Madhur Anand

Madhur Anand

The rapid pace and far-reaching potential of ecological change in the face of globalization and climate change is creating stress within ecosystems all over the world. There is an ever-increasing threat of extinctions of species, communities, and ecosystems along with the biodiversity services and functions that they support. Understanding the complex effects of ecological change at many scales (local to global, recent to historical) on biodiversity is thus of critical importance for predicting human-mediated changes to the environment, conserving biodiversity heritage and sustaining global economies. The CRC in Global Ecological Change recognizes the increasing international stature of ecological problems and their solutions. The research program will highlight similarities and differences between ecological events and practices on different continents with a view to fostering knowledge exchange. It will also provide tools for the application of emerging interdisciplinary theories, improved quantitative methods and predictive simulation models to the preservation, recovery and restoration of perturbed and vulnerable forest ecosystems worldwide.

Madhur’s University of Guelph page:


Madhur’s Lab Page:


Nicholas Bernier

Nicholas Bernier

Research in my laboratory is focused on identifying and understanding the pathways by which environmental, social and physical stressors are perceived, processed, and transduced into a neuroendocrine response. Several projects are aimed at elucidating the basic neural circuits that mediate stress in fish and focused specifically on the physiological functions of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) system. Another major focus is to investigate the interactions between the stress response and the regulation of appetite and growth in fish. Overall, we use a variety of molecular, endocrine and physiological tools to study the pathways that mediate these interactions. The long-term goal of our research is to provide the basis for the original development of a model on the neuroendocrine pathways that mediate the physiological effects of stress.

Nick’s University of Guelph page:


Nick’s Lab page:


Christina Caruso

Christina Caruso

My research focuses on the role of natural selection in driving phenotypic diversification and speciation in natural populations. Although biologists since Darwin have postulated that natural selection is an important mechanism promoting the evolution of diversity, fundamental questions such as how much selection varies in time and space, the ecological causes of selection, and the genetic basis of selected traits remain unanswered.

I first studied these topics as an undergraduate at Oberlin College, where I did field work on plants, amphibians, and mammals. My fascination with ecology and evolutionary biology led me to the University of Illinois, where I completed my doctoral dissertation on the role of inter-specific competition for pollinators in driving floral evolution. During this time, I became interested in understanding the genetic basis of complex traits, such as flowers, that have been shaped by natural selection. This motivated me to study the quantitative genetics of natural variation in plant floral and physiological traits as a postdoctoral fellow at Grinnell College and Duke University. I am continuing this research in ecology, evolution, and genetics in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph.

Chris’s University of Guelph page:


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Karl Cottenie

Karl Cottenie

My training and research interests lie in the intersection of ecology and multivariate analysis. My formal university education started with a Master’s degree on comparing the results of different multivariate methods when analyzing the fish and crustacean community structure of an estuary in Belgium. This thesis already included all the three aspects that will continue to play an important role in my research focus, aquatic environment, community ecology, and biostatistics. Since I wanted a more in-depth knowledge of statistics, I also completed a Master’s degree in Statistics. For my PhD research, I studied zooplankton community structure of interconnected ponds. In the different ponds of the “De Maten”, two opposing forces potentially shape local zooplankton community structure: different local environmental factors could lead to divergence of the zooplankton communities, while high dispersal rates could homogenize the connected communities (i.e. a metacommunity). My study investigated the relative influence of these local versus regional processes on local zooplankton community structure, diversity and dynamics. I used a complementary approach of both observational (coupled with specific multivariate statistics) and experimental data. I showed that both processes do occur, with local processes of primary importance, but with dispersal necessary to deliver the species adapted to different environmental conditions.

My postdoctoral research at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis continued with these exiting metacommunity questions, i.e. how dispersal through space (but also through time) influences local community dynamics. For one project I applied the methodologies developed during my PhD study on 158 data sets from different environments, communities, spatial scales, and dispersal modes. I found that local environmental variables with or without an independent dispersal component were the driving forces in structuring local community structure. This also clearly indicated that neutral community dynamics alone, currently a hotly debated subject in ecology, was only important in 9% of the data sets. Other projects looked at how metacommunity dynamics change through time as cladoceran communities establish in new pools; temporal metacommunity dynamics in annual dessert plants (with dispersal through time the perfect time analogue of dispersal through space); spatial, temporal and environment processes at different trophic levels in marine kelp ecosystems in the Channel Islands Marine Reserve of the California coast; comparing different dispersal abilities in freshwater organisms (both lake and stream organisms such as fish, macroinvertebrates, zooplankton, perifyton…).

Karl’s University of Guelph page:


Karl’s Lab page:


Kari Dunfield

Kari Dunfield

General areas of interest include: Applied Soil Ecology, Molecular Microbial Ecology, Soil Microbiology. The long-term objective of my research program is to study the relationship between genetic diversity of soil microbial communities and soil ecosystem functioning. My research program uses established molecular biology techniques to assess how agricultural and environmental practices impact soil microbial communities, and microbially mediated soil processes, such as nitrogen cycling. This is accomplished through a number of collaborative research programs with research groups across the University of Guelph campus.

Kari’s University of Guelph page:


Evan Fraser

Evan Fraser

Over the next two generations, the globe faces an enormous human security challenge. We must adapt to rapid economic and climate change by creating a food system that provides adequate and appropriate nutrition for 9 billion people in a way that does not compromise vital ecosystem services including biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration. Within the broad area of global food security in the 21st century, I have spent my professional life developing an externally funded multi-disciplinary research programme on the links between food security, land use, and global environmental/economic change.

Evan’s University of Guelph page:


John Fryxell

John Fryxell

My research focuses on interactions between behavior and consumer-resource dynamics. A mix of theoretical and empirical approaches is used to consider the dynamics of specific systems. Theoretical questions of interest include herbivore and carnivore movement in relation to resource availability and predation risk, optimal diet, patch selection, and dispersal patterns in heterogeneous environments, the effect of social interference and territoriality on consumer-resource interactions, and impacts of harvesting by humans on fish and mammal populations.

Empirical work has been concentrated on 3 different terrestrial ecosystems over the past decade: large herbivores and carnivores in Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), woodland caribou, wolves, and moose in boreal forests of northern Ontario (Canada), and mustelid carnivores and other small mammals in boreal forests of northern Ontario. In each case, my graduate students and I conduct detailed field and experimental studies of behavioral ecology of both predators and prey. Theoretical models are then used to assess the implications of behavioral strategies on population and community dynamics and model predictions are then tested against long-term observational data from terrestrial ecosystems.

John’s University of Guelph page:


Robert Hanner

Robert Hanner

My research focus involves the assembly and curation of genetic resource collections, involving everything from fieldwork methodologies to bioinformatics approaches. With the window of sampling opportunity closing for much of the World’s biodiversity, the global DNA Barcoding initiative offers an outstanding opportunity to compile a well-characterized genetic resource collection of immense scope. My work involves raising the standards of, and disseminating relevant information on, how we sample biodiversity with an eye toward future genetic and genomic research. It is imperative that we maintain as much evidentiary value in our collections as possible and frozen tissue collections are a critical component of this mandate. High-quality specimen collections are essential for not only DNA barcoding and taxonomy, but also for more applied disciplines such as epidemiology and environmental toxicology. This makes my research focus multidisciplinary and collaborations with interested researchers and students are always sought. I am particularly interested in the development of molecular diagnostic tools for species identification and applications of those tools to questions involving biodiversity conservation and forensics. On a more philosophical level, I am interested in solving taxonomic problems, such as delimiting species boundaries, with phylogenetic solutions derived from the integration of multiple independent data sets (i.e. a total evidence approach). A thorough integration of behavioral, physiological, anatomical and genetic information provides an holistic approach toward the study of organismal evolution.

