Well Wishes for Westwood Lab Graduates

Congratulations to Sasha Mines and Geneva Bahen! 

Sasha Mines is graduating from Dalhousie with a Bachelor Arts, Combined Honours in Environment, Sustainability and Society & Law, Justice and Society. She minored in French and earned a certificate in Indigenous studies. Her undergraduate honour’s thesis offers an examination of Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) to provide valuable insight into the Nova Scotian ESA itself, and how public perceptions can affect policy implementation and ultimately, conservation outcomes.

Sasha will be starting law school in pursuit of her JD at the University of Victoria this coming September. Kudos to you, Sasha!

Geneva Bahen, graduating with a Bachelor of Science, Combined Honours in Environmental Science & Environment, Sustainability and Society, also completed an undergraduate honour’s thesis. Geneva’s work focused on creating a species distribution model to understand the landscape-scale drivers of distribution of American beaver (Castor canadensis) in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia). 

Geneva’s thesis project and earned her an award for Best Honours Thesis and the Art and Dorothy Cooke Memorial Scholarship for the research proposal. Geneva was also awarded the Science Atlantic Communication Award for her presentation at the Science Atlantic Environment Conference in March 2023. Way to go, Geneva!   

You can check out both of their full-length theses on DalSpace. 


Bahen, G. (2023, April). Telling the North American beaver tale: modelling Castor canadensis distribution in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia, Canada). [Earth and Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Honours Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/82555

Mines, S. (2023, April 24). Beyond the Implementation Gap: A Narrative Analysis of Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act. [College of Sustainability Undergraduate Honours Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/82582

Nova Scotia is moving to a new forestry model — Dal researchers explore the consequences

Covering around 75 per cent of the province, Nova Scotia’s forests both define its landscape and support a key industry – an industry that is looking to the future with the help of Dal researchers. 

A Dal-led research team was recently awarded $1.6 million to explore the future of forestry in Nova Scotia. The study will undertake a holistic approach to support shifting to a forestry model referred to as “ecological forestry.”

Read the rest of the article on the Dal News.

Dalhousie forestry research team led by Westwood lab receives $1.57 million to study Nova Scotia forests

Read the full article from Research Nova Scotia.

A team of forestry researchers led by Dalhousie University is receiving $1.57 million to undertake research on Nova Scotia’s forests and the industries and communities who depend upon them.

The new project forms the cornerstone of Research Nova Scotia’s (RNS) forestry research program, which seeks to identify and convene research that will support Nova Scotia’s transition to an ecological forestry model. Operated in partnership with the Forestry Innovation Transition Trust (FITT), the program includes economic, ecological, and social components of forestry, to develop a holistic understanding of where the sector is going, and how to help get there in a sustainable and equitable way.

“This research investment is a significant step forward in the implementation of our forestry research agenda,” says Stefan Leslie, CEO of RNS. “This interprovincial work will help build knowledge, address gaps, and identify opportunities to support the transition to sustainable forestry in Nova Scotia.”

The five-year research project will measure how changing forestry practices impact biodiversity and landscape connectivity, evaluate recreation opportunities arising from changing forestry practices, value carbon as part of forest lands in the province, investigate and undertake effective knowledge exchange with woodlot stewards and operators and registered professional foresters, and support Mi’kmaq-led forestry.

“Collaboration and community engagement are key components of our research project,” says Dr. Alana Westwood, lead researcher from Dalhousie University. “It’s important to ensure that people who work in and live near Nova Scotia’s forests are part of our research.”

Read the rest of the article at Research Nova Scotia.

Get with the times: old laws can’t keep up with Nova Scotia’s new gold rush

An increase in mine staking in the province needs to be met with a rigorous environmental assessment process — not the tight timelines, loopholes and lax consultation requirements of the past.

Read the full article by Alana Westwood on The Narwhal.

Nova Scotia has had three gold rushes since colonization: one in the 1800s, one at the beginning of the 1900s and, most recently, in 1942. Eighty years later, the gold market is sitting near an all-time high — but this time, things are different: we’ve moved from miners with pickaxes to open pits deeper than high-rises, their waste stored in open tailings ponds the size of multiple football fields.

Like many places since the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotia has experienced sharp rises in land values putting pressure on not only would-be homeowners, but also farmers and woodlot owners. Yet, the cost for any individual or company to obtain a mineral exploration licence — staked claims to the minerals found in the ground — is just 61 cents per hectare. Visions of enormous profit combined with a low upfront prospector cost has resulted in an explosion of exploration. Most licences are intended for gold.

