Welcome Sandra Hamel - NEW SESubmitted by editor on 1 August 2022.
Sandra Hamel has joined our Editorial Board at OIKOS! Take a glance at her welcome interview below!
Keywords: life histories, population dynamics, behavioural ecology, statistical ecology, wildlife management and conservation
What's your main research focus at the moment?
My research aims at quantifying ecological processes describing the interplay among biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic drivers of population and ecosystem dynamics. Drastic ecological changes are happening, particularly in the North where changes also affect indigenous communities. To better anticipate climate-induced impacts, ecology needs to become more predictive, which can be achieved by following the “MUP” framework: reliably “Measure” impacts, “Understand” the mechanisms driving changes through process-oriented models integrating multiple impacts, then “Predict” future states. My research at the moment try to tackle this challenge, working on i- improving sampling designs and methods to better integrate multiple data sources to model drivers of population and ecosystem dynamics, ii- fostering new methods to combine indigenous and scientific knowledge to enhance our understanding of ecological changes in northern ecosystems, and iii- developing models to produce near-term (seasonal/annual) iterative forecast to better anticipate population and ecosystem changes and adapt management actions in real time.
Can you describe your research career? Where, what, when?
My interest in research was ignited during my summers when I was working as field assistant when I was an undergraduate at McGill University. I worked on research fishing vessels in eastern Canada in 2000, and then in the Canadian Rockies studying mountain goats in 2001. I have been so hooked by the mountain goat research that I am still greatly involved in this long-term project. I started my MSc at Laval University studying the behavioral ecology of mountain goats and quickly realized I wouldn’t have enough time to answer all the questions I wanted to answer in so few years! I thus took a direct passage to the PhD, enlarging my project to study the population dynamics and life-history trade-offs in this species, including some comparative analyses with other ungulates species. During that time, I started with my supervisor a long-term study on Hoary marmots, at the same study location than the goat study, a project that is ongoing since 2004. After graduating in 2008, I moved to Tromsø, in Northern Norway, to undertake post-doctoral studies in statistical ecology at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. I fell in love with the place and people, and Norway suddenly ended up as a new home for me. I worked on a wide variety of interesting topics as a research scientist at UiT for many years until I obtained an Associate Professor position in statistical ecology in 2018 at UiT. During that time, I also co-founded a research school, Aminor (https://aminor.science/about-aminor/), aiming at integrating environmental monitoring, science and management. In 2019, I was offered an Associate Professor position with a Teaching Leadership Chair in statistical ecology at Laval University and decided to move back to Canada.
How come that you became a scientist in ecology?
I think that where you end up in life is a bit of luck sometimes blended with some good choices you take along your path. When I got out of college, I was accepted in an engineering school, but I felt I would spend too much time behind a computer, so I chose ecology to be closer to nature and wildlife. Nowadays, I find this old thought of mine ironic because now most people (including me!) spend most time in front of computers. Still, being a scientist in ecology allows me to spend quite a bit of time in the field, something that I cherish a lot!
What do you do when you're not working?
In my free time, I’m almost always doing outdoor activities, like mountain biking, snow kiting, bike touring, all kind of skiing, climbing, paddling, and rollerblading, just to name a few! The endorphins I get from practising sports makes me disconnect from work and manage to keep a good work-life balance.