**Please note, this research page has not recently been updated. I apologize for the delay**

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. The model will also account for key social processes that influence the structure and function of urban forest ecosystems. 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 my Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies. My post-doctoral supervisor is Dr. Peter Duinker.


Cumulative Effects

2015 to 2017

As the principal consultant of Ecotone Consulting, I have been involved in research and reporting on the assessment, monitoring, and management of cumulative environmental effects. Cumulative effects are becoming an issue of increasing concern for Canadian policy makers, resource managers, and communities. They refer to adverse impacts that arise from interacting and cumulative human interactions with the environment. They present a unique challenge for managers and policy makers because they are complex, difficult to predict, and often arise from smaller environmental impacts from multiple resource sectors. I was involved in a project for the Alberta Energy Regulator in collaboration with ESSA Technologies Ltd. with the purpose of reviewing Canadian and international approaches to cumulative effects management. Following this, I collaborated with ArborVitae Environmental Services Ltd. to conduct a jurisdictional review of cumulative effects modelling approaches for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.


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. I was also supervised by Dr. David Nowak during my research exchange at the USDA Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Syracuse, NY. 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 spatial analysis and ecological modelling.

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.


Scenario Analysis for Natural Resource Management and Climate Change

2012 to Current

I'm involved in a national, multi-sector natural resource initiative called the Boreal 2050 project, which is being led by Dr. Irena Creed. The project uses
 a transdisciplinary, participatory tool called scenario analysis to consider alternative futures and associated policy implications for Canada’s boreal forests as we transition to a low-carbon economy. The project is near completion, with a special issue in preparation for Environmental Reviews.

I was also 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. 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).

The ultimate goal of scenario analysis to communicate current and robust science to decision makers and stakeholders using a creative but believable narrative. In addition to the written scenarios, our projects have enlisted artists to depict key scenario themes. Artist Ellen Van Laar visualized the four boreal scenarios in the painting below (Artist website: http://algomasuperiorartist.blogspot.com/). Click to enlarge.


Artist Andrea Guzzetta visually portrayed 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 (Artist website: http://andreaguzzetta.blogspot.ca/). Click to enlarge.





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 (geothink.ca) under the supervision of Dr. Pamela Robinson. It is now part of my 
research program as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at Dalhousie University. I undertake this research from two approaches. The first is using spatial analysis and multivariate statistics with municipal datasets that offer novel insight into urban ecosystems, such as 311 data and building permit data. The second is interview-based research with with municipal enviornmental practitioners to discuss the concepet of open data and government-driven citizen science programs, such as crowdsourcing tree inventories. The value of government open data for understanding and managing the environment is a less prominent theme in the open data discourse and can provide insight into urban ecosystems that would not be feasible with traditional research methods.


Ecosystem Classification

2012 to Current

My interest in ecosystem classification as a vital tool for ecosystem-based management began when I worked on developing a GIS-based automated approach to forest ecosystem classification in Nova Scotia. Most of my research on ecosystem classification is now focused on the urban landscape and classifying ecosystems using both social and ecological data. 
Urban forests are 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 while also drawing 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. I have since continued this research using a variety of approaches in Toronto, Halifax, and London. To learn more, see my publications in the Journal of Environmental Management, Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, and Urban Ecosystems.

Also check out my article in the Summer 2016 issue of Spacing Magazine:


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.


Climate Change and Criteria and Indicators of Sustainable Forest Management

2010 to 2012

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.