The W. Garfield Weston Foundation Fellowship Program


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With generous support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, WCS Canada is able to award fellowships which provide all or partial funding of graduate level field research activities. The research undertaken by these students is relevant to WCS Canada’s conservation objectives at our two long-term sites where WCS is pursuing various science-based conservation efforts: the boreal region of northern Ontario and the northern boreal mountains of Yukon and British Columbia. 




Purpose: To advance Wildlife Conservation Society Canada’s conservation goals at two long-term sites: Northern Boreal Mountains (Yukon/British Columbia) and Ontario’s Northern Boreal.
Application deadline: February 21, 2013

With generous support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCS Canada) is pleased to offer research fellowships in the field of applied conservation science to established or new graduate-level students working on issues that are relevant to our two long-term sites where WCS Canada is pursuing various science-based conservation efforts. These fellowships are intended to provide all or partial funding of graduate level field research-related activities for students to carry out their thesis-related research and are not intended for salaries. The research undertaken by these students will be relevant to WCS Canada’s conservation objectives at our two long-term sites in the boreal region of northern Ontario and the northern boreal mountains of Yukon and British Columbia .


WCS Canada will award fellowships of between $5,000 and $20,000 each. The amount of funding awarded will be determined in part by the applicants’ financial needs balanced with other applicants.  These fellowships are available beginning April 15, 2012 and last for one year.
The candidates must be pursuing a graduate degree in conservation science, or in a related field such as landscape ecology, natural resources management/conservation, conservation planning, conservation biology, environmental studies, wildlife/plant/fisheries ecology or socio-ecological studies. The research project must help advance WCS Canada’s long-term conservation objectives and knowledge for each region and thus may include, but is not limited to, studies of: aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems; wetland, riparian, and peatland ecosystems; species management/conservation; ecosystem connectivity; ecological changes resulting from climate change; sustainable harvesting of fish and/or wildlife; and socio-ecological effects of natural resource development or management, especially cumulative effects.

Applicants should send:
1.    A cover letter clearly outlining how the proposed research addresses WCS Canada site-based conservation objectives;
2.    Curriculum Vitae;
3.    Description of research project of 3-5 pp. including goals/objectives, methods, conservation relevance);
4.    Complete project budget which must include requested component, within overall budget, and committed or pending support from other sources;
5.    Letter of support from academic supervisor and names and contact information for two other references.  

Applicants are strongly advised to ensure that their proposed research follows accepted ethical guidelines for research in the North before submitting proposals.  Examples include the ACUNS Principles for Conduct of Research in the North ( and the Inuit Tapiirit Kanatimi Guide for Researchers (  Fellowship awards will be conditional upon applicants providing copies of approved permits for research and evidence of compliance with necessary animal and/or human ethics review and welfare protocols.

Send all application materials to: Office Manager at , 720 Spadina Avenue, #600, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2T9. Electronic submissions are preferred. Electronic submissions greatly facilitate peer review and management of your proposal. Acceptable format is a pdf document file. Questions about specific sites can be directed toward Dr. Cheryl Chetkiewicz (Ontario’s Northern Boreal) at: and Dr. Don Reid (Northern Boreal Mountains) at

Long-term site descriptions and WCS Canada’s conservation agenda

Ontario’s Northern Boreal (ONB) Long-term Site

This region contains the world’s largest ecologically intact boreal forest, the third largest wetland, and globally significant peatland complexes. The sheer size (450,000 sq. km), remoteness, low human population density, lack of a permanent transportation or energy infrastructure network, and as-yet small industrial footprint make it a stronghold for a number of species that have experienced range reductions in the rest of Canada including caribou, wolverine, and lake sturgeon as well as the most southern population of polar bears.  It is also a homeland to approximately 24,000 Cree and Ojibway First Nations. In the last two decades, they have experienced a mineral commodity boom in staking, exploration, and mining, intensifying in the past several years with the discovery of a world-class nickel-chromium deposit (the “Ring of Fire”).  In 2010, the Government of Ontario formally committed to protecting at least 50 per cent of the landscape and creating a new relationship with First Nations to support sustainable development through a significant role in community and regional scale land-use planning processes.

