Wendy Palen, Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Conservation
Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Date: Apr 09, 2009
Ecology is among the most challenging of scientific disciplines, encompassing microns to thousands of kilometers, seconds to millions of years, and the complex interactions of individuals to ecosystems. Modern environmental problem solving strives to predict the emergent behaviour of species and ecosystems in the face of a diversity of human impacts to natural systems. Ecologists, conservation biologists, and natural resource managers are increasingly appreciating that predicting the dynamics of even a single species is impossible without consideration of this surrounding complexity. In particular, one of the central limitations to making predictions about ecological systems lies in resolving the discontinuity between the scale at which ecological processes are often experimentally tested and the broad spatial and temporal scales relevant to natural resource conservation and management. My research program is focused at the intersection of these conceptual and applied challenges. My group draws on investigations across a variety of spatial and temporal scales and levels of biological organization to improve our understanding of both the mechanistic underpinnings of patterns and the broader ecological context within which those mechanisms are embedded. In this talk I will discuss three current research interests that highlight some of these challenges and possibilities for modern environmental problem solving; 1) predicting montane amphibian species responses to accelerated global change, 2) evaluating the population consequences of altered river hydrology for declining amphibians, and 3) tracking the consequences of movement and habitat use by highly mobile juvenile salmon.
Dr. Wendy J. Palen graduated with a B.A. degree in Biology with a highest distinction at the University of Virginia. She obtained her Ph.D. degree in Zoology at the University of Washington under the supervision of Professor Daniel Schindler. Her dissertation research was aimed at improving our understanding of the risk that current and future levels of ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B) pose to montane amphibian species of the Pacific Northwest by critically evaluating the role of UV-B across a variety of ecological conditions. In the period 2005 - 2007, Dr. Palen was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics and the Department of Integrative Biology, University of California-Berkeley. Dr. Palen joined Simon Fraser University in 2007 as an Assistant Professor and a Tier II Canada Research Chair in in Aquatic Conservation in the Department of Biology. Among other scientific activities, Dr. Palen has published multiple scientific papers and has been a recipient of a number of awards, grants, and fellowships. Currently Dr. Palen is working on the following projects: Increasing ultraviolet radiation impacts on amphibians, Amphibian metapopulation dynamics, and Pacific salmon in coastal ecosystems. Dr. Palen describes her current research interests in the following way, "I rely heavily on field-based experimental manipulations to tease apart the mechanistic underpinnings of ecological patterns, from species physiology to food web interactions. However, I am also fundamentally committed to the growing necessity for understanding the dynamics of individuals, populations, and communities at the broad spatial and temporal scales relevant to the conservation and management of aquatic systems."