Links: Google Scholar


Oscar Venter

Associate Professor and FRBC/West Fraser research chair in the Ecosystem Science and Management Program at UNBC

I am an applied conservation scientist, which means I do science with direct application to the ongoing biodiversity crises. The Earth is under immense pressure from human enterprise, only 4% of mammal biomass is still wild (96% humans and livestock), and just 23% of land and 13% of the oceans can be considered intact. Still, there are solutions for balancing human needs with those of a healthy planet. Finding these solutions usually involves an elucidation of the trade-offs and synergies among economic production, ecosystem services and conservation in natural and human modified ecosystems.

Links: Google Scholar, Research Gate


Michelle Venter

Senior research scientist

Dr Michelle Venter is a Canadian-based scientist with 15+ years working on a variety academic project at the interface ecology and natural resource management with extensive field work experience in tropical, savanna and temperate forests.  She is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Northern BC in the Conservation Solutions Lab. Michelle completed her PhD in 2015, looking the interaction of people and forest and climate in remote Papua New Guinea. Her current research focuses on how forest management can be part of climate solutions. In particular, how improved management and the conservation of old growth forest can lead to measurable climate benefits. She is working collaboratively, across a number of long-term research trials in forests of British Columbia to evaluate the carbon, economic and biodiversity implications of current forest management practices.

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Links: Google Scholar


Rajeev Pillay

Dr. Rajeev Pillay is an applied ecologist quantifying the effects of deforestation and forest degradation on biodiversity and working on solutions to mitigate species loss in the Anthropocene. He is particularly interested in biodiversity conservation issues in the tropics, a part of the world where biodiversity is the richest, yet under overwhelming human pressures. A field biologist at heart, Rajeev has nearly three years of cumulative field research experience in the tropical rainforests of Borneo, the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot in India, and in the deciduous forests of the central Indian highlands. He received his Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida, Gainesville in 2016.

Rajeev harnesses multiple data streams, including remotely sensed imagery coupled with big data, emerging technologies such as bioacoustics, and landscape-scale questionnaire surveys of people from indigenous communities, alongside advanced statistical modeling tools to answer conservation questions at local, regional and global scales. His current research leverages the latest remotely sensed datasets on tropical rainforest quality to estimate the global importance of structurally intact rainforests with minimal human pressures in mitigating extinction risk for vertebrate species worldwide. He recently led an effort to determine how many vertebrate species occur in tropical forests, combining geographic range maps for all extant mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, and data on species habitat associations to discover tropical forests harbor an astounding 62% of global terrestrial vertebrates.

Graduate Students

Links: Google Scholar, Research Gate


Juan Pablo Ramírez-Delgado

PhD Candidate

Juan’s research interests span from landscape ecology and biodiversity conservation to connecting science with policy and practice. He is currently working on the impacts of human pressure on habitat fragmentation and its relation to species extinction risk at a global scale. In his previous position, he worked as a senior researcher on forest degradation monitoring with remote sensing and field data for the National Forest and Carbon Monitoring System of Colombia. During his masters, he focused his research on deforestation and fragmentation of seasonal tropical forest in the southern Yucatán, Mexico. Juan is passionate about using tools that help us better understand the human-environmental relationships affecting biodiversity patterns and ecological processes, and really hopes to provide information in a form that is useful to policymakers and practitioners.

Links: Research Gate


Jose Aragon

PhD Candidate

José Aragón is an environmental geographer doing research PhD on the Human Footprint in Peru and Ecuador, for SDG15 (Life on Land) monitoring and planning. He has worked in rural cadaster and conservation NGO’s in Ecuador. He has experience working with indigenous peoples and settlers in Ecuador. His focus has been on the Amazon region of Ecuador and the Amazon basin, conducting research on the spatial dynamics of forests, local peoples and human pressures

Links: Research Gate


Maria Chadid

PhD Candidate

Having a landscape ecology background from Colombia and multiple fieldwork experiences, I am interested in forest management and its implications on forest Carbon dynamics and Greenhouse gas emissions. I am also interested in interdisciplinary research that supports decision-making on the achievement of national and international conservation targets, and the sustainable use of natural resources. 

