Research Area: Animal biology

Moira Ferguson

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.

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Ryan Norris

Research in my lab is focused on the behaviour, ecology, and conservation of animals living in seasonal environments. Much of our field work is conducted on songbirds and butterflies but also includes past and present studies on salamanders, fruit flies, nightjars, seabirds, and domestic cats. We use both observational and experimental approaches, often combining these with emerging tracking technologies, to understand factors influencing variation in fitness and population abundance. Our two primary long-term studies are on Canada jays in Algonquin Park, ON (50+ yrs) and Savannah sparrows on Kent Island, NB (30+ yrs).

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John Vessey

My research focuses on asymmetric RNA localization and localized translational control in animal species. I have also studied asymmetric RNA localization in neural stem cells and their contribution to both cellular differentiation and cortical development across species. Currently, my students and I are investigating various proteins that we think are important for RNA regulation during brain development.

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Josef Ackerman

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.

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Sally Adamowicz

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.

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Nicholas Bernier

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.

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Steve Crawford

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.

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Ray Lu

My lab focuses on two main axes of research:
1) Unfolded Protein Response and Human Diseases: We study proteins that play key roles in animal stress responses, specifically the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR), which has been linked to animal development, cell differentiation, as well as a variety of human diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and viral infection.
2) Molecular Mechanisms of Aging: We are working to establish planarians as a new aging model to test the hypothesis that longevity requires multiplex resistance to stress. We hope to identify genes or alleles that confer such multiplex stress resistance and/or promote longevity.

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Ryan Gregory

My lab studies:
1) Large-scale genome evolution, with a focus on the "C-value enigma," transposable elements, and whole-genome duplications.
2) DNA quantification methods to measure nuclear DNA content.
3) DNA-based methods for species identification and questions in evolutionary biology to understand how biological diversity arises at all levels.
4) Genome size evolution to understand the operation of natural selection and other evolutionary principles.
5) The interface between Integrative Genomics and Evolutionary Biology, otherwise disconnected fields within the biological sciences.

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Shoshanah Jacobs

I conduct research along three axes:
1) Education: Our research program is designed to serve at the leading edge of scholarship in experiential and transdisciplinary education. It is driven by the existing evidence base in pedagogical best practice, in partnership with community need.
2) Biomimetics: Nature is overflowing with inspiring solutions to the world's most wicked problems. We work to understand how knowledge is successfully accessed and how biology is taught to non-specialists.
3) Environmental Ecology: We study mate selection and nest energy dynamics of seabirds and large ocean regime changes though DNA metabarcoding. We are also currently looking at Personal Protective Equipment litter in metropolitan areas.

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Elizabeth Mandeville

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.

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Rob McLaughlin

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.

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Amy Newman

We study proximate and ultimate questions around stress ecophysiology. We combine field studies and laboratory analyses to examine the persistent effects of early life stress on physiology, behaviour and fitness. We use a variety of approaches from large-scale manipulations in the wild to controlled laboratory experiments. I am excited by integrative questions that span levels of biological organization and students in the lab are encouraged to explore questions from evolutionary, ecological, physiological and molecular perspectives.

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Mark Baker

My lab aims to understand 1) the molecular genetic mechanisms of recombination in mammalian cells; 2) how defects in recombination contribute to tumorigenesis; and, 3) the nature of recombination hotspots. We are presently researching questions pertaining to: the mechanism and frequency of recombination in mammalian cells; the role of large palindromes in promoting recombination; mammalian heteroduplex DNA formation and repair; genetics of strand invasion and 3' end polymerization; how DNA sequences act to stimulate recombination; non-crossover mechanisms of homologous recombination; the genetic control of recombination.

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Scott Ryan

While animal models have lead to huge advancements in our understanding of neurobiology, there is controversy over whether overexpression/silencing of gene expression is representative of diverse disease states. Indeed, the lack of availability of primary human neurons has made evaluating the pathological consequences of genomic mutations arduous. The use of human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology overcomes these limitations by providing a source of human neurons from both normal and disease genetic backgrounds. We currently focus on stem cell based models of Parkinson's Disease (PD) to study how mitochondrial stress mechanisms impact on neuronal function in human disease.

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Paul Hebert

Morphological studies have provided an outline of biodiversity, but are incapable of surveying, managing and protecting it on a planetary scale. By exploiting two technologies that are gaining power exponentially – DNA sequencing and computational capacity – my research promises an ever-accelerating capacity to monitor and know life. In particular, I aim to automate species identification and discovery, and to employ this capacity to answer longstanding scientific questions. Automation is possible because sequence diversity in short, standardized gene regions (DNA barcodes) enables fast, cheap, and accurate species discrimination. New instruments can inexpensively gather millions of DNA sequences, enabling surveys of organismal diversity at speeds and scales that have been impossible.

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John Fryxell

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.

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Shaun Sanders

The Sanders lab is interested in how neurons use the protein-lipid modification palmitoylation to target proteins to subcellular locations and to define how palmitoylation-dependent targeting contributes to physiological neuronal function and neuropathological conditions. Current projects include characterizing how palmitoylation of vesicular transport machinery regulates fast axonal transport and how palmitoylation of ion channels and their scaffold proteins regulates clustering at the axon initial segment, a critical site of neuronal excitability where action potentials are generated.

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Sarah Alderman

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

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Jinzhong Fu

My recent research includes detecting genetic and phenotypic variations of a common toad (Bufo gargarizans) along elevational gradients, establishing associations between them, and understanding how these variations may have contributed to the adaptation process. I am also studying the Phrynocephalus lizards, particularly their signal evolution, special adaptation to high-elevation environment (5000m), and population genetics and speciation. I also plan to return to one of my favorite research topics, the evolution of unisexuality in the Caucasian rock lizards (Darevskia).

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Jasmin Lalonde

The growth of neurons and their organization into circuits is a tightly controlled process that follows a series of well-defined steps. Once differentiated and integrated into networks, neurons also retain a remarkable capacity to rapidly change the arrangement of their connections in response to activity, a feature that is believed to critically support cognition as well as our ability to learn and retain information for long periods of time. Accumulating evidence strongly suggests that perturbation of the molecular interactions responsible for the growth of neurons, or the capacity of these cells to adequately respond to activity-dependent signals, contributes to the pathophysiology of different brain disorders. Our laboratory uses a multidisciplinary approach to explore these questions.

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Beren Robinson

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.

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Andreas Heyland

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.

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Glen Van Der Kraak

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.

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