EEB Seminar – 3 December

This week, EEB presents Dr. Mick Smith of the Queen’s Departments of Philosophy and Environmental Studies. Dr. Smith will present:

Beatrix Potter and Ecological Community

What if our understandings of ecological community are not, and never have been just a matter of biology? What might it mean to think of ecological community as a term, a place, where scientific and philosophical, ethical, and socio-political understandings continually come into play, where the materiality of human history and the materiality of evolutionary history, and their various interpretations, are ineradicably entwined? Would such an understanding undermine ecology as a science? Would we just fall into a kind of curious admixture of the social and the natural better suited to Beatrix Potter’s stories?


Mick is jointly appointed between the Philosophy Department and the School of Environmental Studies here at Queen’s. He has a degree in Ecology from the University of York UK, where (many years ago) he was taught by, amongst others, John Lawton, Alistair Fitter and Mark Williamson – who, he would like to add, bear no responsibility for his turn to the philosophical dark side or his current state of ecological ignorance. He has a Master’s for work on the ecology of an obscure group of soil fungi and also one in Modern European Thought. He mis(spent) 4 years selling antiquarian books before completing a PhD at the University of Stirling, Scotland with the alluring title of “Humanism and Anti-humanism in Environmental Values”. He has since published lots of bizarre stuff at the intersection of ethics, politics, and the environment including papers in Environmental Ethics, Environmental Politics, The Trumpeter, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers etc. Among other books his favorites are An Ethics of Place: Radical Ecology, Postmodernity and Social Theory, (2001) SUNY and Against Ecological Sovereignty: Ethics, Biopolitics, and Saving the Natural World (2011) University of Minnesota Press. The material he will deliver today is part of work on an ongoing SSHRC Insight Grant entitled ‘Ethics, Politics, and Ecological Community’.

Host: Grogan

 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 – 26 November

This week EEB welcomes Queen’s Alumna (BSc, MSc) and current Queen’s Post-Doc, Dr. Sarah Yakimowski, who will present:

Ecology and evolutionary genetics of gender polymorphisms

Plants exhibit a variety of reproductive strategies, providing exciting opportunities to study the evolution of gender. The clonal aquatic plant Sagittaria latifolia is widespread in wetlands of North America, where it exhibits three gender morphs – female, hermaphrodite and male. These gender morphs coexist within populations in different combinations to form diverse sexual systems. This talk will explore how, and why, sex ratios vary geographically and test alternative origins for the coexistence of all three sex phenotypes within this single species.


Sarah completed her BSc and MSc at Queen’s Biology and has recently returned as a postdoc. The work in this talk was completed for her PhD at the University of Toronto, which was followed by a postdoc at UBC to study the role of hybridization on speciation.


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 – 19 Nov

This week, EEB welcomes Dr. Elyn Humphreys from Carleton to Kingston. Dr. Humphreys will present:

Arctic shrub impacts on climate feedbacks


There is evidence that deciduous shrub dominance is increasing in areas throughout the circumpolar Arctic. Changes in shrub cover, height and abundance will impact the energy and carbon exchange between the tundra surface and the atmosphere.  As a result, this form of surface ‘greening’ may have feedback effects on regional and global climate systems.  Over the past 6 years, we have measured carbon dioxide and latent and sensible heat fluxes at three closely located tundra sites representing a gradient in shrub cover in Canada’s Low Arctic. This talk will explore the results from this study, which highlight the complexity involved in predicting the net climate feedback effect of Arctic vegetation change. 

Elyn Humphreys is an Associate Professor at Carleton University in the Department of Geography & Environmental Studies.  She received her graduate degrees from the University of British Columbia studying the microclimatology and carbon cycle of Vancouver Island’s Douglas fir forests.  After her PhD she turned her attention to the energy and carbon budgets of wetlands and tundra ecosystems throughout Canada.

Host: Grogan


EEB Seminar – Nov 12

This week EEB welcomes Dr. Graham Whitelaw from Queen’s Department of Geography and Planning and the Department of Environmental Studies. Dr. Whitelaw will present:

Growing the Greenbelt in southern Ontario: Go big or go home!

