Current Personnel

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

Graduate Students

Jillian McGroaarty (MSc)

Hometown: Toronto, Ontario

Previous Education: BSc in Zoology from University of Guelph

About Me: While completing an honours thesis investigating arthropod diet behaviours, I quickly learned to appreciate all parts of our ecosystems, especially those that are hardest to see. Without ever having visited beautiful Newfoundland, I moved to St. John’s to join the LESA lab and study lichen as model systems for larger landscapes. When I’m not studying this life form, I hope to see puffins, whales, caribou and other native animals. Much of the rest of my time will be spent trying new recipes, adding to my nature collection, taking film photos, and being by the ocean!

James Michael McDowell (PhD in Environmental Science)

Hometown: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia

Previous education: BSc (St. Francis Xavier), Grad Dip Ed (Edith Cowan), MSc (Oxford)

About me: In May 2011, just days after graduating with my BSc, I travelled to South Africa where I participated in a volunteer tourism program. This changed my life, as I was then offered the opportunity to help run the program in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa off-and-on for two years. My travels then brought me to Western Australia, where I completed a degree in secondary education (science, mathematics). Since January 2015, I have been teaching full-time, including four and a half years in Broome, a town in the remote Kimberley region of Australia, and now in northern Nova Scotia. Overlapping my time in WA and my return to NS, I completed my MSc (Learning and Teaching) with the University of Oxford, focusing on environmental sustainability education. Having now relocated back to NS with my young family, I am excited to pursue my PhD part-time with MUN’s Department of Environmental Science, building ties across Atlantic Canada. Applying my varied background and perspective, I like to use an interdisciplinary approach when investigating questions related to conservation and climate change. In my personal life, I enjoy sports, singing and playing guitar, experiencing cultures and places, and have recently become a firefighter in New Glasgow.

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.

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 Locke

Hayley Paquette (PhD)

Hometown: Honeywood, Ontario

About Me: I recently completed an MSc. in Biology at Carleton University in Ottawa where my research took me to Forillon National Park on the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec. I spent almost two months combing the park for lichens, collecting voucher specimens and documenting their habitat to establish a baseline species list for the park. I think simple questions can have the most interesting answers, especially when it comes to lichens, and I am thrilled to be joining the LESA lab to continue researching lichen ecology and biogeography in Canada. Outside of academia, I have worked in a factory, bakery, bar, NGO, and iron mine, to name a few. I bike, paddle, ski and anything else that takes me outside; and I love talking about trips (past and future).

Hometown: Kitchener, ON

Hayley Paquette

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

Undergraduate Students

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.

Post-docs and Visiting Researchers

None currently

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