Robert’s University of Guelph page:


Robert’s Lab page:


Paul Hebert

Paul Hebert, Professor Canada Research Chair, Tier 1 and Director of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics

Dr. Hebert carried out his undergraduate studies in biology at Queen’s University, his doctoral work in genetics at the University of Cambridge, and then held a Rutherford Fellowship at the University of Sydney. He currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biodiversity at the University of Guelph where he is both a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Director of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics. He brings 30 years of experience in the oversight of major research and academic units. He was Director of the Great Lakes Institute at the University of Windsor from 1986 to 1990 and Chair of the Department of Zoology at Guelph for the subsequent decade. He was Vice-President of Research at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre from 1992 to 1998 and then served as the Chair of its Board until 2003.

Since this time, he has focused his efforts on building a major research program in DNA barcoding, raising more than $100M to construct specialized research facilities, and to sustain a research team with outstanding capabilities in biodiversity science, informatics and genomics. He was Director for the Canadian Barcode of Life Network from 2005 to 2010. Since then, he has served as Scientific Director of the International Barcode of Life project, the largest research program ever undertaken in biodiversity science.

Dr. Hebert’s research program has employed diverse molecular approaches to advance understanding of issues such as breeding system evolution, invasive species and genome size evolution. He is, however, best known for proposing DNA barcoding as a tool for both specimen identification and species discovery. His 440 publications have attracted more than 50,000 citations and an h-index of 103 (Google Scholar), placing him as one of 35 Canadian researchers included in both the 2014 and 2015 lists of highly cited researchers. He has trained 102 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, nearly half of whom now hold faculty positions. He is an Officer in the Order of Canada, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Waterloo and Windsor.

Andreas Heyland

Andreas Heyland, Associate Professor

Dr. Andreas Heyland is an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph in the Department of Integrative Biology. Dr. Heyland's laboratory uses novel functional genomics approaches to study the endocrine and neuroendocrine systems of aquatic invertebrates, primarily sea urchin and crustacean species. Specifically, he investigates the function and evolution of hormonal and neurotransmitter signaling systems in the regulation of development and metamorphosis. He has presented his work at numerous invited national and international conferences, seminars and public lectures. Dr Heyland has over 60 citations including articles in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters and published abstracts. He also provides reviews for peer reviewed journals in the fields of developmental biology, evolution, cell biology, aquaculture, oceanography, limnology and experimental biology. Furthermore he serves as a reviewer for NSF, NIH and NSERC and several other international funding agencies.



Andreas on Twitter: aheyland


Andreas' Lab page:



Brian Husband

Brian Husband

My research and that of my lab group is focused on the ecology and genetics of plant populations. We study the mechanisms regulating genetic diversity and phenotypic evolution in plants, and, conversely, how evolutionary processes (drift, gene flow, adaptation, genetic diversity) affect the ecological function of populations (reproduction, growth, persistence, extinction). To understand these relationships we focus mainly on plant genetic systems, those reproductive attributes that govern mutation, gamete formation, pollination, fertilization, and organization of genetic diversity in populations.

Brian’s University of Guelph page:


Fred Laberge

Fred Laberge, Associate Professor

I am interested in evolution of the brain and how this organ controls behavior in vertebrates. Projects in my lab are often highly collaborative and typically include different aspects of animal anatomy, physiology, behaviour, and ecology. Recent research efforts relevant to BiRN have begun to unravel how plastic organs, such as the brain, are influenced by ecology and environmental factors in aquatic wildlife. We are also evaluating the potential of new indicators of health in aquatic wildlife.

Fred’s University of Guelph page:


Fred’s Lab page:


Jana Levison

Jana Levison, Assistant Professor

My primary research focus concerns groundwater resources. Several of my current projects have a strong emphasis on agricultural and climate change impacts on groundwater quality and quantity in sensitive aquifers. Other areas of research interest include: groundwater-surface water interactions and ecohydrology; source water protection; appropriate potable water approaches for marginalized communities; and fostering engineering and technological input into public discourse. Presently, I am a professional engineer and Assistant Professor in Water Resources Engineering at the School of Engineering, University of Guelph. I am also a part of the G360 Institute for Groundwater Research and Associate Editor for Hydrogeology Journal.

