Dr. Barbara Frei
I am drawn to ecological research due to my endless curiosity and love for the natural world around me, especially the wildlife within it. I am passionate about conservation and using science, communication, and outreach to find feasible solutions to enable humans and wildlife to co-exist in a healthy and sustainable natural world. I remain an ever-optimistic conservation biologist, which in today’s world may be an endangered species of its own.
I obtained my B.Sc. honours degree from Carleton University in Ottawa in 2004. Next I went to the Dept. of Natural Resource Science at McGill University for both my M.Sc. and Ph.D where I researched the ecology, conservation, and behaviour of two different threatened bird species, the Bobolink and the Red-headed Woodpecker. Through my research and interactions with farmers and landowners, I began to appreciate the complexities and dilemmas faced by conservation biologists in an ever changing, economically driven world.
My postdoctoral research explores and contrasts different approaches to land use planning in agroecosystems, and their ability to conserve biodiversity and provide ecosystem services, in southern Québec and Ontario. I am especially interested in the benefits and drawbacks of the two approaches, and how they may differ with scale. I feel very lucky to be involved with both the Kerr lab at the University of Ottawa and the Bennett lab at McGill University.
Barbara works jointly with us at CFER and with Professor Elena Bennett at McGill University
I’ve been working in Jeremy’s lab since summer 2015, first as a summer student on a work-study, then for my undergraduate honors project, and then for a MSc which transitioned into a PhD. My thesis focuses on the effects of climate change and land-use change on bumblebees across North America and Europe. I’m trying to develop our understanding and ability to predict how global change drives range shifts and species extinction, so we can better mitigate biodiversity loss. While my current research focuses on pollinators, I’m interested in a broad range of topics and taxa. Previous projects I’ve worked on include looking at the value of opportunistic citizen science programs for generating global change biology data, and looking at the origins of the evolution of sex, using filamentous fungi as a model. In the future I hope to work on applying and implementing biodiversity conservation strategies. Miscellaneous hobbies include hyping my mixtape, getting disappointed about the Raptors’ playoff appearances, and sometimes taking cool pictures of nature.
My lifelong fascination for nature, its organisms and the intricate connections between all of nature’s inhabitants guided me to pursue studies in biology. I obtained my Bachelor’s degree of Biology at the University of Montreal, where I discovered the incredible world of entomology through a research internship working with dragonflies of the Ouellet-Robert entomological collection. I joined Jeremy’s research group during my Master’s degree in Environmental Sustainability. I researched how bumblebees could move through space under different climate change scenarios. My PhD work explores critical gaps in understanding how and when species respond to rapid environmental change, which limit our capacity to address conservation risks in a timely way. I study the effects of human activities on dragonfly ranges, and am working towards a better understanding of how life history and functional traits affect species’ responses to anthropogenic change. I also plan to evaluate whether widely used but rarely tested methods to predict species responses to climate change (distribution models) give meaningful predictions. Outside the lab I am a violinist, a yogi, and an amateur cyclist/runner!
I am a nature lover: from chasing frogs and insects as a child to educational nature excursions while travelling with family. I’ve always enjoyed learning about animals, both in the form of adaptations as well as how they fit into their ecosystem. Evidently, I ventured down the path of physiology during my undergraduate research at UOttawa, studying the critical thermal maximum of the Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) and how high temperatures impact this species internally. As a graduate student, I am continuing the work I started under the helpful guidance of Dr. Charles Darveau and now also have the ecological insight of Dr. Kerr as my co-supervisor to bridge my research in physiology with ecology. By studying the physiological effects of high temperature on the different castes and colonies of B. impatiens, I hope to provide insight on how the thermal environment impacts our bumblebees. In addition to bees, one of my other passions is for science education. I’ve worked alongside Dr. Adam Oliver Brown on projects related to effective teaching methods in biology and am constantly trying to improve my skills as an educator. Afterall, our scientific findings are most impactful when they can be taught and shared with others!
I study how evolutionary history and climate have historically influenced the distribution and phenology of bumblebees, and what this may tell us about their future. However, I’m passionate about ecology for the ‘big picture’, interdisciplinary approach it allows for answering all sorts of questions about our planet. In the past, I’ve delved into marine ecosystem dynamics, mycology, invasive plant interactions, and phylogenetics. I’m interested in gaining insight into how scientists, media, policy makers, and legislators interact to deliver science to the public. I’m super invested in Ottawa’s thriving arts/culture scene and love directing music ensembles. Follow me on twitter @oak_ottawa.
