Join us in Celebrating 30 Years at the Great River Gala

Meet Our Staff 🙂

Jeff Ridal

Executive Director

Christina Collard

Program Leader, Administration
& Fundraising

Brian Hickey

Program Leader, Education / Research Scientist

Leigh McGaughey

Program Leader, Research & Community Engagement

Matt Windle

Program Leader, Research & Technical Services

Cristina Charette

PhD Candidate-UQAM / Education Coordinator

Courtney Holden

Research Scientist

Mary Ann Perron

Research Scientist

Erin Smith

Mitacs Elevate Postdoctoral Fellow

Fan Qin

Mitacs Postdoctoral Fellow

Elsie Lewison

Development Officer

Crystal Martell

QA/QC Officer

Emilie DeRochie

River Strategy Coordinator

Luc St. Pierre

Lab Coordinator

Jennifer Jarvis

Office Coordinator

Georgia Bock

Remedial Action Plan Coordinator

Stephany Hildebrand

Visual Communications Coordinator

Zachary Zwanenburg

Web Developer & IT Specialist

Elizabeth Hall

Project Support Specialist / Biologist

Alanna Akkermans

Environmental Educator/Biologist

Emma Bacchiochi

Lab & Field Technician

Lexy Harquail

Communications / Environmental Educator

Ashley McCrimmon

Lab & Field Technician

Bailey Ruest


Kate Schwartz

Research Assistant / Biologist

Silvia Rodriguez

Research Assistant

Mackenzie Wylie-Arbic

Research Assistant

Emma Ehrenfeld

Research Assistant

Sylvie Charbonneau

Administrative Finance Clerk

River Institute Board of Directors

Debora Daigle

Community Member,

Mike Pescod

Community member,
First Vice Chair

Jackie Baird

Cornwall Electric,

Scott Lecky



Sylviane Duval

Community member

Clement Gwanyama

Community Member

Channelle Martel


Scott Gagnon


Abe Francis

Akwesasronon Researcher & Clarkson U Ph.D Student

Mireille Lemire

Community Member

Jean Marc Gladu

Community member

Andrew Guindon

Warden and United Counties of S. D. & G. Representative

Jennifer Haley

St. Lawrence College, Representative

Dean Hollingworth

City of Cornwall Representative

Kayla Sunday

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Representative

Research Scientists

Dr. Brian Hickey

Program Leader Education / Research Scientist

I received my graduate training in biology at York University where I studied behavioural and physiological variation of red (Lasiurus borealis) and hoary (Lasiurus cinereus) bats in response to changing environmental conditions. Since then, my research has involved both basic and applied aspects of this question. My current research efforts are directed at evaluating the responses of fish and wildlife communities to habitat degradation (habitat loss and mercury contamination), restoration efforts and ecological effects of water level variation. In addition to research, I oversee public education and outreach programs at the River Institute.

Research Interests

My research involves a wide range of taxa including bats, birds, fish and invertebrates, with a unifying theme to understand the role environmental variation plays in the responses of individual animals, and how these responses ultimately structure animal populations and communities.

Dr. Leigh McGaughey

Program Leader Research & Community Engagement

Leigh is an ecologist, who started her career in South Africa where she completed a BSc (1994), BSc Honours (1995) and MSc (2000) degrees in Biological Sciences. In 2001 she moved to Australia and worked as a Research Assistant at Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute as part of the Abalone Research team to provide scientific support to the fishing industry. In 2005 she took up a scholarship for her PhD studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada, where she built an ecosystem model of a sub-Antarctic system which was used to explore past population dynamics and climate change scenarios. In 2010, Leigh was employed by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, based in Italy, as a Postdoctoral Grantholder where she worked on developing indicators for both fisheries and conservation applications.

Research Interests

Leigh’s expertise include invertebrate biology, stable isotopes, ecosystem modelling, remote sensing, ecosystem indicators and ecosystem services.

Dr. Mary Ann Perron

Research Scientist

I am a freshwater biologist with expertise in wetland ecosystems and urban ecology. I grew up in a small town in northern Ontario and spent my free time outdoors, usually on the water. I completed my B.Sc. Honours in Biology with a specialization in conservation and restoration ecology from Laurentian University in Sudbury (2010-2014). I then went on to complete my Ph.D. in Biology specializing in wetland ecosystems, entomology and urban ecology from the University of Ottawa (2014-2020). I have experience teaching in the classroom and in the field as well as running workshops for youth organizations. I am a certified wetland evaluator with skills in wetland plant identification, multivariate statistics and spatial analyses. I am currently involved in leading citizen science programs and collaborate in international efforts in insect conservation.

Research Interests

My research interests include wetlands, Odonatology (study of dragonflies and damselflies), conservation biology, botany, urban ecology, freshwater ecology, biostatistics and spatial analyses. I also have a keen interest in natural history.

Dr. Courtney Holden

Research Scientist

I am a freshwater ecologist who completed a Ph.D. in biology at Queen’s University with a focus on American Eel habitat use and ecology. My interest in fisheries began while handling nets and sampling fish communities in Lake Ontario as a student fisheries technician for the OMNRF. I completed a B.Sc. (Honours) in Biology at Queen’s University in 2010 and then worked as a research biologist on two Species at Risk projects that examined habitat associations and abundance of American Eels and Lake Sturgeon in the upper St. Lawrence River. I then pursued a multi-disciplinary Ph.D. project that used stable isotopes to understand habitat use, thermal history, swimming activity, and food web interactions of stocked American Eels. My research and technical expertise include environmental physiology, temperature requirements and climate change, quantitative electrofishing, nearshore community sampling, fish otolith thin-sectioning and age determination, stable isotope analysis, and fish culture.

Matthew Windle, MSc.

Research Scientist

I am a biologist with experience in environmental science, freshwater ecosystem ecology, spatial analyses, contaminant analyses, and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). I completed a BSc in environmental science from Queen’s University, and a M.Sc. in Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. In addition to my work as a Research Scientist at the River Institute, I am also a professor in the Environmental Technician Program at St. Lawrence College. I possess certifications for open water SCUBA, the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol (OSAP), Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) fish identification workshops, advanced operations and flight reviewer status for RPAS from Transport Canada, and the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES).

Research Interests

My research focuses on the ecological health of aquatic ecosystems, including studies of nearshore fish communities, species-at-risk, aquatic invasive species, contaminated sediments, and coastal wetlands. As a certified advanced drone pilot and Geographic Information Systems instructor, my research incorporates remote sensing and spatial analysis tools to study shifting trends, habitat interactions and large scale processes of freshwater ecosystems.