During my PhD, I have been trying to understand the changes in the BC’s forests Carbon dynamics (above and below ground) due to partial harvesting systems.

Links: Research Gate, Twitter


Xavier Corredor Llano

PhD Candidate

I am a PhD student in the program Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia, and I am part of the Conservation Solution Lab research group. My lines of research are about conservation planning and climate change and I am involved as a researcher in the Climate Adaptive Planning for British Columbia project. My background is in computer science, but I am always passionate about forest and biodiversity conservation. Issues like deforestation, climate change, wildfires, and the impact of human activity on the ecosystems, and I always try to combine my professional background with those areas. I have experience on various topics such as climate and weather forecast with physical models, process automation, parallel programming, geographic information systems, land cover change analysis and developments on GIS. I’m enthusiastic to free/libre and open source software too, and part of my spare time I try to involve and contribute to some projects.

Links: Research Gate


Miguel Arias

PhD Candidate

Miguel Arias is a PhD student, at University of Northern British Columbia. Miguel is an Engineer, with a Master degree in Geomatics. His research experience has focused on the development of spatial analysis for a better understanding of environmental processes and deforestation, with the application of cutting edge techniques such as: spatial regressions, land use and land cover change models, geostatistics and machine learning. His overarching goal is to contribute to the development of effective solutions to environmental problems informed by spatial and analytic methods.

Miguel’s current research is to improve upon human footprint and wilderness mapping, by downscaling analyses to a province scale for BC, integrating uncertainty and sensitivity analyses

Links: Research Gate


Luizmar de Assis Barros

PhD Candidate

Luizmar is currently undertaking a Ph.D. program in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies at UNBC. He is a Forest Engineer, graduated from the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and an M.Sc. in Forestry at UNBC. Passionate about forest management and old-growth forest conservation, Luizmar’s research focuses on locating old-growth forests and their ecosystem services. He aims to expand his conservation planning skills and apply this knowledge to study the ecology of old-growth and the role of forest management in old-growth conservation and the provision of multiple ecosystem services.


Karen Dietrich

MSc Candidate

Karen is a Master of Science candidate in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She is interested in scaling and integrating climate data into systematic conservation planning for British Columbia; this work will expand her capability with spatial planning and decision-support tools. She received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from the Natural Resources program at Cornell University, where she focused on climate science and human impacts on natural resources. She spent several years working in private land conservation before joining the lab to apply her skill sets and expand her knowledge at the landscape scale.

Past members

Links: LinkedIn, Research Gate


Kristen Hirsh-Pearson


With a Specialization in environmental sciences and a minor in sustainability studies from Concordia University, and her more recent MSc in natural resource and environmental studies in biology, Kristen is passionate about conservation issues and the wellbeing of our natural world. With extensive fieldwork experience both academic and rescue related, Kristen has built her knowledge with professional trainings and applied field projects. Coming to the Conservation Solutions Lab Kristen’s plan was to gain more experience with geospatial analysis. She found an interest in cumulative pressure mapping, producing the first comprehensive literature review establishing what methods are used, what threats are mapped and where, and if threats or impacts are mapped statically or dynamically in time. From knowledge gained in the review, Kristen has mapped the first-ever Canadian terrestrial human footprint.

Lucy Ralphs

Research Assistant

Lucy Ralphs is a Biological Sciences undergraduate from Aberystwyth University, Wales, who is currently a research intern with UNBC through the Mitacs Globalink scheme. After just finishing a sandwich placement in the forestry industry, she is keen to expand on her current knowledge of conservation and the importance of ecosystems to accelerate her career once she graduates. During her internship, she hopes to design an interactive GIS storymap with the assistance of those in the Conservation Solutions Lab to raise awareness of forest management activities, the importance of trees and carbon stocks, and contribute to the environmental research at UNBC. Her main aim for the map is to educate general audiences and increase awareness of forest conservation.

