Ian is one of those rare students who fires on all cylinders—he’s dynamite under challenging field conditions, he’s a gifted analyst, he’s a strong communicator, and he’s demonstrated leadership far beyond his career stage.
- Dr. Ken Lertzman

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Student Profile: Ian Giesbrecht

August 07, 2020
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Resource and Environmental Management PhD student in the Faculty of Environment

I study spatial controls on ecosystem form and function across a range of settings and scales. My masters research examined fine-scale spatial controls on forest composition and development. My PhD examines watershed-scale controls on the ecohydrology of rivers. I am a research scientist with the Hakai Institute where I coordinate a watershed science program focused on understanding how freshwaters influence ocean ecosystems and carbon cycling at the temperate rainforest margin.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

The Faculty of Environment at SFU is a natural home for me as an environmental scientist interested in interdisciplinary thinking, collaborative approaches, and real-world applications of ecosystem science. Importantly, I had been collaborating with Dr. Ken Lertzman of SFU for several years before deciding to return to school for a PhD, again making SFU a natural choice.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

I study how rivers connect the land to the ocean, and how that connection changes from river to river. I take measurements from the outlets of rivers and merge that information with watershed maps to make predictions over larger regions. Along the way, I work to discover which watershed characteristics (e.g., climate, glaciers, topography, soils, and vegetation) are responsible for controlling river hydrology and biogeochemistry.

My study area is the coastal rainforest of western North America, from southeast Alaska through northern California, with an emphasis on the central coast of British Columbia where my field work takes place.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

The opportunity for mentorship and focused study of a few key problems over a sustained period of time.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

I am fortunate to have received an NSERC PGS-D and significant awards from SFU (Graduate Dean Entrance Scholarship, Provost Prize of Distinction, and Graduate Fellowship). Critically, my research is also supported by the Tula Foundation and the Hakai Institute. This unique combination of support has allowed me to bring the significant research capacity of a long term watershed observatory program (of the Hakai Institute) into my PhD research at SFU.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

The REM PhD is an excellent program for a broad thinking and engaged student with a desire to develop both deep specialization in a specific study area and a breadth of knowledge in the complimentary fields of environmental science, policy, and economics.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

A couple recent videos highlight ongoing and published research I'm involved in through my role at the Hakai Institute:

Contact Ian: ijgiesbr@sfu.ca