Brandon University master’s student earns scholarship for work to protect amphibians

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A Brandon University master’s student has earned a significant industry scholarship for her work with specialized mapping software.

For her master’s thesis, Alyssa Eagle researched the risks of amphibian mortality on roads using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology.

“If you recall the old video game Frogger, you know that amphibians are at real risk when they try to cross roads and highways,” said Brandon University Dean of Science Dr. Bernadette Ardelli. “But this is no game — Alyssa’s work truly helps us prioritize how we can focus our efforts to protect these vulnerable species.”

Today’s GIS technology can be used to store, analyse and visualize all types of geographic data. In her thesis, Eagle analysed the abundance and spatial distributions of several amphibian species and then used spatial analysis tools to identify where the species were at greater risk of road mortality.

Her “Conservation of Amphibians in Southwestern Manitoba” poster is available on-line.

Eagle’s research looked at 30 ponds near Coulter and Waskada and examined the prevalence of seven different amphibian species. She then collected roadkill data from 2015–17 on seven amphibian species and an additional five reptile species. Among her findings were that high-mortality areas didn’t necessarily correspond with areas where there were the highest populations.

“This research is essential for improving our knowledge of amphibian and reptile mortality at human hands, and I am particularly impressed with Alyssa’s suggestions for how we can mitigate the damage we cause,” Ardelli said, pointing at recommendations like ecopassages and seasonal drift fencing with pitfall traps that are included in the research. “Alyssa is a great example of the value of women in science and she is a fantastic role model for girls looking to pursue a future in science, technology, engineering or math.”

Ardelli also said that the BU Faculty of Science would be welcoming a Women in Science talk on Wednesday next week. At the talk, Dr. Susan Baserga (MD, PhD), Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, of Genetics and of Therapeutic Radiology at Yale University will be on campus to help illuminate the challenges that women scientists face.

For her work Eagle, already a BU science graduate who is now working towards a Master of Science degree, received a 2019 Esri Canada Higher Education Scholarship in GIS. The scholarship includes $1,000 cash, at least $6,000 worth of software, textbooks and online training, and free registration to one of the company’s user conferences.

The award is based on a paper or project that includes a significant GIS component and is intended to encourage students to continue their studies in GIS and consider it as a post-graduation career option.

This Friday, Eagle will defend her thesis at BU.

“With my master’s, I hope to pursue a career in wildlife biology,” she said. “I look forward to continuing my learning with the provided Esri software, which will certainly prove itself useful in my future career.”
Brandon University delivers strong, multidisciplinary Geographic Information Systems courses and programs, to which Esri Canada offers support through its Higher Education Scholarships in GIS.


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