Thompson Rivers University’s Dr. Karl Larsen, a professor of natural resource science, has been awarded the prestigious Northcote and Brink Professorship, noting the honour will benefit his students the most.
The professorship may be held for up to three years and is valued at $10,000 annually.
Larsen is a wildlife biologist best known in the region for research that explores the Western rattlesnake. Larsen’s students can often be found out in the field, monitoring rattlesnake dens and investigating the snakes’ migration patterns. They can also be found combing backroads looking for rattlesnake road kill.
Research conducted in Larson’s lab has led to provincial changes in how the landscape is managed for the benefit of some of British Columbia’s most vulnerable species, including snakes, spadefoots, badgers and turtles.
While he is honoured by the fellowship, Larsen said he is also grateful for the financial flexibility it affords his lab.
“When students ask for small pieces of equipment or for funds to publish findings, often that money can be hard to find,” he said. “It is extremely valuable to have these funds at my disposal to handle small but important pieces that are always vital to research.”
Several of Larsen’s current students have wrapped up their field work and are now compiling results, but he has several new students beginning in the fall who will continue making strides exploring animal ecology.
Larsen also is collaborating on a new project with provincial wildlife biologists using wildlife cameras to investigate the habitat associations of fishers. Fishers, according to Larsen, are “an enigmatic and cryptic species” of long-tailed carnivores. Similar to a weasel or a badger, but more arboreal, the fisher is only found in Canada and the northern United States and their numbers are in steep decline.
There’s an urgency to the work being conducted in his lab, Larsen said, despite images that show blue skies reappearing over once-polluted cities due to the social isolation measures put into effect as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are losing wildlife at a phenomenal rate, and we need many smart young people to come into this field to hold the torch up and try to reverse the trend,” Larsen said. “We need people who are willing to put in time and effort. Wildlife populations are getting chipped away at an alarming rate and, as we increase our own footprint on the planet, we’re doing so at the expense of a lot of other species.”
The professorship is funded by the Dr. Tom Northcote and Dr. Bert Brink Endowment, established at TRU in 2005, and honours the contributions of Northcote and Brink to ecology in British Columbia. The purpose of the professorship is to expand TRU’s knowledge of the connection between restoration of ecosystems and the social benefits of the communities.
— TRU newsroom