LESA Lab Alumni

Post-Docs and Visiting Researchers

Dr. Gisela Wachinger, University of Stuttgart, Germany – Visiting Researcher


Dr. Wachinger visiting in the LESA Lab for 3 months in fall of 2015. She and I collaborated on some focus groups and interviews with members of NLNature.com. We are working on finding out what motivates citizen scientists. We are also gathering information to help make the website better!

Dr. Wachinger and I hope to continue collaborating on some comparative work looking at citizen science in national parks in Germany and Canada.

You can see Dr. Wachinger’s home page here.

Dr. R. Troy McMullin

photo by Brennan Caverhill
photo by Brennan Caverhill

Dr. McMullin is collaborating with me on my lichen field work. He came to Newfoundland for the month of October 2015 to learn about the wonders of field work here, and lucked out with weather. He and I continued to collaborate on data analysis and write-up while he was at his home base (Biodiversity Institute of Ontario). Read about some of Troy’s lichen work at the University of Guelph Arboretum here.

Troy recently took up a position at the Canadian Museum of Nature as Research Scientist in Lichenology

Graduate Students

Jennifer Rey-Goyeneche (MES)

Hometown: Bogota, Colombia

Previous Education:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Colombia)
  • MSc in Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University (UK)
  • MA in Education: Childhood and Youth Studies, Oxford Brookes University (UK)

About me:

Personally and professionally, I am deeply interested in biodiversity conservation, which is an area I have approached through three interconnected pathways: socio-ecological research, environmental education and citizen science. As an Ecologist, I have supported projects focused on the conservation of endangered species, such as primates, marine turtles, cetaceans, and Amazonian fish, and have worked alongside rural and ethnic communities, like Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Peoples. I have a passion for experiencing new geographical and cultural contexts. Fortunately, my career and volunteering experiences have allowed me to visit and explore some amazing destinations.

Jennifer completed her MES (all online!) and is now in St. John’s working at the Graduate Secretary in the Department of Biology.

Ashley Locke (MES)

Growing up in rural Newfoundland, I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and quickly gained a respect for the beauty and complexity of natural ecosystems. In 2019 I completed my BSc (Hons.) in Environmental science at MUN’s Grenfell campus. In my spare time I enjoy camping, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, watching scary movies and spending time with my dogs.  I am now looking forward to pursuing a MES to become better equipped for a career in the environmental sciences with the goal to work in conservation.

Ashley completed her MES (all online!) and is now working in conservation.

Ashley Locke

Travis Heckford (PhD)


Hometown: Vancouver Island, BC

Previous Education: 

-Advanced Diploma in Geographic Information Systems Applications (ADGISA), Vancouver Island University, BC.

-BSc Biology and Geography, Vancouver Island University, BC.

About Me: Professionally, I am employed as a wildlife biologist with the BC Conservation Foundation and work on various species at risk projects with the Ecosystems Branch of the BC Ministry. My work with them primarily covers Vancouver Island, the Central Coast, and Haida Gwaii. Personally, I enjoy spending time in nature, exploring new places and culture. I feel very fortunate that my personal and professional interests align. I have a strong research interest in conservation biology, habitat modelling, landscape ecology and using GIS to examine spatial patterns and ecological processes.

PhD Project: My PhD project pertains to the spatial ecology of a forest vegetation-snowshoe hare-lynx food web system. This is a joint project with the Terrestrial Ecology Research Group (TERG). My research questions focus on assessing the quantity and quality of snowshoe hare vegetation resources, specifically how nutrient content and availability influence resource selection through space and time. I aim to develop stoichiometric distribution models (StDMs) by incorporating ecological stoichiometry and nutrition into resource selection

Travis is now working as a Landscape Ecologist with the BC Ministry of Forestry.

Isabella Richmond, MSc

Previous Education: BSc in Environmental Science (Ecotoxicology and Geochemistry), University of Ottawa, ON

Previous Education: BSc. Environmental Science Co-op, Area of Emphasis in Ecology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, NS and MSc. Biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, ON.

About Me: Ever since I was a kid, I have been excited about nature. I love immersing myself in and learning about the ecosystems around me. Before coming to MUN, I studied environmental science at the University of Ottawa and I spent my summers chasing dragonflies and butterflies in wetlands and urban ponds throughout the Ottawa region. My goal is that my work will help protect all the wonderful systems that I care so much about. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, camping, honing my ArcGIS skills, and playing hockey.

Bella is currently enrolled in a PhD at Concordia, working with Dr. Carly Ziter

Patrick Lauriault, MSc


Hometown: Chesterville, ON

Previous Education: DEC in Environmental and Wildlife Management, Cegep Vanier College, QC

BSc in Biology (Ecology and Conservation), Memorial University of Newfoundland

About Me: Prior to my time in Newfoundland, I was a cegep student in Montreal where I was trained to be a general field technician. After my time in Cegep I spent a few months in Costa Rica to work on a tropical rainforest growth monitoring program. I completed my BSc at MUN December 2017 and I look forward to my next step as a Master’s student working with cyanolichens here in Newfoundland. In my spare time I enjoy fishing, biking, downhill ski and hiking.

Patrick is now doing a PhD in Andrew Trant’s lab at the University of Waterloo.

Tegan Padgett, MSc

Hometown: Powell River, BC

Previous Education: BSc Biology, Vancouver Island University, BC

About Me: Before starting my MSc at Memorial University of Newfoundland, I worked for the British Columbia Conservation Foundation on two provincial government projects that took me all around Vancouver Island, the central coast, and mainlan


d BC. Specifically, I inventoried and collected habitat data on coastal northern goshawks and surveyed for northern spotted owls. I thoroughly enjoyed

working in the forest and contributing to the conservation management of species at risk. In my personal time, I go hiking, running, camping and love to explore new places and I hope to continue to learn about the ecosystems around me.

Master’s Thesis: My project was part of an Atlantic Canada forested wetland project focused on increasing the ecological understanding of these overlooked and understudied areas. My work  focused on the island of Newfoundland has strengthened our understanding of lichen ecology in forested wetlands.

Tegan stayed in town for a bit, working on a couple of research contracts locally after graduation and then landed a 6 month contract up the highway at Terra Nova National Park, where she co-coordinatedtheir lichen survey. From there she moved to BC where she was recently hired to develop a Land Stewardship Guardian program with the Stswecem’c-Xgat’tem First Nation!

Matt Murphy, MES


Hometown: Lots of places, most recently St. Alban’s, NL.

Previous Education: BSc in Biology (Ecology & Conservation), Memorial University of Newfoundland.

About Me: I graduated from MUN in May 2017 and am now starting a Master’s of Environmental Science. I also have a minor in Business Administration and for my master’s project I am planning on looking at some aspect of the business/economic side of conservation.  I’ve lived all over North America from Alaska to Newfoundland and I have always enjoyed animals and nature in general. In my spare time I enjoy lifting weights, hiking, fly fishing.

Matt is currently working locally in a variety of different jobs.

Rachel Wigle, MSc

Hometown: Kingsville, Ontario

Rachel with her first-ever discovery of a rare Boreal Felt Lichen

Previous Education: B.Sc. Hon (Wildlife Biology and Conservation) University of Guelph

About Me: Ever since I can remember I have been very passionate about all aspects of conservation biology. I am continually fascinated by the diversity of natural landscapes and aim to maintain the features that make this world unique. Often, I am found exploring new outdoor areas and seeking out adventures on large and small scales. I can devour a good book almost as quickly as a delicious hot meal I’ve cooked and also find joy in swimming, hiking and baseball. Through research done in my undergrad I became exposed to the fascinating (and ever-so mystifying) world of lichen. I am quickly learning that the most “basic” factors in a landscape do not always explain species distributions as there appears to be effects occurring at and across several scales.

Master’s Thesis: Rachel examined small-scale (tree-level) factors that play a role in determining lichen colonization and diversity. She compared lichen community composition on balsam fir and yellow birch across the Avalon Forest Ecoregion and also did a comparative analysis of plot vs. plotless sampling methdos.

Rachel is currently working as an Agricultural Research Scientist with Aphria.

Miguel Mejias, MSc

Hometown: Hamilton Parish, Bermuda.


Previous Education: Bachelors of Science with a Specialization in Conservation (Trent University).

About Me: I’m a keen and passionate conservationist whose primary focus is on the biology and ecology of birds. When I’m not being swallowed by academia, or socializing, you can often find me out in the field birdwatching. I’m also a pretty solid taxidermist and have prepared numerous bird skins. My interests in avifauna originated from my mentor and grandfather figure, Bermudian ornithologist Dr. David B Wingate. My dream is to ultimately return to my home country of Bermuda and continue avian research as a Conservation Officer. My skill set include building linear, logistic and generalized linear models, as well as utilizing Akaike information criterion for model selection within R Studio. I also have the basics of ArcMap under my belt.