My undergraduate training is in Civil Engineering (environmental option) while my Ph.D. research was also in Civil Engineering with a hydrogeology focus (anthropogenic impacts on fractured bedrock aquifers). Following my Ph.D., I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Université du Québec à Montréal, working on multidisciplinary ecohydrological modeling related to climate change. In 2009-2010 I led engineering and public policy initiatives as the Junior Fellow and Acting Executive Director of the Ontario Centre for Engineering and Public Policy at Professional Engineers Ontario. I also worked at the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority on the Drinking Water Source Protection team.

Jana's University of Guelph page:


Hafiz Maherali

Hafiz Maherali

My lab’s research focuses on two distinct areas: First, we aim to understand the evolutionary causes of physiological variation in plants, particularly with respect to the ecophysiology of photosynthesis and water acquisition. By converting light into chemical energy, photosynthesis not only influences plant growth, but also sustains all other trophic levels. Our overall aim is to understand the the role of photosynthesis in plant adaptation to environmental resource variation, particularly limitations imposed by water stress. This work includes studies of natural selection on physiological traits as well as studies that link genome size and plant physiology.

Our second major goal is to understand the evolution and maintenance of the nutritional symbiosis between plants and mycorrhizal fungi. This interaction is widespread, taking place in up to 90% of all plant species on Earth. We study how mycorrhizal fungi influence the evolution of plant structure and function, and also seek to understand why the magnitude of the mutualistic benefit plants obtain from their fungal symbionts is so variable in the plant kingdom. Much of our ecological research is aimed at understanding how variation in mutualistic benefit among plant species influences diversity and productivity in plant communities.

Hafiz’s University of Guelph page:


Andrew MacDougall

Andrew MacDougall

My research focuses on the processes that determine the structure and function of plant communities, and how these processes are altered by the covarying impacts of global environmental change.


Andrew's University of Guelph page:


Andrew's Lab page:


Andrew McAdam

Andrew McAdam

My research group takes empirical approaches to understanding the evolution and ecology of wild organisms. Natural selection and evolution occur within an ecological context, so a major goal of our work is to examine the ecological circumstances associated with contemporary evolution. Humans represent an increasingly important component of the ecology of many wild organisms, but the direct and indirect effects of human activities on evolutionary change are still poorly understood. As a result, while we continue to investigate the process of evolution under relatively pristine conditions, we are also interested in the role of humans as a contemporary evolutionary force. Information on some ongoing projects is provided below.

Andrew’s University of Guelph page:


Andrew’s lab page:


Kevin McCann

Kevin McCann

Our lab focuses on the role biodiversity plays in structuring and governing ecological systems. The scientific approach is broadly based and employs a combination of theory, empirical and experimental analysis that requires a highly collaborative research program. Major breakthroughs in ecological understanding require that ecologists separated by traditional scientific divisions begin to communicate. Many of the systems that ecologists seek to understand do not strictly obey scientific boundaries (e.g., above-ground versus below-ground, aquatic versus terrestrial), while many of the phenomena of interest simultaneously merge population, community and ecosystem processes (now all largely disparate areas of ecological research). Taken together, our lab seeks to address three major scientific questions:

  1. What is the structure that underlies the biotic and abiotic components of ecosystems?
  2. Does this structure influence the stability, function and maintenance of diverse assemblages of species?
  3. Does this structure influence the way we manage biological resources?

Developing the answers to these important questions places society in a position to interpret how large-scale human perturbations impact the biodiversity and function of ecological systems. People in this lab range from being very mathematical to very field oriented; however, all overlap in that they are interested in developing conceptual advances in ecology.

Kevin’s University of Guelph page:


Kevin’s Lab page:


Rob McLaughlin

Rob McLaughlin

My research program is diverse, but the overarching theme involves using the movements of animals to assess the significance that individual behaviour has for the biology of populations and communities and, ultimately, biodiversity. In one main component, my students are using studies at the assemblage, population, and individual levels to examine changes in the biodiversity of stream fishes caused by in-stream barriers used to control sea lamprey in the Laurentian Great Lakes, the role of restrictions on movement in bringing about these changes, and methods of minimizing any change (e.g. improved trapping of sea lamprey and passage of other fishes). My position and this research are supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission to increase its science capacity.

