Current Research Group Members


Simon Landhäusser


Professor and NSERC Industrial Chair. Forest land reclamation and applied forest ecology.

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Jana Bockstette, MSc Student
Growth performance of planted tree seedlings on differently treated reclamation sites

Co-supervisor: Dr. Douglass Jacobs (Purdue University, Indiana)

Jana’s field research investigates growth performance of boreal tree species (trembling aspen, jack pine and white spruce) planted on different reconstructed soils varying in nutrient status, water availability, and temperature in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. She detected a difference in soil temperature and a lack of warming between two capping materials (peat and forest floor mix), which may explain differences in growth performance of planted seedlings. With this in mind, Jana established a growth chamber experiment with the aim of further determining the effect of low soil temperatures and different speeds of warming on jack pine seedlings during bud flush. Jana is also studying the planting success of aspen on an abandoned coal mine near Edmonton where topsoil was not available for reclamation purposes. In this study, she experimented with two different soil amendments (biochar and mineral fertilizer) with the intention of enriching subsoil by improving its water and nutrient retention. In her free time she enjoys Yoga, Zumba, knitting and playing with her sons, David and Aaron.  

Pak Chow, Lab Technician

Pak works as a laboratory technician in the Landhäusser Research Group. He conducts chemical analyses on plant tissue and soil samples to support plant ecophysiology studies, trains graduate students on these procedures, and maintains the labs. 

Ashley Hart, MSc Student
Hydraulic redistribution and carbon remobilization in trembling aspen 

Ashley's background in tree ecophysiology has led to two projects focused on the redistribution and remoblization of resources, specifically water and carbon, in trembling aspen. For her first project she'll be partnering with Morgane Merlin to conduct a growth chamber experiment investigating the role of aspen root systems in handling fluctuations in soil water through a process known as lateral hydraulic redistribution. For her second project, she'll be investigating nonstructural carbohydrate storage and remobilization using grafted aspen seedlings and labeled carbon. Ashley enjoys spending weekends out at the lake, going for nature walks, and baking delicious desserts!

Caren Jones, Research Assistant

Caren completed her masters with the Landhäusser research group in 2016. Her thesis work focused on how colonizing vegetation communities develop and disperse in upland boreal forest reclamation sites. As a research assistant she is continuing work on various reclamation related projects that the Landhäusser research group has been involved with over the years. When not pressing and identifying plants, Caren enjoys playing basketball, knitting and spending time with other people's dogs. 


Fran Leishman, Field Technician

Fran provides field and technical support to the Landhäusser Research Group. She is also conducting research on the upland areas of a reconstructed watershed where she is investigating the interrelationships between tree species and planting density, understory development and potential water use on sites differing in capping material, slope and aspect. In addition, Fran coordinates the laboratories for the forest plant identification course, Ren R 120.

Morgane Merlin, PhD Candidate

Morgane’s past research experiences with Antarctic mosses, temperate forests tree species and ectomycorrhizal fungi have led her to a deep interest in how plants (trees, shrubs or ground vegetation) respond to environmental change especially linked to climate change and water use. Her aim is to pursue this path as she starts her PhD with the Landhausser Group on reclamation sites. In her spare time, she enjoys riding horses in the mountains and being with horses in general, hiking, travelling and painting. 


Kevin Solarik, Postdoctoral Fellow

As a postdoctoral research fellow in the Landhäusser research group, Kevin's research focuses on regeneration dynamcis of trees in response to natural and anthropogenic changes in the environment. Kevin's current work aims at better understanding the water use of trees within the reclaimed landscapes of the oil sands. Kevin's other active research interests include: climate change, ecophyisology, forest dynamcis, forest ecology, forest management/silviculture, drought, and fire. If you would like to know more about the research Kevin in conducting please visit his personal website. 

Shauna Stack, MSc Student
Tree nutrient status and performance in upland boreal forest reclamation

In continuation of the work started by Jana Bockstette, Shauna's project focuses on the establishment of tree seedlings on a reclaimed upland site in northern Alberta. The research site was constructed on an overburden dump where a variety of soil types and caping depths were applied. Shauna's first study specifically looks at the repsonse of tree seedling growth to these different soil capping treatments five years after tree platning. Based on the lower growth performance observed on sites capped with peat mateiral where nutrients were limited, Shauna's second study will look into the effect of fertilizer application on nutrient deficient sites to see if the growth performance of the trees can improve given the expansion of the their root systems after six years of growth.

Erika Valek, MSc Student
Planted tree seedling success following compost use on a reclaimed coal mine

There are numerous challenges to overcome when reclaiming mined land including lack of soil moisture, increased soil compaction, low organic matter and soil fertility, extreme soil pH, and undesired vegetation invasion. With these factors in mind, Erika is working together with the Edmonton Composting Facility, Simon Landhäusser and the TransAlta Corporation to incorporate compost into the soil of a reclaimed mine site. Compost addresses the above mentioned problems by serving as a short term, slow release fertilizer that is able to provide planted trees with the organic matter they require in nutrient deficient soils while fostering the development of microbial activity.

Erin Wiley, Postdoctoral Fellow
Carbohydrate dynamics and allocation: carbon stress response in trees

Trevor de Zeeuw, MSc Student
Soil microsite variation and tree growth response on upland reclamation sites

Trevor's experience with forestry and soil science sparked an interest in land reclamation. Specifically, Trevor's study hopes to provide insight on growth responses of upland reclamation tree species on varying soil microtopographical treatments. His first project will analyse above-ground growth of trembling aspen, jack pine, and white spruce planted on three different soil microtopographical treatments. The second study will analyse root growth response in relation to microsite. Trevor hopes that the data collected from these experiments will benefit the reclamation of upland sites and contribute to industry practices. In his spare time, Trevor is an avid rugby player, skier, and cyclist. He also loves playing with his cat, Lilly.  

Julie Zettl, Research Assistant

Julie is a civil engineer with over 10 years of experience in the reclamation field primarily for oil sands and uranium operators. She completed her masters degree at the University of Saskatchewan in 2014 under Lee Barbour investigating the infiltration and drainage behaviour in coarse layered soils in both natural and relcaimed environments. Currently, Julie is engaged in multi-disciplinary research and collaboration with the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan.