Meet the Lab

Graduate Students

bio photoSabina Donnelly (MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2013-) // Using genetics to restore grasslands. // I am a graduate student at Thompson Rivers University interested in restoration ecology and population biology. Currently I am studying the importance of seed source during restoration of grasslands and the impact of climate change on grassland species with broad spatial distributions. Bunchgrass biogeoclimatic zones are a valuable ecosystem in British Columbia and are difficult to restore after a major disturbance, especially in light of climate change. Restoration attempts may be hindered because seeds used may be sourced from locations with different climates, different soils and different evolutionary histories. I collected seeds of Pseudoroegneria spicata (Bluebunch Wheatgrass), Festuca idahoensis (Idaho Fescue), Hesperostipa comata (Needle and Thread Grass) and Calamagrostis rubescens (Pinegrass) from various geographically distant populations in a north to south range from California to British Columbia. These population groups were tested for (1) their physiological and morphological response to transplantation to a common garden in Kamloops, British Columbia and (2) the relative competitive impacts of selected distant Bluebunch Wheatgrass genotypes on Kamloops populations. The results will ultimately provide important information on selection of the most appropriate genotype for grassland restoration in the BC southern interior and give insight into the potential of intraspecific migration. // Email:


PaulPaul Antonelli (MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2014-) //Effects of soil amendments and seed selection on plant community succession of a dry mine tailings site. // Research interests include carbon sequestration, plant-soil relationships, soil development, soil amendments, plant community succession, revegetation, and grassland restoration. // Email:


NickNicholas Peterson (MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2015-) // Use of Native Seed of British Columbia’s Interior Grasslands, Seed Storage & Germination Trials Using Smoke Application on First Nations Traditional Foods and Medicines. // Having a First Nations heritage from the Lower Nicola Indian Band, the importance and health of the grasslands of British Columbia is of a paramount concern for me. My research interests include revegetation and restoration of grasslands in British Columbia. I want to ensure higher success rates of native seed used in future restoration and reclamation projects. I also want to help broaden the understanding of cultural restoration by using plants significant to local First Nations people. // Email:


SarahSarah Whitehouse (MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2015-) // Biosolids: Community Engagement and Risk Perception. // I am a graduate student at Thompson Rivers University interested in sustainable management of our natural capital. I have a background in environmental chemistry and environmental economics and am pursuing my research under the policy and management specialization of the MScES program. I believe that there is a need for long-term profitability to go hand-in-hand with social justice and protecting the environment. I am investigating the local upset surrounding biosolids through a public perceptions survey. I am surveying Kamloops, Merritt, and Princeton to assess public knowledge and attitudes regarding the use of biosolids as a soil amendment, including what the biggest concerns surrounding the land application of biosolids are, acceptability of different uses of biosolids, and how the public would like to see biosolids “disposed” of. As our global population continues to rise and population concentration in urban areas continues to increase, there is a growing need to move to sustainable waste management practices, such as the treatment and reuse of municipal waste. This information should aid policy makers, regulators, and biosolids management in developing and implementing publicly successful programs. // Email:


JordannJordann Foster (MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2016-) // Effects of the invasive plant spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) on grassland arthropod communities: Use of genomic barcoding tools for ecosystem reclamation management // My research interests include grassland and wetland ecosystem remediation, human environmental impacts, plant community ecology, and animal behaviour. In British Columbia’s interior, human activities such as mining, recreation, and in certain instances heavy livestock grazing are altering grassland ecosystems, which may leave them susceptible to the colonization of invasive species. Invasive species can cause changes to native plant communities, nutrient cycling, and may alter the amount and quality of habitat available for animals at multiple trophic levels. Arthropods are diverse and contribute to energy flow and nutrient cycling and are therefore an important group to study as a way of determining the effects of changes to ecosystem functioning. My current research focuses on Spotted Knapweed, a perennial forb native to Eastern Europe, which is considered one of the most ecologically harmful invasive species in Western North America. I will be looking at the effects of the presence of Spotted Knapweed on grassland arthropod communities. I will also DNA metabarcode all arthropods specimens, a process of identifying organisms through specific genetic markers, which is a methodology that could be implemented to improve mining site restoration efforts in the future. Research that adds to our grassland species catalogue can be applicable to both invasive species conservation efforts and in helping to improve remediation efforts in disturbed grassland sites. // Email:


Janelle Paulson (Biology Honours Student, 2015-2016; MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2016-) // The influence of reduced snow cover and summer drought on primary productivity in Lac du Bois Park. // I am a Biology Honours student investigating the effects of snow removal and drought on grassland communities and if frost exposure will positively or negatively impact drought tolerance. My research interests include carbon sequestration, invasive species, and restoration ecology. // Link to Honours Thesis // Email:


MattMatthew Coghill (Lab Manager and MSc. Student, Environmental Sciences, TRU, 2016-) // Assessing the Soil Legacy Effects of Spotted Knapweed // Spotted knapweed is an invasive and noxious weed that can spread quickly and cause a loss of biodiversity and forage for grazing animals. My research will look at the legacy effects that spotted knapweed leaves behind in soils after being established in an area for a long period of time. Greenhouse studies with an ash soil amendment will take place to assess its use in grassland restoration of knapweed affected areas. // Email:


steven Steven Kega (MSc. Student, Environmental Science, TRU, 2017-) // Agroforestry: Evaluating the potential for increased forage productivity in mid-rotation forested rangeland sites through an integrated forage, cattle and timber management. // The major investigation throughout my research is based on evaluating the potential for increasing understory plant yield and quality, enhancing soil carbon storage and soil water availability on native forested range, as well as assessing the impact of the integrated forage- trees model on carbon sequestration for climate change mitigation. My work will assist foresters and ranchers to work together to optimize their operations on a shared land base. // Email:


PiotrPiotr Dzumek (MSc. Student, Environmental Science, TRU, 2017-) // Nitrogen cycling in soil amended post-mine tailings. // I am an international student from Poland, where I worked in forestry and resource exploration. Since I was young, I have had a great interest in the environment and ecology, and I often find myself outside during my free time. My Masters project involves the observation of nitrogen cycling in degraded post-mine soils. I’ll be running an experiment where various soil amendments will be mixed with tailings in order to form a complex substrate which I will use to compare the growth of various plants. During the course of my experiment, samples of soil will be collected and analyzed to detect the soil microbial communities engaged in the nitrogen cycle. My other hobbies include photography, riding my motorcycle, and travelling. // Email:

Undergraduate Students

SierraSierra Rae (Natural Resource Science Honours Student, 2016-) // Eagle enclosure restoration: rebuilding plant communities and reducing slope erosion. // I am currently working on my Honours Thesis in partnership with the BC Wildlife Park to restore their eagle enclosure. This includes extracting invasive species, reconstructing depreciating slopes, creating weed control through straw mulch, and replanting of natural species. The plan is to enrich the environment for the eagles and improve their spatial interactions, so an additional behavioural study is being completed to address their interactions and movements within the enclosure. The project is focused on the relationships between eagle behaviour and plant communities, as well as the reduction of weed growth with straw covering. // Email:


ChantalleChantalle Gervan (Natural Resource Science Honours Student, TRU, 2016- ) // Effects of physical removal and burn treatments applied to big sagebrush following years of disturbance // I am a 3rd year student studying natural resource science at Thompson Rivers University. My interests include grassland and wetland ecology, reclamation and carbon sequestration. I am presently completing my honours thesis in partnership with Splitrock Environmental in Lillooet, B.C., where I am investigating various forms of big sagebrush removal treatments. B.C. Hydro previously used the area of study as a powerhouse site, leaving behind compact soils and scarce vegetation. Between 2010 and 2012 the disturbed site was decompacted and planted with native grassland species. However, the native planted species were not successful because they were out competed by an over abundance of big sagebrush. My project is looking at several methods to reduce the abundance of big sagebrush, allowing other native grasses to successfully germinate. // Email:

Undergraduate Research Assistants

  • Chantalle Gervan (2016-2018)
  • Stephanie Jensen (2018)
  • Solenn Vogel (2018)

Previous Students and Researchers