Thesis Project: My thesis investigated the breeding and non-breeding ecology of cavity nesting seabirds. More specifically, the first half of my thesis tested hypotheses about nest-site selection, nest success and vulnerability to predation from introduced predators in a cavity nesting seabird. The second component of my thesis mapped the non-breeding movements of a cavity nesting seabird with the use of tiny light-based geolocators. Breeding White-tailed Tropicbirds (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi) from Bermuda are serving as my model species. My results will assist nest cavity programs for seabirds and fill in knowledge gaps of the natural history of seabirds wintering at sea.

Currently Miguel is working on a PhD at Memorial in Cognitive and Behavioural Ecology, under the supervision of Dr. Dave Wilson.

Roman Lukyanenko, PhD, Faculty of Business Administration

Roman completed his PhD (passed with distinction) in Information Systems in the Faculty of Business Administration. His primary supervisor was Dr. Jeffrey Parsons, but we have been working together (and have continued to collaborate) on research related to citizen science and eScience, using nlnature.com as a platform for experimentation. He already has a large number of publications, but the one we are most proud of is in Information Systems Research.

Roman went directly from Memorial to an Assistant Professor position (tenure-track) at Florida International University in Miami, which he held for two years, before relocating back to Canada to take up a tenure-track position at the University of Saskatchewan. He recently moved from there to HEC in Montreal.

Julie Andersen, PhD

Julie investigated factors influencing movement dynamics, habitat use and diving behaviour in hooded seals in the North Atlantic. She was co-supervised by Dr. Garry Stenson of DFO. She has published chapters of her thesis in the Journal of Northwest Fisheries Science, and ICES Journal of Marine Science and two papers in PLOS One. Julie now works for the Department of Environment on water management in Norway.

Matt McWilliams, MSc


Matt came from from Cincinnati, OH, USA. He has worked with AmeriCorps over the last several years building trails in the National Forests and Parks of California, Arizona, and Colorado. He graduated from Miami University of Oxford in 2009 (Bachelors) completing a Thesis Project titled “Fishing & Folklore: A Means to Sustainable Cohabitation.”

Matt did some great work with the fishermen of Fogo before withdrawing in June 2016.

Troy Davis, MSc

Hometown: Most recently Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Currently residing and working in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee

Estimated Completion date: I’m halfway though my expected lifespan, kids. If I ain’tcompleted by now, I never will be.

About myself: I’m that guy not working with marine wildlife or seabirds.

Distinctive Skills: Stringing together tenuous seasonal employment gigs for the last 13 years, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service; comfortable in the presence of bears, bison, rutting elk, snakes, horses, cougars and other neotropical felids; intimidated by mules, academia generally and stats particularly; no skills involving R

Education: Bachelor’s in Biology, University of Texas at Austin (they kicked me out into the world with nary an ‘Hons’ to my name)

What he does when he is not doing science: Excitedly examining tracks and scat; exploring (including the cumulative hours spent lost in St. John’s); trying to adapt my rural Rocky Mountain sensibilities to the metropolis and climate of St. John’s; trying find places to hike; trying to find time to write; trying to re-learn gull identification . . . trying . . . trying . . .

Achievements of Note: I jammed my entire life into a 1994 Toyota pickup and drove 6000 km to get here from Montana. In February. I managed to return back to the USA in the same truck, but in more temperate conditions (spring). {supervisory note: Troy then made 3 more trips of similar length (in the same truck) within the US, before settling down in Utah, where he is working for Utah State Fish and Game}.

Andrew Roberts, MES


Hometown: Clarenville, NL.Env. Sc. Project: Andrew’s project was a proof-of-concept report that evaluated whether we could use remote sensing techniques and software on in-situ observations. He took images of lichen growth in a tree stand on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador. This analysis will be used to determine how micro-climate and stand attributes might influence lichen diversity. Andrew is currently working with SEM Consulting.

About me: My interests include sports (hockey/football/soccer), music, computers and all the typical “Bayman” activities: fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, etc… In the past I have proven to be fairly good with technology and I have experience using mulitbeam SoNAR, LiDAR, positioning systems and data loggers. Ask me about ArcGIS, I’m a big fan.

Emma LeClerc, MA, Geography)

Emma’s first home was in the Geography department, where her primary supervisor, Dr. Arn Keeling resides. Read about Emma’s work by clicking here.

Emma’s first chapter has been published in Extractive Industries and Society. Her second chapter is in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

Emma is currently working with the Florida State Fish and Wildlife Department.

Nyssa Van Vierssen Trip, MSc

Nyssa investigated the impacts of ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) on the Maritime Barrens Ecoregion of Newfoundland; specifically within the Avalon Wilderness Reserve and surrounding area.

