Professor, Department of Biology
Dr. Jeremy Kerr has a long-standing passion for conservation and the search for answers to broad-scale questions in ecology. His PhD, at York University with Laurence Packer, focused on how environmental factors affect diversity in ecosystems and began to address how human activities were affecting those patterns.
This work led to the Governor General’s Gold Medal and a postdoctoral position at the University of Oxford, with Lord Robert May and Sir Richard Southwood, where he expanded his focus on global change and the changing prospects for conservation.
Since joining the University of Ottawa’s Department of Biology in 2002, he has won a provincial Early Researcher Award, the University of Ottawa Young Researcher Award in Science and Technology in 2009, been elected to a Visiting Senior Research Fellowship at Mansfield College and the Centre for the Environment at the University of Oxford, and was selected for the Global Young Academy of Scientists , one of perhaps 6 Canadians to have done so.
Jeremy is convinced that powerful scientific evidence can rapidly improve practical problems. To this end, he has worked to improve endangered species legislation in Ontario and, through the International Boreal Science Panel, to gain commitments from governments across Canada to establish vast new protected areas in the boreal wilderness.
His work remains focused on big questions in ecology and conservation, particularly on how species respond to recent, rapid climate change and sharply rising incidence of climate-related extreme events.
His research focuses mostly at broad spatial scales, where he examines the origins, maintenance and potential loss of biological diversity. He has examined these questions across landscapes in Canada, across continents, and globally, discovering some of the key processes that determine how many species can be found from place to place around the world. Because widespread and often very intensive human activities are accelerating extinction rates at an alarming pace, a growing part of his research program is dedicated to trying to find ways to improve conservation prospects despite rapid environmental changes. This has led to new discoveries around how to manage protected areas despite climate and land use changes near and within them. This research has strong, practical links to emerging policies around protecting species at risk federally and within Canada’s provinces and in terms of protecting remaining wilderness areas across Canada’s boreal regions. He has also found novel applications for the tools and techniques he and his team have developed and apply them to problems around managing malaria in East Africa, particularly in terms of predicting how environmental conditions can be measured and used to predict the distribution and abundance of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.
Type of Student Support He Seeks
Students are involved in all aspects of his research, ranging from undergraduate research assistants to postdoctoral researchers. He is particularly excited to bring emerging graduate researchers into the research program, engaging in extensive skills development around the use of geographic information systems and remote sensing data.
Research Question Examples a Student He Supervises Could Work On
- What are the mechanisms that may limit species potential responses to global climate change or alter their extinction risk?
- How can we conserve species at risk in human-dominated landscapes?
- How do evolutionary processes alter the likelihood that species can respond successfully to rapid climate and habitat changes?
- What are the major causes of extinction and how do these vary from one region to another?
- What strategies can we apply to landscapes to enable species to disperse more quickly through them to reach refugia in other areas?
- How effective are conservation strategies in Canada relative to conservation needs?
- What effects do pesticides have on the conservation of pollinators, such as bumblebees and butterflies, across landscapes and regions where they are used?