Former Lab Members - where are they now?!

Gerardo Vergara Asenjo

My research tests methodologies to measure forest carbon stocks and stock changes under processes of degradation and the aspects of forest conservation in the context of REDD+. The study areas are located in two Latin-American countries with different capacities and realities in the forest sector, namely Panama and Chile. Panama is actively engaged in two REDD readiness programs, i.e. UN-REDD and FCPF of the World Bank, whereas Chile is getting initially involved in REDD+ activities by way of reducing forest degradation and low scale logging in temperate forests. Including these two countries will allow working in both tropical and temperate rainforests, which share a global importance in terms of carbon storage and biodiversity. A particular emphasis in determining accuracy and precision of integrated methods (remote sensing techniques and ground measurements) and its applicability to developing countries was carried out. Through a multi-source approach my research provided new information that could contribute to inform the implementation of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) systems and give hints on technical issues related to measure carbon stocks. A secondary objective was related to the cost-effectiveness of these methods.
Jose Temistocles Monteza
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I was the manager of the Sardinilla project where I had multiple roles. I ensured the day to day maintenance of this 10 hectares plantation. I worked in Sardinilla since its establishment and I was responsible for collecting the core set of data on tree and ecosystem traits (e.g. tree height, litter production, herbaceous productivity). I also provided support to the many graduate students and researchers of this multi-user platform and coordinated local workers. Finally, with the Help of Daniel Lesieur (Université du Québec a Montréal), I was responsible for the database where all the information obtained in Sardinilla is concentrated. In 2008-2009 and 2010, I further collaborated with the carbon project of Ipetí Emberá being responsible of capacity-building regarding the planting and pruning of the trees. I also measured all the trees to follow their growth.
Lic. Lady Edianis Mancilla H
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Since 2007, I have worked in Dr Potvin’s Laboratory first as an intern at Sardinilla Project and I carried out an experiment in wood decomposition. In 2008, I became involved in the STRI-Ipetí-Emberá carbon project collaborating directly with the community to establish plantations of timber trees and agroforestry. Until Fall 2017, I was a research and administrative assistant as well as the Fund Manager of all the research projects. I was responsible for overseeing an inter-sectorial working council that we created to develop a proposal for a conflict resolution mechanism as an important tool for REDD+ implementation in Panama.

Anthony Sardain

A former member of the Neotropical Ecology Lab, I have worked with Dr. Potvin since January 2013. In collaboration with McGill University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, we helped create a dashboard of national sustainability indicators for Panama. Our approach was participatory, bringing together non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private entities and government representatives under a single banner: the Forum and Observatory of Sustainability. In addition to helping advance the indicator selection process, we created a set of baseline values to understand Panama’s current trajectory, and conducted in-depth analyses of focus issues shown by the dashboard to be of concern.

My current masters research centers on applying statistical modelling techniques to forecast the global shipping network over the next 30 years. Global shipping being the dominant vector of spread of economically- and ecologically-harmful invasive species, we aim to use our shipping model to predict patterns of invasion under different scenarios of global development.
Claire Salisbury
email: claire.salisbury{at}

My interests are in the evolution of tropical forest biodiversity, and the conservation and restoration of tropical forest habitats. I joined the lab as a visitor in August 2013, and later worked as a postdoctoral researcher until early 2015. Using the long-term dataset from the experimental planted forest in Sardinilla, Panama, I investigated the relationships between tree diversity, composition and ecosystem functioning within this native species plantation. I am now a writer for the environmental news website Mongabay.
For further details of my research please see my website

David Ross

I completed my Master’s degree with Dr. Potvin and Dr. Hector Guzman, a Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, where I focused on the ecotoxicology and conservation of sea turtles in the Neotropics. All species of sea turtles are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable to Critically Endangered, and the predominant threats to their recovery are human activities such as poaching, pollution and fisheries bycatch. My research interests include monitoring sea turtle population and ecological shifts with regards to predicted climate change scenarios; improving on-the-ground conservation efforts, especially in rural communities; and investigating the effects and severity of anthropogenic pollution on sea turtles and their environment. My thesis work involved testing for trace metal concentrations in samples of sea turtle eggs from multiple species and locations along the Pacific Coast of Panama to better understand the current state of contamination in populations with no previous toxicological data, and where poaching and consumption of sea turtle products is ongoing. Currently, I am investigating the reported effectiveness of current sea turtle hatchery practices globally, and what are the major impediments for these projects.

Martine Larouche

Holding a BSc and an MSc in Geography from Laval University and McGill University, respectively, I now pursue a professional Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at Université de Montréal. I want to design daily environments with the goal of improving our quality of life and our perception of outdoor spaces. I worked with Dr. Potvin from 2014 to 2015 as the coordinator of Linking Action and Research on Sustainability (LARS), a joint project funded by the McGill’s Sustainability Project Fund with Dr. Elena Bennett from the Department of Natural Resource Sciences and McGill School of Environment. LARS was designed to provide visibility for McGill scholars who are working on positive contributions/solutions to sustainability. One of our activities was to help researchers communicate their research and their vision for sustainability to a broad audience with videos. I was also working as the Dialogues for Sustainability/ pour un avenir durable Facebook page manager during that period.

Rosine Faucher

I currently completing a BCL/LLB at the McGill Law Faculty (previously completed a BA Honors in political science at McGill with a minor in environment). I worked on the project of Sustainable Canada Dialogues, supervised by Catherine from June 2013 to December 2014. 

