My research program focuses on understanding the genetic basis of evolutionary change. In particular I am concentrating on two major components of the evolutionary process. Firstly, I study how genetic differences among individuals lead to variation in the numbers and survival of their offspring (fitness). Secondly, I determine how those genetic differences can become partitioned between populations when they begin to diverge genetically into different species. Salmonid fishes (Atlantic salmon, Arctic charr, rainbow trout, brook charr) continue to be the models for most of this work because their biology makes them interesting candidates for genetic analysis.Learn More
Keyword: Freshwater ecosystems
My research program spans three themes:
1) Great Lakes Fish Ecology: This includes developmental biology, animal behaviour, fish habitat, effect of exotic species, species-at-risk, fish population and community dynamics, and the response of ecosystems to disturbance.
2) Science in Natural Resource Management: I focus on Indigenous resource management negotiations with Canada, Ontario, as well as Industry and Environmental NGOs.
3) Indigenous-Western Science Knowledge Systems: I critically examine the theoretical and practical basis for engagement between traditional knowledge holders and 'Western' scientists/managers.
The ecological and evolutionary problems that underlie my research interests include the convergent evolution of morphology, the manner by which organisms have adapted to their physical environment, physical aspects of energy transfer through ecosystems, and physical-biological linkages in aquatic systems. My lab is currently examining the physical ecology of trophic interactions, reproduction (including abiotic pollination and broadcast spawning), physical-biological interactions and larval recruitment, limnological processes involving hypoxia, hydrological processes involving benthic organisms, and sediment/substrate-water interactions.Learn More
My work spans five major axes of research:
1) The shape of the Tree of Life, including the relationships amongst species and the factors that influence the shape of this tree.
2) Major transitions in evolution, especially the frequency of transitions, the rate at which reversals occur, and the consequences of such transitions for molecular evolutionary patterns and speciation rates.
3) Evolutionary trends, with a focus on whether there are large-scale patterns in the history of life.
4) The diversity and integrity of freshwater ecosystems, including the diversity, distributions, traits, and origins of species.
5) The diversity of polar life, which I study using DNA barcoding to discover the true extent of arctic species diversity.
Our research is focused on identifying and understanding the pathways by which environmental and social stressors are perceived, processed, and transduced into a neuroendocrine response. Several projects are aimed at elucidating how the neuroendocrine system orchestrates the stress response and focused specifically on the physiological functions of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system. Another major focus of the lab is to investigate the interactions between the neuroendocrine pathways that regulate the stress response and those involved in the regulation of appetite and growth.Learn More
I study evolution in heterogeneous environments, over large geographic ranges, and in the presence of variable species assemblages by using computational approaches and bioinformatics techniques to analyze large, high-resolution genomic datasets. My work revolves around two focal questions: 1) How consistent are evolutionary and ecological outcomes of species interactions? and 2) To what extent are species evolutionarily cohesive across their ranges? Most of the fish species I study are affected by human-mediated disturbances, including species introductions and fragmentation of aquatic habitat by dams. I use large genomic, ecological, and isotopic datasets to understand how evolutionary processes function across ecological contexts.Learn More
In one main component, my students examine changes in the biodiversity of stream fishes caused by in-stream barriers used to control sea lamprey in the Laurentian Great Lakes. In a second main component, my students use smaller scale approaches focused on diversification in the foraging and migratory movements of brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) to understand the role that individual differences in behaviour have in facilitating population divergence in physiology, morphology, and life history, and the creation of new biodiversity. My research program has two, additional minor components: 1) assessing the effects of agricultural practices on stream fishes and 2) examining basic research questions related to animal movement.Learn More
Recent work has involved herbivores and carnivores movement ecology in Serengeti, woodland caribou, wolves, and moose in northern Ontario, and both wild and Norwegian reindeer. We conduct detailed field and experimental studies of both behavioural and demographic responses to landscape heterogeneity and compare these with theoretical models. As part of the Food from Thought research program, we are also evaluating the impact of anthropogenic stressors (nutrient additions due to fertilizer run-off, pesticide application, and temperature increase due to global climate change) on phytoplankton and zooplankton populations in massive aquatic mesocosms and the effect of marginal land restoration (prairies, wetlands, and secondary forest) on arthropod biodiversity using DNA meta-barcoding.Learn More
Current projects include:
- Mechanistic and functional connections between stress and adult neurogenesis in fish
- Effects of aquatic pollutants on fish physiology, morphology, and performance
- Neuroanatomy and regenerative capacity of the hagfish brain
- Quantitative proteomics as a tool for biomarker discovery and novel insights into animal physiology
We address how biodiversity arises especially in single populations of fishes composed of alternate ecotypes that live in different lake habitats. We study the factors that regulate the formation of these specialized ecotypes and have expanded theory by evaluating the role of phenotypic plasticity in adaptive biodiversity formation. Experience working with fish resource polymorphism since 1993 uniquely positions us to investigate how novel ecotypes evolve and may be converted into new species in the future countering biodiversity loss. We also study how commercial fishing affects fish traits in natural populations. Our focus on the diverse kinds of fish in natural populations is important because this is rarely considered in the contexts of ecological function, management and conservation.Learn More
Dr. Heyland's laboratory uses novel functional genomics approaches to study the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems of aquatic invertebrates. Specifically he investigates the function and evolution of hormonal and neurotransmitter signaling systems in the regulation of development and metamorphosis. His research includes evolutionary development studies of marine invertebrate metamorphosis, eco-toxicogenomic approached to understand endocrine disruption in aquatic ecosystems and water remediation technologies. These projects are integrated with several national and international collaborations ranging form basic scientific work to industry partnerships.Learn More
My research focuses on the reproductive physiology of fish. We study which hormones affect ovarian follicle development and if there are hallmark responses (changes in hormone biosynthesis, receptor abundance, recruitment of downstream activators) that determine whether an ovarian follicle is destined to mature and ovulate. This research is fundamental to defining spawning success which is a prime measure of reproductive fitness and provides the toolbox that we use to examine the mechanisms by which endocrine disrupting compounds (pharmaceuticals; ammonia) and complex environmental effluents (municipal waste water, pulp mills; oils sands process affected water) affect ovarian physiology.Learn More
In the next 5 years, I will shift my research strategy by consolidating 4 streams of my past research: temporal dynamics, host-symbiont interactions, small mammal metacommunity dynamics, and DNA-based species identification and bioinformatics. I will focus on a study system that combines my past strengths in metacommunity ecology at multiple scales, but will apply them to a novel system: microbial metacommunities nested within a matrix of metacommunity of different host species.Learn More
Ongoing projects include:
1) Examining cardiac remodeling in zebrafish and trout in response to thermal acclimation.
2) Characterizing the role of the troponin complex in regulating the function of striated muscle.
3) Examining the function of the hagfish heart during prolonged anoxia exposure.
4) Examining the change in diaphragm function during the onset of heart failure.
5) Characterizing how bitumen exposure of sockeye salmon early life stages influences cardiac development and aerobic fitness.
Generally speaking, we are interested in understanding how biological structure, broadly defined to include structure of all biological forms, mitigates the stability and functioning of ecosystems. This question naturally leads to understanding how human impacts alter biological structure and so also how impacts may potentially alter the stability and functioning of whole ecosystems. This latter aspect of human impacts brings has our empirically motivated interests in developing practical biomonitoring techniques that span the ecological hierarchy. Our work is theoretical, empirical and experimental, and most often in aquatic ecosystems like streams, lakes and coastal oceans. We are highly collaborative and have worked globally on different ecosystems.Learn More
Work in the Laberge lab attempts to understand how variation in brain structure and size influences organismic function, and identify the factors that drive evolution and plasticity of the nervous system. Current projects on this topic study variation in structure and size of the brain in populations of fish and amphibians, the proximate mechanisms generating this variation, and the functional consequences of this variation. Additionally, the lab is involved in collaborative efforts aiming to develop novel indicators of ecological performance and chronic stress in wild fish.Learn More