A professor from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Department of Biology is taking a closer look at how protected areas can play a role in Canada’s sustainable forest management.
That’s thanks to a considerable chunk of research funding Dr. Yolanda Wiersma recently received.
The assistant professor, who specializes in landscape ecology and conservation biology, has just received $120,000 from the Sustainable Forest Management Network, an incorporated non-profit Canadian research group based at the University of Alberta.
She is now heading up a cross-country research team that will examine best practices and innovative approaches in combining both conservation and economic goals in the boreal regions of Canada over the next 18 months.
“This funding will enable us to put together a team of experts with knowledge from across a broad spectrum of issues related to both sustainable forest management and protected areas research,” she said. “Everyone on the team probably has different ideas of the role protected areas can play in sustainable forest management and part of the purpose of the project is to try to synthesize some of those ideas and highlight best practices.”
Joining Dr. Wiersma on her team are a number of leading researchers from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, the University of Alberta, and B.C.’s Simon Fraser University.
Team members will consult broadly with partners in the forest industry, as well as government and non-governmental agencies and First Nations groups who have an interest in achieving both protection and sustainable economies on the forested landscape in this country.
“We’ll be able to take a broad-brush approach that looks at these issues from across the country,” Dr. Wiersma said.
“We’re taking a very broad definition of protected area in our research, and including everything from legislated areas with defined boundaries, such as national or provincial parks, which are what people think of when they hear the term protected area, through to alternative management prescriptions that the forest industry applies to the landscape.”
The in-depth project was one of six announced by the Sustainable Forest Management Network in late April. In total, $784,500 was awarded to leading Canadian researchers over the next two years to study both best practices and knowledge gaps in the management of this country’s forests.
As a new researcher, Dr. Wiersma said this kind of funding is significant and crucial to her academic career.
“The funding will allow me to build connections with academic and practitioner colleagues from across the country,” she noted. “The timeline on this project is quite short – 18 months – but I'm confident our findings and the connections we make will lead to productive research partnerships down the road.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Wiersma isn’t the only researcher at Memorial who’s involved in projects looking at sustainable forest management in Canada. Dr. Adrian Tanner, honorary research professor with the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, and Dr. David Natcher, Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, and an assistant professor in the same department, are involved in a study that will examine the effectiveness of collaboration between aboriginal groups and the forest industry in this country. That project is being headed up by Dr. Stephen Wyatt, a professor of Forest Policy and Social Forestry at the University of Moncton.