Brenda Shaughnessy


Brenda was born in the Lower Mainland of BC. In 1988, her parents packed up all their belongings, Brenda and her brother, their two cats, two dogs, and two newly acquired goats, and moved to Tatlayoko Lake, BC, on the Chilcotin plateau on the edge of the Coast Mountains half way between Bella Coola and Williams Lake.

Shortly after settling in, her parents purchased two old 'been around the block' horses that taught Brenda patience, respect, the principles of animal care, and how to ride. That was the beginning of a life-long addiction to horses. Brenda spent her childhood riding and exploring the wilderness of the Niut and Potato mountains that surround her house. She learned about wilderness survival, hunting, fishing, tracking, raising and caring for farm animals, and the wonders of the natural world. Not realizing it at the time, her early introduction to nature put her on the path that led her to where she is today.

Brenda completed her BSc degree (07) at the University of Alberta with a double major in Wildlife and Rangeland Resource Management and Land Reclamation. She immediately jumped into an MSc degree with Dr. Anne Naeth. The main objective of Brenda's research is to determine if natural recovery is a viable option for large scale reclamation in the oil sands. She has completed two field seasons of data collection on the Suncor Energy mine north of Fort McMurray, and is currently in the final throes of full contact 'thesisizing'.

During her time spent doing field work, Brenda assessed three sites on the Suncor Energy mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, for natural recovery of Boreal mixedwood vegetation after a severe disturbance. The study sites range in age from 26 to 36 years old, and are located on a clean, admixed mineral and organic substrate several meters deep. Happily, forest vegetation has established on the study sites without human influence or interference, therefore natural recovery has occurred.

Brenda feels that finding an alternative to traditional methods of oil sands reclamation is an important and timely subject because of the scale of reclamation that will be required in the near future. Current reclamation methods in the oil sands require significant financial and physical resources. Natural recovery could significantly reduce the amount of resources required, increase the success of vegetation establishment, enhance species diversity, and propel the plant community along a trajectory towards reclamation success. Ultimately, natural recovery may be the most practical and economical option for oil sands reclamation and may provide greater species diversity than conventional revegetation methods.

Brenda has been involved in several extra curricular volunteer activities, including as a bus leader for the Edmonton Snow Goose Chase and as a Wandering Scholar for the Festival of Teaching. When not thesisizing, she likes to spend her free time with her dog, Cache, her boyfriend, Bryce, and a small herd of endurance horses that she trains, conditions, and competes on. During the summer, she can be found travelling around Alberta, competing in 50 and 100 mile endurance rides. After finishing her M.Sc. Brenda likely won't know what to with all her free time! She plans to spend time with family, travel across Canada, and soak up the sun.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2009 edition of the Landmark Newsletter. Brenda successfully passed her MSc exam in October 2009.