R.W. James Dennis
M.Sc.F candidate
Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto
Earth Sciences Building, room 2013

I grew up in the small town of Picton, Ontario in Prince Edward County. Rural life and a connection to nature have followed me, even after having spent my undergraduate tenure in Canada's largest city. Here, at the University of Toronto, I earned an Hon. B.Sc. in Zoology, with a keen interest in insects. For my fourth year research project, I asked whether the recent invasion of an exotic beetle -- the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) -- to southwestern Ontario had yet had an effect on native parasitoid wasp communities. Since the invasion is still fairly recent, I did not find any significant effect, but this project started my foray into forest entomology. My project supervisor, Dr. Sandy Smith, is now my Master's co-supervisor (along with Dr. Jay Malcolm).

Current Research
My thesis deals with insects that live in dead wood. As weird as it sounds, dead wood, or "woody debris" is important in many ways for a forest to remain healthy. Part of this is
by providing many organisms, including fungi, birds and mammals a place to live or forage. Of all the organisms, though, insects are the most abundant in dead wood. Past forest practices did not have a plan for woody debris management, however, and many logged areas are subsequently missing a lot of dead wood that otherwise would have been there. So you can see, by taking insects' homes away, we have probably altered the communities that lived in forests we have logged. I hope to quantify these effects in my thesis in hopes of informing future forest management plans.

Future Goals
I have been interested in insect systematics
since my third year of my undergrad. My Master's research is allowing me to do a side project on the systematics of an important boreal insect -- the Diapriidae. This is a  wasp family that is parasitic mainly on flies. I have worked with Dr. Lubomír Masner, and others, at the Canadian National Collection of Insects in Ottawa to learn more about this group and the challenges facing diapriid systematists. In the future, I would like to work towards determining host-parasitoid relationships, and describing the boreal species so that ecological studies can use these amazing creatures to their full potential.

I am 26 years old, and got married just over a year ago to Melanie Young, whom I've known since high school. She is trained in publishing, and works as a Communications Specialist at the Ontario Universities' Applications Centre in Guelph. We live in Guelph, in a house Melanie bought about a year before we got married. We're both happy here, and hope to be able to stay for a while.

Music is a fairly big part of my life. I have played the guitar since I was in grade 8, so that's about 12 years now. I also bought a drum set in September 2006, which I have found to be a great refuge when research is going slowly or not at all. I like to write songs, and occasionally I have some time to record them -- you can find select songs elsewhere on my webspace.

Staying active is important to me, though I've never really excelled at anything. I enjoy playing baseball, ultimate frisbee, and soccer. I am also a member of the U of T Timbersports Club, which was started this fall. We have competed in Lindsay and will compete in Montréal in January. We aren't very good yet, but we certainly have a lot of fun. Otherwise, Melanie and I try to go to the gym at least twice a week.

The Diapriidae
The Faculty of Forestry
Our wedding page
The rest of my webspace


The information on this page is current as of
September 28, 2007