Office of the Chief Scientist

Coordinates delivery of Alberta’s Environmental Science Program to provide data and reporting on the condition of Alberta's environment.

Meet the Chief Scientist

  • Photo of the Chief Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Thompson

    Dr. Jonathan Thompson Chief Scientist, Ph.D.

    The Chief Scientist is appointed through Ministerial Order under section 15.1 (1) of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

    Dr. Jonathan Thompson was appointed as Chief Scientist on October 13, 2020. He holds a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Western Ontario, a M.Sc. in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from the University of Missouri and a B.Sc. in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences from North Carolina State University. Dr. Thompson is also a Professional Biologist with the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists.

    Dr. Thompson has contributed to wildlife and wetland science and environmental monitoring efforts in Alberta for over 30 years including 12 years as an Adjunct Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta.

Roles and responsibilities

The role of the Chief Scientist is to:

  • communicate environmental science information to Albertans and government;
  • provide scientific oversight on Alberta’s Environmental Science Program; and
  • provide and/or coordinate strategic advice and guidance for the Environmental Science Program through consultation with the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) and the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel (IWAP).

The responsibilities of the Chief Scientist include:

  • provide scientific advice to address complex environmental challenges and opportunities facing the province and the government;
  • promote and build scientific excellence through research partnerships with universities and other credible scientific institutions and organizations;
  • serve as a champion of science, research, and the role of evidence, as a recognized and active researcher in environmental sciences;
  • provide and facilitate environmental science communication to the Government of Alberta and Albertans.

View articles from the Chief Scientist

Our responsibilities

The Office of the Chief Scientist coordinates delivery of an environmental science program to provide environmental science data, information and reporting on the condition of Alberta's environment.

Science Advisory Panel (SAP)

The Science Advisory Panel provides independent advice to the Chief Scientist and Government of Alberta on Alberta’s Environmental Science Program. This includes providing recommendations on the program's priorities and methodologies, scientific quality, relevance and integrity.

  • Governance

    Search the list of public agencies to find the Panel's:

    • mandate and roles
    • code of conduct
    • agency classification
  • Panel members

    Chair – Dr. Ellen Macdonald, Ph.D.

    Dr. Ellen Macdonald is a Professor Emeritus of Forest Ecology in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta. She holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Biology and a Ph.D. in Plant Ecology, both from the University of Calgary.

    Dr. Macdonald’s research interests include the influence of natural and human-caused disturbances on the ecology, plant biodiversity, regeneration processes and successional dynamics of boreal forests. She has aimed to conduct research that will inform sustainable management, conservation and reclamation of forest ecosystems.

    Dr. Macdonald is the recipient of several awards including the University of Alberta University Cup, International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ Scientific Achievement Award and the Canadian Institute of Forestry Scientific Achievement Award.

    Dr. Vic Adamowicz, Ph.D.

    Dr. Adamowicz is Vice Dean in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. He obtained his B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Alberta and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

    Dr. Adamowicz’s research has focused on the economic valuation of environmental amenities and ecosystem services and the incorporation of environmental values into economic analysis. His research also involves the analysis of choice behaviour with applications to food demand, recreation, and environmental quality.

    Dr. Adamowicz was the research director of the Alberta Land Institute from 2012 to 2016. He became a Fellow of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in 2019, a Fellow of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society in 2011 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Academy II – Social Sciences in 2007. He was awarded the J Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research in 2005 and the Canadian Institute of Forestry’s Canadian Forestry Scientific Achievement Award in 2004.

    Dr. Steven Cooke, Ph.D.

    Dr. Steven Cooke is a Canada Research Professor of Environmental Science at Carleton University in Ottawa and Director of the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation. He holds a B.ES. and M.Sc. from the University of Waterloo and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

    Dr. Cooke’s research focuses on recreational fisheries science, fish biology, aquatic ecology, restoration ecology, and evidence-based conservation and management of natural resources.

