in the Blair Flats prairie grasslands. This is a terrific sample site, because the rare prairie is a thriving grassland ecosystem, brimming with a diversity of plants and animals. I use this prairie as an undisturbed reference site, to compare with other grassland ecosystems that have been impacted by agricultural practices around southern Ontario. I am a plant ecologist, researching how nutrient pollution from excessive fertilizer usage impacts plant communities and the soil micro-organisms they interact with. As soils become polluted with mineral nutrients, important interactions between plants and soil microbial communities can break down, potentially impacting a number of ecosystem processes, including nutrient cycles, primary productivity, and diminishing plant diversity. My research objective is to characterize these negative feedback loops with field surveys of sites that span a range of agricultural exposure, and lab-studies of experimental soil systems where I observe alterations to plant and microbial activity following over-exposure to mineral nutrition.”

Shannon French, PhD Candidate, University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College
Assessing the potential exposure of birds and mammals to raccoon roundworm in the environment
Supervisor: Dr. Claire Jardine

A message from Shannon: “Through population growth and land development, humans and wildlife are in ever-increasing contact. Although access to urban wildlife can have many positive influences, it also brings increased risk of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. A common urban species for which this is true is the raccoon (Procyon lotor). In addition to well-known diseases such as rabies, raccoons carry a parasitic round worm called Baylisascaris procyonis; the larval stage of this parasite can cause severe neurologic disease in humans and other animals. Working with rare is allowing us to investigate animals other than raccoons that may be important in the ecology of this parasite, as well as local species at risk of clinical disease.”

Andrew Judge, PhD Candidate, Western University, Faculty of Education
Project: Indigenous land management practices: Gardening for future generations
Supervisor: Dr. Vicki Schwean

A message from Andrew: “My spirit name is Mkomosé (Bear Walker) and my English name is Andrew Judge. I am an Irish-Anishinaabe scholar and my research interests include Indigenous cultural knowledge, traditional ecological knowledge, decolonization, Indigenous resurgence, Mayan and Anishinaabe cosmology, blended Indigenous and Western methodologies, and the ways colonialism impacts Indigenous peoples connections to land and water. I am a professor of Indigenous studies at Conestoga College’s Doon campus where I am developing a community centred program in Indigenous land-based practices. I dream of one day connecting this program to the conservation efforts being enacted at rare and ultimately seek to build better relationships with local Indigenous peoples and all people in South Western Ontario around sustainability and food sovereignty. I am honoured to be a recipient of the 2018 Ages Foundation Fellowship and Bursary Program! I constantly seek to apply Indigenous knowledges, especially as they relate to environmental sustainability and the ways the ancestors taught us to interact with earth. My guidance comes from the wisdom of Elders, the Ancestors, and my dream. I live with a constant gratitude for the Ancestral teachings I have been entrusted and will continue to use these teachings in the best interest of the communities I serve.”

Heather Ikert, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Biology
Impacts of multiple stressors on fish populations and health in the Grand River watershed using environmental DNA and RNA measurements
Supervisor: Dr. Paul Craig and Dr. Barb Katzenback

A message from Heather: “With an ever-growing human population, increasing stress is placed on the aquatic environment impacting biodiversity. Stressors such as wastewater, agricultural and urban runoff and the introduction of invasive species all affect natural communities. I will be determining how multiple stressors affect fish populations and stress levels by measuring environmental DNA (to identify organisms present) and RNA (to measure stress levels). Collection of eDNA from the water allows for identification of all organisms within a community and is a very useful tool to non-invasively measure biodiversity of fish species. Collection and measurement of RNA from water samples allows for identification of sub-lethal changes in fish stress levels before changes in biodiversity occur. I’m super excited for this opportunity to work with rare in developing this novel technique!”

Janean Sharkey, MSc Candidate, Guelph University, School of Environmental Sciences
Project: Assessment of habitat use and ecology of native bee communities in a fragmented rare ecosystem in southern Ontario using novel tracking and molecular techniques
Supervisor: Dr. Nigel Raine

A message from Janean: “With increasing concern about population declines and range reductions, it is important to research the current state of bee fauna in Canada. I am interested in how restoration and land management influence the structure of wild bee communities. My research will assess overall bee community diversity and richness in a highly fragmented and rare ecosystem under different levels of management. Tallgrass prairie and savannah are one of the most endangered communities in Canada and home to many species at risk. This habitat is also situated in areas where there are increasing demands from human populations in regards to agriculture and urbanization. I will also investigate the movement and habitat use of bumble bee species on a landscape scale using innovative radio-tracking and molecular techniques. Much is unknown about native bee distribution and life history requirements, even for the largest bodied and most charismatic group the bumble bees. Basic information about how far bumble bees travel to fulfill critical life history stages and what habitat preferences and/or requirements they exhibit remains unknown. Therefore, I will investigate factors that limit population fitness of bumble bees, such as availability of suitable nesting, foraging and overwintering sites. These are key components in understanding risks to this important pollinator’s conservation. I am so pleased to have been chosen to receive this bursary and to have rare as one of my study sites.”


