Meet the Team: Crystal Ernst

This week’s profile features Crystal Ernst, Ph.D. student at McGill University.

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I earned a B.Sc. (2003) and M.Sc. (2005) in Biology from Carleton University; my research there focused on plant-insect interactions and communities in the context of biological invasions.   Between 2005 and 2010 I worked in the public sector for various federal agencies, including  NSERC, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Parks Canada.   The five-year hiatus made me realize how much I actually wanted to pursue an academic career.   I was admitted to McGill University in January 2010, where  I am now a Ph.D. student in Dr. Chris Buddle’s lab.   

I was still in the process of researching possible schools/labs when Chris told me about his plans for the NBP.  This program offered everything I was looking for in a Ph.D. project – innovative research, extensive field work in exciting locations, and an incredble oportunity for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations – so of course my reaction was a resounding “Count me in!!!”

My work in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, during the summer of 2010 will have three main thrusts:

  1. Conduct the standardized two-week NBP arthropod sampling protocol; my 8-week stay in “Kug” will allow me to gather unique temporal data with three collection periods;
  2. Conduct manipulative field experiments related to the effects of temperature on ground-dwelling insect communities; and
  3. Work with students and others in the community to generate a collection of locally significant insects while providing informal training and educational opportunities; enhance the usefulness and meaning of the collection with relevant Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

Broadly, I am interested in how the structures of ground-dwelling insect communities are affected by climate change and other environmental variables.  I will use data from my own field experiments as well as the sampling being conducted by the entire team to answer my research questions.  I am thrilled to be a part of this program, and honoured to work with such a great team.

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