Welcome to the Northern Plant Ecology Lab
Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan
- Assistant professor, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2 Canada
- Research associate, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, PO Box 757000, Fairbanks, AK 99775 USA
- email: jill.johnstone at usask.ca
- phone: (306)966-4421 (office) or 1297 (lab)
- Background: Born and raised originally in Vermont, USA and now a citizen of both the United States and Canada. First developed an interest in northern ecosystems when studying at Middlebury College with Bill Howland. After completing a M.Sc. degree in arctic plant ecology at UBC with Greg Henry, Jill spent 10 years living and working in the North. During this time, she completed a Ph.D. at the University of Alaska Fairbanks with Terry Chapin, studying fire effects on boreal forests. Jill arrived to set up the Northern Plant Ecology Lab at the U of S in 2006.
- Listen to a clip of a 2007 CBC Radio interview with Dr. Johnstone that focuses on boreal forest conservation.
Technicians and undergraduate students
- Carissa Brown (Ph.D. student) - Originally hailing from Thunder Bay, Ontario and Lakehead University, and with a M.Sc. degree from Carleton University. Carissa's current research focuses on fire history and climate change impacts on the structure and composition of treeline black spruce in the north Yukon.
- Sara Pieper (M.Sc. student) - Also from Ontario, with an undergraduate degree from Trent University. Sara is studying the response of alpine tundra vegetation to variations in climate in the mountains of south-central Yukon near Whitehorse.
- Aditi Shenoy (Ph.D. student) - Originally from India, with a M.Sc. degree examining the dynamics of invasive maples in the American mid-west. Aditi is co-supervised at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with Dr. Knut Kielland. Her research examines the effects of fire severity and moisture on nutrient availability and post-fire vegetation dynamics in boreal forests of interior Alaska.
- Jayme Viglas (M.Sc. student) - A native of Saskatchewan, and our newest member of the NPEL. Jayme got interested in northern treeline systems when working as an undergraduate research assistant, and is returning to study the effects of stand age on seed production and potential post-fire recruitment of black spruce in the north Yukon.
- Nicole Wunderlich (M.Sc. student) - Also a native of Saskatchewan, and recent graduate of U of S. Nicole has a strong interest in teaching and environmental conservation. Her research looks at revegetation of industrial disturbances in the low arctic tundra of the Mackenzie Delta, NWT.
- Email: all students in the lab can be contacted by email using email@example.com
- Click here for photos of graduate students in the field.
- Eric Pedersen - Eric spent a summer in the NPEL as an undergraduate research assistant, and is now working as a technician in the lab for 2008-09. He is interested in complex systems in community ecology, and hopes to enter a graduate program in 2009.
Our main research interests are focused on how disturbance processes may interact with climate change to drive future
vegetation dynamics of boreal forest and tundra ecosystems. In particular, how are changes in disturbance regimes, such as altered
fire frequency and severity, likely to influence forest responses to directional climate change? Once a disturbance has
occurred, what are the effects of climate warming on plant regeneration and colonization processes? Are disturbances likely
to create windows of opportunity for southern species to invade northern communities as the climate warms? What do these
interactions mean for management of human disturbances, or predicting future changes in forest cover over coming decades or centuries?
The Northern Plant Ecology Lab at the University of Saskatchewan was established in 2006. Current research in the lab includes the following projects:
- Successional trajectories in black spruce forests of Alaska - This project was funded for 2005-2007 through the US Joint Fire Science Program. The research is based on sampling of the extensive 2004 burns in interior Alaska to assess the effects of variations in fire severity on post-fire recovery of black spruce forests. We are continuing to monitor long-term patterns of vegetation recovery as part of research on successional processes maintained through the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research program.
- PPS Arctic Canada - This is a multi-investigator, collaborative project funded through the Canadian International Polar Year that is focused on the patterns and processes of change at arctic treeline. Our work on this project started in the summer of 2007 at research sites near black spruce treeline in the North Yukon. We are particularly focusing on how changes in the frequency of fire affect successional patterns in northern black spruce forests.
- Responses of tundra vegetation to climate change and disturbance - This has been a long-term interest of mine, tracing back to my own M.Sc. project in Greg Henry's lab at UBC. I have been working with my graduate students to look at responses of tundra plant communities to natural and experimental changes in summer temperature, and recovery from oil and gas exploration activities in the low arctic.