Linden Fairbairn, MSc Candidate, University of Waterloo, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Project: Effects of dynamic hydrologic conditions on carbon and nutrient mobility in agricultural soils
Supervisor: Dr. Philippe Van Cappellen and Dr. Fereidoun Rezanezhad

A message from Linden: Soils contain the largest dynamic reservoir of carbon and nutrients on Earth – this makes soils a critical component of global carbon and nutrient cycles. In agroecosystems, soils play an important role for the storage and movement of carbon and nutrients and the export of agricultural contaminants to the environment. There are multiple environmental factors (e.g., soil moisture and temperature) controlling the rate of biogeochemical processes that affect carbon and nutrients cycling in soils. The goal of my research is to determine how changing hydrological conditions due to climate change will affect the biogeochemical processes at reactive interfaces, that is, areas in the landscape characterised by enhanced biogeochemical activity, which are often spatially localised (“hot spots”) and temporally dynamic (“hot moments”). To assess these processes, I am conducting laboratory experiments using soil from rare’s agricultural fields and measuring carbon and nutrient fluxes, as well as greenhouse gas fluxes under dynamic hydrological conditions. The fields at rare present an opportunity to conduct research in a unique agroecosystem. I am very excited to have been chosen for this bursary and our research group is very grateful to use rare as a research field site.”

Victoria MacPhail, PhD Candidate, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies
Project: Understanding the decline of native bumble bee (Bombus spp.) pollinators in Canada using citizen science data
Supervisor: Dr. Sheila Colla

A message from Victoria: “Pollinators are critical for healthy ecosystems, being responsible for the reproduction of up to 90% of all flowering plants, but we know very little about them. I am interested in understanding the reasons for declines in some bumble bees in Ontario and Canada. I believe that my work will fill knowledge gaps, improve conservation status assessments, recommend recovery actions and influence policy for actions related to bumble bees. I encourage everyone to submit photos of bumble bees from their backyards or local parks or wherever your travels take you in North America to – you could help us find new locations of declining species and learn more about these important pollinators!”

Heidi van Vliet, M.Sc Candidate, York University, Department of Biology
Project: The effects of agricultural intensification on the breeding success, juvenile survival and migration movements of Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
Supervisor: Dr. Bridget Stutchbury

A message from Heidi: “Grassland birds are steeply declining throughout North America. These declines are primarily due to habitat loss and degradation from agricultural intensification. I am studying the nesting success, fledgling survival, and migration movements of Savannah Sparrows breeding on intensive farmland in southern Ontario. I am using rare as one of my non-agricultural grassland sites to use as a comparison to the birds breeding on farmland. Studying grassland birds breeding on farmland is an important step in better understanding why they are declining and if breeding on farmland is negatively impacting them. I am thrilled to have received this award and excited for a second field season working at rare!”

Heather Cray, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability
Project: Community assessment of invasive earthworms in restored southern Ontario tallgrass prairie
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

A message from Heather: “With less than 1% remaining in Ontario, tallgrass prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Unfortunately, they are also facing new challenges. While we know that 17 species of exotic earthworms are spreading across Ontario and that they eat and bury seeds, key information about the presence, community structure, and population density of these novel seed predators is lacking. I will be addressing this knowledge gap by assessing the earthworm population in tallgrass prairie at rare. This research will inform future prairie restoration by adding another piece to the complex food web of establishing habitats and will deepen our understanding of factors related to earthworm invasion. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with rare to shed light on the ecology of our new subterranean neighbors.”

Jonas Hamberg, PhD Candidate, University of Waterloo, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability
Project: Reducing noise pollution through ecosystem restoration
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

A message from Jonas: “My interests lie in the intersection of restoration ecology, novel ecosystems and ecosystem function and services. One of the least studied services provided by nature is relative peace and quiet both through not being a source itself but also by the ability of vegetation, soil and topography to block noise. The rare research reserve provides a getaway for humans and habitat for animals through conservation and restoration. I am exploring how restoration and conservation of tallgrass prairie and forest attenuates noise pollution. I’ve enjoyed rare as a great place to hike, look for interesting plants and I’ve taken part in the Walk for rare. I was very happy to hear about getting the bursary, which will help with research equipment and travel.”

2016: Mason Stothart, M.Sc Candidate, University of Guelph- Department of Integrative Biology
Project: Synanthropic stress physiology and significance for sylvatic disease dynamics in city-dwelling Sciurus carolinensis
Supervisor: Dr. Amy Newman

A message from Mason: “Urban environments are among the fastest growing and most widely distributed ecosystems in the world, and although not naturally occurring, can host unique community assemblages. However, species seeking to colonize urban habitats must first overcome a wide suite of human generated stressors and selective pressures. Understanding the mechanisms that enable wildlife encroachment into these densely populated landscapes is important from both a human-wildlife conflict, and public health perspective. I will be investigating the effects of “city-life” on the stress and immune physiology of arguably the most successful of these fur-bearing urbanites, the eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). As a preserved island of green in a sea of urban sprawl, the rare property is an invaluable foil for this urban v. exurban comparison. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside rare both in conducting this research, and in piloting a novel citizen science initiative for the local community. For more information regarding the CitiSci(urid) Project and how to get involved visit, and stay tuned for our other upcoming wildlife monitoring citizen science initiatives!”

