Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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Sara Renner, Y2Y supporter

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Laura Coristine: Finding Wildlife Corridors in a Changing Climate

Working closely with Y2Y and other groups, Canadian researcher looks to stave off extinctions due to climate change.

For researcher Laura Coristine, a barrier is not problem, it’s an opportunity to find solutions. 

That positive outlook is essential, especially when you consider her focus on climate change, and the many barriers, such as major highways, that hinder wildlife migration and movement in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

“Many species are at risk of extinction if they can’t move, or can’t move fast enough,” says Coristine. “Canada has a unique opportunity to tackle these impacts through improved ecological connectivity. The federal government is committed to science-based decision making and the establishment of more protected areas, and many of our ecosystems are still intact. We have everything we need to create solutions.”

Built in 1997, this wildlife crossing in Banff National Park helps animals cross the Trans-Canada Highway. Photo: Highway Wildling.

Coristine is one of five post-doctoral candidates to be awarded with the Liber Ero Fellowship, a prestigious award that supports researchers working on applied conservation biology problems in Canada.

Starting in the summer of 2016, she will be working closely with Y2Y and several groups—including the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the University of Calgary and O2 Planning and Design—to develop innovative ways to manage climate change impacts on biodiversity.

Laura Coristine's research will help wildlife stay connected between core protected areas, like Alberta's Waterton National Park, pictured here. Photo: Harvey Locke.

As part of her research, Coristine will consider factors that impede wildlife movement and migrations, while identifying priority areas where increased land protection could substantially reduce climate-related stresses on wildlife.

“On the flip side of the coin,” adds Coristine, “some regions experience less climate change. Within these areas, species will not only move faster relative to climate change, but will also encounter less volatile climatic conditions.”

Coristine's focus on improving wildlife movement across large, interconnected ecosystems puts her work directly in line with Y2Y’s ultimate goal to increase connectivity at the continental scale. It’s the only way many wide-ranging animals will survive long-term—especially as climate change forces them to move and adapt to uncertain conditions.

Laura Coristine, in front of Alberta's beautiful Lake Louise, in Banff National Park.
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