Dr. Sara Ashpole Ph. D.
Sara Ashpole came to SLU in Fall 2013 and is an Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Coordinator of the Sustainability Program, advisor to the Business in the Liberal Arts Major, and a faculty advocate for diversity and inclusion.
Listen to a video message about the Sustainability Program.
Sara has always had a passion for biodiversity. Her academic career began with a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Guelph, which helped nurture a love for evolutionary and conservation biology. Sara’s undergrad honors project examined frog and salamander skeletochronology (which is similar to examining the rings of a tree!). Sara continued her research interests working for Environment Canada examining the impact of industrial persistent environmental contaminants (think PCBs or human made chemicals) and embryonic deformities in turtles (like extra bones!). This research was the basis of Sara’s thesis which earned her a Master’s of Science in Zoology & Toxicology at the University of Guelph. Next came a three year position working for the Federal government examining agricultural environmental contaminants (aka pesticides) and deformities in developing frogs. Realizing the complexity of challenges to species survival in a highly modified landscape, Sara pursued a Ph.D. in Conservation Planning at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. Sara’s science-based and interdisciplinary education and work experience has been critical in launching her career as both a respected environmental practitioner and scientist.
Since 1999, Sara's research has been collaborative with non-governmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, as well as governmental organizations from the regional to federal level. Her environmental research has also included working closely with Indigenous peoples and private landowners in the Great Lakes region and the Okanagan River Valley in British Columbia, examining impacts to amphibian and turtle populations. Research Projects include long term amphibian population monitoring, wetland construction and rehabilitation, road ecology (studying species movement and mitigation to barriers), alien vertebrate species eradication, agricultural eco-toxicology, landowner stewardship, community outreach, education, and citizen science.
Sara informs international and national policy by providing scientific expertise as the Canadian co-chair for the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (since 2015) and a member of the independent advisory panel for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada Amphibian and Reptile Subcommittee (since 2013), which designates the conservation status of wild species. Sara has had positions on numerous boards of directors, and is currently a coordinating editor for the prestigious journal Restoration Ecology.
In the classroom, Sara integrates both a theoretical and applied research approach often utilizing the Environmental Studies Living Lab. Her students develop the practical field research methods and professional communication and leadership skills needed for jobs in the environmental field.
Sara’s interests and research has brought her and her students the opportunity to explore global perspectives. In most years, Sara incorporates travel components to her courses and summer research, often taking students to places such as Costa Rica, Florida, Mexico (scheduled for 2021), and western Canada. Sara also has connections and loves to travel to China where she has taught courses in Environment and Business, facilitated SLU internships and consulted with NGO’s on biodiversity and stewardship projects.
Sara has a small hobby farm where she raises almost all her own meat, and much of the fruit and vegetables she consumes. She barters everything from her bees’ honey to the manure produced by her chickens in exchange for other locally produce and crafts. If it wasn’t obvious Dr. Ashpole is a Canuk!
PhD - Planning
- Restoring a wetland complex for amphibian populations, south Okanagan River Valley, BC, Canada (2003 to 2014)
Master of Science
- Contaminant levels and embryonic development of the snapping turtle (Chelydra s. serpentina) from selected Great Lakes Areas of Concern. (1999-2003).
Bachelor of Science, Hons
- Biodiversity, Resiliency, & Sustainability - Taking a complex social - ecological systems approach to interdisciplinary evidence based problem solving
- Endangered Species Protection - Specializing in the conservation action and policy to protect amphibians & reptiles species
- Long term population monitoring: Examining long term site occurrence, density, and the diversity of species assemblages
- Ecological Restoration: The construction and rehabilitation of wetland and riparian zones at a landscape scale
- Road ecology: The behaviour, movement and risks of species due to road systems and mitigation to reduce the impact
- Vertebrate Invasion Ecology: Specializing in non-native American bullfrog and fish species management and eradication
- Eco-toxicology: Examining contaminants in tissues, sediment and water and the impact to development (from industrial and agricultural contaminants to microplastics)
- Landowner stewardship, community outreach, education, and citizen science
Regularly Taught Courses:
- ENVS 101 Introduction to Environmental Studies
- Independent Study, Senior Year Experience, Honors Project
- FALL: ENVS 347 ESP Restoration Ecology (Conservation Science course for Conservation Biology major)
- FALL: ENVS 370 ESP Global Amphibian Decline (Conservation Science course for Conservation Biology major)
- FALL: ENVS 245 SUS/NS Sustainability Leadership 2: Solving Sustainability (Sustainability Program)
- FALL: ENVS 3061 SUS/NS Green Cafe (Sustainability Program)
- SPRING: ENVS 371 NS Landscape Ecology (Conservation Science course for Conservation Biology major)
- SPRING: ENVS 372 ESP Transboundary Wildlife Conservation
- Summer: ENVS 3032 SUS Live Green (Sustainability Program)
- FYP: FRPG Eggplant, Ecosystem, Entrepreneurship (First Year Program)
- FYS: FRPG Green Cities: Growing a Communities (First Year Seminar)
Sample Student Projects Supervised:
- DETERMINING TROPHIC TRANSFER OF MICROPLASTICS IN THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER SYSTEM. Nathan Pollack (2019)
- NESTING BOX PLACEMENT ANALYSIS AND MONITORING AND INTERPRETATION MODEL DEVELOPMENT ON ST. LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS. Eliza Gillilan & Eric Sauer (2019)
- MICROBEADS IN SEDIMENT, DREISSENID MUSSELS, AND ANURANS IN THE LITTORAL ZONE OF THE UPPER ST. LAWRENCE RIVER, NEW YORK. McKenzie Schessl (2018) M
- PAEDOMORPHIC BLOTCHED TIGER SALAMANDER (AMBYSTOMA MAVORTIUM) FECUNDITY, SOUTHERN INTERIOR, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA. Marissa R. Nati (2018)
- THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES: TRANSBOUNDARY ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN A WORLD OF INDEPENDENT STATES. Jamie Oriol (2017)
- THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE INSIDIOUS: A CHINESE CASE STUDY EXAMINING SOURCE WATER PROTECTION MANAGEMENT & ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION. Marguarite Wiser, Samuel Pratt (2017)
- EFFECTS OF ATRAZINE AND RU-486 ON THYMUS GLAND SURFACE AREA OF XENOPUS LEAVIS TADPOLES. Andrew Nolan (2016)
- ENVIRONMENTAL COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND EDUCATION ACTIVITIES WITH KANGHUA COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CENTER, CHENGDU CHINA. Xiaolan Wang (2015)
Ways to connect with students outside of the classroom:
- Please email for an appointment to arrange a video meeting.
- A limited number of in-person meetings are available on Tues. & Thurs. advance booking needed.
- Due to Covid-19, no unannounced drop-in's please. Students will not be allowed into my office space at this time.
- If you are dropping something off you can place it in the folder on my office door.