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Releasing wild stock endangered Atlantic salmon into Napu'saqnuk (St. Mary's River, Nova Scotia).   Video credit: Scott Beaver, St. Mary's River Association (October, 2022)


Sustainable natural resource management and the conservation of forests, freshwater ecosystems, and wildlife (especially aquatic species) are common themes found throughout my research.


The intended outcome these projects is to not only produce robust, peer-reviewed scientific findings, but to ensure that these findings can be communicated in plain language with applications for policy makers. 

Forests and Fish

1.  Forestry roads and freshwater habitat connectivity for fish

Partners: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources & Renewables, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2023 - current)

The Wabanaki (Acadian) forest region has a complex network of rivers and thousands of kilometers of unpaved roads, an essential component of natural resource extraction. Culverts are the most common structures used to allow continued water flow when streams intersect with newly constructed roads. However, water passing through a culvert does not guarantee that aquatic wildlife can also pass through. Aquatic connectivity is especially important for diadromous fish species that migrate hundreds of kilometers from the open ocean to upper tributaries in river systems to reach their natal spawning grounds. The cumulative effect of culverts across many watersheds in Mi'kma'ki has significantly reduced habitat connectivity for fish.


Natural disturbance-based forestry, or ‘ecological’ forestry, tries to replicate the disturbance regimes that native terrestrial wildlife evolved with over thousands of years. In doing so, it is hypothesized that ecological forest management in Nova Scotia conserves a higher number of native species that have adapted to regional disturbance regimes (windstorms, fire, spruce budworm outbreaks). However, the impacts of changing road networks associated with ecological forestry techniques, and their potential impacts on the aquatic environment, are not well understood. This research project will apply a “site-to-landscape” approach to evaluate the impacts of forestry road networks on habitat connectivity for freshwater and diadromous fish at varying spatial scales.

The transitional area between watercourses and terrestrial habitats is known as the "riparian zone," and is one of the most important habitat components for aquatic species located in freshwater ecosystems. Intact, forested riparian zones help maintain aquatic ecological integrity by buffering impacts from terrestrial land-use activities. Riparian forests can reduce sedimentation and contamination by naturally filtering water as it runs off upland areas, and play a critical role in regulating water temperature with tree canopy cover to reduce light exposure in the hot summer months. Salmonid fish species that historically evolved in Mi'kma'ki, such as Atlantic salmon and brook trout, are specialized to cold water and populations are threatened in river systems with high water temperatures.



Riparian forests are becoming increasingly important to maintain climate change resilience in surface-fed tributaries that provide cold water refugia for salmonids to avoid thermal stress in warming rivers. This project uses remote sensing, field observations, and seasonal water temperature monitoring data to better understand how riparian forest management influences temperature dynamics in adjacent freshwater fish habitat of varying attributes (e.g., stream width, timber harvest method, buffer size, forest regeneration age). Predictive modelling is used to demonstrate how riparian forestry may influence water temperature at fine spatial scales and at different GHG emissions and climate change warming scenarios.

More: coming soon...


Culvert survey in Napu'saqnuk (St. Mary's River) in October 2022

2.  Riparian forest management and climate change resiliency

Partners: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources & Renewables, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2023 - current)


Bank erosion into a riparian forest in Napu'saqnuk (St. Mary's River) in June 2022

Mining policy and freshwater ecosystems 

1.  A loophole in British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Act?

Partners: Northern Confluence Initiative, Wilburforce Foundation (2020 - 2022)

There is a little known clause in BC's Environmental Assessment Act that can allow a company to make significant physical changes to their natural resource extraction projects after the conclusion of an environmental assessment (EA). This process is known as an 'amendment,' and often occurs with less scientific and public scrutiny than the original EA. We used mining projects as an example to investigate how often amendments were occurring and what types of predicted effects they could be having on freshwater resources throughout BC. This involved digging through hundreds of pages of documents posted on BC's project registry

Of the 23 mines that were approved via the environmental assessment process in BC between 2002 and 2020:

  • 14 (61%) of mines received amendments after-the-fact

  • 20 (out of 48 total) amendments were approved that were likely to have impacts on freshwater ecosystems

  • some of the changes allowed by amendments included increased discharge of effluent into river systems, destruction of wetlands, and extraction of groundwater supplies.

Read the recommendations to resolve this loophole in our full article, published open-access in FACETS.

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2.  Transboundary freshwater mining pollution: law and policy

The headwater coal mines in BC's Elk Valley have contributed to decades of selenium pollution in the freshwater ecosystems of the transboundary Canada / United States Elk – Kootenai River watershed, evidenced in part by the $60 million fine imposed on Teck Resources Ltd. under Canada’s Fisheries Act in 2021 for the ‘deposit of deleterious substances.' 


We applied principles of international law to formulate a two-part conclusion in the form of (1) a short-term solution to effectively facilitate a resolution of transboundary mining pollution in the Elk – Kootenai River watershed; (2) a long-term solution to settle future disagreements regarding transboundary pollution between Canada and the United States.

Read our recommendations here, published open-access in the Journal of Environmental Law and Policy.

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