Nyssa recently completed a short-term contract with DFO helping map and plan Ecological and Biologically Sensitive Areas off the coast of Labrador and is back in Ontario. She went on to do some contract work with the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement – Newfoundland and Labrador Regional Working Group. Work from her thesis has been published in Natural Areas Journal in 2015. Nyssa has gone on to start the PhD program in Environmental Science at York University.

Shad Mahlum, MSc

Shad continued work on the dendritic connectivity index (DCI). He validated the current DCI and passability measures using data from Terra Nova National Park and Ontario, which has been published in Transactions in American Fisheries Research and Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science. This will allow managers to choose an appropriate method to fit individual management goals. Shad is currently doing a PhD at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Shad’s website.

Megan Lafferty, MES

Megan investigated whether different types of forest management (protected areas, hands-off, and active management) resulted in different landscape patterns and biodiversity responses. She collaborated with Dr. Darren Sleep of NCASI. Currently Megan is working as Scientific Director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada in the Newfoundland & Labrador chapter office.

Karla Letto, MSc

Karla investigated the impacts linear features, including trails, powerlines and highways, have on Newfoundland’s small mammal abundance and movement patterns. Karla has worked part time as the Executive Director of “Let’s Talk Science” – Newfoundland and Labrador chapter and completed a second short-term contract at DFO. She’s since moved north to Iqaluit for some  Arctic adventure where she is took a position working as a Wildlife Management Biologist. From there she worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service (based in Iqualuit) and is currently workign with Parks Canada in Nunavut.

 Tony McCue, MSc

Tony developed spatial models to investigate coyote space use on the island of Newfoundland, which was published in a special issue on Spatial Ecology of the International Journal of Geographic Information Science. He then completed a contract at DFO working on a project investigating Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Areas off the coast of Labrador before re-locating to the west, where he could re-connect with topography. He is spent time in Kamloops, BC where he got a job as an Environmental Scientist with Stantec before re-locating to Alberta where he works for the Nature Conservancy of Canada as the Natural Area Manager for Waterton.

 Randy Skinner, MSc

Randy developed a model of habitat suitability for Boreal Felt Lichen (Erioderma pedicellatum), a critically endangered species worldwide.The island of Newfoundland holds 99.9% of the world population of EP, and understanding and researching the spatial destribution,a nd predicting suitable habitat for this species may help landscape management and resource management relating to Ep. The ultimate goal in developing the predictive habitat model is to help research in the predictive occurrence of rare species that are hyper-sensitive to global anthropogenic changes. His work was published (and is avaiable as an Open Access article) in Endangered Species Research.

Randy is now working as a Lab Instructor and Research Assistant at Memorial University’s Corner Brook campus and doing contract work with the Canadian Forest Service.

Shaun Garland, MSc (no photo)

Shaun Garland tested propogation methods for 4 native species for use in ecological restoration. He then carried out field experiments in a real-world restoration site at the Granite Canada, in south-central Newfoundland. He was co-supervised by Dr. Wilf Nicholls at the MUN Botanical Gardens (but now at the University of Georgia Botanical Garden). He works as a Researcher with the Environmental Consulting firm Amec.

Stacey Camus, MSc


Stacey carried out research on one of the island of Newfoundland’s non-native species, the moose. She investigated the browsing impacts that current varying moose densities across the island and its influence on forest regeneration and was co-supervised by Dr. Luise Hermanutz.

Stacey is currently a Wildlife Biologist with Stantec.


Christina Bourne, MSc

Journal Cover002

Christina investigated the effects of culverts on fish passability in 2 Atlantic region national parks. She used this information to measure overall stream network connectivity as a measure of aquatic ecological integrity. Christina has been employed as a Fisheries Research Scientist at DFO since near the end of her second year of graduate school. Her first chapter has been published in Aquatic Ecology, as the cover story.

Honours Students

Kristen Tenwolde – Kristen investigated how lichen species richness and abundance on urban benches was influenced by age of bench and distance to a source population. Her work is coming out in Evansia. Kristen hopes to do a post-grad degree/diploma of some sort in the Fall.

Triina Voitk – Growing up, I was always outside playing sports or with my friends. Before moving to Newfoundland in 2010, I would visit my grandparents on the west coast (of Newfoundland) which always consisted of extensive hikes in search of various mushrooms and orchids. Needless to say, my surroundings heavily shaped my future. Now, I love everything about nature. I’m always the one to stop, admire, photograph, and ask questions about my surroundings regardless if I’m paddle-boarding, hiking, fishing, camping, gardening or even driving. I like to spend my free time camping, sewing or gardening. After completing my honours, I hope to pursue my masters. Triina is currently working for a private environmental consulting firm.