    Dr. Cooke has been the recipient of several awards, including the Robin Welcome Fellow in Inland Fisheries at Michigan State University, T.D. Water Bean Visiting Professor in the Environment at the University of Waterloo, Fellow of the American Fisheries Society, and Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

    Dr. Irena Creed, Ph.D.

    Dr. Irena Creed is a Professor of the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan. She holds a B.Sc. in Zoology, M.Sc. in Botany and Environmental Studies and a Ph.D. in Geography all from the University of Toronto.

    Dr. Creed’s research focuses on understanding the impacts that climate change and the intensification of human activities have on landscape hydrology, biogeochemistry, ecology and ecosystem services.

    Dr. Creed is a recipient of The Royal Society of Canada’s Bancroft Award for outstanding contributions in earth sciences, and was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

    Dr. Alan Jenkins, Ph.D.

    Dr. Alan Jenkins is the recently retired Deputy Director and Science Director at the United Kingdom Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH). He holds a B.Sc. and a Ph.D. from the University of Leeds in England.

    Dr. Jenkins research interests include water modelling, particularly the application of models, methods and data to address hydro-meteorological problems and underpin hydroclimate services.

    Dr. Jenkins leads the Task Team for the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Hydrological Status and Outlook System (HydroSOS) Global Implementation. He is also a member of the WMO Hydrological Coordination Panel and a member of the European Union Water4All Science Advisory Group. Dr. Jenkins is an Honorary Professor at the Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, a Visiting Professor at the Department of Geography, University College London and an Honorary Research Fellow of the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen.

    Dr. Karen Kidd, Ph.D.

    Dr. Karen Kidd is the Jarislowsky Chair in Environment & Health and a Professor at McMaster University. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Biology and Ecology from the University of Alberta.

    Dr. Kidd’s research focuses on the fate and effects of contaminants in fresh waters from the tropics to the Arctic.

    Dr. Kidd has served on several national and international scientific boards including ones with the International Joint Commission, the United Nations Environmental Programme, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Her expertise has been recognized with a Canada Research Chair and she is the recipient of several national and international awards including Fellow of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the Recipharm International Environmental Award, and the Society of Canadian Limnologists’ Rigler Award.

    Dr. Evelyn Merrill, Ph.D.

    Dr. Evelyn Merrill is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta with a research focus on predator-prey and disease dynamics of large mammals. She has been conducting research on chronic wasting disease since it was first detected in wild deer in Alberta.

    Dr. Merrill is a Fellow of The Wildlife Society, has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Wildlife Management, and currently is the Canadian Representative to the Council of The Wildlife Society.

    Dr. Merrill has been awarded the William Rowan Distinguished Professional Award from the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society, a Special Recognition Award from The Wildlife Society, and the Wildlife Conservation Award from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

    Dr. Russell Schnell, Ph.D.

    Dr. Russell Schnell is the recently retired Deputy Director of the Global Monitoring Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Boulder, Colorado, USA and now a senior scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He holds first class honour’s degrees in Biology from the University of Alberta, and Chemistry from Memorial University, Newfoundland, and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Wyoming.

    Dr. Schnell’s current research includes monitoring greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting gases, aerosols, solar and infrared radiation at Baseline Observatories. He has authored 126 scientific publications, 9 of them in Nature in 5 different scientific fields. He has conducted research in 92 countries.

    Significant contributions made by Dr. Schnell include the discovery of biological ice nuclei, first used in snowmaking, food preservation, and preserving human organs for transplant. While working at the NOAA, Dr. Schnell was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Alberta in 2015.

  • Compensation disclosure

    Public sector bodies are required to post online the names and compensation paid to:

    • all panel members
    • employees who earn over a threshold amount (see Public sector body compensation disclosure)

    This is a requirement under the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. The postings are required by June 30 each year and will be maintained for 5 years. For details, see:

    Compensation disclosure file and nil reports

  • Contact

    Contact the Science Advisory Panel, through the Office of the Chief Scientist:
    Email: [email protected]

Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel (IWAP)

The Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel advises the Chief Scientist and Government of Alberta regarding how to respectfully apply traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous wisdom to Alberta’s Environmental Science Program.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) refers to the knowledge held by Indigenous peoples and shared orally across generations over hundreds of years through direct contact with, and understanding of, the local environment and traditional territories.