Rafael De Camargo

Postdoctoral Researcher

Rafael’s research interests are framed within conservation biology and macroecology. Currently, Rafael’s broad research questions are related to the effects of cumulative impacts of human pressures (human footprint) on biodiversity at the global scale. During his Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa, Rafael tested hypotheses and predictions on the underlying environmental factors and mechanisms (mostly related to landscapes features) affecting species’ distributions at the landscape-level and across large extents. Apart from his career, Rafael is a Cordon Bleu chef-trained and food enthusiast, who makes his own bread, cheeses, sausages, prosciutto and plenty of other goodies.

Rebecca Runting

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Queensland

Rebecca’s research interests span environmental management, ecosystem services and ecological economics, with a particular focus on planning for multiple conservation and development objectives in Australia and Indonesian Borneo. Her PhD research at The University of Queensland focused on developing and evaluating strategies to manage multiple ecosystem services under uncertain climate change in coastal wetlands and tropical rangelands.Rebecca is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science in collaboration with the Integrated Forest Decisions Lab at the University of Northern British Columbia. This project will compare land sparing and land sharing strategies for forest management in Indonesian Borneo, with consideration for carbon emissions, biodiversity, timber production, and other ecosystem services. This research is cross-disciplinary, linking methods from ecological modelling, economics, and operations research.

James Allan

PhD student (co-supervised with James Watson), University of Queensland

James is currently studying cumulative threat mapping, and how to link human pressure to biodiversity outcomes for his PhD, co-supervised by Oscar Venter. James grew up in Kenya where he was surrounded by wildlife and the outdoors. School holidays were spent on safari, game driving with clients, discussing Africa’s conservation challenges around the campfire, and on walking safaris in some of Kenya’s wildest and most beautiful regions.

This inspired James to study a science degree, the highlight being his Honours year with Hugh Possingham at UQ. After his degree, he returned to Kenya where he worked for the African Conservation Centre, an NGO whose focus is on community conservation in pastoral lands studying carnivore-livestock interactions.  His research interests are broad but two examples include the impacts of development on conservation, and incentives for land-use change.

Chelsea Dunbar

Research Assistant

Chelsea holds a Diploma of Environmental Technology from Camosun College and is completing her BSc in Natural Resource Management, major in Forest Ecology, at UNBC. Previous research involvement includes a biodiversity study of the tidepools at Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew, BC (prepared as a report for Camosun College) and student research assistant to Dr. Kathy Bleiker (Natural Resources Canada) in her continued study of mountain pine beetle. Currently she is working under MSc student Kristen Hirsh-Pearson identifying human pressures in random plots across Canada for Kristen’s study, which will create a Canada specific Human Footprint map. Chelsea’s research interests include prescribed burning as a method of forest management and regeneration, and she plans to pursue her MSc upon graduation in this area of study.

Tomas Danco

Research Assistant

Why is it, that more than half of the world’s human population lives on less than $10 per day? Or that the world’s vertebrate populations have declined by an average of 60% since 1970? The answers to these questions lie interwoven in between the spaces that humanity has influenced over the years of its presence. It is of utmost importance that as a species, we take a sobering look of reflection at our past, present, and future actions.

As a bachelor’s student in environmental engineering, my goal is simple. It is to aid the planet and the people living on it to a brighter future, so that the generations yet to come can enjoy the pleasures that we take for granted today. Amongst others, my interests lie in fair and sustainable human development, the relationships in between indigenous cultures and nature, as well as holistic community empowerment. As a research assistant at the Conservation Solutions Lab, I have been involved with systematic processing of soil samples. Looking forward, I aim to assist in quantifying the impacts of human pressures within protected areas of South East Asia and South America, with the use of high resolution imagery. Outside of academia, I love spending time in motion through skateboarding, skiing, surfing, and photography.