In a second main component, my students are using 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 (resource polymorphism), and the creation of new biodiversity.

My research program has two, additional minor components. Several students have been and continue to conduct studies assessing the effects of agricultural practices on stream fishes. I, and now my students, also continue to examine basic research questions related to animal movement. Differences in the nature, approach, and subject matter of these components creates a unique and interesting combination of research opportunities that is rich biologically and intellectually, and creates a productive synergy in terms of addressing the overarching theme of my program.

Rob’s University of Guelph page:


Amy Newman

Amy Newman

Generally, I apply an integrative approach to combine field and laboratory techniques to examine the impact of a wide range of stressors using wild songbirds and small mammals as animal models. I investigate proximate and ultimate questions related to the effects of naturally relevant stressors at the molecular and neuronal level and how these effects translate to neuroendocrine development and function and, finally, the subsequent effects on adult neuroplasticity, behaviour and, fitness.

Stress and glucocorticoids have well-known effects on the development and function of the nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis affects a range of integrated biological processes including immune function, life-history and breeding biology, development and aging, and neurogenesis. Nonetheless, the mechanisms governing the interaction between the environment and phenotype remain elusive. A growing body of biomedical research suggests that the connection resides in the epigenome, a fundamental mechanism that connects genes and the environment and the emerging area of ecological epigenetics is one research focus of my lab.

One of my primary study systems is a long-term marked population of wild Savannah Sparrows on Kent Island in the Bay of Fundy. A key feature of this population is that individuals born on the island have relatively high rates of natal philopatry, providing the unique opportunity to examine multigenerational effects in the wild. Using this songbird model system, I am conducting eco-physiological studies and currently testing the effects of post-natal stressors and the early life environment on juvenile survival, HPA responsiveness in adulthood, and fitness.

I have also been collaborating with the Kluane Red Squirrel Project to experimentally induce prenatal stress on wild red squirrels in order to understand the long-term effects on the offspring HPA axis, behaviour and fitness. Understanding the mechanisms and long-term effects of early-life stress on individual physiology and behaviour in a natural context is paramount to predicting the consequences of stress exposure on wild populations.

Amy’s University of Guelph page:


Amy’s Lab page:


Jonathan Newman

Jonathan Newman

Research in my lab focuses on three, partially overlapping, research themes: (1) the biology of cool season grass – Epichloë fungal endophyte symbioses; (2) the biological impacts of climatic change; and (3) the ecology of invasive species. We use a blend of traditional experimental field and greenhouse work, molecular tools, and mathematical modeling.

Ryan Norris

Ryan Norris

Dr. Ryan Norris is an ecologist that conducts research in behaviour, population dynamics, conservation, and evolution of animals in seasonal environments, with a particular emphasis on migratory birds and butterflies. His research employs elements of both a strong empirical and conceptual approach. Dr. Norris’ highly productive lab is consistently in top notched journals and garners considerable media coverage including frequent appearances on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks. Dr. Norris’ lab uses these population level studies to understand and mitigate against the loss of key migratory species in a seasonal environment. Given that climate change is likely to fundamentally alter seasonality, his research program plays a key role in BiRN’s interest to understand and mitigate against the loss of iconic species like the Monarch butterfly.

Before arriving at the University of Guelph in 2006, Dr. Norris obtained a MSc from York University in 2000, a PhD from Queen’s University in 2004 and was an NSERC-Killam Memorial Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of British Columbia from 2004-2006. Since arriving he has received numerous awards for his successful research program including a University Research Chair in 2011 and being elected into the prestigious College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.