In 2013, our calculations show there were 158 mineral exploration licences covering approximately 1.5 per cent of Nova Scotia’s total subsurface. Ten years later that number had jumped to 2,124 licences, covering 18 per cent of the province’s land mass. Although most claims don’t turn into mines — they’re often an effort by companies to assure shareholder confidence — many will still enter into the provincial environmental assessment process with the hopes of being approved for mining. 

Read the rest of the article on The Narwhal.

Knowledge exchange in forestry: What is it and what’s effective?

Managing forests is not as simple as growing or cutting down trees. Global forest management is the complex interplay of government policies and directives, cultural and spiritual values, stakeholder perspectives, and efforts from both industry and conservationists to maintain ecological functions of forests.

No one management style perfectly combines science, policy, stakeholder needs and cultural values. What is key, though, is that these groups are able to talk to one another effectively, work together and co-create approaches to forest management.

The framework of Knowledge Exchange (KE) can help to answer these complex questions.

Read the rest of the blog post by coauthors Manjulika Roberston and Jenna Hutchen about the new paper at The Applied Ecologist.

Citation: Westwood, A., Hutchen, J., Kapoor, T., Klenk, K., Saturno, J., Antwi, E., Egunyu, F., Cortini, F., Robertson, M., Le Noble, S., Wang., J., Falconer, M., Nguyen, V. 2023. A systematic map of knowledge exchange across the science-policy interface for forest science: How can we improve consistency and effectiveness? Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 4: e12214. https://doi.org/10.1002/2688-8319.12214

Westwood Lab and partners publish paper on Indigenous knowledge about tǫdzı (boreal caribou): Part 1

Congratulations to Jackie Saturno, former lab Research Associate, on this lead author publication setting a foundation for how Indigenous knowledge about tǫdzı (one of the Dene words for boreal caribou) can be used to better guide conservation planning. The paper brings together a diverse team from across government departments and agencies along with the invaluable expertise of the Dene Nation. Congratulations also to all co-authors who provided their valuable time and knowledge.

This is the Stage 1 article of a two-part Registered Report published in Ecological Solutions and Evidence that presents the study design for the research (introductions and methods). Read the full article and look forward to the forthcoming study results!

Citation: Saturno, J., Boeckner, M., Haché, S., Hodson, J., McAuley, E., McIntire, E., Micheletti, T., Polfus, J., Sliwa, S., Teed, T., & Westwood, A. R. (2023). Setting a foundation for Indigenous knowledge systems-guided boreal caribou (tǫdzı) conservation planning in the Western Boreal Region of Canada: A systematic map protocol. Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 4, e12211. https://doi.org/10.1002/2688-8319.12211

Dr. Alana Westwood earns Excellence in Teaching and Rising Research Star awards from Dalhousie University 

Congratulations to Dr. Alana Westwood and frequent lab collaborator Dr. Anika Cloutier on their recent success earning awards for Excellence in Teaching from Dalhousie’s Faculty of Management

Several students attended the award ceremony, including Mercy Fiamavle who praised Dr. Alana Westwood for her teaching style. Dr. Westwood’s assignments are geared towards developing students’ professional skills to prepare them for their future careers, which is not usually prioritized in academia. The ceremony was also attended by special guest from Winnipeg, Dr. Richard Westwood who inspired our own Dr. Alana Westwood to excel in her role as a teacher and mentor.  

Dr. Westwood was also awarded the Rising Research Star by the Faculty of Management for her immense success publishing in three top-tier journals and contributing to five government reports.

The Rising Research Star Award is given to faculty members who are not yet tenured and is based on their record of publication and how much money they’ve captured in grants. Read more about the other winners on the Dalhousie website.

Westwood Lab in partnership with AC CDC hosts workshop to address the knowledge gaps, barriers, and challenges of species distribution modelling

Photo: Workshop attendees.

“All models are wrong, but some are useful”

– George E. P. Box.

This quote was the mantra for a Species Distribution Modelling Workshop at Dalhousie University over January 12 and 13 hosted by the Westwood Lab, in partnership with members from the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center (AC CDC). Many bright minds congregated at Dalhousie University, representing all levels of expertise to discuss and determine the best practices for modelling species distributions in Atlantic Canada and elsewhere.

Lightning Talks

To kick off the workshop, seven lightning talks given by the attendees gave the group insights into ongoing projects, applications for models, and challenges. The first section had presenters Dr. Katherine Dearborn (representing Dr. David Lieske), Dr. Christopher Edge and Dr. Robert Buchkowski, and Miranda Frison discussing some of the intricacies and applications of modelling.

Photo: Lightning talk given by Dr. Christopher Edge (pictured) and Dr. Robert Buchkowski.

The second had Dr. Katherine Dearborn, Thomas Baker, Charity Robicheau and Jocelyn Pender presenting a few different model types, data-specific considerations, and how models for specific species can be used in conservation efforts.

The final section had Riley Scanlan and Courtney Burk discussing the applications of connectivity modelling, and how this can identify high value areas for multiple species conservation. The lightning talk abstracts and associated slides, as well as the conference proceedings can be found on the AC CDC’s website.

Asking and Answering Critical Questions

After an enlightening introduction to ongoing modelling efforts and case-specific challenges, the attendees brainstormed the major challenges facing modelers of all levels of expertise in Atlantic Canada.

On day two of the workshop, after having an evening of merriment and reflection, attendees reunited in groups to tackle drafting answers to these frequently asked, but not so frequently answered questions in a knowledge sharing and culmination effort. Overall, participants concluded that even with some uncertainty in modelling, the results of this great effort can still be very practical if we understand the inherent limitations of spatial data and data availability.

Photo: Drafting answers to questions.

Panel Discussion

The workshop concluded with a School for Resource and Environmental Studies Student Society-hosted “SRES Talk”, which was a lively panel discussion with Dr. Robert Buchkowski, Dr. Derek Tittensor, and Dr. Amy Mui, moderated by Dr. Alana Westwood. The panel discussed addressing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through modelling practice, the importance of reporting uncertainty, a wealth of model applications, and how we can use models to begin to understand how to conserve and manage species in an uncertain future.

Photo: Panel discussion. From left to right: Dr. Robert Buchkowski, Dr. Derek Tittensor, Dr. Amy Mui, and Dr. Alana Westwood.

The best practices developed by workshop participants will be shared as part of the Atlantic Canada Species At Risk Habitat Modelling Community of Practice. This group is compiling best practices and resources for habitat modelling in the region. The workshops’ findings will be posted on the Community of Practice’s page and the conclusions from the working group on the FAQ page. Subscribe to the AC CDC’s Community of Practice email list to stay informed about continued efforts to develop resources for those embarking on the creation and use of species distribution models.

Workshop summary prepared by Geneva Bahen.

Cape Breton “Green hydrogen” project goes to environmental assessment – Dr. Alana Westwood identifies an opportunity for change

On January 6, 2023, Dr. Alana Westwood was featured on a CBC segment, Information Morning – Cape Breton hosted by Steve Sutherland. During her interview, Dr. Westwood was asked about environmental assessment (EA), specifically in relation to the “Green hydrogen” project by EverWind Fuels to develop a hydrogen and ammonia production facility in Point Tupper.

In addition to describing how EA typically works and some of the issues with the current process, Dr. Westwood identified the project as one of the first of its kind in Nova Scotia and claimed/stated that “there is an opportunity here to come up with a set of requirements for the EA that could set a new precedent for doing things a little better.” Listen to the full-length segment


Congratulations are in order! Samantha Chu has completed her Honour’s undergraduate degree in Management with a major in Sustainability and Manjulika Robertson has completed her Master of Environment Studies at the School for Resource and Environment Studies. 

Manjulika Robertson and Samantha Chu worked closely together over the past year to develop each of their theses using the same dataset collected via survey to study the prevalence and impacts of interference in environmental studies and sciences research across Canada.  

Manjulika Robertson’s thesis focused on naming and documenting the phenomenon of interference in science and its impact for researchers of different sectors, locations, research areas, and career stage. In Samantha Chu’s thesis, she conducted a deep dive into the survey respondents’ personal identity factors to assess the role that identity demographics play in influencing a researcher’s perception of their experience with interference in science. Both theses are available now on DalSpace.  

Manjulika Robertson will be staying on with the Westwood Lab as a full-time research associate for 2022-23. Samantha Chu has accepted a contract research assistant position with the Clean Foundation, where she primarily works with Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change on their adaptation team.  


Robertson, M. E. (2022, August 29). Investigating interference in the environmental sciences and studies in Canada: Defining the phenomenon and measuring its prevalence and impacts. [Faculty of Graduate Studies Online Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/81905 

Chu, S. (2022, April 22). Interference in Environmental Studies and Sciences: Understanding how Identity Factors Influence Experienced Interference. [College of Sustainability Undergraduate Honours Theses, Dalhousie University]. Dal Space. http://hdl.handle.net/10222/81591