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Current Members

Justine Karst – PI

Justine is a mycorrhizal ecologist who studies linkages between above and belowground components of forests. Her interests include restoration ecology, community ecology, disturbance ecology, rhizosphere carbon dynamics and molecular biology.

Justine Karst full bio

Evan Fellrath -  MSc student

Evan is interested in fungal-plant associations, including mycorrhizae, endophytes and pathogens, as well as community and disturbance ecology. He earned his BSc in Environmental Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Evan is studying communities of mycorrhizal fungi in beetle-killed lodgepole pine stands across landscapes, and is assessing the efficacy of inoculation of pine seedlings with fungi from healthy pine stands to counteract the effects of detrimental fungal taxa often occurring in high-mortality beetle-killed stands. Evan is co-supervised by Nadir Erbilgin.

Joseph Cooper - PhD student

Joseph is pursuing a PhD in Forest Biology & Management. His research is focused on mycorrhizal network topology, dendroclimatology, and forest demography. He combines traditional drendochronology measurements in novel ways to address climate sensitivity of forests. Prior to starting at the University of Alberta, he received his undergraduate B.Sc. degree in Conservation and Restoration Ecology from Utah State University located in his hometown of Logan, Utah. Previous work and research experience focused on old-growth forests within the western United States. Joseph is co-supervised by Suzanne Simard.

Marc La Fleche - MSc student

Marc is exploring the relationships between tree growth and rooting behaviour in reclaimed oil sand sites when compared to naturally occurring oil sand outcrops. Since graduating from the University of Guelph with a BSc in Environmental Science, he developed extensive field experience conducting biological surveys across the Alberta boreal forest from the foothills of the Rockies to Wood Buffalo National Park. Stepping back into the academic world, he is hoping to deepen his understanding of ecology and its importance in improving our current reclamation practices.

Josh Wasyliw - MSc student

After working for years as an archaeologist in northern British Columbia, Josh has returned to university with an interest in plant biology and mycorrhizal ecology. Josh’s current research project is focused on fine root distribution and its relation to stand age in jack pine stands. The abundance, diversity and distribution of ectomycorrhizal fungi will also be examined to see how it compares between sites.

Ariel Brown - MSc student

Ariel is a Masters student interested in forest ecology, conservation and restoration. She completed her BSc with honours in biology University of the Fraser Valley in 2015, during which time she worked in a variety of labs, ranging from paleoecology to biochemistry. After completing her BSc, she studied agriculture and worked for the British Columbia Blueberry Council in partnership with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada as a research assistant in the small fruit breeding program. Ariel is investigating the distribution of roots as a function of soil texture, as well as investigating ratios of organic carbon derived from roots and leaves in boreal forest soils.

James Franklin - PhD student

James is a PhD student interested in plant-fungal interactions. After completing his BSc at the University of Victoria, he worked as a lab technician at Wildlife Genetics International. He then returned to school and completed an MSc at the University of Guelph, where he studied the tripartite symbiosis between plants, mycorrhizal fungi, and rhizobium bacteria. He is currently studying if plant-mycorrhizal associations change across soils that differ in oil sand concentration and screening for fungi specialized to occur in oil sands. His next goal will be to inoculate seedlings with fungi isolated from different origins to determine if the mutualistic benefits these fungi provide their host differ based on where the fungi were isolated from. James is co-supervised by  Pedro M. Antunes.

Nicholas Brown - MSc student

Nick is primarily interested in enhancing remediation of contaminated soils through the application of plant-microbe interactions. He earned is BSc in Land Reclamation through the University of Alberta, and has developed field and lab experience as a lab technician in grassland and forest ecology. Nick is investigating how we can use native plant species to enhance degradation of recalcitrant toxic compounds in soils, and is assessing the effects these species have on the enzyme activity of soil microbial communities.


Jean Carlos Rodríguez-Ramos - PhD student

Jean will determine whether soil fungal communities vary in composition among forests impacted by individual and cumulative disturbances (i.e., fire, mountain pine beetle outbreak or harvesting). As part of this project, he will also assess if lodgepole pine seedling growth improves when grown in soils amended with undisturbed soils and primer plantings. Jean is co-supervised by Nadir Erbilgin.

Christine Simard - Field/lab technician

Christine recently graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc in Animal Biology. She has gained previous field experience at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island, where she studied invertebrate and algal diversity in the intertidal zone. During her undergraduate honours thesis at BMSC she investigated how locomotion is coordinated in juvenile sea stars. After so much time on the coast, Christine is excited to explore the boreal forest as a field technician.

Andrea Simeon - Undergraduate

Andrea is working on an independent undergraduate study examining how fast and slow carbon pools in soils change across latitude.

Brea Burton - lab technician

A recent graduate of Lakeland College’s environmental technician program where she specialized in conservation and restoration ecology, Brea is working towards a BSc in Environmental Management. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and an MA in English. Previously, she was working in media, marketing and arts administration, but has always been interested in examining the relationships between human communities and the ecosystems we call home. She also loves the Boreal forest and being outside.