Welcome to The Biodiversity Resilience Network

Our mission is to drive the scientific advances needed to understand and protect biodiversity and ecosystem resilience in a rapidly changing world. 


The University of Guelph has developed a stronghold in biodiversity, from DNA barcoding and organismal physiology to whole ecosystem processes. The Biodiversity Institute of Ontario  at the University of Guelph is a world leader in developing barcoding as a technique to catalog global biodiversity. However, biodiversity, like any system, is more than the parts themselves, and the maintenance of biodiversity and its functions depends intimately on the structure of all its components or "biostructure".  More specifically, biostructure is the structure behind biodiversity that arises at all levels of biological organization including genetic structure, population structure, community structure, spatial structure, and food web/ecosystem structure.

The Biodiversity Resilience Network [BiRN] is a group of researchers that collectively seek to understand how global change is impacting the underlying biostructure across all levels organization, as it is this biostructure that maintains the resilience of the ecosystem functions we rely on.

The network was established in fall 2017 and is currently in the development phase. Its main focus is to promote collaborative research projects among scientists at the University of Guelph in the areas of DNA, physiology, behaviour, populations, communities, and whole biogeochemical cycles as well as socioeconomic considerations.



Biodiversity: the variety of living organisms, from genes to species through to broader scales such as terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Resilience: the capacity of a population/community of organisms or an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly.

Research Overview

The BiRN group comprises a number of researchers collectively attacking various problems. For individual research initiatives please see the People, Research Publications, and Research Spotlight pages.  Described below is one of the main ongoing collaborative projects involving multiple BiRN members.

Food from Thought

In 2014, the World Resources Institute Report (WRIR) stated that the rising population, projected to be 9.6 billion people by 2050, demands that society find the solution to the simultaneous “balancing act” of three central global problems: (i) society must produce far more food, and quickly (the agricultural problem); (ii) society must provide economic opportunities for the hundreds of millions of rural poor (the socio-economic problem), and; (iii) society must reduce environmental impacts, including ecosystem degradation, nutrient imbalances, and high greenhouse gas emissions. (the ecological problem).  The nature of these three central problems is that they are embedded within one another such that solutions require simultaneous consideration by a multi-disciplinary group. In the next 7 years, the Biodiversity Resilience Network (BiRN), one axis of the Food for Thought (FFT) research team, seeks to develop greater understanding of the trade-offs, and therefore potential solutions, to these critical global problems.

This University of Guelph initiative funded in part by a $77 million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), seeks to understand how food production can be both productive and sustainable and is directed at creating precision agriculture that efficiently uses nutrients and land. By sustainable, we mean that the development of food security is done in a manner that does not impede or harm biodiversity and associated ecosystem services on farms and in adjacent aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.  This research includes over 25 BiRN principal investigators and we will look to draw on even more funding to push this globally important food security initiative forward. This research also importantly includes collaboration with over 50 people on campus from various backgrounds, simultaneously looking at the agricultural, economic and ecological problem. See the Food Institute at the University of Guelph for further information on the other aspects of this research.


Research Spotlight



Genetic diversity of southern Ontario fish: Research by new University of Guelph professor Dr. Elizabeth Mandeville

May 27, 2019 — Photos (clockwise from top left): Dr. Mandeville and other researchers in Dr. Catherine Wagner's lab at the University of Wyoming; North Fork Shoshone River in Shoshone National Forest; Dr. Mandeville and researcher paddling on the North Fork Shoshone River. All photos taken during Dr. Mandeville's PhD at the University of Wyoming.   The basic mechanism of hybridization, two species exchanging genes with...

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Sea lamprey 2

Sorting out sea lampreys in the Great Lakes

March 25, 2019 — by Harry Seely, BSc student Atlantic sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) are an invasive species in the Laurentian Great Lakes and since their introduction, have required significant management and control practices to reduce their impact on native fish communities.  Lamprey are parasitic organisms that attach to a host fish and feed on its body fluids. Sea lamprey are native to the...

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Taking biodiversity monitoring to the next level: Environmental DNA as a predictor of aquatic organism abundance

January 11, 2019 — Taking biodiversity monitoring to the next level: Environmental DNA as a predictor of aquatic organism abundance January 11, 2019 By Danielle Bourque, M.Sc. Student Left photo: For this experiment, it is important to prevent the target organism, Daphnia magna, from landing on the environmental DNA (eDNA) capture filter. Here, Limnotron water samples are vacuum filtered initially  through a 40 micron mesh to remove D. magna and their eggs from the...

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