This week, we are pleased to welcome our own Drew Sauve.

Phenotypic plasticity drives phenological change in a declining Arctic colony of Black Guillemots


The ability of individuals to adjust phenology is predicted to be an important response to adapting to climate change. Changes in phenology could occur either through phenotypic plasticity or microevolutionary change. To date, few studies have investigated these processes in Arctic environments, where temperature is rising at a greater rate than the global mean. The speaker evaluated the contribution of phenotypic plasticity and microevolution to changes in phenology associated with annual variation in snowmelt and female breeding age over a 42-year dataset from an Arctic population of Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle mandtii). Overall, phenotypic plasticity was the driver of phenological change (egg-laying date) in the Black Guillemots. The speaker used an animal model to decompose the variance observed in laying date and annual fledging success into environmental and genetic components. Bivariate animal models were then used to estimate phenotypic, genetic, and environmental selection on laying date. A regression of the posterior distribution of breeding values for clutch initiation on time was used to determine if microevolutionary change contributed to the shift in egg-laying date. During the study period mean egg-laying date advanced 7.9 days, snowmelt advanced 5.8 days, and the average female breeding experience increased by 4.7 years. Earlier egg-laying was associated with experienced mothers, earlier snowmelt, and increased fitness. Individuals advanced egg-laying at different rates as they aged but responded similarly to variation in snowmelt. Individuals that laid earlier when they were young tended to have an increased annual fitness. Heritability of egg-laying date was low (h2 = 0.07[0.04-0.10]) and there was no evidence of microevolution contributing to the change in phenology. The results suggest that covariation between egg-laying date and fitness is driven by environmental, but not genetic factors. Consequently, phenological change in Black Guillemots is driven by phenotypic plasticity with limited potential for evolutionary change.



This week we are pleased to welcome Matthew Guzzo from the University of Manitoba.

Why do fish get smaller with warming?
A case study using long-term monitoring data from the Experimental Lakes Area, Canada


There exists ample evidence of the impacts of climate change on Earth ecosystems. The most well-known changes are advances in phenology (i.e. earlier spring flowering events) and shifts in species distributions towards higher latitudes and altitudes. More recently, researchers have proclaimed that declines in the adult body sizes of ectotherms, including fishes, represent a third universal response to warming. Despite this claim, only a handful of studies have provided evidence that wild fish populations are becoming smaller, while even fewer have identified the mechanisms behind these declines. In this talk, Matthew will use long-term monitoring data collected from a reference lake within the Experimental Lakes Area to show that a cold-water predatory fish, the lake trout, has underwent declines in adult body size over the past 30+ years. He will then discuss how observed changes in growth and size-structure of this fish population relate to changes in the thermal conditions of the lake experienced over this same period and describe how lake trout behaviorally respond to such changes in lake temperatures. Finally, he will discuss how the findings from this case study provide support (or lack thereof) for various hypotheses that have been proposed to explain why the size of adult fish is reduced with warming.

Matthew Guzzo is a PhD student (currently awaiting his thesis defence) in Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba, with supervisor Dr. Paul Blanchfield. Matthew’s thesis examines the impacts of climate change on temperate lake trout populations.

EEB Seminar: March 1

This week we are pleased to welcome our very own Bob Montgomerie.

Charles Darwin’s Finches and the Origin of (debate about) Species


This will be a three part presentation comprising (i) a brief historical overview of research on Darwin’s Finches, (ii) a summary of species definitions and why they matter, and (iii) a travelogue/slideshow from Bob’s trip to the Andes and the Galápagos just before Reading Week, where he presented a seminar on (i) and (ii) to alumni from a passel of universities.

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm.


This week we are pleased to welcome Rebecca Rooney from the University of Waterloo.

Herbicide use to control invasive Phragmites: efficacy, fate and effects


European Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. Ex Steud is an aggressive invasive wetland grass that is spreading steadily across Canada.  Over the last two decades it took over coastal marsh habitat on Lake Erie, endangering a dozen or more species at risk and threatening the ecological integrity of these Carolinian biodiversity hotspots. To control its expansion, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry carried out an unprecedented aerial application of Roundup Custom for Aquatic and Terrestrial Use Liquid Herbicide, under an emergency use permit issued by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. Between 2016 and 2017, this program applied herbicide to over 1000 ha of dense P. australis. Dr. Rooney, assistant professor at the University of Waterloo, has lead the environmental monitoring efforts around this marsh restoration program to evaluate 1) the efficacy of treatment in reducing the P. australis population and restoring native plant diversity, 2) the dispersal and degradation of glyphosate, and 3) the effects of the herbicide on the receiving environment.