The term 'Indigenous wisdom' reflects an accurate and culturally appropriate recognition of the scope of Indigenous knowledge and worldview.

The application of TEK and Indigenous wisdom within a contemporary western science perspective is important to ensure a robust understanding of the ambient environment and its condition. The Alberta government is committed to working with Indigenous communities in Alberta by involving them in environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting programs, and activities.

  • Governance

    Search the list of public agencies to find the Panel's:

    • mandate and roles
    • code of conduct
    • agency classification
  • Panel members

    Elder Harley Bastien

    Mr. Harley Bastien is a member of the Piikani First Nation in Southern Alberta. He is the President of Harmony Walkers Inc. (HWI), an environmental consulting company he founded in 2002. HWI offers a unique conceptual approach to environmental protection by combining Traditional Knowledge and modern science. HWI provides environmental services nationally and internationally, including Canada, the United States, China and the Netherlands.

    Mr. Bastien resides on the Piikani Reservation where he was born. He was raised in the Oldman river valley and continues to call the river valley home. He was taught by his parents and grandparents how to live in harmony and balance with nature and how to live off the land. Today, Mr. Bastien still lives a subsistence lifestyle of harvesting nature’s bounties.

    Mr. Bastien’s upbringing and closeness to the land inspired him to embark on a career in environmental protection. In his earlier years, he was involved in the oil and gas industry that included oil well drilling and pipeline construction and other related components of the industry. It was during this time he became aware of the neglect and negative effects to Mother earth by development that prompted him to make a career change. In 1990, he began working in the environmental protection industry.

    Mr. Bastien’s current involvement in the environmental industry includes: consulting, volunteer work and sitting on advisory boards and panels for various environmental groups and organizations, including First Nations, Provincial and Federal governments and NGOs both nationally and internationally.

    Dr. Reggie Crowshoe

    Dr. Reggie Crowshoe is an Elder of the Piikani First Nation in Southern Alberta, where he formerly served as Chief. He is a Professor of Indigenous Studies at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta.

    Dr. Crowshoe has a long standing relationship with the University of Calgary and has generously shared and offered his assistance, ceremonial leadership and traditional knowledge to students, the Native Centre and other faculties for many years. Widely recognized for his dedication to Piikani artifacts, traditions, language, culture and history, Dr. Crowshoe was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree by the University of Calgary in 2001, an honour he shares with his father, the late Joseph Crowshoe.

    Dr. Crowshoe is also the founder of the Old Man River Cultural Society, and he authored the book Akak’stiman, A Blackfoot Framework for Decision-Making and Mediation Processes, published by University of Calgary Press in 2002.

    Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper

    Elmer Ghostkeeper is an Elder and Council member of the Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement, and the President of Weche Teachings, an organization dedicated to fostering a meaningful partnership between Indigenous wisdom and the Western scientific method. This concept, called Wisescience, is used to understand and solve modern day challenges facing Indigenous people.

    Mr. Ghostkeeper speaks fluent Michif, the language of Métis people. A Spiritualist, father, grandfather, teacher, student, philosopher and entrepreneur, his view is that every day is a gift that teaches him something about life and who he is. His daily challenge is to be loving, enjoying, balancing, happy, healthy, solving a life puzzle, respecting and being grateful. He lives in the moment by incorporating yesterday’s experiences into a plan for today’s activities.

    Melody Lepine

    Ms. Melody Lepine is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) and was raised in the beautiful community of Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. She serves as a board member for the Cumulative Environment Management Association (CEMA) and as a trustee for the MCFN IBA trust. For over a decade, she has worked for her community and First Nation as the Director of Government and Industry Relations (GIR).