Ryan’s Lab page:


Ryan’s Publications:


Ryan Prosser

Ryan Prosser, Assistant Professor

Dr. Prosser is an environmental toxicologist. Dr. Prosser and his crew investigate the effect of chemicals on the structure and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem. Their research has focused specifically on the effect of agrochemicals (e.g., pesticides, biosolids-dervied pharmaceuticals) on aquatic and terrestrial systems in the agroecosystem. Dr. Prosser also has an affinity for the diverse assemblage of freshwater mussels that can be found in Southern Ontario and his group investigates factors that could be contributing to the decline of this imperiled group of aquatic invertebrates.  

Ryan’s lab page: www.wisdomofthemoose.com

Ryan's University of Guelph page:  https://www.uoguelph.ca/ses/people/ryan-prosser

Nigel Raine

Nigel Raine

Nigel’s Lab page: 


Beren Robinson

Beren Robinson

Where does biodiversity come from? What role does ecology play in the origins of different life forms? I ask these questions about ‘the life aquatic’ (no doubt fed by early Cousteau specials…), in order to understand how new types and species of fish have evolved in lakes that formed after the last glaciation about 12,000 years ago (in other words, most lakes in Canada…). While this seems a long time period, it is actually a mere ‘tick’ of the evolutionary or geological clock. The diversity of fishes in postglacial lakes is influenced by processes that occurred long ago in glacial refugia, more recently during dispersal across the postglacial ‘lakescape’, and most recently within the young lakes that I can swim in.

We have explored the role of species interactions (competitors, predators, and parasites), the affect of prey resources, niches and habitats (on the bottom, in the water column, or in vegetation…), and even abiotic conditions (basin topography?) on biodiversity in sunfishes, sticklebacks and walleye. I am very interested in the origins and consequences of diversity within single populations. Trophic polymorphism occurs when different types of individuals appear adapted to use different prey, habitats, or environments within a single population. Such systems are like time travel, giving us insights into the earliest stages of divergence that can lead to divergent populations and perhaps new species. Recently, we have been studying the role of phenotypic plasticity in the divergence of different forms in novel environments. Plasticity is the capacity of a single genotype to produce different phenotypes depending on environmental cues. We have found that the plastic responses to local conditions are one of the very first things to change during divergence. This raises interesting questions about the role of plasticity in evolution that will no doubt occupy us for years to come.

Beren’s University of Guelph page:


Neil Rooney

Neil Rooney, Associate Professor

I’m an ecologist by training and at heart. I’m fascinated by the way that ecosystems are structured, how they function and, importantly, how they respond to human perturbations. This genuine affection for ecology at the highest level has led me to study many different aspects of the discipline.  My graduate training began with an experimental approach to ecological problem solving, employing microcosms to test hypotheses regarding the relationship between nutrient resource ratios and phytoplankton community structure. Hot on the heels of that experience, I moved on to McGill University, where Robert Peters and Jaap Kalff led the empirical charge in ecology, championing pattern over mechanism in ecological hypothesis testing.  At McGill, I had the good fortune of meeting theoretical food web ecologist Kevin McCann (who subsequently moved to the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph), and we struck a deal that I would help him establish a field program if he could teach me food web theory.  This collaboration led to some very exciting theoretical and empirical studies (based out of Harkness Laboratory of Fisheries Research in Algonquin Park). Most recently, working with the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and Saugeen First Nation (collectively known as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation) and Steve Crawford (Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph), I have taken my research program in an applied direction.  As outlined below, my research now focuses on deriving and testing ecosystem and community level metrics for Environmental Assessments (EAs) in the Traditional Territories of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.

I now hold a five year contractually limited faculty appointment at the University of Guelph that commenced in September of 2009. The position is sponsored by the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations under the Saugeen Ojibway-University of Guelph faculty partnership. In this position, I have four major areas of responsibility, which are (1) management responsibilities for the Saugeen Ojibway Environment Office; (2) undertaking research related to environmental assessments (EAs) in the Traditional Territory of the Saugeen Ojibway; (3) undergraduate and graduate teaching, and; (4) advising graduate students’ research related to EAs. I maintain an office at the University of Guelph, and spend 80-90% of my time on campus. The other 10-20% (2-4 days per month) are spent in traditional territories of the Saugeen Ojibway.

