We aim to advance our fundamental understanding of the drivers of biodiversity change and the consequences of these changes for human well-being. Our research advances a solution to this research challenge by studying the processes that unite all of life on Earth – the metabolic processes by which living systems uptake, store and convert energy, matter and information from their environments to grow and persist. We combine theory, experiments and synthesis to study how living systems change as the environment changes, and what these changes mean for human well-being.Learn More
Research Area: Biodiversity
My research is rooted in wildlife rehabilitation. Specifically, I am interested in the welfare of wild animals and helping restore health to sick and injured wildlife. I am also interested in looking at anthropogenic effects on wildlife that have been admitted to rehabilitation centres. There are so many ways that our actions have an impact on wildlife, and I am interested in helping wildlife rehabilitators care for wild animals for subsequent release back to the wild. I am also interested in wild animal welfare when working with free-ranging wildlife. In addition, we are investigating the extent of lead toxicosis in many (apparently) healthy Trumpeter Swans, as well as investigating other morbidities in individual wild animals admitted to rehabilitation centres.Learn More
Our work spans three research themes:
1) DNA metasystematics: We gather biodiversity data through the analysis of marker genes from bulk samples (water, soil, and sediments). We pioneered this technique for benthic macroinvertebrates, used widely as bioindicators of aquatic ecosystems.
2) Biodiversity transcriptomics: We develop comparative transcritpome-based approaches for non-model organisms to gain insights on evolution of transcriptomes and understand molecular responses at ecological scale.
3) Bioinformatic approaches for biodiversity genomics data: We develop and test taxonomic assignment approaches for many taxonomic groups and marker genes, and develop tools to enhance analysis of metabarcoding and biodiversity genomic data through machine-learning methods and refined analysis.
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
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).Learn More
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
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.
My research explores biodiversity from different perspectives and scales. We have develop molecular diagnostic tools for plant identification, including herbal product authentication and certification. Also, we contribute to the Plant Barcode of Life, investigating intra and interspecific variation in plants, and incorporate both Indigenous knowledge and DNA-based approaches to understanding diversity. In addition, I have extensively researched the effects of ecosystem management on community structure. Lastly, I am engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning and have recently looked at 1) learning objects as mechanisms of engagement, 2) active learning within large first year biology classes, and 3) ancient pedagogies.Learn More
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.
My research background is on biology education, evolutionary medicine, and biocultural anthropology. Some of the themes I work on are: 1) student network formation in undergraduate classrooms and their impacts on learning; 2) the evolution of human social learning; and, 3) equity and biases in STEM and academic biology.Learn More
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.
We study the evolution of plant function and its mechanistic links to the ecological functioning of populations, communities and ecosystems. We study how and why plant functional traits evolve, and how these traits influence the outcome of ecological interactions that are known to shape community assembly, such as competition and mutualism. To do this work, we use several approaches, including comparative analyses among populations and species, observations of natural selection in the wild, and experimental studies that manipulate the identity of selective agents experienced by populations. We explore how traits influence community assembly and ecosystem function by carrying out experimental studies in controlled environments and in the field.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
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.Learn More
As they are literally rooted in place, plants possess remarkable mechanisms that perceive, interpret, and respond to internal and external cues so as to optimise plant growth and development relative to prevailing environment conditions. Despite the incredible diversity in plant forms, the molecular mechanisms that control plant responses to internal and external cues are highly conserved across diverse genera. The timing and localisation of these mechanisms shape plant and development. Our research team aims to gain greater insights into molecular mechanisms that plants employ to convert internal cues and external signals into appropriate adjustments in resource acquisition and allocation, focusing on the role of gene regulation in conditioning these adjustments.Learn More
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.Learn More
We currently have several projects in various areas that explore aspects of the gut microbiome and beyond:
1) Understanding how gut microbes are involved in the modulation of disease in colorectal cancer, diabetes, infection, and inflammatory bowel diseases
2) Isolation and characterisation of hunter-gatherer people's gut microbiome in an effort to discover novel microbial species and understand their function
3) Characterisation of the non-bacterial microbes of the human microbiome and their functions
4) Building model systems to study human gut microbes in vitro and in vivo
5) The study of 'oncomicrobes' (in particular, Fusobacterium nucleatum), and the development of colorectal cancer.
6) Translation to the clinic - development of 'microbial ecosystem therapeutics'
Molecular biodiversity research and highly qualified personnel training are lab focal points. Using field and lab-based methods together with bioinformatic tools and statistical modelling approaches, we study the patterns and drivers of species habitat occupancy, community assembly and food web ecology. This information is central to addressing a variety of questions pertaining to biodiversity conservation, environmental effects monitoring and food security. We also contribute to the development of standard methods and best practices necessary to enhance receptor uptake capacity for a variety of partners including indigenous peoples, industry, governmental as well as non-governmental organizations, and other citizen science initiatives.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
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).Learn More
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