After a number of years working as an environmental consultant, specifically as a fisheries biologist, Tim decided to return to university in 2007 to pursue a MSc degree in land reclamation under the supervision of Dr. Anne Naeth. Although a slight divergence from his past work experience, the program ties in well with his other interests in the natural environment.
With a holistic approach to resource management, Tim is particularly interested in the field of ecosystem restoration. This is one of the reasons why he considers himself very fortunate to be associated with a project in Jasper National Park which has so many interconnected relationships among plants, wildlife, and human activity.
The primary focus of Tim’s project is to determine the effect of Russian thistle (Salsola kali), a non-native plant species, on native montane grassland habitat for wildlife. Specifically, this study will address how Russian thistle impacts wildlife forage by altering native plant communities and the role wildlife grazing has on Russian thistle establishment and persistence.
Invasion of non-native plant species can have a significant impact on the function and integrity of natural ecosystems. In Jasper National Park, large areas of Russian thistle have been observed in native montane grassland communities used for winter grazing by bighorn sheep and other ungulates. These areas of invasion have been increasing in size. Due to a large sheep population, it is believed that critical areas may be overgrazed. This reduced range condition may be permitting Russian thistle to become established and compete with already stressed native plant species, potentially reducing wildlife forage. Components of the project include examining the mechanisms of Russian thistle invasion, the role wildlife grazing has on Russian thistle establishment, how Russian thistle impacts the native plant community, and strategies that may aid in managing this species. Tim is hopeful that the research results will not only benefit park managers, but other land managers throughout the province involved with ungulate grazing and invasive species.
Tim spent much of the summer in a small rustic warden’s cabin near the Snake Indian River, northwest of Jasper Lake. His days were spent scouring the montane grasslands of the Athabasca River Valley looking for Russian thistle, and collecting field data for the first of two field seasons. This winter Tim will be conducting a series of greenhouse experiments and analyzing data collected during the 2008 field season.
Tim is originally from British Columbia. He has worked and lived throughout the province but considers the small northern town of Fraser Lake home. In 2004 his girlfriend decided to move to Edmonton to attend the U of A. Up for a change, he figured that he would tag along. Tim spends many of his weekends hiking in the mountains or canoeing the rivers of Alberta. One of Tim’s great passions is travelling. With the exception of Antarctica, he has been to every continent. Possibly one of his favorite trips was a journey across Russia on the Trans Siberian Railway in the dead of winter. He can still feel the effects of the frostbite on his ears. As a reward to himself after completing his MSc, Tim plans to cycle around Iceland.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2008 edition of the Landmark Newsletter. Tim successfully passed his MSc exam on 18 December 2009.
Added 18 October 2010