Fascinated by wildlife since as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to dedicate my life to improving the state of biodiversity. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Prince Edward Island, in magical PEI. An internship at the provincial Fish and Wildlife Department during which I compared provincial legislations on nuisance wildlife opened my eyes to the complexity of the human-nature relationship. I realized the importance of including both ecological and social knowledge in conservation actions. I chose to delve into ecological research after having been involved in various interdisciplinary environmental projects, domestically and abroad.
For my Master’s thesis, I am using a trait-based approach to compare butterfly community composition across a landscape gradient in order to gain insight on the relationship between landscape features and trait composition. I hope this research can contribute to understanding how land use, one of many anthropogenic stressors on biodiversity, might filter out species and allow us to identify vulnerable species on the basis of their traits. Some of my other interests include yoga, sports, hot sauce, PEI, adventures and drawing!
My general interests in evolution and the environment lead me to complete my Bachelor of Science, specializing in Biology, at the University of Ottawa. Over the course of my undergrad, I developed an appreciation for pollinators while completing my honours project with Dr. Jessica Forrest, discovered a new hobby of flowering plant identification, and found an interest in GIS and remote sensing through a number of geography courses. I decided to pursue graduate studies shortly after to combine my interest in GIS and remote sensing applications to biodiversity conservation.
For my thesis project, I’m using the Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBVs) framework to monitor protected areas at the global scale. Satellite-remote-sensing-derived data has the capacity to measure a number of these EBVs at broad spatial and temporal scales with minimal costs, making these data ideal contributors to conservation science. I hope that my work may contribute to the efforts to slow the current rate of biodiversity loss and to use protected areas to their greatest potential as conservation tools.
In my free time you can catch me cycling around the city, pampering my plant and cat babies, and admiring the urban wildlife that also calls Ottawa their home.
My route to the Kerr lab was a bit circuitous: in my undergrad I started as an arts student, dabbling in archaeology, environmental geography, and international relations at the University of Toronto. Eventually I stumbled into science, and fell in love with ecology and evolution on a field course in the Peruvian Amazon. I developed a passion for research through my undergraduate thesis on beaver herbivory, and built on this by studying an ant-plant seed dispersal mutualism with Dr. Megan Frederickson after my bachelor’s. Through these projects I developed an interest in interactions between species, and mutualistic relationships in particular. I continued to explore mutualisms as a lab manager and research technician in Dr. Marjorie Weber’s evolutionary biology lab at Michigan State University, working on a plant-mite defense mutualism. In the Kerr lab I’m studying pollinators, investigating the factors structuring butterfly metacommunities. I’m most interested in how interactions with different trophic levels (predators and mutualistic plant partners) may impact butterfly species presence and abundance. During my time in the Kerr lab I also hope to improve my science communication skills, and to make my science, and science more generally, accessible to everyone. When I’m not science-ing or science communicating I love to read, hike, knit ill-fitting hats, and play basketball.
The Kerr lab alumni have gone on to great things:
Dr. Shawn Leroux - Professor, Memorial U
Dr. Maxim Larrivée - Director of Research, Montreal Insectarium
Dr. Paul Galpern - Professor, U Calgary
Dr. Manisha Kulkarni - Professor, uOttawa
Dr. Alana Taylor-Pindar - Research scientist, UoGuelph
Dr. Adam Algar - Professor, Nottingham
Dr. Rachelle Desrochers - Data Analytics, CIHR
Dr. Laura Coristine - Liber Ero Fellow (PDF)
Dr. Juan Zuloaga
Marie-Bé Leduc - Parks Canada, Réserve de parc national de l'Archipel-de-Mingan
Emily Acheson - spatial epidemiology PhD, UBC
Cassandra Robillard - Museum of Nature
Rosana Soares - Environment and Climate Change Canada
Heather Kharouba - Professor, uOttawa
We have been lucky in having extraordinary research visitors:
Professor Diane Debinski, Iowa State University
Dr. Bronwyn Rayfield, McGill University