Kirsten McMillan, Ph.D. Candidate, Laurentian University, Genetics and Ecology of Amphibians Research Group
Project: Spatial epidemiology of co-infecting amphibian emerging infectious diseases
Supervisor: Dr. David Lesbarrères
**This scholarship was funded by the Nature Conservancy of Canada**

A message from Kirsten: “In recent decades, at least 43 % of amphibian species have declined, 32.5 % are globally threatened, 37 species are extinct and an additional 88 species are possibly extinct. Extinction is more than the loss of a species. With the extinction of any species, we also lose unique features and detailed adaptations which cannot be replaced. Additionally, these declines may be indicative of larger environmental problems with potentially systemic implications. Amphibian declines may be an early indicator of the impending loss of freshwater aquatic ecosystem services throughout the world. Due to the ecological importance and the expansive geographic range of amphibian decline (in both human-disturbed and seemingly pristine habitats) this matter has been acknowledged as a global conservation priority.”

Lindsey Clairmont, Ph.D. Candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University
Project: Characterizing the effects of water quality and wetland plant species on the structure and function of microbial rhizosphere communities
Supervisor: Dr. Robin Slawson
**This scholarship was funded by RBC Bluewater**

A message from Lindsey: “The interactions occurring between microorganisms and plants within the rhizosphere are very complex and poorly understood. Many of the remedial capabilities of wetlands rely on processes occurring at the level of the rhizosphere in wetland plants. In order to optimize the remedial capabilities of constructed wetlands a better understanding of the factors that drive the microbial rhizosphere community structure is needed. My goal is to gain a better understanding of how microbial rhizosphere communities differ among different wetland plant species, and to determine the factors that drive these differences. I am particularly interested in the effect of varying water quality on rhizosphere community dynamics. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to conduct this exciting research at rare.”

Nimalka Weerasuriya & Sarah Allan, M.Sc Candidates, University of Western Ontario
Project: Disturbance effects on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in tallgrass prairies and native forests.
Supervisor: Dr. R. Greg Thorn

A message from Nimalka & Sarah: “Studying the responses of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to disturbances is a recurring theme in our Fungal Ecology lab. These are cryptic soil organisms that are intricately tied to the health of the plant communities, but are notoriously difficult to cultivate in a lab. We rely on genetic identification to help us determine the impacts of soil disturbances, such as agricultural tillage or invasive species growth, which may be changing the functional diversity of these fungi. We are very excited to have this opportunity to conduct this research at rare!”

Eric Harvey, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Guelph
Project: Metacommunity dynamics and community assembly of restored tallgrass prairie
Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

A message from Eric: “The complexity found in nature still stands unchallenged amongst sciences. I’m amazed by the nature and the characteristics of the interactions between species and how these interactions contribute in shaping ecosystem structure and functioning. This is exactly what ecology is, the study of the interactions between every living creature and with their environment. Ecology is the best science ever!”

Stefan Schneider, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph
Project: Spatial and temporal foraging behaviour of small mammals and their impacts on the plant community of a restored tallgrass prairie: an annual cycle
Supervisor: Dr. Andrew MacDougall

A message from Stefan Schneider: “Tallgrass prairie has all but disappeared in southern Ontario and what little that is left may be highly impacted by what small mammals are not eating. As cryptic consumers, their impacts go unnoticed yet can take an enormous toll on the plant community of a grassland system.”

Martin Kastner, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Waterloo
Project: Ecological restoration of meadows in an urban environment
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Stefan Weber, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph
Project: Floral interactions and the role of pollination-niche traits in the assembly of spring ephemeral communities
Supervisor: Dr. Christina Caruso

Heather Andrachuk, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Project: Monitoring pollinators: examining the efficacy of Citizen Science observations
Supervisor: Dr. Steve Murphy

Rashad Bhamjee, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph, Department of Geography
Project: Monitoring stream network extent in agricultural headwater streams
Supervisor: Dr. John Lindsay

Jessica Grealey, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Waterloo, Department of Environment and Resource Studies
Project: Monitoring butterfly abundance and diversity along an urban gradient in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario: using butterflies as biodiversity indicators in a changing landscape
Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Murphy

Adam Brunke, M.Sc. Candidate, University of Guelph
Project: Characterizing the role of rove beetles (Staphylinidae) in complementing coccinellid predation of soybean aphids
Supervisor: Dr. Rebecca Hallett
**This scholarship was funded by The Cloverleaf Foundation**

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