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The past 40 years of land use planning in southern Ontario involved various innovations to natural heritage protection concepts and application. The results on the ground are impressive e.g.  environmentally sensitive area protection through Official Plans, Niagara Escarpment protection through the Niagara Escarpment Plan and Act, wetlands protection through the Wetlands Policy Statement, other significant natural area protection through the Provincial Policy Statement, Oak Ridges Moraine protection through the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and Act and countryside lands protection through the Greenbelt Plan and Act. The total land base with credible environmental protection policies in place in and around the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) area cover 1.8 million acres (728,434 hectares) mainly on private lands. Serious proposals generated through the ongoing Province of Ontario’s coordinated review of the Greenbelt plans and the Growth Plan for the GGH may potentially add an additional 1.5 million acres (607,028 hectares). I will present my perspective on the evolution of natural heritage planning in the GGH based on 25 years of land use planning research and practice.


Bio: Graham has over 25 years of experience in the land use and environmental policy fields, 10 of those with the Land Use Policy Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment. He also has extensive consulting experience providing services to government and the NGO sector and is an accomplished facilitator bringing innovation to the policy development process through public engagement processes. He completed his PhD in the School of Planning, University of Waterloo in 2006 and joined Queen’s University in 2007, and is currently a volunteer Director with the Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition and the Oak Ridges Moraine Foundation.

Host: Grogan / EEB

EEB Seminar – 5 Nov

This week, EEB & the Bonier lab host Dr. Andrew McAdam (Guelph), who will talk about:

Maternal effect evolution in wild rodents

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We all have a mother, and mothers often provide much of the early environment to developing offspring.  The importance of mothers is widely appreciated and officially celebrated on the second Sunday in May, but these maternal effects are also fascinating from ecological and evolutionary perspectives.  First, since maternal effects are experienced early in the life of their offspring mothers can have programming effects on offspring that persist into adulthood and even across generations.  Second, mothers sometimes have access to environmental cues of natural selection that their offspring will experience.  In this case, mothers can adaptively adjust offspring traits before their offspring experience those environments themselves.  Finally, maternal effects can themselves be heritable.  Maternal effect genes can provide an additional source of evolutionary potential, but since they act across generations maternal genes can lead to dramatic and sometimes counter-intuitive evolutionary responses to selection on offspring traits.  I will present work that my students and I have been performing on wild deer mice and red squirrels to better understand the importance of maternal effects to evolution in nature.

HOST: Bonier

EEB Seminar – Oct 29

This week, EEB features Dr. Stuart Campbell (Toronto), who will present:

Coevolution of plant reproduction and defence

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The shift from obligate outcrossing to self-fertilization represents one of the most frequent evolutionary transitions in flowering plants. This transition alters many important evolutionary and genetic processes, including loss of genetic diversity, the genome-wide strength of natural selection and demography. The ability to self-fertilize also opens novel avenues of adaptive evolution by allowing plants to colonize marginal, novel environments, and influencing interactions with pollinators and herbivores. However, the consequences of selfing for ecological adaptation remain relatively poorly understood. In this talk I will present results from my research on the ecological and coevolutionary interactions of plant mating systems, defence against herbivores, and pollination. I will discuss how unidirectional shifts to selfing have driven convergent evolution of defence strategies; how herbivores can influence the evolution of mating systems; how herbivore-induced plant responses can affect pollination success; and finally, how floral volatiles may evolve as a result of natural selection by herbivores, pollinators and mating system.

Host: Eckert

EEB Seminar – October 22

This week, EEB welcomes Dr. Ian Dworkin (McMaster) to Queen’s. Dr. Dworkin will speak on:

Genes, genomes and natural selection: how they shape complex traits

In evolutionary genetics, one central aim is to be able to predict aspects of trait evolution. At the very least this requires  an understanding of both how natural selection is acting on a trait, and the genetic architecture of that trait. This gets considerably more complicated when the trait in question is highly multidimensional. In this talk I will discuss our ongoing work to understand why the Drosophila wing is “wing shaped” from both a genetic and evolutionary perspective. Using a 58 dimensional representation of wing shape, I will summarize some of our work identifying the genetic variants that contribute to variation for this trait in natural populations. I will then discuss how natural selection can alter wing shape due to predation, and the potential role of correlated behavioural traits in response to the predators.