Ashley arrived in Canada for the first time this past January in the midst of a colossal snowstorm. The bitter Canadian winter came as quite the environmental shock since she had spent the last few winters at field stations and lodges in the Peruvian Amazon. An American who grew up amongst the cornfields of Iowa, Ashley came to Canada in order to complete a Master’s degree under the supervision of Drs. Nadir Erbilgin and John Spence.
Ashley’s past research experience would lead one to think she has a bit of a Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) obsession. In 2004/2005 she worked on a project investigating the movement dynamics of the great-spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele) in Iowa. She later obtained an NSF-funded grant to study the use of two families of moths (Arctiidae and Notodoniidae) as indicator species in beech-maple forests in Ohio, and, before coming to Edmonton, she developed a project investigating the ability of conservationists to use a subfamily of butterflies (the clearwing butterflies, Ithomiinae) to assess the impact of human – native and touristic – activities on the arthropod biodiversity of Amazonian forests. Ashley’s experience isn’t solely limited to insects. While attending university, she paid the rent by lighting prairies on fire and was a teaching assistant in the ecology department at her alma mater. During her time living in Peru, she supervised and mentored university students on their undergraduate theses as part of her job with Fauna Forever Tambopata. Ashley also worked for Greenpeace USA in Chicago as a campaign organizer on projects fighting global warming and saving the virgin boreal forests from being made into toilet paper.
As one might guess, when Dr. Erbilgin contacted Ashley about the position opening in his lab to study a Threatened Canadian butterfly – from a Neotropical family, no less – she was quick to accept and move back to the northern hemisphere. The butterfly in question, Apodemia mormo or the Mormon metalmark, was federally listed as Threatened in Saskatchewan and Endangered in British Colombia.
Ashley’s research is focused on assisting Parks Canada in designing and implementing a management strategy for the Mormon metalmark. To accomplish this, she is investigating the population and movement dynamics of the Mormon metalmark in Grasslands National Park, in southern SK, through a mark-release-recapture study. She is further examining the difference of host plant (Eriogonum pauciflorum) microhabitat that is left occupied and unoccupied by the butterfly by studying host plant leaf chemistry, soil chemistry and microtopography. She has a hunch that soil salinity may play a role in caterpillar survival through the fierce Canadian winter. As a final part of her research, Ashley will be building a critical habitat model that will delineate which areas are imperative to the continued survival of the Mormon metalmark in Saskatchewan.
As for Ashley’s interests outside of school, she was a ballet dancer for 15 years but now practices Ashtanga and Bikram yoga. Always an avid reader, she’s lately traded Tom Robbins and Richard Manning in for books on modeling and the program R. Accident-prone by nature, she is sometimes dealing with broken bones and dislocated ribs. To balance her time, she has joined the CONFOR 2012 organizing committee working on communications and media. One little known fact about Ashley - prior to shattering her elbow in a ballet accident, she was a young golf prodigy.
Added: 29 August 2011