EEB welcomes Dr. Andrew McDougall, Associate Professor from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph:

Diversity-function relationships in the anthropocene

Andrew’s research tests how fundamental processes are altered by global scale environmental change with emphasis on plant, insect and freshwater fish communities.


Research suggests that diversity plays a critical stabilizing role against broad-scale human induced environmental change. The scale of this change is now global, relating to factors such as climate, nutrient pollution, and trophic collapse. These changes are predicted to affect many of the world’s fundamental biological processes. Diversity is predicted to buffer the effects of global change by stabilizing ‘services’ or ‘functions’, such as production and invasion resistance, via niche-based ‘trait-complementarity’. Yet the power of these stabilizing forces in human-transformed natural systems is poorly tested and potentially highly context-dependent. The stabilizing potential of diversity may be overstated. My talk will explore these issues, drawing upon research from my lab and with collaborators at a range of spatial resolutions from local to global.

HOST: Aarssen Lab

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.


This week EEB welcomes Drs. Colautti & Eckert as a double header with both speakers hailing from our own multifaceted Department of Biology.

Invasions and extinctions ‘through the looking-glass’ of evolutionary ecology.
Strong genetic differentiation but not local adaptation towards a geographical  range limit.

Speaker 1: Rob Colautti

Human activity is increasing rates of invasion and extinction, resulting in a homogenization of global biodiversity that may be mitigated by two distinct but complementary goals: (i) suppress long-term viability of invasive populations and (ii) increase population growth rates of endangered native species. Although eradication and enhancement are opposite conservation goals, invasions and extinctions represent two extreme outcomes along a single gradient of ecological success and therefore may be determined by the same core set of ecological and genetic factors. In other words, invasions and extinctions of closely related species may be like reflections in Lewis Carroll’s looking glass, with similar elements reflecting opposite realities. Both invasive and endangered species are challenged by strong demographic bottlenecks, hybridization with divergent lineages, and the demands of surviving and reproducing in novel and changing environments. Yet these common elements can lead to drastically different ‘realities’ or ecological outcomes, with invasive species expanding rapidly and endangered species spiralling towards extinction. Taking an eco-evolutionary perspective, I would like to discuss some of the key differences between invasive and endangered species that can account for the opposite ecological trajectories.

Speaker 2: Chris Eckert

The ecological and evolutionary mechanisms limiting species’ distributions are largely unknown. Stable range limits are expected if populations at the range edge have limited potential to adapt to extreme conditions. We tested this hypothesis by combining experimental transplants with population genetic analysis of the Pacific coast dune endemic Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia (Onagraceae). Contrary to expectations, fitness increased towards the limit with highest fitness at and beyond the range edge. Genetic diversity did not decline towards the limit nor was there evidence for gene swamping of edge populations. Together, these results suggest range limitation via dispersal constraints. However, only at the broadest scale did we detect evidence of local adaptation, and edge populations were not best suited for expanding beyond the species’ range. These results challenge the commonly held assumption that stable range limits match niche limits, and also raise questions about the value of peripheral populations for expanding species’ geographical ranges.


The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.


This week EEB welcomes Dr. Alexander Dececchi, a William White Postdoctoral Fellow from the Department of Geological Sciences, Queens University:

Up, Up and Away: How birds gained flight and took over the world


The evolution of birds and the origin of flight are two points of extreme interest both to the public and scientific community. Birds are derived theropod (meat eating) dinosaurs and represent the only living lineage of the group whose beginnings date back to around 230 million years ago. Powered flight is a rare occurrence in the history of life, evolving only three times within vertebrates (birds, bats and the extinct pterosaurs) and is suspected to have been a critical evolutionary novelty that has allowed birds to diversify and to colonize all corners of the world. Critical to determining how flight began is to understand the context in which it evolved. My work has been on looking at the ecological settings as well as how other factors such as body size and limb length have influenced the origin of flight. I will also discuss how by modeling flight and related behaviours in birds and their direct ancestors we can gain a greater understanding of how these creatures first got into the air.


I got my undergraduate degree here at Queen’s in Biology, doing an honours thesis under Dr. John Smol and Dr. Guy Narbonne of the Geology department. I then went to do my PhD at McGill University studying under Dr. Hans CE Larsson, in biology with a specialization in palaeontology. After that I moved on to do a postdoc at the University of South Dakota working with Dr. Paula Mabee. Currently I am William E. White Postdoctoral Fellowship in Geological Sciences here at Queen’s as well as a lecturer teaching Vertebrate Paleontology.


The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.