    During her time with the GIR, Ms. Lepine has been responsible for overseeing all government and industry consultation pertaining to resource development that may impact the Mikisew Cree, managing hundreds of government and industry consultation files, some of which include 6 oil sands regulatory interventions and judicial reviews. She has led the development of consultation protocols and guidelines, numerous traditional land use studies and is one of the key negotiators of impact benefit agreements.

    Ms. Lepine is also quite proud to have initiated a community-based environmental monitoring program, cultural impact assessments, land use plans and indigenous knowledge studies.

    Her family and community traditional teachings in environmental stewardship at a young age motivated her to advance studies in environmental conservation sciences at the University of Alberta.

    Melody is now currently enrolled in the Environment and Management Masters of Science program at Royal Roads University. This balance of teachings in both traditional environmental knowledge and western science has become Melody’s key strength in her professional career.

    Dr. Leroy Little Bear

    Dr. Leroy Little Bear is Senior Advisor to the President of Aboriginal Initiatives at the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta.

    Born and raised on the Blood Indian Reserve (Kainai First Nation), approximately 70 kilometres west of Lethbridge. Dr. Little Bear was one of the first Indigenous students to complete a program of study at the University of Lethbridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1971. He continued his education at the College of Law, University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, completing a Juris Doctor Degree in 1975.

    Following his graduation, Little Bear returned to his alma mater as a founding member of Canada’s first Native American Studies Department. He remained at the University of Lethbridge as a researcher, faculty member and department chair until his official retirement in 1997.

    In recent years Little Bear has continued his influential work as an advocate for First Nations education. From January 1998 to June 1999 he served as Director of the Harvard University Native American Program. Upon his return to Canada, he was instrumental in the creation of a Bachelor of Management in First Nations Governance at the University of Lethbridge -- the only program of its kind in the country.

    In the spring of 2003, Little Bear was awarded the prestigious National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Education, the highest honour bestowed by Canada’s First Nations community.

    After a lifetime of educational service, Little Bear remains a dedicated and dynamic teacher and mentor to students and faculty at the University of Lethbridge. He continues to pursue new research interests including North American Indian science and Western physics, and the exploration of Blackfoot knowledge through songs, stories and landscape.

    Chief Dr. Wilton Littlechild

    Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild was honoured by being appointed the Honorary Chief for the Maskwacis Crees and also honoured by the Chiefs of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations as the International Chief for Treaty No. 6 Confederacy. Elected by the Chiefs of Treaties 6, 7, 8 (Alberta) as the Regional Chief for the 3 Treaty territories in October of 2006 to serve a 3-year term.

    He is a respected lawyer and operates the law firm of J. Wilton Littlechild, Barrister and Solicitor, which is situated in the Ermineskin Reserve. He is a strong advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and promoter of implementation of the treaties between the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and the Crown, now represented by the federal government. Chief Littlechild also served as the Chairperson for the Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform, mandated to review the justice system in the province of Saskatchewan.

    Chief Littlechild served as a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993 for the riding of Wetaskiwin-Rimbey. He served on several senior committees in the House of Commons and was a parliamentary delegate to the United Nations. Chief Littlechild organized a coalition of Indigenous Nations that sought and gained consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. He was re-appointed by the ECOSOC President to represent North America and has completed his second and final term as the North American representative to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

    In 1976, Chief Wilton Littlechild had the distinction of being the first Treaty First Nation person to acquire his law degree from the University of Alberta. He received his Bachelor of Physical Education Degree in 1967 and his Master’s Degree in Physical Education in 1975. In June of 2007, the University of Alberta bestowed the Doctor of Laws Degree on Chief Littlechild for his outstanding achievements.

    An avid sportsman and athlete, Chief Littlechild has won more than fifty provincial, regional, national and international championships. He has served as a coach and organizer of sports event – being a founder of the North American Indigenous games; and has been inducted into seven Sports Halls of Fame.

    He is married to Helen Peacock, and is the father of 3 children: Teddi, Neil and Megan.

    Elder Elsie Paul

    Elsie Paul is a well-known Cree/Métis traditional Elder born and raised on the Wolf Lake Métis Settlement and relocated at 2 years of age to Saddle Lake. Elsie acquired many teachings from Elders in the community.

    Elsie holds a Social Work Diploma from MacEwan University, an Addictions Certificate from Alberta Vocational Centre, Grouard and a Native Studies Certificate from Alberta Vocational Centre, Portage College.

    Elsie also received the prestigious Esquao Award from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women for her work with women in conflict with the law. Her most recent recognition was being inducted into the Delta kappa Gamma Society International, whose mission promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education. Elsie is also the founder and President of Kohkom Kisewatisiwin Society, whose main goal is to reclaim the traditional ways of Kohkoms of the past.

    Elder Norma Spicer

    Elder Norma Spicer has a passion for Métis history, culture and customs developed from hearing stories of her ancestors on her mother’s side. A descendent of Jean Baptiste Lagimodière and Marie Anne Gaboury through their daughter Josepthe and descendent of the Gladu Clan from the Slave Lake Area on her grandfather’s side. Elder Spicer’s family history includes those who fought alongside Louis Riel during the Métis Resistance.

    Formerly with the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) in a variety of positions, Elder Spicer remains a member of its Cultural Team and represents the MNA as: Provincial Elder for the Fort Edmonton Indigenous People’s Expansion Project, the Metis Nation Blatchford Community Project,  Rupertsland Institute K-12 Curriculum Project, Edmonton International Airport Elders & Knowledge Keepers Circle, NAIT ICAT Visioning Project, New Edmonton Hospital Indigenous Advisory Council, Alberta Heritage: Red Deer Industrial School Cemetery Preservation & Recognition Project, City of Edmonton Indigenous Framework Panel, City of Edmonton Women and Knowledge Keepers Panel, and Elder Representative of the Metis Ward for CBC Interview.

    She is also a Metis knowledge keeper for the U of A School of Public Health Grandmothers Wisdom Network Advisory Circle, Arts Habitat Indigenous Voices Circle, and Recover Edmonton Catalyst Group.

  • Compensation disclosure

    Public sector bodies are required to post online the names and compensation paid to:

    • all panel members
    • employees who earn over a threshold amount (see Public sector body compensation disclosure)

    This is a requirement under the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. The postings are required by June 30 each year and will be maintained for 5 years. For details, see:

    Compensation disclosure file and nil reports

  • Contact

    Contact the Indigenous Wisdom Advisory Panel, through the Office of the Chief Scientist:
    Email: [email protected]

Photo on a lake with mountains and clouds reflecting in it.

Condition of the Environment

The Chief Scientist and the Alberta government are committed to delivering accessible reporting on the condition of Alberta's environment.

Learn more

Latest developments

Additional monitoring near the Kearl oil sands site

Information on the Fort Chipewyan Working Group and enhanced monitoring related to the unauthorized releases from the Kearl oil sands mine is available on this page.

Scientific paper: A resilience framework for physical hydrology
Date published: July 2023
Authors: Newton, B.W. and C. Spence

Scientific paper: No evidence of sustained recovery of native trout in response to angling suppression of invasive Brook Trout
Date published: April 2023
Authors: Sinnatamby, R.N., A. Cantin, A.J. Paul, J. Earle and J.R. Post

Scientific paper: Regional variability and changing water distributions drive large-scale water resource availability in Alberta, Canada
Date published: March 2023
Authors: Newton, B.W. and N. Taube

News release: Supporting chronic wasting disease vaccine research
Date published: January 2022
Authors: Government of Alberta

New publication tool

Review more scientific papers and reports relevant to Alberta’s Environmental Science program via the AESP publication tool. Additional publications will be added as they become available.

Browse more publications