Barbara Frei, PhD

Image Barbara Frei
Research Scientist

Urban ecology & Nature-based Solutions

Current research and/or projects

With the majority of the world's people living in cities, humanity is facing joint biodiversity and climate crises. The need for urban and peri-urban areas to play an active role in mitigating biodiversity loss and contributing to global sustainability and resilience is center to international political goals and targets such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. At a national level, the Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada's core responsibilities for the conservation of biodiveristy and taking action on clean growth and climate change, both require research on the synergies, trade-offs and co-benefits between conserving biodiversity, species-at-risk, and preserving ecosystem functions for the ecological and social health of Canadian communities.

Research and/or project statements

  • Conducting research on the migration and stopover ecology of molt migrant songbirds within the urban matrix of the Island of Montreal, 
  • Identifying the capacity of urban forests and greenspaces to support biodiversity via integrated data models using both traditional survey data as well as community-science data in Canadian cities
  • Quantifying threats to migratory birds and avain species-at-risk from window collisions, and testing the effectiveness of conservation outcomes to mitigate collisions
  • Exploring the synergies and tradeoffs of managing nature in cities for biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being

Professional activities / interests

Co-founder and Director of the McGill Bird Observatory (MBO) : a research and bird banding station dedicated to long-term monitoring of spring and fall migration, Saw-whet Owl banding, and summer MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) programs. .

Passionate scientific communicator and member of ECCC's inagural 'Scientists-at-Large' cohort. Dr. Frei has trained and taught hundreds of volunteers about birds and migration, given numerous public presentations on species-at-risk, is a frequent guest on local print and radio media, and has reached out to teach children about birds and conservation via zoom classroom presentations, guest appearances on children's science tv shows, and by creating a youtube series geared for 4th-6th graders all about bird migration and research. She is also a member of InformedOpinions in an effort to amplify a diversity of voice for scientists and experts represented in the media and to the public.

Education and awards


  • 2020 Early Career Research Award recipient, Society for Canadian Ornithologist 
  • Postdoctoral Researcher (2017 - 2019) Natural Resources Sciences, McGill University (Maternity leave from 2018-2019)
  • FQRNT Postdoctoral Fellow (2014 - 2017) Biology, University of Ottawa (Maternity leave from 2015-2016)
  • PhD (2009-2014) Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University
  • MSc (2005-2007) Wildlife Biology, McGill University
  • BSc honours (2004) Biology, Carleton University 

Key publications

  • Poirier V*, Elliott KH, Frei B. 2024. Per-urban forest margins are important stopover sites for moult-migrating songbirds. Journal of Nature Conservation 77: 126539.
  • Frei B, Cox A, Morales AR, Roy C. 2024. Community-science reveals delayed fall migration of waterfowl and spatiotemporal effects of a changing climate. Journal of Animal Ecology.
  • Poirier V*, Frei B, Lefvert M, Morales A, and Elliott KH. 2023. Moult migrant Tennessee Warblers undergo extensive stopover in peri-urban forests of southern Quebec. Canadian Journal of Zoology.

  • Cox A^, Frei B^, Gutowsky S, Baldwin F, Bianchini K, Roy C. 2023.  Sixty-years of community-science data suggest earlier fall migration and short-stopping of waterfowl in North America. Ornithological Applications. ^Joint-first authors.

  • Hutt-Taylor K, Ziter CD, Frei B. 2022. What evidence exists for the use of urban forest management in nature-based carbon solutions and bird conservation. A systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence 11:34.

  • Morales A*, Frei B, Mitchell GW, Begin Marchand C, Elliott KH. 2022. Reduced diurnal activity and increased stopover duration by molting Swainson’s Thrushes. Ornithology 139(2): ukab083

  • Morales A*, Frei B, Leung C*, Titman R, Elliott KH. 2020. Point-of-care blood analyzers measure the nutritional state of seventeen free-living bird species. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A 240:110594.
  • Frei B, Queiroz C, Chaplin-Kramer R, Andersson E, Renard D, Rhemtulla JM, Bennett EM. 2020​A brighter future: Complementary goals of diversity and multifunctionality to build resilient agricultural landscapes. Global Food Security 26:100407.
  • Frei B, Renard D, Mitchell MGE, Seufert V, Chaplin-Kramer R, Rhemtulla JM, Bennett EM. 2018. Bright spots in agricultural landscapes: Identifying areas exceeding expectations for multifunctionality and biodiversity. Journal of Applied Ecology 55(6):2731-2743.
  •  Frei B, Bennett EM, Kerr JT. 2018. Agricultural land-use intensity strongest predictor of avian biodiversity loss in agroecosystems with a long history of agriculture. Regional Environmental Change.