Dr. Rebecca Rooney is a wetland ecologist, studying the effects of human and natural disturbances on community structure and dynamics in marsh ecosystems. An assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo, she has studied the effects of invasive Phragmites australis on the ecological integrity of Lake Erie coastal marsh since 2012.  She studies diverse taxa such as periphytic algae, vascular plants, aquatic macroinvertebrates, and wetland birds.  Her policy-relevant research program has informed wetland management and monitoring practices in Alberta and Ontario.

This special EEB seminar will take place this Wednesday in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:00-1:00 pm.

EEB Seminar: February 15

This week we are pleased to welcome our very own Robert Colautti.

Ecological genetics of invasive plants: Adaptive evolution, genetic constraints, and their ecological consequences

Invasive species establish and proliferate in new environments that can differ markedly the native range – for example, by escaping from ‘enemies’. Environmental changes alter natural selection regimes, which could result in rapid evolution of new adaptive genotypes. In contrast to native species, studies measuring quantitative genetic variation, natural selection, and local adaptation are rare for invasive species. Available data suggest that invasive species may benefit from fewer genetic and ecological constraints than native species. Invasions represent extreme demographic bottlenecks, but there has been little impact on population divergence for ecologically important traits. Generally, spatial autocorrelation in population divergence (e.g. geographical clines) has not been incorporated into studies testing adaptive divergence, complicating comparative studies. Studies of invasive species that apply established methods in quantitative genetics and evolutionary ecology are needed for understanding the role that rapid evolution plays in determining ecological winners and losers in the Anthropocene.

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm.


This week we are pleased to welcome Jenny McCune from Carleton University.

Rare plants and where to find them: the habitat, the landscape, and the landowners


Many of Canada’s species-at-risk are plants that grow in our most highly populated southern regions. Undiscovered populations of rare plants are undoubtedly growing unnoticed on private land, but surveying for new populations is time consuming and expensive – so how should we target the right places to search? In this talk, Jenny McCune will discuss her work using species distribution models to predict places with the right habitat for some of Canada’s rarest woodland plants. Her team has tested these models by searching over 200 woodland sites across southern Ontario. Their results show how the state of the landscape surrounding a local site, and sometimes the history of that landscape, can affect the accuracy of these models. They also tested whether land ownership has any effect on native plant richness, or the likelihood of finding rare plant species – with some surprising results. Finally, interviews and a national survey helped understand what landowners and other citizens know and feel about endangered species conservation.

J.L. McCune is an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biology Department at Carleton University. Her research is focused on understanding how plant communities change over the long term in response to human modifications of the landscape. She got her BSc from the University of Guelph, MSc in Ethnobotany from the University of Kent (U.K.), and PhD from the University of British Columbia. In between degrees, she worked as a plant ecologist in the Florida Keys, Oregon, Catalina Island, and Maryland.

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. This week’s talk will be followed by a pizza lunch outside the seminar room.


This week we are pleased to welcome Thomas Merkling from the Friesen lab.

Towards a better understanding of offspring sex-ratio variation in vertebrates


Ever wondered why Celine Dion has three sons and not any other combinations? Sex allocation theory considers the way parents invest in male and female functions according to their relative fitness benefits. Although successfully applied in parasitic wasps for instance, results remain equivocal in birds and mammals. During the talk, two main reasons underlying these inconsistencies will be addressed: the lack of knowledge on 1) the fitness benefits and costs of either sex and 2) the underlying mechanism(s) of sex-ratio biases. First, using a population of a seabird, the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), he investigated both differences in energetic costs and in fitness return between sons and daughters to then predict how offspring sex-ratio should be adjusted. Then, he did a meta-analysis to test for a ubiquitous role of maternal testosterone in sex-ratio biases across birds and mammals. To finish, he will address another remaining mystery: the evolution of environmental sex determination. Using a comparative approach across lizards, he will test the recent prediction that differences in sex-specific survival to maturity can lead to the evolution of temperature-dependent sex determination.

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm.