Byron Weckworth grew up in Great Falls, Montana. His parents' love of nature fostered his own relationship with the natural world, and instilled a passion for understanding and protecting natural systems. From an early age, Byron knew he wanted to be a conservation biologist. His PhD project, based out of the University of Calgary, is focused on the conservation genetics of woodland caribou in Y2Y's Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks Priority Area and north to the Yukon.
Woodland caribou throughout the Canadian Rockies are federally recognized as either threatened or of special concern. As policy and management decisions are developed in order to protect these populations, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of the patterns of genetic diversity. This includes identifying populations at risk of inbreeding, understanding historic patterns of gene flow to establish a connectivity baseline, and also designating the best source populations for herd augmentation and reintroductions.
Byron's research has begun to reveal that caribou in the Y2Y corridor are genetically and ecologically distinct. “The Sarah Baker funding has been extremely important—obtaining genetic data is expensive,” Byron said, adding that the partnership he's developed with the Y2Y Initiative has also been of great value. “I hope to continue to work with the Y2Y Initiative to help promote protection and appreciation for the region and the incredible biodiversity it fosters.”