Modelling the Urban Forest in a Changing Climate

2016 to Current

Despite the growing awareness urban forests and the beneficial ecosystem services they provide, there is a lack of discussion on the abundant threats to urban trees and forests. Chief among these is the looming threat of climate change. My research program is focused on the development of a new open-source ecological model to simulate urban forest growth and disturbance. Once developed, I will be investigating climate change impacts and management adaptation in cities. Ecological modelling enables the investigation of uncertain processes like climate change through the abstraction of complex systems to conduct experimental research at spatial and temporal scales that would otherwise be infeasible. This research is part of a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies.


Urban Forest Vulnerability

2012 to 2016

The topic of my doctoral research at Ryerson University in Toronto was the vulnerability of the urban forest resource, which was funded by NSERC and the Fulbright Foundation. I was supervised by Dr. Andrew Millward, leader of the Urban Forest Research & Ecological Disturbance (UFRED) Group. My research involved developing a framework for the assessment of urban forest ecosystem vulnerability that integrates the vegetation, built environment, and human population components of urban forest ecosystems. I then applied this framework in subsequent studies, first to investigate urban forest vulnerability and ecosystem change in the field in a residential Toronto neighbourhood and second to conduct a long-term vulnerability assessment across the entire city using the USDA Forest Service's newly developed i-Tree Forecast model.

See our paper in Environmental Reviews to learn about the conceptual framework of urban forest vulnerability.

See our paper in Environmental Management to learn about vulnerability assessment and ecosystem modelling.


Open Data and Environmental Management

2015 to Current

I'm conducting research on the intersections of government open data and environmental management.
 This work was originally funded by the Canadian Geospatial and Open Data Research Partnership ( under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Robinson. It is now part of my 
research program as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University. The value of government open data for understanding and managing the environment is a less prominent theme in the open data discourse. Insight into urban ecosystems that would not be feasible with traditional research is possible.


Ecosystem Classification

2012 to Current

Urban forests are now recognized as essential components of sustainable cities, but there is uncertainty around how to stratify and classify urban landscapes into units of ecological significance at spatial scales appropriate for management. Ecosystem classification is an approach that involves quantifying the processes that shape ecosystem conditions into logical and relatively homogeneous management units, making the potential for ecosystem-based decision support available to urban planners.

Arguably, city neighbourhoods represent a logical scale and unit for the classification and analysis of urban ecosystems. Neighbourhoods have a storied history in community and urban planning initiatives, and as tenuously-bounded, spatial phenomena with some degree of homogeneity (i.e., social and structural) they draw some parallels with the ecosystem concept. 
As part of my doctoral research, I developed a framework for urban forest ecosystem classification (UFEC) at the neighbourhood scale. The framework integrates a number of ecosystem components that characterize the biophysical landscape, built environment, and human population. To learn more, see my publications in the Journal of Environmental Management and in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

For a quick overview, check out my recent article in the Summer 2016 issue of Spacing Magazine:


Great Lakes Futures Project

2012 to 2013

I was a researcher for the Great Lakes Future Project. The project explored potential futures in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin in four different theoretical scenarios to inform strategic policy formulation, frame research priorities, and help train the next generation of Great Lakes leaders. 
It was the inaugural project of the Transborder Research University Network (TRUN) for Water Stewardship – an international partnership of Canadian and American research institutions. The Project was supported by 21 Canadian and American research organizations. A special issue in the Journal of Great Lakes Research was dedicated to the Great Lakes Futures Project (including my paper describing the 'Living on the Edge' scenario).
Text is quoted and/or adapted from:
Image source:

The ultimate goal of the Great Lakes Futures Project was to communicate current and robust science to decision makers and stakeholders using a creative but believable narrative. In this vein, the project leadership enlisted artist Andrea Guzzetta to visually portray the four different future scenarios of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin.  The following four images represent the four alternative futures for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin (SOURCE: Click to enlarge.





Halifax's Urban Forest Master Plan

2010 to 2012

The Halifax
 Regional Municipality (HRM) recently developed their Urban Forest Master Plan, which was completed in 2012. The plan was developed using a novel neighbourhood-based spatial analysis and approach to sustainable urban forest management. My involvement in the project included conducting the neighbourhood scale spatial analysis o
f HRM's urban forest structure and function (using a diverse set of tools, including LiDAR tree canopy data and the i-Tree models), authoring sections of the plan, and organizing stakeholder and community engagement. The plan was adopted by City Council in September, 2012. You can find the Plan and the Appendix of individual neighbourhoods on the HRM website. Also, see our paper published in Landscape and Urban Planning that details the neighbourhood approach to urban forest management.

The Halifax Urban Forest Master Plan was awarded the Canadian Institute Planners' Planning Excellence Merit Award for New and Emerging Planning Initiatives in 2014.


Urban Forest Values in Canada


As part of a Canada-wide research endeavor, we explored how city inhabitants value the urban forest. The research was part of a major SSHRC grant held by Peter Duinker (Principal Investigator) at Dalhousie University, Tom Beckley at the University of New Brunswick, and John Sinclair at the University of Manitoba. My involvement as a research associate included the organization and facilitation of urban forestry workshops across the country. The goal of the workshops were two-fold: to communicate the findings of several years of research studying how Canadians value their urban forests and to discuss the implications for local urban forest management. The workshops were targeted towards professionals in the public and private sector, including arborists, urban foresters, planners, landscape architects, engineers, and non-governmental organizations. We held workshops in Halifax, Fredericton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, and Vancouver. We also held a workshop at the 10th Canadian Urban Forest Conference in London, which was profiled in the Ontario Arborist magazine. For more information on this research, see our paper published in Sustainability.


Climate Change and Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management

2010 to 2011

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM) developed a set of Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management in Canada, which are a national tool for monitoring and assessing our progress towards sustainable forest management. The CCFM and British Columbia's Future Forest Ecosystem Scientific Council (FFESC) began an initiative to address potential influence of climate change on the effectiveness of the Criteria and Indicators framework. Our Dalhousie-based research team was charged with this task, and completed the project in 2011. The final reports were reviewed the CCFM Climate Change Task Force and include a main synthesis report and the individual indicator evaluations. Also, see the paper published in the Journal of Sustainable Development

In 2014, the CCFM released their own report on climate change and Criteria and Indicators based, in part, on our research.


Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations in the Forests of Nova Scotia

2008 to 2010

My Master's research at Dalhousie University's School for Resource and Environmental Studies involved modelling climate change impacts and adaptations in the forests of central Nova Scotia. The watersheds where the research was conducted are the water supply for the urban core of Halifax. Halifax Water (the municipal water utility) actively manages the forests of the 14,000 ha watersheds, and expressed a desire to address climate change in their forest management. My research was part of a partnership between the utility and Dalhousie, with joint funding from NSERC's Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship and Halifax Water, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Duinker. I published two papers based on this research in Forest Ecology and Management and the Annals of Forest Science.


Point Pleasant Park and Hurricane Juan in Halifax, Nova Scotia


Point Pleasant Park is a 75 ha forested park in Halifax. In September, 2003, the category-two Hurricane Juan decimated the forests of the park, blowing down around 75,000 trees (around 80% of the trees in the park). There was public outcry from the citizens of Halifax to recover the forests of the park and a restoration initiative began almost immediately. My research consisted of a survey and analysis of forest regeneration in the most disturbed areas of the park to inform park restoration. We were able to assess the adequacy of natural regeneration and designate areas for planting, target certain invasive tree species for removal, and identify the extent of favourable, shade tolerant Acadian tree species. This work is published in the Proceedings of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science and was used to inform decision-making in the Point Pleasant Park Comprehensive Plan.