Ryan Norris, PhD, appointed Weston Family senior scientist

May 21, 2019


Unique collaboration to produce vital research on biodiversity protection

In time for International Day for Biological Diversity, May 22, the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the University of Guelph are pleased to announce the cross appointment of ecologist Dr. Ryan Norris as the Weston Family senior scientist. 

In his new role, Dr. Norris will apply conservation research to one of the most urgent issues of our time: the protection of plants, animals and the natural habitat they need to survive. In addition, Dr. Norris will develop and lead the new Weston Family Conservation Science Fellows program, supporting the conservation leaders of the future. The fellowships will be open to graduate students at Canadian universities studying species at risk, invasive species and effective conservation.

A recognized authority on migratory birds and monarch butterflies and an effective science communicator, Dr. Norris plans to shift his research focus toward a wide range of endangered and threatened species across Canada. His new position will give him a platform to help inform and influence conservation priorities and initiatives by NCC and other organizations across the country.

Dr. Norris will retain his appointment with the University of Guelph’s Department of Integrative Biology, while working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, a non-profit conservation leader.

The appointment and the fellowships are made possible thanks to the generous support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. 


“As we continue to develop lands, protected areas are going to play a larger role across Canada. We will be even more reliant on these areas to preserve biodiversity in the next 40 years. We need to continue to build our capacity for using scientific evidence to not just help acquire and effectively manage protected lands but also to assess their effectiveness in conserving threatened species. The time is now to be doing conservation science.” Dr. Ryan Norris, Weston Family senior scientist

“The new Weston Family senior scientist and the fellowship program are incredibly important to the future of biodiversity protection in this country, and the announcement could not be timelier. A recent United Nations report warns us we are in danger of losing 1 million species worldwide to extinction. Dr. Norris’ research and the research of the Weston fellows will provide the kind of vital information we need to guide our conservation work in Canada, and make meaningful progress to reverse that trend.” Lisa McLaughlin, vice-president of conservation, policy and planning, Nature Conservancy of Canada. 


  • The Weston Family senior scientist will lead an integrated program of conservation research, planning, information and outreach.
  • The Weston Family Conservation Science Fellows program will offer opportunities to five to 10 graduate students annually.
  • Fellowships will support research across the country, in addition to research that will be conducted by the Norris Lab, at the University of Guelph.
  • The first cohort of Weston fellows may begin as early as fall 2019.


The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC has helped to protect 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.

University of Guelph

The University of Guelph is one of Canada's top comprehensive and research-intensive universities. Recognized as Canada's food university and known for excellence and innovation across the physical and life sciences, business, arts, social sciences, and agricultural and veterinary sciences, the University of Guelph is committed to improving life. 

Spanning urban hubs and rural communities, U of G has nearly 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at campuses in Guelph, Toronto and Ridgetown, including 1,200 international students from more than 100 countries. Under our "whole student" approach to teaching and learning, we aim to develop leaders of tomorrow who possess creative and critical skills to meet challenges and seize opportunities in our ever-more complex and interconnected world.

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

For three generations, The W. Garfield Weston Foundation has pursued its mission to enhance and enrich the lives of Canadians. With a focus on medical research, the environment, and education, the Foundation aims to catalyze inquiry and innovation to bring about long-term change. As the Foundation marks its 60th anniversary, it continues to collaborate with a broad range of Canadian charities to further world-class research, explore new ideas, and create tangible benefits for the communities in which it works.

Media contacts

Andrew Holland

Director, Media Relations 

Nature Conservancy of Canada

C: 506.260.0469

E: andrew.holland@natureconservancy.ca

Deirdre Healey

Manager, News Service

University of Guelph

T: 519-824-4120, Ext. 56581

E: healeyd@uoguelph.ca

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