Research Interests

Laura's Curriculum Vitae

I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Lethbridge and previously an Alberta Innovates Research Fellow.  My interests include using geospatial, hydro-meteorological and field data to better understand Boreal wetland, forest and discontinuous permafrost changes within natural and disturbed environments. I am also interested in the environmental processes that both influence and are affected by these changes. My research uses a broad range of cutting-edge methodologies from individual tree/plant to plot, stand, and extrapolation of land surface processes to regional scales. I have led and co-authored more than 60 peer reviewed journal articles and proceedings papers.

Current projects that I am leading include:

1. Long term sensitivity analysis of watershed hydrology and ecosystem resilience to a 3 year drought within six proximal watersheds in the Boreal Plains, Alberta. In this project, I have used Landsat vegetation change trajectories and resilience as an indicator for basin-wide hydrological storage and runoff characteristics within a range of watershed attribute types. This project is in collaboration with scientists at the U of L ARTeMiS Lab, Dr. Kevin Devito (U of Alberta) and Dr. Rich Petrone (U of Waterloo).

2. Wetland encroachment and pond terrestrialisation within the Central Mixedwood ecoregion. In this project, we have modelled changes in shrub biomass that have occurred over a 14-year period within this region. We are interesting in determining how ground-water variability results in shrub succession in some areas (especially adjacent to till moraine uplands) but not in other areas (e.g. clay plains). This project is in collaboration with scientists at the U of L ARTeMiS Lab, Dr. Kevin Devito (U of Alberta) and Dr. Rich Petrone (U of Waterloo).

3. Quantifying the spatial variability of reclamation success, scaling and biomass change using high resolution optical SPOT imagery, LiDAR data, eddy covariance estimates of net ecosystem production and field data within the oil sands region. This project includes comparisons between measured foliage amount, forest attributes (e.g. height, basal area) and growth at 138 plots surrounding 14 eddy covariance and energy balance towers with both high resolution SPOT imagery (provided by Planet Inc.) and LiDAR data. The objective of this project is to determine the condition of reclaimed environments, growth trajectories and whether or not this information can be scaled using remote sensing data. This project is in collaboration with Dr. Rich Petrone (U of Waterloo), Dr. Sean Carey (McMaster U.) and EIG Consulting.

4. Time series permafrost rate of thaw using multi-temporal LiDAR data and air photos. In this study we have found a threshold shift to accelerated permafrost thaw that occurred during the late 1990's. Continuation of this rate of thaw could result in a no-permafrost state for this watershed by 2044. Based on research by my previous undergraduate independent study student, Alissia Paluck and expertise of Dr. Craig Mahoney (PDF) we are now using a machine learning algorithm to model rate of thaw and non-linear drivers throughout the watershed. The modelling component of this project is in collaboration with Dr. William Quinton and Dr. Ryan Connon at Wilfrid Laurier University.

5. Determining environmental drivers of spatial variations in wildfire burn severity and post-fire regeneration north of Slave Lake (2011), Fort McMurray (2015) and throughout the NWTs (2010 to 2016) using field measurements, multi-temporal LiDAR data and eddy covariance data fusion. This project is in collaboration with members at the U of Lethbridge, Dr. Richard Petrone (U of Waterloo), Dr. Kevin Devito (U of Alberta) and Dr. Dan Thompson (Canadian Forest Service).