Our vision is that Ontario’s Northern Boreal Landscape remains the largest ecologically intact boreal landscape in the world with thriving populations of iconic fish and wildlife species within a dynamic landscape, supporting healthy and resilient communities of First Nations pursuing traditional resource use with development.

•    Conservation principles inform regional and community planning and environmental assessment processes
•    Scientific information informs management and use of fish and wildlife in northern Ontario
•    First Nations communities have access to cutting edge management tools and scientific information for planning practices
•    Assessment and best practices of industrial development support conservation and traditional resource use
•    Advance the science necessary to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in Ontario’s northern boreal, particularly with First Nations

Northern Boreal Mountains (NBM)

This region encompasses approximately 855,000 km2 in north-western Canada, incorporating diverse boreal, taiga and tundra ecosystems.  Resident aboriginal peoples rely on their harvests of wildlife and fish, including the longest distance migration of salmon in the world.  Much of the region is still wilderness, supporting robust populations of barren-ground and mountain caribou, grizzly bears, wolverine, and lynx, and significant breeding populations of many boreal bird species  Much of the region was part of the Beringian refugium during the Wisconsin glaciation, and that geographic isolation led to significant speciation and endemic wildlife.  Lowland forest and riparian habitats support the majority of the region’s biodiversity but these habitats are poorly covered by existing conservation lands. WCS Canada is focusing on the NBM because of the mix of conservation opportunity and threat the region currently faces.  

Our vision is that the full suite of wildlife species continues to thrive, with robust populations conserved across the diversity of ecosystems, throughout the boreal mountains of northwest Canada.


•    To contribute to the identification and development of a full suite of ecological benchmarks or protected areas in the Northern Boreal Mountains
•    To contribute new science or scientific interpretations to enhance conservation of fish and wildlife in the Northern Boreal Mountains
•    To develop best management practices for the integration of wildlife and ecosystem conservation into natural resource management and human use of wild places
•    To strengthen the technical and scientific capacity of government agencies and other organizations which have a conservation mandate
•    To develop assessments of the risks to wildlife inherent in climate change and pursue suitable adaptation strategies in concert with various partners


2012 Fellows

Northern Ontario  

Anjali Karve, University of Toronto (PhD Candidate), is examining how the commercial removal of downed woody debris from Ontario’s northern boreal forests for biofuel production may impact small mammal biodiversity.



Josef MacLeod, Laurentian University (MSc Candidate), is surveying lakes in the “Ring of Fire” region of northern Ontario to collect baseline information on these understudied water bodies. He will collect information on a suite of physical and biological variables to provide a means for comparison in the face of future development in this region.



Marco Raponi, Trent University (MSc Candidate), is examining the role of biting flies in shaping the habitat use and behaviour of woodland caribou. His work will help to uncover how insect harassment may exacerbate habitat loss for woodland caribou with impending changes to the boreal forest due to climate change and resource extraction.



Ayden Sherritt, Trent University (MSc Candidate), is developing a new tool for the rapid assessment of woodland caribou habitat based on site fidelity, the tendency of adult females to return to the same location in consecutive years. He is using this tool to examine how forest disturbance in northern Ontario and Manitoba affects site fidelity of woodland caribou, which is directly related to calf survival.



Northern Boreal Mountains 

Jeremy R. Brammer, McGill University (PhD Candidate), is developing a series of tools and techniques for northern communities to monitor, communicate and adapt to environmental changes. A goal of this project is to find ways to better integrate traditional and scientific knowledge.



Sara Kuleza, University of Saskatchewan (MSc Candidate), is studying how increases in soil temperature and nutrients due to climate change affect native tundra plants in the Yukon. This study will also examine how much these climate change factors allow for the invasion of boreal plant species to the tundra environment.



