By Ellen Tsaprailis

Courtney Robichaud is Carleton University’s newest Liber Ero Fellowship winner.

This prestigious award will fund the postdoctoral fellow in Biology to develop methods of integrating Indigenous knowledge into wetland conservation.

Carleton University Biology Postdoctoral Fellow Courtney Robichaud has won a Liber Ero Fellowship

Canada is home to almost 1.3-million square kilometres of wetlands which is a quarter of the remaining wetlands in the world. Wetlands are delicate ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable to destruction. In southern Ontario, only 11 per cent of marshes from pre-European settlement remain. This area includes the territory of the Michi Saagiig (Mississauga Anishinaabeg), whose Inherent and Treaty Rights protect wetlands and water. While conservation and restoration projects are often well-intentioned, they can violate these rights and Robichaud is hoping to change that relationship.

The conservation and community ecologist will work alongside her mentors Biology Adjunct Prof. Gary Pritchard (Michi Saagiig, 4 Directions Conservation Consulting Services) and Biology Prof. Joseph Bennett.

Robichaud explains that she will create a toolkit for conservation practitioners to help facilitate meaningful engagement and collaboration with First Nations in Southern Ontario; review key wetland policies to more adequately reflect Inherent and Treaty Rights and the cultural significance of wetlands to Indigenous communities; and organize an Indigenous-led field study to conduct wetland restoration.

“I will work with my mentorship team to co-create resources for wetland conservation practitioners in Michi Saagiig territory and conduct a wetland restoration study using Two-Eyed Seeing (Etuaptmumk)—applying cultural burning to restore marsh habitat and manage invasive species,” says Robichaud.

In guiding Robichaud’s research, Pritchard says that developing permanent resources in Indigenous engagement into Ontario’s wetland policies are important goals.

“Our ability to foster and assist communication with all Nations of people from project concept to implementation ensures Indigenous engagement and inclusion is effective, meaningful, and incorporated into all aspects of project completion. Courtney’s extensive leadership and communication experience will help us continue to build and grow these relationships,” says Pritchard.

Robichaud has been given $15,000 per year for two years in research funds as a Liber Ero Fellow to make headway on this project.

“We hope this work will influence the way wetlands are managed in southern Ontario and shift restoration paradigms for wetlands in the territory of the Michi Saagiig and their neighbours,” says Robichaud. “Receiving the Liber Ero was really important for this work because it gave us the freedom to do this.”

Prof. Bennett is thrilled to host Robichaud and her research in his Bennett Lab.

“Courtney is an accomplished scientist, with 11 peer-reviewed publications in journals and over 40 talks and conference presentations including a keynote at the first annual National Phragmites Conference. This is an impressive achievement for someone who only received their PhD in 2021,” says Bennett. “Courtney has also received numerous scholarships and awards, including an NSERC Doctoral Scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and was also runner-up for a CSEE Excellence in Doctoral Research Award. Her scientific ability is increasingly being recognized internationally. For example, she was recently made an Associate Editor for the Society of Conservation Biology journal Conservation Science and Practice.

What is particularly impressive about Courtney is her ability to create interdisciplinary science that leads to positive change. I don’t believe I have encountered anyone at her career stage who better exemplifies this ability.”

Robichaud has begun her Liber Ero-funded research and is proud to be a Fellow.

“There are two retreats that Liber Eros go on every year that includes everyone who has ever been a Fellow, and it is really lovely,” says Robichaud. “They are very supportive and if you are a Liber Ero Fellow, you are a Fellow for life.”

Sunrise over wetlands

Liber Ero Fellowship
This post-doctoral fellowship seeks to support early-career scientists to conduct and communicate world-class research that informs conservation and management issues relevant to Canada.

The program aims to facilitate applied conservation research collaborations that links institutions, researchers, and conservation practitioners; provide support and unique training opportunities for emerging conservation leaders at a critical stage in their careers; and increase the capacity of the Canadian scientific community to address pressing conservation and management issues.

Thursday, June 29, 2023 in , , ,
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