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: Environmental health
Parasites and pathogens are ubiquitous in nature. Some pathogens require host social contact for transmission, while others are transmitted through an environmental reservoir. For animals, among the most important drivers of parasite infection is behaviour. Our research program investigates the costs (parasitism) and benefits (fitness) of social and spatial behaviours in animal species of conservation concern. Specifically, bats are reservoir hosts to pathogens of human health concern and face declines due to white-nose syndrome. Caribou populations are in decline due to habitat destruction, climate change, and parasitism. In summary, our research group integrates theory across multiple ecological disciplines to tackle complex conservation and One Health problems.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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
We are interested in microbial enzymes involved in the steroid and aromatic compounds degradation. These enzymes are important for bioremediation of organic pollutants and are potential targets for development of antibiotics against tuberculosis. In collaboration with Dr. Ting Zhou at Agriculture Agri-food Canada, we are isolating and characterizing enzymes capable of detoxifying the mycotoxins, deoxynivalenol and patulin. These mycotoxins contaminate grains and fruit juices.Learn More
The current rates of environmental change experienced by animal populations are higher than have been experienced over much of fossil record. My laboratory investigates the factors that determine whether a population will adapt to a change in the environment without going extinct. Our current projects are:
1) Invasion biology, comparing scales of local genetic adaptation to exotic predators by prey with high and low dispersal potential.
2) Genomic selection and genome wide association analysis of growth, shape, pathogen resistant and life history traits in Atlantic salmon populations.
3) Assessing heritable variation in biological control of the salmon louse by two species of cleaner fish and co-operative behaviour by their client, Atlantic salmon.
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.
In this lab, we work to better understand the contemporary distribution of hyperdiverse, and often cryptic, species of insects across major ecological gradients in tropical and temperate environments. Our research is built upon projects designed to explore the causes and consequences of biodiversity across elevational, latitudinal and disturbance gradients and builds on long-term collections using phylogenetic, functional and physiological measures. I am committed to teaching, and learning from, diverse individuals and scientists, participating in outreach, improving how we communicate science, and publishing accessible research and data.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