I am of the school of thought that asks students to develop interesting research questions first, and then figure out a suitable location for the study second. This is different than deciding first that I ‘must study species X or location Y’, and then finding a question second. As a result of the question-focused approach,, the lab has used countless numbers of study sites, ranging from native grassland, boreal forest, aspen parkland, invaded fields, to rooftop and growth room studies.
In general I am open to research in most any location, however, there do exist special funding opportunities for research in Alberta.
Roy Berg Kinsella Ranch
The majority of projects in the lab have been located at the University Ranch in Kinsella Alberta. The Kinsella ranch contains a number of tracts of undisturbed rough fescue prairie (up to 1500ha), an endangered ecosystem in Alberta. Much like most grassland areas in North America, the vast majority of fescue prairie has been converted to crops or pasture, thus Kinsella provides a unique resource for understanding the ecology of a native grassland. A series of fields on the North side of the ranch containing native prairie (about 25ha) have been the focus of intensive research into questions of plant community ecology, though other studies are conduced elsewhere on the ranch. Grazing is managed on the ranch, and can be modified according to the needs of a given study. Potential herbivores include bison, cattle, elk, and deer … though we all know that insects are really the major herbivores in these systems!
University of Alberta Biotron
Quite simply, UA has truly outstanding controlled plant growth facilities. The lab maintains a large walk-in growth room, and more space is available on an as-needed basis (there are at least 25 such rooms in Biological Sciences alone). Additionally, rooftop space exists for common garden/mesocosm studies that may be better suited for natural light/temperature conditions than those of a growth room. Most students in the lab include at least one mesocosm/potted plant experiment in their thesis.
Other Alberta Grasslands
The majority of the south-eastern section of Alberta is grassland (the northern edge of the Great Plains), ranging from mixed grass to slightly wetter Fescue grasslands. Opportunities exist for both large scale comparative studies as well as more detailed experiments in a variety of grassland times.