I facilitated a Delphi Survey in order to reach a consensus of recommendations that the SCD would propose to the government for the 2015 federal elections. The panel of the Survey was constituted of more than 50 scholars across provinces and domains of expertise ranging from sociology to biology. According to the Delphi Method, the Survey is conducted in three to four rounds. The first round was a success with a participation rate of 67%. 

After finishing the Delphi survey management, I helped prepare information for the focus groups which substantiated the recommendations made to the federal government
Laura Cameron

I worked with Dr. Potvin in 2014-2015 on my biology honours thesis project. I am interested in biodiversity and environmental sustainability, exploring the ways in which people can coexist with the diversity of life on earth without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. My research in the Potvin lab was a contribution to the Sustainable Canada Dialogues, an initiative aimed at developing and communicating solutions to climate change and sustainability-related issues. The project implemented a participatory method known as “visioning” to ensure the needs and desires of Canadians are in agreement with the proposed solutions for sustainability. I examined past initiatives that have used similar citizen-based methods to determine communities’ desires for the future. I conducted a meta­-analysis of desired futures created by communities across Canada with the aim of identifying regional commonalities in communities' visions. Although sustainability demands a balance between its social, economic and environmental components, we found that Canadians futures apparently place the greatest importance on social aspects. I believe visioning can be a powerful tool for articulating Canadians' desired futures, which will be central in designing a sustainable path forward.

Natalie Richards

Alongside Dr. Potvin, I co-coordinated the Sustainable Canada Dialogues/Dialogues pour un Canada Vert. This is a pan-Canadian initiative of scholars working to influence sustainability policy to encourage positive development in the context of climate change, and in a manner that reflects the desires of people living in Canada.Currently I am a Masters student supervised by Dr. Brian Leung. My research takes place in the context of the Sustainable Canada Dialogues’ investigation of how to inform plans for a sustainable transition in Canada by the public’s ideals. Through participatory techniques of visioning and pathway designing I help a range of communities in Canada articulate key characteristics of their ideal futures. I am also employing meta-analytics to compare the priorities of sustainability scientists with those of Canadian publics.

Ignacia Holmes

Since 2007, at the 13th Conference of the Parties in 2007, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, known as REDD+, has become a strategic issue in the climate change and development agendas for the period post 2012. REDD+ has the potential to affect forest dwellers lives in various ways that could include both benefits, by providing environmental services incomes, as well as threats, by restricting access and extraction right to forest dwellers and indigenous peoples to their natural endowment. I am interested in understanding how REDD+ activities can to consider the livelihoods needs of the local communities since access to the forest and its resources is essential for forest dwelling communities and their cultures. My research, therefore, focuses in understanding how can REDD+ be implemented in indigenous communities without undermining local livelihoods. Using a participatory approach, I am exploring the following issues: the conditions under which agroforestry could become part of the REDD+ ”toolkit”; the information and capacity building needs for effective participation of indigenous peoples in REDD+; the role of local governance in REDD+ leakage and implementation; selective logging compatibility with REDD+ and the social and economic impacts of REDD+ initiatives.

>> View video: Indigenous peoples, local livelihoods and forests [English] | Peuples indigènes du Panama et leurs forêts [Français]

Johanne Pelletier
email: johannepelletier{at}

My interests in research are multidisciplinary in nature, with an emphasis on the role of forest ecosystems regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation. I am also interested by land-use/cover change and community forest management.

Since 2006, I have been working on land-use/land-cover change in relation to climate change, mostly with my continuing work in Panama with McGill and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. In cooperation with Panama’s National Environmental Authority, I have studied various aspects of Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying systems for REDD+ including national reference emission levels, avoided deforestation scenarios, uncertainty, and data availability. At a local level, I have been looking at the dynamics of forest intervention using remote sensing and forest carbon inventories with participatory methods in the Palo Seco Forest Reserve/Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous territory (Western Panama) with a focus on forest carbon monitoring. Working with a Ngäbe community, I have been striving to deepen our understanding of elements that could promote sustainable community forest management in order to bring forest dwellers insight for REDD+ implementation planning to the fore. I have also participated in capacity-building with indigenous technicians, and different indigenous communities inside the larger information initiative on Climate Change and REDD+ in Panama for indigenous civil society led by our research group.

>> See video: Hunting for uncertainties [English] | A la chasse aux incertitudes [Français]

Maria del Carmen Ruiz-Jaen

I am working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to coordinate the National Forest and Carbon Inventory in Panama. This effort is in close collaboration with the Environmental National Authority (ANAM) and aims to prepare the country for REDD+.


Guillaume Peterson St-Laurent

The notion of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) has attracted a great deal of attention in recent years. Panama is actively engaged in the process of REDD+ being a pilot country in the context of the UN-REDD initiative and of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) of the World Bank. The extension of the agricultural frontier is a key motor of deforestation in Eastern Panama. Crucial actors in this process, the colonos have an important role to play in understanding land use dynamics on the frontier.
My interests are mainly in the inclusion of local stakeholders in sustainable environmental management in the context of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. My Master project aims at documenting the uses, values and perceptions of the territory of colonists (colonos) from Eastern Panama. Also, I try to determine how colonos’ needs and aspirations could be taken into account when developing a REDD+ strategy. I mainly used a participatory approach and individual interviews in colonos communities of the provinces of Darien and Panama to better understand the possible impact and compatibility with REDD+ to make sure future projects would not seriously undermine colonos’ livelihood. Another part of my project is to look at local possible cooperation and participation between stakeholders in REDD+ preparation by analyzing a case study of an organized successful colonos group.

>> See video: Agricultural Frontier of Northern Quebec [English] | La frontière de développement au nord du Québec [Français]
Last update: Nov. 28, 2017