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



Sustainable farming in an interconnected world

June 5, 2020 —   Recently, UofG professor Kevin McCann published an article, "How we're turning local environmental problems into global issues by engineering nature", in The Conversation. In the article, McCann looks at how certain agricultural processes are causing negative externalities on a global scale, for example run-off from farms leading to ecological "dead zones" caused by algae build-up in water bodies. Ultimately,...

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Supply chains, coronavirus and the food dilemma

March 23, 2020 — Supply chains, coronavirus and the food dilemma   In the past few weeks, the rapid spread of coronavirus (covid-19) has impacted human health and simultaneously disrupted the global economy. The coronavirus started in China, before spreading to Europe and the Middle East, and has now become a full-fledged pandemic. As people take shelter in their homes, governments around the world...

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Seafood and Market Misinformation

January 24, 2020 — Seafood and Market Misinformation Not long ago, Drs. Tim Bartley and Robert Hanner were discussing the dream of producing a globally sustainable seafood market in a time when fraudulent activity and lack of market information seems rampant (i.e., both species and the geographical origin of species are obscured in the seafood market). After reading Dr. Bartley’s thesis on aquatic food web structure...

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