Other Research Experience

Recherche et Transfert de Technologie, Collège D’Alfred (Alfred, ON) May 05 – Aug 05
Research Technician

This was an exciting opportunity to put my insect ecology skills to work in an ecosystem unlike any other I’d ever studied: an organic dairy farm.  Insects perform important roles in agricultural settings. In addition to being useful pollinators and destructive pests of crops and forage plants, they are critical recyclers of cattle manure in pastures and significant sources of annoyance (and occasionally disease) for the animals.  Here, I supported field and lab-based studies of insect diversity associated with forage crops and pastures by collecting, identifying, preserving and databasing specimens, as well as analyzing and preparing data for publication.

Dung beetles roll away a ball of cow manure. Credit: Beverly Skinner/USFWS

Dung beetles roll away a ball of cow manure. Credit: Beverly Skinner/USFWS

Carleton University, Dept. of Biology (Ottawa,ON) Sep 03 – May 05
Laboratory Assistant/M.Sc. candidate

As a master’s student I continued to pursue my interests in the ecology of biological invasions by working with an alien leaf beetle and its host plants.  Although the lily beetle is considered a specialist (preferring true lilies, Lilium sp.), I wanted to find out if any closely related native species were at risk of becoming hosts for this serious pest.

I  reared a colony of field-captured specimens, which allowed me to conduct feeding and oviposition trials and monitor larval development, to assess their host preferences and feeding behaviours.  Although lily beetles do best on true lilies, they will lay their eggs on closely related alternative hosts and are able to complete their development on at least two other species (Polygonatum sp. and Medeola sp.).

The red and black colouring of the lily beetle is a warning colouration that suggests they are chemically defended. I conducted predator bioassays using chemical extracts obtained from beetles and from lilies, which are known to contain defensive chemicals. Predators (lady beetles) responded in the same way to food spiked with plant chemicals as they did to food containing lily beetle extracts – they refused to eat it – but were happy to eat food that had not been tampered with.  This suggests that the chemicals in lily beetles are unpalatable and serve as a protective measure. It could also be that they are sequestering (ingesting and storing) chemicals from their lily hosts for their own use.

Have you seen a lily beetle in your garden? Naomi Cappuccino at Carleton University would like to know about it and add your sighting to a map of its distribution.

A lily beetle surveys the delicious Asiatic lilies in my garden.

A lily beetle surveys the delicious Asiatic lilies in my garden.

Carleton University, Dept. of Biology (Ottawa,ON) May 02 – Sep 03
Laboratory Assistant/B.Sc. candidate

Eastern regions of Canada and the U.S. are being plagued by a highly invasive European plant called “dog-strangling vine”. Related to milkweed, it grows and reproduces rapidly, quickly overtaking native vegetation in forests, fields and gardens.  In displacing native plants, dog-strangling vine can also affect the insects and spiders that rely on those plants for food and shelter.  I studied the arthropod assemblages found in patches of native plants (milkweeds, goldenrods and grasses) growing in old fields, and compared them to the assemblages of arthropods found in neighbouring patches of dog-strangling vine.

While the native plants were bustling with insect life on the flowers, leaves, stems and even on the ground below, the areas overtaken by the vine were nearly devoid of all arthropod life, save for a few small flies that would visit its flowers for nectar, some spiders hoping to catch a meal, and a milkweed specialist bug that seemed to be able to feed on its seed pods.  As the vine continues to spread, it will continue to strip ecosystems of their important natural insect communities.

Dog-strangling vine growing at the High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, Ontario (credit: Jon Hayes)

Dog-strangling vine growing at the High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, Ontario (credit: Jon Hayes)

Visit Naomi Cappuccino’s web page for more information about new research on the dog-strangling vine.

Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology (Lamanai Research Center, Belize) May 2001
Student/Research Assistant – Tropical Ecology of Bats

This intensive three-week program cemented my desire to pursue ecology, particularly field-based research, as a career. A city-dweller, I was initially overwhelmed and then completely captivated by the primary rainforests of central Belize where I worked with a dozen other students to quantify and describe the diversity of the forest’s bat community. Using mist nets to capture specimens and high-frequency detection tools to record their vocalizations, we identified 28 species and generated a data base of their biological traits.

Other Professional Experience

Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre (Ottawa, ON)
Dec 2014 – Mar 2015
Research Assistant, Arctic Biodiversity Monitoring

My expertise in Arctic biodiversity and arthropod sampling was put to good use during a temporary contract as I assisted with the development of international site-based biodiversity monitoring protocols and tools, in collaboration with members of the CBMP, CAFF, Arctic Institute of North America and others.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Ottawa, ON)
Jul 2008 – Jan 2010
Program Officer, Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE)

This position allowed me to learn more about what goes on “behind the scenes” at government granting agencies while administering national competitions for top-tier research networks. Here, I provided program expertise to applicants and peer review committees during competitions for Classic NCEs, Centres of Excellence in Commercialization and Research and Business-led NCEs, as well as network mid-term reviews. I was also responsible for the revision of the Program and applications Guides for the 2009 NCE Competition for new networks, in consultation with three federal granting agencies. I planned and delivered national Information Sessions for 2009 NCE Competition, in coordination with NSERC Regional Offices.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency (Ottawa, ON)
Jan 2007 – Jul 2008
Program Officer, Forest Pest Emergencies (Plant Health Division

As a forest pest program officer I was able to apply both my entomological expertise and the critical thinking, analysis and communication skills I learned as a MSc student to the challenge of managing invasive alien forest pests. I was the lead program officer for the national Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and Asian Long-horned Beetle (ALHB) files; I revised their management plans and directives, coordinated research, control and monitoring efforts with operations staff, and consulted scientists to inform decision-making. I gained leadership experience as a member of the Compensation Framework Working Group and when I acted occasionally as National Manager of Forest Pest Emergencies. I also completed level II Media Training and was a bilingual media spokesperson.

Characteristic S-shaped galleries created by hungry ash borer larvae. Credit: Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

Characteristic S-shaped galleries created by hungry ash borer larvae. Credit: Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa, ON)
Sep 05 – Mar 06 and Oct 2006 – Jan 2007
Nature Educator

I stepped into a senior educator role just before the grand reopening of the Talisman Fossil Gallery, for which I ultimately developed and delivered different interactive educational activities and services adapted to diverse audiences.  I also collected staff and visitor input and coordinated issues resolution for three new galleries after the re-opening. Earlier, as a nature intern, I supported senior education staff in subject matter research, acquisition or creation of interpretive materials, evaluation of programs, and special program delivery, as well as delivered interpretation of museum collections.

St. Lawrence Islands National Park of Canada (Mallorytown, ON)
Apr 06 – Oct 2006
Park Interpreter

The park’s Visitor Centre was underused when I started working at SLI as an interpreter. My first task was to redesign the staging of the exhibition and learning spaces in Visitor Centre to create a welcoming atmosphere conducive to hands-on learning and self-directed exploration of nature-related themes. My colleagues and I created interactive programs for local residents and tourists that included exhibitions, guided tours, and hands-on presentations covering topics such as Species at Risk, reptiles and amphibians, wetlands, entomology, fossils and minerals, botany, and ornithology. I particularly enjoyed creating and maintaining live reptile, amphibian, fish and insect displays; these were immensely popular with our visitors (especially at feeding time!)

Sharing a moment with Guillaume and a garter snake at St. Lawrence Islands National Park

Sharing a moment with Guillaume and a garter snake at St. Lawrence Islands National Park. Credit: L. Senechal

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