I am a Research Scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. My research program is focused on understanding how global changes, primarily climate and land-use & land-cover change, affect wildlife species and communities. A second emphasis is on developing solutions and using science-based evidence to help solve pressing conservation problems. My research typically takes a macroecological lens but I use data from multiple spatial and temporal scales, often addressing how species range dynamics are affected by processes and changes occurring across scales. See my research page for more details on current and past projects.

I am based at the National Wildlife Research Centre located on Carleton University campus.

I look forward to hearing from potential collaborators and students. I can be reached at ilona.naujokaitis-lewis [at] canada.ca.

Research themes

  1. Understanding and improving predictions of species and community responses to climate change and land-use change.
    • Climate change vulnerability assessments for terrestrial wildlife
    • Drivers of native pollinator declines: role of landscape and climate change in agroecosystems
    •  Pollination potential modeling: national assessment
  2. Climate change adaptation strategies for biodiversity conservation
    • Importance of timing of conservation actions under climate change
    • Systematic conservation planning
  3. Accounting for uncertainties in biodiversity conservation



The title says it all.

Work from a recent collaboration is out in the journal Ecology titled Latitudinal gradients in herbivory on Oenothera biennis vary according to herbivore guild and specialization. This research was led by PhD student Daniel Anstett and Prof. Marc Johnson from the University of Toronto-Mississauga, who set out to test the latitudinal herbivory-defense hypothesis (LHDH) using Oenothera biennis L. (Onagraceae) as a study species. The running hypothesis is that herbivory and plant defenses increase toward lower latitudes. They did a lot of work sampling and quantifying herbivory at sites located across the entire species’ range. The results show that latitudinal patterns vary dramatically among herbivore species, highlighting the lack of generality of the LHDH. This work points to the need to better understand the mechanisms driving such diverse patterns. Looking forward, understanding the influence of  climate-mediated changes on biotic interactions is an especially interesting area of research from both theoretical and applied perspectives. Enjoy the read!

By User:Kilom691 [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Botanical llustration of Oenothera biennis (Evening primrose)

Photo contest: Toronto Chapter Society for Conservation Biology

Just under 2 weeks left!

I am the President of the Toronto Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB-TO) and we do a lot of neat conservation science and outreach work in the Greater Toronto Area. SCB is an international professional society, you can check out their site here.  As a local chapter, we are pretty busy: we are finishing up a two-year long project, SCB-TO goes rouge where we initiated a Citizen Science project that is developing a pollinator diversity baseline for Rouge Urban National Park. We are also currently hosting a photo contest with amazing prizes to be won:

Have a great photo? Why not share it for a chance to win a digital camera! Today the SCB-TO Nature & Wildlife Photography Contest, sponsored by Downtown Camera & Olympus, opens for submissions. Residents from across the GTA are encouraged to get outside and explore with their camera. Contestants can submit photos in three categories, Flora, Fauna and Landscape, until May 14th.

To enter just visit www.scbtorontophotos.com and create an account, then upload up to five (5) of your original photos, and finally order display prints for judging & exhibition. Prints that you provide will help SCB-TO raise funds for local conservation projects through our Silent Auction. We’re also excited to announce that the highest ranked photos will be publicly exhibited at the stylish Baka Gallery Café from May 26th to 30th.

In addition to our grand prize, we have many amazing prizes available including camera equipment, outdoor gear and more! These great items have been generously donated byDowntown CameraOlympusMECPatagoniaRipley’s Aquarium of CanadaGrassroots Environmental ProductsToronto Field NaturalistsBloor Hot Docs Cinema, and Sheridan Nurseries.

Even if you’re not a shutterbug you can vote and share your favourite entries with friends online. Our goal is to get communities around our city thinking about conservation issues and more engaged with the natural world around them.


New publication press release

Here is the press release of a recent publication I have been working on with a group of international scientists. The genesis of the collaboration was the International Congress for Conservation Biology in 2010. I am looking forward to the upcoming Congress in Baltimore this summer - no doubt it will be as productive, fun and an incredible opportunity to network.

New means to communicate population risk assessments among scientists and decision-makers

Population viability analysis (PVA) is a method used by conservation scientists for a range of purposes – including advancing conservation theory, planning, policy and management. PVAs are particularly important for assessing the risks of population extinction and for comparing alternative management options to protect species. The fact that so many PVAs are already available, for hundreds of species, offers an exciting opportunity for learning and especially for moving from single-species experience to multi-species knowledge. But this opportunity is often lost in translation: PVAs are usually complex, and many people find them hard to design, apply and communicate. Many PVA descriptions also lack sufficient structure, and are difficult to understand, assess, or even repeat.

In a review now published in the journal Conservation Biology, an international team of 11 researchers have shown that these drawbacks form a true barrier for the use of PVAs as a means of collective learning. As part of the EU project SCALES (http://www.scales-project.net/), Guy Pe’er and colleagues suggest that there is a remedy to this problem: our capacity to learn from PVAs may be greatly improved by applying a common standard for Design, Application and Communication of PVAs – or, what they called the “DAC-PVA” protocol.

The aim of the DAC-PVA protocol is to enhance communication and repeatability of PVAs, strengthen their credibility and relevance for policy and management. It should further improve the capacity to generalize from PVA findings across studies. The protocol is further accompanied by an interactive website (http://scales.ckff.si/scaletool/dac-pva.php), in order to enhance its usefulness. Figure mismatch

Guy Pe’er: “There are many existing guidelines on how to design and implement reliable PVAs. There are also existing communication standards for documenting and communicating ecological models. But somehow, it seems that these two simply didn’t manage to meet so far. This is sad because it means that many hundreds of existing PVAs, and many more that are likely to be developed and applied in the future, still do not effectively contribute to collective learning efforts or attempts to move from single-species results to supporting the conservation of biodiversity in its broader sense”.

Klaus Henle: “PVAs are used very commonly nowadays. The IUCN suggests PVAs to be conducted for every species where enough data are available, and even offers guidelines on how to apply PVAs. Their use is particularly widespread for birds. We should strive to reach a point where, based on PVA knowledge, we could guess the conservation needs of species also without a PVA, for instance based on traits and ecological requirements. But in the absence of standardized reporting, and a collective effort to learn when such guesses are likely to work or fail, we may never reach this goal”.

The idea of the protocol and the website is therefore to create a common template, used by PVA developers, users and readers, that would enhance communication between all of them. Thereby, the authors hope to make PVAs more policy-relevant, and policy-makers more aware of the broad range of potential uses of PVAs for nature conservation.

Original Source:

Pe’er, G., Y. G. Matsinos, K. Johst, K. W. Franz, C. Turlure, V. Radchuk, A. H. Malinowska, J. M. R. Curtis, I. Naujokaitis-Lewis, B. A. Wintle, and K. Henle. 2013. A protocol for better design, application and communication of population viability analyses. Conservation Biology, online first. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12076