Lori Schroeder, University of Alberta (MSc Candidate), is studying the impact of reintroduced Wood Bison on native grasslands in southwest Yukon. Her study will address concerns that the rapid population increase of reintroduced Wood Bison may compete with other native ungulates and alter grasslands that contain rare and endemic plant species.



Scott Williamson, University of Alberta (PhD Candidate), is measuring how the reduction in snow cover and increase in shrub cover, as a result of climate change, affects tundra albedo (i.e. reflectance of sunlight on the earth’s surface) in the southwest Yukon. His project will identify which landscapes are rapidly changing and which are showing resilience which will, in turn, dictate the numbers and diversity of wildlife that the ecosystem can support.



2011 Fellows

Northern Ontario 

John Benson, Trent University, (PhD Candidate) is examining hybridization between eastern wolves, gray wolves, and coyotes in the Algonquin Provincial Park and region. His work will help guide wolf conservation efforts in this region.

Benson JF, Patterson BR, and Wheeldon TJ. 2012. Spatial genetic and morphologic structure of wolves and coyotes in relations to environmental heterogeneity in a Canis hybrid zone. Molecular Ecology 21: 5934-5954.

Kathryn E. Hargan, Queens’ University (PhD Candidate), is studying the ecological communities captured in fossil records in peatlands in the Hudson Bay Lowlands to understand how these communities have evolved and adapted over thousands of years of climate change to support adaption and mitigation strategies in northern Ontario.

Northern Boreal Mountains

Shirley Roburn, Concordia University (PhD Candidate), is examining a conservation campaign in support of the Porcupine caribou herd, whose range encompasses a large swath of boreal forest and arctic tundra in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.  Her goal is to identify those features of a conservation campaign (scientific data, story-telling, artistic involvement, political lobbying) that contribute most to the campaign’s success.

Krista Sittler, University of Northern British Columbia (MSc Candidate), is studying the influences of prescribed fire on habitat choice and risk of predation to elk and thinhorn sheep in the Muskwa-Kechika region of the northern Rocky Mountains in British Columbia.  Her goal is to gain knowledge of how often and where this management technique should be applied for conservation ends. 

Guilherme Verocai, University of Calgary (PhD Candidate), is conducting an inventory of parasites in woodland caribou across boreal Canada.  His work will increase our understanding of the distribution, prevalence and ultimately population effects of these parasites, whose effect on caribou may be changing as parasite ranges shift with climate changes.

2010 Fellows

Northern Ontario 

Ben O'Reilly, University of Toronto, MSc Candidate, is conducting research on the paleoecology (the study of fossils and ecosystems) and paleohydrology (the science of historic hydrologic systems as they existed during previous periods of Earth’s history) of the Hudson Bay Lowland. His work will help WCS to better understand future carbon storage capacity given current projections for rapid climate change in the sub-Arctic northern boreal landscape.           

Julee Boan, Lakehead University, PhD Candidate, is researching the impact of how different tree planting techniques (reforestation) may be impacting moose, white-tailed deer and woodland caribou habitat in the managed forests of English River and Caribou Forest and in Wabikimi Provincial Park in northwestern Ontario.  This work supports our understanding of woodland ecology and habitat conservation in managed public forest. 

Boan JJ, McLaren BE, and Malcolm JR. 2011. Influence of post-harvest silviculture on understory vegetation: Implications for forage in a multi-ungulate system. Forest Ecology and Management 262: 1704-1712.

Mark Basterfield, Trent University, MSc Candidate, is conducting research on the habitat selection patterns of the Owl-Flintstone herd of woodland caribou in Manitoba.  This work will help WCS better understand the responses of woodland caribou in managed forests with different levels of land use and planning and policy regulations.

Northern Boreal Mountains

Krista Sittler, MSc Candidate, University of Northern British Columbia. Krista’s research is focussed on the influences of prescribed fire on two focal ungulate species in Northern British Columbia, as her Masters thesis in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies.



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