Gabrielle Riesfel – Gabby worked with Bella on the snowshoe hare grid at Bloomfield. In addition to helping with telemetry and mapping of structural complexity, Gabby investigated how the stoichiometric landscape influences plant community diversity and productivity. She has graduated and worked as an RA in my lab and is now on a short contract with the BC Government.

Tom Rahal – Tom spent his researchsummer sorting lichen litterfall collected by my colleague in Earth Science, Dr. Sue Ziegler, as part of the NL-BELT project. He tested for patterns of latitudinal diversity in arboreal lichens as well as see how variation in lichens influences differences in DOM and DOC detected by the NL-BELT team. He has graduated and is looking for work.

Rebecca Bowering, Honours Student


Hometown: Blaketown, Newfoundland

I am currently working on my undergraduate degree and honours project. I enjoy most areas of ecology but I have a preference for landscape and population ecology. I also have an interest in computer science and enjoy working with programs like GIS and R. I would like to be able to continue to improve my skills in these areas and apply them to ecological problems.

Rachel Winsor, BSc(Hons) – Biology

Rachel completed her Honours research at MUN Botanical Garden. She looked at the biodiversity of lichen species currently growing throughout the garden. The objective of this project was to look at what species of lichens are growing in MUN Botanical Garden and analyze how its diversity changes in different habitats throughout the garden.

Rachel is currently finishing up her B.Sc. (Hons.).

Sheldon Kallio, BSc(Hons) – Biology

The objective of Sheldon’s research was to test the reliability of citizen-based bird observation networks, such as eBird and nlnature. Through comparison of his own sightings of birds within Pippy Park, St. John’s and bird sightings reported by citizen birders, he determined whether citizen reports are accurate and representative of the birds actually present within the park. Sheldon completed an MSc in the GLEL Lab at Carleton University, supervised by Dr. Lenore Fahrig and has gone on to do a PhD at the University of Alberta in Dr. Fangliang He’s Biodiversity and Landscape Modelling Group.


Patricia Howse, BSc(Hons)-Biology

Patricia investigated the effect of hare browsing on balsam fir and black spruce, and the interactions in stand with and without moose browsing. Patricia presented her Honours work at the APICS conference in Halifax in March 2011 and was awarded 3rd place in the poster competiton. After completing her Honours BSc degree she has worked in a law firm, completed a diploma in Clinical Epidemiology and is currently an MSc student in Clinical Epidemiology here at Memorial.


Karla Letto, BSc(Hons)-Biology

Karla investigated nest success as a function of nest location for bald eagles in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Karla carried out her research in collaboration with the provincial Wildlife Division and as an NSERC-USRA. She stuck around to do an MSc student in the lab.

It took awhile, but her Honours work has finally been published in ACE-ECO! Persistence pays off!


Roman Lukyanenko, B.Tech. (Hons)

Roman worked to help develop my Citizen Science website nlnature.com. He used the site to experiment with methods to motivate participation in eScience. He went on to do a PhD in Information Systems at the Faculty of Business Administration here at Memorial.

Allysia Park, BSc(Hons)- Biology

Allysia’s project was the comparison of density and the ideal-free distribution of foraging bat species among three selected habitats of western Newfoundland. The habitats consisted of an urban influenced site, an agricultural site and a forested site. Her project entailed spending two hour intervals at each of these sites with a bat detector set to pick up bat calls at a frequency specific to their species. The bat calls were then be studied to determine the activity of bats at each location, which were compared to the characteristics of each habitats, as well as the time of the night. To determine the ideal-free distribution, insect traps were set out at each site as well which will also be compared spatially and temporally with bat abundance. She also had some experience identifying bats via live trapping efforts. Overall, the research was extremely interesting and fun.

Allysia’s work was profiled in the Western Star. Click here to read about it. Anyone in the province who finds a dead bat should contact the wildlife division. This press release has information about the larger study. Allysia completed a Master’s degree with Dr. Hugh Broders at St. Mary’s University with her field work in Newfoundland and is now back in the province working as a contractor with the Wildlife Division.

Other Undergrads

Christa Simonson, Honours Student

Christa worked as an NSERC-USRA on a GIS-based project that investigated the effects of human impact in and around Canada’s national parks on species losses at a variety of spatial scales. Christa’s worked was published in Parks Science.

Olga Trela, USRA


Olga was an NSERC-USRA in summer  of 2016 in the LESA lab and Dr. Chapman’s lab. She is helping Rebecca Bowering with her Honours project, and designing a display case for the LESA lab. Before that, she has worked in several different biology labs, including genetics, microbiology, and vertebrate biology. Olga is interested in marine and environmental biology. She is currently working on her B.Sc.

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