Neil’s University of Guelph page:


Alex Smith

Alex Smith

The focus of my research program is to better understand the contemporary distribution of hyperdiverse, and often cryptic, species of insects across major ecological gradients in tropical and temperate environments. My program 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.

Species in high-elevation and high-latitude environments are being dramatically affected by climate change. While the largest amplitude changes are occurring in high-latitude locales – the most rapidly changing environments are tropical high-elevation communities. Here, it is hypothesised that long-term temperature stability has resulted in both high diversity and small species ranges – each highly vulnerable to the coming rapid changes in temperature and precipitation. It is often presumed, but rarely tested, that the highly stressful environment in which these tropical sky-island species live results in a strict filter on what branches of a regional phylogenetic pool will survive. While both biotic and abiotic factors interact to select the species found at any one location, the stress-dominance hypothesis predicts that with increasing environmental stress, the relative importance of environmental filtering increases and competition decreases. One method of testing this hypothesis is the use of phylogenetic community structure models. However, in a large-scale meta-analysis (Smith, in review) I have shown that, although intuitive, the expectation for phylogenetic clustering at high elevations is not always supported by data. From an ecological and evolutionary perspective, this reinforces how important it is to support intuition with data.

Much of my research program is based on elevational and disturbance gradients within the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG – http://www.acguanacaste.ac.cr/investigacion/investigaciones-de-largo-plazo/96-hormigas-del-acg-alex-smith. Two papers have already come out of this work (Smith et al 2013; Smith et al 2014), one is in review and a further four (with students as lead authors) are in preparation for review in 2014. Much of my research takes advantage of more than nine years of intensive (and ongoing) insect and climatological sampling conducted on three 1,500 m elevational transects in the ACG.

Alex’s University of Guelph page:



Alex’s Website:


Dirk Steinke

Dirk Steinke, Director of Research, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario

My research program involves questions, techniques and theory covering divergent components of evolution and biodiversity science by means of bioinformatics. One of my current projects can be best described as Multi-species Population Genetics/Genomics utilizing high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of taxon assemblages to test hypotheses relating to regional patterns of demographic stability, isolation, and admixture. This approach allows us to develop multi-taxa population genomic models to understand community assembly, colonization, and vicariance based on population-level sequencing data collected across entire taxonomic assemblages.

Another line of my research uses large data sets generated by HTS to address current challenges in Species Distribution Modelling using extended matrix regression models (e.g. generalized dissimilarity modelling) to analyse and predict spatial patterns of turnover in community composition. I am using data generated for two large-scale arthropod sampling programs (55 Provincial Parks in Ontario and agricultural sites in Ontario in collaboration with OMAFRA and the ALUS network) to predict spatial diversity and to combine metabarcoding results with ancillary information, such as trait data, to develop process-based models that can identify the functional composition at any location.

Dirk's University of Guelph page:https://www.uoguelph.ca/ib/steinke

Dirk's blog:http://dna-barcoding.blogspot.ca

Merritt Turetsky

Merritt Turetsky

I am an ecosystem ecologist broadly interested in plant ecology and biogeochemistry. Research in my lab centers on ecosystem analysis, with emphasis on the interactions between soil, water, plants, and the atmosphere that control biological communities and the cycling of nutrients. We use a variety of approaches, from large-scale manipulations to laboratory experiments and paleoecological reconstructions, to understand the resilience of plant communities and ecosystem processes to environmental changes. I am excited by integrative research questions that span levels of biological organization, particularly questions that explore the evolutionary, physiological, and ecological mechanisms that contribute to species controls on ecosystem processes.

We work on a variety of research issues including permafrost degradation and changing wildfire regimes that are important to global change and environmental policy arenas. However, lab members work on a diversity of topics that range from microbial and plant species controls on trace gas emissions to paleo-analysis of peat deposits.

Merritt’s University of Guelph page:


Merritt’s Lab page: