OSC3 Research Team

Liette Vasseur

Liette Vasseur is a full professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Brock University where she is a member of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. She holds the UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability. Her research is interdisciplinary and links issues such as community-based ecosystem management, climate change adaptation and resilience, and sustainable agriculture. Her climate change adaptation research has led her to the rural community of Lincoln. In Chimborazo, Ecuador, she focuses on ecosystem-based adaptation of rural native communities. She is the President of the Canadian Commission UNESCO and vice-chair for North America of the Commission for Ecosystem Management – IUCN.

Mehdi Sharifi 

Mehdi is a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Summerland RDC. He has over 17 years of expertise in soil and nutrient management. Mehdi served as a Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Agriculture and an Assistant Professor at Trent University’s School of Environment from 2012 to 2016. From 2010 to 2012, he served as the Nutrient Management Research Chair and assistant professor at the Environmental Sciences Department of the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie University (formerly the Nova Scotia Agricultural College). Prior to that he did a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at AAFC’s Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, NB, (2005-2008) and a two-year  postdoctoral fellowship at the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada in Truro, NS, (2008-2010).

Mehdi is a recognized expert in nitrogen dynamics in agro-ecosystems. He also conducted several studies on nutrients efficiency in organic cropping systems. His expertise is exceedingly diverse; with 50 published peer-reviewed articles in well-known scientific journals, a book chapter and more than 100 conference presentations. His research accomplishments have been highlighted several times in popular press, radio and newspaper Interviews/articles. He is an associate editor for Canadian J. Soil Science. Mehdi’s research is focused on sustainable nutrient management for perennial horticultural crops including grapes, apples and cherries. His interests extend to the use and management of cover crops, and of soil amendments in horticultural crops.

Heather VanVolkenburg


Heather is a scientific research manager, contributor and teaching support in the Department of Biological Sciences at Brock University. She is both involved in and has worked on several ecological and social science initiatives of the Brock University UNCESO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, some of which include the Organic Science Cluster 3, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s IdeaLab, and several species at risk here in Niagara. She recently graduated with a Masters of Biological Science (Ecology and Evolution), her research thesis focused on agroecology, specifically the ecological effects of agrominerals and cover crops in local vineyards. Her thesis project ran under the Ontario-China Research and Innovation Fund where she helped to initiate a continuation of the project in organic vineyards. Heather began at Brock as a mature undergraduate student after spending nearly two decades as a senior manager in the private sector. She successfully completed a Bachelor of Science Honors degree (double majoring in Biology and Geography) and graduated at the top of her class all while participating in extensive volunteering opportunities throughout her time at Brock.  Achieving these milestones while raising three children has made her keenly aware of the many existing social obstacles that challenge us globally today. Her passions include both understanding and teaching the complexity of ecological systems, mentoring youth, continuous learning, and anything that involves the natural world.

Habib Ben Kalifa


Habib is a full time Master student in the Brock Ecology lab under the supervision of Dr. Liette Vasseur. He did his undergrad studies in Tunisia, and his training as an engineer in agricultural sciences brought the threat of climate change to light for him and inspired him to apply for a position among this research team. His contribution to this project will be assessing different types of cover crops grown in organic vineyards located in the Niagara Region of Ontario and how they may be affected by extreme weather events (i.e. drought, flooding). His research will help to understand long term productivity of an organic vineyard system.

Kasia Zgurzynski


Kasia is currently an undergrad student studying Biological Sciences at Brock University, and has a background in botany and horticulture. In choosing Brock, she was immediately drawn to Dr. Liette Vasseur’s lab, and has been volunteering and working there since her first year. She completes vegetation surveys for the lab, and has been looking at cover crops in vineyards. She’s interested in how a more ecological approach to agriculture can improve both the crop and its environment.

Diana Tosato 

Diana is a Brazilian biologist and holds an MSc in Regional Development and Environment. Her master’s thesis proposed a protocol for assessment of priority areas for expansion of a State Park in Brazil. She has experience with restoration and reforestation projects as well as with prioritization. Now, she is broadly interested in sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and conservation. Beginning January 2020, she will be a PhD student in Biological Science under the supervision of Dr. Liette Vasseur at Brock University.