Current Personnel

To see profiles of LESA Lab Alumni – Please click here.

Graduate Students

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.


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 mainland 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 is part of an Atlantic Canada forested wetland project focused on increasing the ecological understanding of these overlooked and understudied areas. My work is focused on the island of Newfoundland and will be primarily aimed at strengthening our understanding of lichen ecology in forested wetlands. I am in the early stages of my thesis but look forward to getting out in the field to discovering more about these fascinating lichens and their unique ecosystems.

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: Although the specific details of my project have not been set in stone, I aim to examine small-scale (tree-level) factors that play a role in determining lichen colonization and diversity. Correlation between the variable importance of small-scale and large-scale (stand-level) factors shall be examined, with some focus on the critically endangered Erioderma pedicellatum (boreal felt lichen). The full effects of habitat loss and anthropogenic disturbance on lichen are not quite yet understood. My work will help to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding the lichen world in order to help protect land that is so critical for lichen growth.

Travis Heckford (PhD)

heckfordHometown: 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 functions. Using StDMs I plan to evaluate forest harvest impacts on nutrient flow, ecosystem processes and landscape connectivity.

Katherine Robbins (MSc)

katHometown: Guelph, Ontario

Previous Education: B.Sc. Hon (Zoology), University of Guelph

Certificate in GIS for Environmental Management, University of Toronto

About me: Professionally, I am a conservation biologist with an interest in all aspects of biodiversity conservation, from applied research, to active management, to education and advocacy. Personally, I feel most satisfied exploring a new ecological environment, which means I take every chance I get to travel. I hope to continue hiking, birding, biking, paddling and scuba diving my way through life.

Master’s Thesis: I am using geolocators to study the behavioural ecology of a planktivorous, diving seabird that breeds on remote islands the North-west Pacific Ocean. Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella) have a very large breeding range and a very large population size, yet little is known about their behaviour and ecology outside of the breeding season. It’s important to fill these knowledge gaps in order to understand how this species will cope with our rapidly changing oceans due to climate change and anthropogenic activities. I’m interested in determining if and how these birds migrate, what areas at sea are biologically significant to them, and what influences their at-sea habitat selection. I’m privileged to conduct my field work in the remote, uninhabited Aleutian Islands of Alaska – a rugged, volcanic Archipelago described by some authors as “the edge of the world”.

Emilie Kissler, PhD

Emile is investigating co-evolution of moose and their browse species, as well as the dynmaics of landscape pattern as a result of moose herbivory. She is co-supervised by Dr. Luise Hermanutz. Emilie is not quite done her PhD but has taken up a full-time positon with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources in Timmins where she is the Regional Terrestrial Ecosystems Science specialist for the South Porcupine Region.

Undergraduate Students

No honours students currently.

Post-docs and Visiting Researchers

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

giselaDr. 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 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.

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