Sara Ashpole, Ph. D.

Associate Professor Environmental Studies Department
R. Sheldon ’68 and Virginia H. Johnson Professor in the Sciences

Ph.D., Planning
University of Waterloo

Master of Science
University of Guelph

Bachelor of Science, Hons
University of Guelph

Sara Ashpole

Sara Ashpole came to SLU in Fall 2013 and is an Associate Professor and chair of Environmental Studies, past Faculty Director of the Sustainability Program (2019-2022), advisor to the Business in the Liberal Arts Major, and a faculty advocate for diversity and inclusion.

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 (2013-2022), which designates the conservation status of wild species. Sara has had positions on numerous boards of directors, including the Southern Interior Land Trust (British Columbia) 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!

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