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Dr. Ryan Danby
Assistant Professor
B.E.S. (Waterloo), M.E.S. (Wilfrid Laurier), Ph.D. (Alberta)
Office: Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room D131
Phone: +001 (613) 533-6000 ext. 78540
Fax: +001 (613) 533-6122
Environmental Studies Office: Biosciences Complex, Room 3244
Phone: +001 (613) 533-6000 ext. 77105
Fax: +001 (613) 533-6090
Email: ryan.danby@queensu.ca
Ryan Danby's Research Site


Teaching Interests





I was born and raised in and around Guelph, Ontario. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree (Hons.) from the University of Waterloo’s interdisciplinary program in Environment & Resource Studies in 1993. Following graduation I was employed full-time as a consulting analyst on several waste management projects and environmental planning initiatives throughout southwestern Ontario. I was able to take a hiatus from work during this period to pursue a Master’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, which I completed in 1999. I began doctoral studies in Environmental Biology and Ecology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton in 2000. I completed my dissertation in 2006 and remained in Edmonton as a post-doctoral fellow on the International Polar Year and as sessional lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences. I came to Queen’s in the summer of 2008.

Teaching Interests

I teach in both the Department of Geography and the School of Environmental Studies. My teaching interests span the science of ecology and the practice of environmental management, and I encourage students to integrate the two whenever possible. I frequently use case studies in my teaching, which helps students see the link between theory and its application in “the real world”. I also try to ensure that students studying the natural world actually get outside and observe it first hand! In the 2008/09 year I am teaching GPHY318 (Biogeography) and ENSC320 (Wildlife Issues).

Graduate students in my lab can expect to be part of an interdisciplinary team. Students pursue individual projects but, at the same time, learn from each other. There are opportunities to use a wide variety of methods and techniques, including dendrochronology (tree ring analysis), plant community analysis, GIS and remote sensing, and species distribution and habitat modeling. My role in this environment is not unlike a coach. I help each student through the process of research design, data collection and analysis, but I also help the team to work together.


My research interests lie at the interface of ecology and geography and my work draws upon and contributes to the fields of biogeography, landscape ecology, and conservation biology. Current research focuses on the study of terrestrial ecosystem change at multiple scales. This includes examining the responses of forest, shrubland and tundra ecosystems to past and future climate change; but I am equally interested in the implications of such change for land and resource management, particularly parks and protected areas.

The geographical focus of my research is primarily the circumpolar north, and particularly northern Canada and Alaska, but I also have a longstanding interest in the settled landscapes of Ontario and in mountainous regions worldwide. I have been conducting fieldwork in the Kluane region of southwest Yukon for over a decade, studying its species and ecosystems as well as the institutional frameworks that have evolved for their management.

I would be happy to hear from potential graduate students, as well as undergraduate students, who might be interested in contributing to my research program, especially if it can fit within one of the following two areas:

1. Much of my research attention is currently focused on a project titled Multiscale Ecology and Dynamics of the Forest-Tundra Ecotone. This area, commonly called ‘treeline’, is expected to advance significantly as climate warms. My goal is to determine how this will occur, and what the ecological effects will be. Examples of possible student projects include dendrochronological reconstruction of recent tree and shrub population dynamics, plant community composition analysis, plant growth responses to experimental treatments, and ecotone mapping and spatial pattern analysis.

2. I also have a longstanding interest in the science and tools of biodiversity conservation, including landscape planning, habitat protection, and protected areas management. These interests are lumped under the collective title of Biodiversity Conservation in Dynamic and Heterogeneous Landscapes. There is no single geographical focus of this work, but landscapes of interest are those in which change is rapidly occurring or in spatially or institutionally complex areas. Possible student projects are varied and could gravitate towards either the biophysical or institutional aspects of conservation.


Danby, R.K. and D.S. Hik. 2007. Variability, contingency and rapid change in recent subarctic alpine treeline dynamics. Journal of Ecology 95: 352-363.

Danby, R.K. and D.S. Hik. 2007. Responses of white spruce (Picea glauca) to experimental warming at a subarctic alpine treeline. Global Change Biology 13: 437-451.

Danby, R.K., and D.S. Hik. 2007. Evidence of recent treeline dynamics in southwest Yukon from aerial photographs. Arctic 60 (4): 411-420.

Danby, R.K. and D.S. Slocombe. 2005. Regional ecology, ecosystem geography, and transboundary protected areas in the St. Elias Mountains. Ecological Applications 15: 405-422.

Castelden, H., R.K. Danby, A.R. Giles and J.P. Pinard (eds.). 2005. New Northern Lights: Graduate Research on Circumpolar Studies from the University of Alberta. Canadian Circumpolar Institute Press, Edmonton, AB. 191 pages.

Danby, R.K., H. Castelden, A.R. Giles and J. Rausch (eds.). 2004. Breaking the Ice: Proceedings of the 7th ACUNS (Inter)National Students’ Conference on Northern Studies. Canadian Circumpolar Institute Press, Edmonton, AB. 296 pages.

Danby, R.K., D.S. Hik, D.S. Slocombe, and A. Williams. 2003. Science and the St. Elias: an evolving framework for sustainability in North America’s highest mountains. The Geographical Journal 169: 191-204.

Danby, R.K. 2003. Birds and mammals of the St. Elias Mountain Parks: checklist evidence for a biogeographic tension zone. Canadian Field Naturalist 117: 1-18.

Danby, R.K. and D.S. Slocombe. 2002. Protected areas and intergovernmental cooperation in the St. Elias Region. Natural Resources Journal 42: 247-282.

Danby, R.K. 2002. Analysis of transborder wildlife populations in the St. Elias Mountain Parks. In; S. Bondrup-Nielsen et al. (eds.), Managing Protected Areas in a Changing World. pp. 149-163. Science and Management of Protected Areas Association, Wolfville, NS.

Danby, R.K. 2002. Fostering an ecosystem perspective through intergovernmental cooperation: a look at two Alaskan examples. In; S. Bondrup-Nielsen et al. (eds.), Managing Protected Areas in a Changing World. pp. 722-735. Science and Management of Protected Areas Association, Wolfville, NS.

Danby, R.K. 1997. International transborder protected areas: experience, benefits and opportunities. Environments 25: 1-17.