Peatland Ecosystem Ecology

Red Earth Creek Bog, Alberta, Canada

We have several research projects designed to examine peatlands and how they function under potentially increasing fire frequency (climate-change induced) in combination with potentially enhanced nitrogen deposition (from Oil Sands Mining in northern Alberta, Canada).

Nitrogen and Fire

This project began with NSF Rapid funds the summer of 2012 (Grant No. 1143719)  with a wildfire burning one of our research sites, and was expanded to 5 bogs in 2013 with NSF funding (Grant No. DEB-1256985) . We have established plots across northern Alberta based on a chronosequence of bogs which have burned at various points in the past 125 years. We are exploring how Nitrogen and Carbon are linked and how the processes change with both the age of a bog and increased Nitrogen deposition.  We hope to continue to use these site infrastructures to expand our research in the coming years.

Effects of Increased Nitrogen input on Bogs and Fens

Funded by CEMA (Cumulative Environmental Management Association). For five years, we experimentally adding varying amounts of Nitrogen to both a bog and a fen. With increasing pollution from Oil Sands Mining activities, there is a concern that we will reach a point where atmospheric inputs are causing detrimental changes to the wetlands. We are documenting those changes in these systems and have provided valuable data that will hopefully be used to advise legislators and scientists, alike.

Monitoring Oil Sands Area bog exposure to increased levels of N and S

Funded by WBEA (Wood Buffalo Environmental Association). This project focused on how and if local current and historic atmospheric deposition was affecting nutrient cycling and bog health in the Oil Sands Mining area. Our sites are very close to the mining areas and we measure inputs of N and S to the bogs while also exploring how vegetation and water chemistry has changed and is changing in the bogs.  2016 was a very active fire year in the Fort McMurray area and one of our sites was burned completely, while two other sites maintained minor fire damage.  We have recently received funding through Alberta Environment and Parks to continue this research through 2020.

Synoptic Surveying

This project, also funded by WBEA, was designed to determine if a single sampling of bogs in the Oil Sands Mining Area could allow for a predictive measure of depositional influence on each bog sampled.  We also hope to expand this project to a multitude of sites near the mining areas in Alberta in the coming years.


Moss from Alberta Bog

The Research Team

Melanie Vile, Assistant Professor, Geography and the Enviroment

R. Kelman Wieder, Professor, Biology


  • Kristen Jensen, MS, GEV
  • Wendy Huang, MS, GEV 



Bog ground cover