This week EEB welcomes George Divoky the Founder and Director of Friends of Cooper Island who will present:

Four Decades of Change:
An Arctic seabird responds to a warming Arctic

gjd holding BG joe2 reduced

Mandt’s Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle mandtii) is a true Arctic seabird, utilizing the marginal ice zone throughout the year and leaving the Arctic Basin only when ice cover is nearly complete in winter. Since 1975 the phenology, breeding success, diet and adult survival of the species has been studied annually at Cooper Island, in Arctic Alaska. Annual temperatures in the region have increased by >3°C during the study and the Cooper Island research has been able to document the response of an Arctic marine upper trophic level predator to the unprecedented changes occurring in snow and ice habitats in a warming Arctic.

HOST: Friesen

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.


This week EEB welcomes Dr. Christine Ward-Paige of Dalhousie University who will present:

Conservation beneath the waves – assessing aquatic ecosystem conservation needs and successes, and deploying a global network of citizen scientists


Many anthropogenic activities such as overfishing, climate change, pollution and habitat destruction stress aquatic ecosystems. Although conservation and management strategies are needed to protect and restore habitat, a lack of data is often cited as a reason for inaction. This is largely because aquatic ecosystems are difficult to census and contemporary ecosystem surveys often overlook a broad geographic and historical perspective. I use citizen science to survey and monitor freshwater and marine ecosystems at local and global scales. I couple those data with chemical analysis, fisheries surveys, bioindicator censuses, and remote sensing to understand the factors influencing ecosystem processes and to delineate conservation needs. These monitoring efforts are used to assess the effect of nutrient pollution on coral reefs, the need and effectiveness of restoration projects on watersheds and need for conservation strategies on marine ecosystems. These studies have been used to improve existing conservation efforts including sewage treatment, CITES listings, and marine sanctuaries.

HOST: Eckert

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.

EEB Seminar – 31 March

This week EEB welcomes Dr. Rowan Barrett of McGill University who will present:

The genomic consequences of adaptation


Climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances are forcing many natural populations to adapt to new environmental pressures, but the role of selection in shaping genome evolution is not fully understood. What factors explain variability in how far and fast adaptation proceeds? Two fundamental challenges are identifying the molecular basis of adaptive phenotypic variation and elucidating the evolutionary processes acting on this variation. We would like to know which genes and, in particular, which alleles produce diversity, and how natural selection influences this variation. In natural populations, putatively adaptive loci often have been identified using genome scans, which detect outlier loci with variation significantly different from neutral expectations. Yet, this approach has some limitations; for example, it cannot inform us about the mechanistic basis of selection, recombination can obscure signals of past selection, and it can be difficult to distinguish between patterns created by demographic versus selective forces. Experimental studies help clarify the genetics of adaptation by documenting the mechanisms and targets of selection that drive changes in allele frequency (the process) in ways that are not possible when investigating historical signatures of selection (the outcome). Here, I will describe manipulative experiments with deer mice, threespine stickleback fish, and Anolis lizards that directly estimate how selection impacts the genome as populations adapt to new environmental conditions. The results shed light on the pace of adaptive evolution in nature and improve our understanding of the functional connections between genotype, phenotype, and fitness.


The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.


This week’s EEB is a split session featuring two MSc candidates of the Queen’s University Department of Biology:

Part One – Megan Snetsinger, Lougheed Lab

Isolation of an endangered snake across a fragmented landscape

Negative impacts of human activities on natural systems are pervasive.
Human 20150609_140954development has been linked with biodiversity loss worldwide through the fragmentation of native habitats, resulting in reduced genetic diversity and small population sizes, and ultimately threatening species persistence. Understanding and mitigating these effects are important themes in conservation biology. My MSc research will focus on how anthropogenic factors have impacted the Butler’s Gartersnake, a species that in Canada is found only in southwestern Ontario, where much of the available land has been converted for agriculture. Using DNA microsatellite data, I have quantified genetic population structure in Ontario populations, with the ultimate goal of analysing how current landscape features relate to population connectivity and dispersal. I have also compared genetic patterns in this marsh/prairie habitat specialist with the more widespread Eastern Gartersnake, to better understand how different life histories shape genetic diversity and distributions. My findings will help guide conservation efforts for the Butler’s Gartersnake.

 Part Two – Dan McCarthy, Tufts Lab

Interactions between Angling and Invasive Species on Nest-Guarding Black Bass in Lake Ontario

Round Gobies were first documented in the St. Clair River in 1990, and since have spread throughout the Great Lakes faster than any other previous invasive fish. Now, Round Gobies pose a significant threat to many native species. They are a known predator of Bass eggs, and recent concern has been raised about changes in the recreational angling season and Black Bass recruitment in Lake Ontario. It is important to characterize the effect that Round Gobies have on both Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass in this region to make informed management decisions conserving the health of this recreational fishery.
Dan Wet Suit

HOST: Lougheed / Tufts 

The EEB Seminars run weekly, on Thursdays, in the EEB Lounge of the BioSciences Complex, Room 4338, from 12:30-1:30pm. Light refreshments are served starting at 12:15.