Lead Researchers


Andrew Hendry

Andrew Hendry
Program director
Redpath Museum, McGill University
Websiteandrew.hendry [at] (email)


Chris BuddleChris Buddle
Department of Natural Resources Science, McGill University
Websitechris.buddle [at] (email)


Andy Gonzalez

Andrew Gonzalez
Department of Biology, McGill University
Websiteandrew.gonzalez [at] (email)


Frédéric Guichard

Frédéric Guichard
Department of Biology, McGill University
Websitefred.guichard [at] [at] (email)


Tanya Handa

Tanya Handa
Department of Biology, UQAM
Websitehanda.ira_tanya [at] (email)


Steven Kembel

Steven Kembel
Department of Biology, UQAM
Websitekembel.steven_w [at] (email)


Christian Messier

Christian Messier
Department of Natural Sciences, UQO
Websitechristian.messier [at] (email)


Alain OlivierAlain Olivier
Department of Phytology, Université Laval
WebsiteAlain.Olivier [at] (email)


Catherine PotvinCatherine Potvin
Department of Biology, McGill University
Websitecatherine.potvin [at] (email)


Colin Scott
Department of Anthropology, McGill University
Website, colin.scott [at] (email)


Daviken Studnicki-GizbertDaviken Studnicki-Gizbert
Department of History and Classical Studies, McGill University
Websitedaviken.studnicki-gizbert [at] (email)


Panama Partners

Andrew Altieri
Research Scientist
Rachel Collin
Research Scientist
Hector Guzman
Research Scientist
Jefferson Hall
Research Scientist
Allen Herre
Research Scientist
Owen McMillan
Research Scientist
Rachel Page
Research Scientist
Mark Torchin
Research Scientist
Ben Turner
Research Scientist
Joseph Wright
Research Scientist


CoastEcoTimber logo



Alana Husby





More to come!


Other Partners

Some of our key partners include:




More to come!

Current students

José Avila Cervantes
Evolutionary patterns of a widely distributed species: American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus

My research project will investigate different states of the speciation continuum in Crocodylus acutus populations in its range of distribution.  To make this project possible I am collaborating with different research institutes and researchers in Latin America and Canada.I will integrate genetics, climate and geography to 1) Suggest patterns of evolution for widely distributed species; 2) Analyze the effects of environmental and geological events in widely distributed species; 3) Recognize the genotypic effects of environment and geology on Crocodylians; 4) Understand the factors that affect the distribution of the American Crocodile 5) Propose conservation strategies considering the evolutionary history of the species. This is the first high-resolution study of any crocodile species looking for speciationusing genetics, morphology, geography and environment.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology 
Supervisor: Dr. Hans Larsson. RedPath Museum, McGill. Canada
Co-supervisor: Dr. Enrique Martínez Meyer. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México

Lèa Blondel

The role of host-parasite interactions in dispersal steps of natural populations of the guppy Poecilia reticulata

Dispersal is the main mechanism leading to gene flow, and its study helps to understand evolution of populations. However, there are many ways in which dispersal can be influenced, either by the organism itself (condition-dependant) or by its environment (context-dependant). The causal factors that affect it are numerous and still misunderstood in nature. On the other hand, there is more and more evidence of parasite-mediated selection on natural populations. Parasites can have negative effects on several life history traits like growth or reproduction, which can also impair movement and dispersal of individuals. For my PhD thesis, I will focus on the role of host-parasite interactions on dispersal and try to examine the consequences of being parasitized at different stages of dispersal. To study such questions, I will use the guppy Poecilia reticulata and its ectoparasite Gyrodactylus sp. from natural populations located on the northern mountain range of Trinidad.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Andrew Hendry. RedPath Museum, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Marilyn E. Scott. Institute of Parasitology, McGill. Canada.

Holy Cronin
Untangling the dynamics of institutional innovation in the Burgeoning seaweed aquaculture sector

My research interests focus on relationships between human communities and marine environments with an aim to contribute to improving opportunities for sustainable development in coastal regions. As a doctoral student, my work investigates emerging seaweed aquaculture industries as dynamic social­-ecological systems. Seaweed farming represents a promising avenue for economic diversification in coastal communities while providing locally beneficial ecosystem services. Cultivation of seaweeds on ropes in the ocean requires no fresh water, arable land, or fertilizer and seaweed crops sequester carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus as they grow. To develop sustainably, the sector must navigate a mix of scientific, farming, entrepreneurial, market, and policy challenges. Successful emergence of environmentally sound regional seaweed industries thus requires thoughtfully customized and innovatively structured support. Using a mixed methods approach, my research examines the roles of leaders, social networks, and policy design in shaping the evolution of innovative new seaweed industries in Panama and the United States with the objective of distilling lessons for how to organize and channel coastal resources management and the development of sustainable industries more broadly.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Geography. 
Supervisor: Brian E. Robinson, Department of Geography, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Stanley Heckadon-Moreno and Ana Spalding

Nicole Knight
Functional diversity of herbivores in marine ecosystems

Herbivory is an integral component of nearly all ecosystems; it strongly influences the standing stock and diversity of plants, and permits the transfer of biomass from primary producers to higher trophic levels.  I’m interested in the foraging and digestive strategies employed by herbivores to maintain an energetically profitable plant-based diet, and how these strategies may be constrained by latitude and temperature.  I will be investigating this issue through my field work in Bocas Del Toro (Panama) as well as by building models and conducting meta-analyses of existing data.  I hope to apply this work to enhance our understanding of controls on species distributions, and how ecosystems respond to heat stress.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Frederic Guichard, Department of Biology, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Andrew Altieri, STRI. Panama.

Ananda Martins
Hybrid speciation in Brazilian Heliconius butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Patterns of biodiversity and mechanisms involved in these patterns are some of the most fascinating evolutionary aspects to be studied. Recent genomics technology combined with morphological data allows us to shed light on the processes that govern diversification, as hybridization. The famous biologist Henry Water Bates studied Heliconius butterflies in the Brazilian Amazon and recognized the existence of intermediate phenotypes of two butterflies’ populations, proposing these were transition forms of two species – Heliconius melpomene and H. thelxiope. Nowadays these are treated as subspecies of H. melpomene and I intend to use these butterflies to test the hybrid speciation hypothesis in the same area Bates studied. Therefore, my main research questions are: a) is the north of Brazil a hybrid zone of Heliconius butterflies? b) Are the intermediate forms observed by Bates hybrids of H. melpomene melpomene and H. melpomene thelxiope?

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Rowan Barrett, Redpath Museum, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Owen McMillan, STRI. Panama/ James Mallet, Harvard. USA.

Betzi Pérez
Population Structure and dynamic of humpback whales along the Pacific coast of Panama

My research is focused in obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the structure and dynamic of the humpback whales population in the Panama Pacific waters, the final destination for many whales coming from the Northern and Southern Hemisphere during their respective wintering season. For my research, I will combine photo-identification and genetic techniques, year-round, to complete the following objectives: 1) investigate the distribution and habitat use of the whales related to physiographic variables and assess the biological factors such as behavior and group composition to evaluate the importance of some areas along the Panama Pacific relative to other areas occupied by humpback whales, 2) determine the identity of the population and migratory behavior and evaluate the hypothesis that there is a temporal overlap and potential mix between the North and South Pacific populations, and 3) estimate the population size and structure of humpback whales across the Pacific of Panama.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Andrew Hendry, Redpath Museum, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Laura May-Collado, Universidad Maritima Internacional de Panama. Panama.

Jonathas Rodríguez Pereira
Disentangling the factors that influence the evolution of sexual selection

I am looking at to which extent genetically and ecologically divergent populations of the Trinidadian guppy (Poecilia reticulata) are reproductively isolated. Specifically, I am interested on which traits play a role in such process and whether female preference and male sexually selected traits relates to ecological and genetic divergence, and whether those factors influence the likelihood of diverging populations to fuse if they have the chance to freely interact. Overall, I investigate the evolution of reproductive isolation by means of assortative mating. Because, assortative mating might ultimately pave the way towards speciation, my research will potentially contribute to the understanding of how biological diversity arises.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Andrew Hendry, Redpath Museum, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Dawn T. Phillipp, UWI. Trinidad.

Andrew Sellers
Effect of upwelling derived nutrient-subsidies on algal-herbivore interactions in tropical intertidal communities

Flows of materials and organisms across ecosystems can deliver resource subsidies that influence community structure and trophic interactions in recipient communities; understanding the ecological consequences of resource subsidies is an important avenue of research in ecology. Marine upwelling events transport nutrient-rich water to coasts, and support areas of exceptional productivity. Those subsidies can have indirect consequences for herbivores, and influence algal-herbivore interactions. While the consequences of upwelling are well studied on temperate coasts, little is known regarding their effects on tropical coasts, where strong herbivory is thought to regulate algal abundance. Further, upwelling can increase both planktonic and benthic productivity, which support a functionally diverse assemblage of herbivores, including filter-feeders and benthic-grazers. The goal of my research is to understand how upwelling events influence algal-herbivore interactions in tropical intertidal communities in Panama, and determine whether herbivores with different traits and feeding strategies respond differently to upwelling events.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology 
Supervisor: Brian Leung, Department of Biology, McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: Mark Torchin, STRI. Panama

Andréanne Lavoie
Conservation of agrobiodiversity in shaded cacao systems in Peru

My study will contribute to deepen the knowledge on biocultural diversity by focusing on the links between agrobiodiversity and cultural diversity in shaded cacao systems in Peru. Specifically, I will examine the impacts of those systems on: A) the agrobiodiversity conservation within the cacao value chain, and B) the creation and transmission of knowledge and know-how, and the maintenance of agricultural livelihoods. This work will be carried out in collaboration with Bioversity International (BI), a research institution affiliated to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), who is closely involved on those issues. My research project will provide a better understanding of the potential of agroforestry as biocultural refuge.

University: Laval
Program: PhD in plant biology 
Supervisor: Alain Olivier, Department of plant science, Université Laval. Canada
Co-Supervisor: To be determined

Heather Stewart
Role of red mangrove Rhizophora mangle as a foundation species in determining biodiversity

Currently, our understanding of patterns and processes that influence adjacent habitats, movement corridors, community structure and biodiversity in mangroves is somewhat limited. To address these deficiencies, we can apply the theoretical framework of seascape ecology, which focuses on the interacting processes among marine landscapes (e.g., coral and sea grass) and predictions of ecological, life-history, and biodiversity patterns. By looking at factors affecting connectivity between mangroves and adjacent habitats, restriction of movement of fishes, and distribution of sessile fauna (e.g., mollusks, tunicates, sponges), this void can begin to be filled. My overall goal is to use red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) as a model to understand how landscape-scale structure of biogenic habitats determines patterns of biodiversity. I am doing this by exploring the abiotic and biotic factors influencing mangrove community biodiversity through field survey, correlation, and experimental manipulation across a latitudinal gradient from Panama to Florida.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology
Supervisor: Lauren Chapman, Department of Biology, McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: Andrew Altieri, STRI. Panama

Chloé Debyser
Linking biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a fragmented forest of the Brazilian Amazon

Continuous forests around the world are gradually being replaced by mosaics of small, isolated forest patches. Evidence suggests that such habitat fragmentation is altering the environmental conditions and species composition of forest ecosystems, notably causing important biodiversity losses. My research seeks to understand whether shifts in species composition following the creation of forest edges and forest conversion are altering the functional diversity of tropical tree communities. I further explore the implications of these changes in diversity for the functioning of rainforest ecosystems, including their productivity, carbon storage capacity, and nutrient cycling efficiency. To do so, I will be conducting field surveys at the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project (BDFFP), a long-term forest fragmentation experiment located in the Brazilian Amazon. Measurements of leaf functional traits and nutrient cycling parameters (litter fall, litter quality, microbial functional diversity, and soil quality) will be combined with existing census data to gain a historical perspective of diversity – ecosystem functioning relationships at the BDFFP. Understanding the whole-ecosystem consequences of large-scale forest fragmentation in Amazonian rainforests will be key to the conservation of this immensely valuable ecosystem.

University: McGill
Program: MSc in Biology
Supervisor: Andrew Gonzalez, Department of Biology, McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: José Luís Camargo, INPA. Brazil

Ivon Vassileva
Trade-offs in social and individual learning in Trinidadian guppies

Although social learning has long been investigated in various taxa and across various contexts, the underlying mechanism is currently understudied. I am interested in investigating whether social and individual learning share the same underlying cognitive mechanisms, through manipulations of behavioural experiments. The main study subject will be the Trinidadian guppy, Poecilia reticulata, as they exhibit sophisticated social behaviours and have been shown to selectively use socially available information in different contexts. Knowing the mechanisms and specializations of social learning will be beneficial for studying the fitness consequences of the possible mechanisms, establishing the costs of benefits of any specializations as well as determining the distribution and impact of social learning through the evolution of these mechanisms.

University: McGill
Program: MSc in Biology
Supervisor: Simon Reader, Department of Biology, McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: Rachel Page, STRI. Panama

Catherine Éva Ruest Bélanger
On the path to community forest conservation: Mapuche visions of a national park project

My research project focuses on forest governance by indigenous communities. More specifically, I am interested in the different challenges surrounding community governance, and in different strategies that can help facilitate such projects. To explore this subject, I have adopted a participatory approach, working with Mapuche communities in Chile to help them express their visions for the governance of the Villarrica National Park. This protected area, which encompasses volcanoes and millennium trees, has always been important in the culture of the surrounding indigenous communities, and the idea is to find ways to express and ensure this link through an increased participation of local communities in the management of the park. This project is realized in collaboration with the Instituto Forestal de Chile (INFOR). 

University: Laval
Program: MSc in Forest Sciences
Supervisor: Nancy Gélinas, Laval. Canada
Co-Supervisor: René Reyes, INFOR. Chile.

Gabriel Yahya Haage
Testing Models of Lake Ecosystem Integrity and Water Partitioning

Lake systems offer many Ecosystem Services and their degradation is a grave concern.  This can result from human activities, including mining, mass agriculture and damming.  The ability to predict when a lake is being stressed and how this can affect the availability of Ecosystem Services is vital to understand. Interestingly, while many different models address this issue, explicitly or implicitly, they stem from different sectors of society and use different frameworks.  They can include social, economic and ecological information.  This project seeks to compare several such models.  This requires the collection of various types of data, and the use of several data collection methods.  My focus is on lakes in Canada and Panama, and I am predominantly interested in cases involving indigenous populations, as they are often not considered in such models.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Natural Resources Science
Supervisor: Peter G. Brown, NRS, McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: TBD

Javier E. Ibarra Isassi
Using functional traits to understand community structure patterns and their impact on ecosystem functioning

Using a trait-based approach to understand community structuring and their effect on ecosystem functions has been a crucial topic in ecology for the past decades. Although functional traits of plants have been extensively studied in the context of community assembly and ecosystem functioning, those of animals remain poorly understood. First, there is no general consensus regarding which traits are most relevant for animals in either context. Second, this lack of consensus hampers animal ecologists from asking important questions about the drivers of community structure and ecosystem functioning on a global scale.  Due to the ubiquity of ants in terrestrial ecosystems, many studies highlight them as being ecosystem engineers, thus playing a key role in many ecosystem functions (directly or indirectly). In my research, I am (1) identifying morphological and life history traits that play a key role in community structuring and ecosystem functioning, (2) asking how these traits vary along broad scale environmental gradient, and (3) asking how changing the diversity of these traits in a community affect important ecosystem functions. More specifically, I am exploring whether ant traits follow any predictable patterns along environmental gradients, while also evaluating if the difference in functional composition influences arthropod community structure and, in turn, ecosystem functioning. To do this, I will be conducting field surveys with a standardized protocol along different environmental gradients. These field measurements will be complemented with existing global databases to expand my research to broader scales. With this study, I expect to expand our understanding of how the diversity of functional traits relate to the environment and structure communities, providing grounds to understand the mechanisms underpinning the link between animal functional diversity with ecosystem functions. Linking functional diversity patterns to ecosystem functions is key to developing better tools for the conservation of species beyond their taxonomical importance.

University: Concordia and UQAM
Program: PhD in Biology
Supervisor: Jean-Philippe Lessard, Concordia University, Canada; Ira Tanya Handa, UQAM, Canada.
Co-Supervisor: TBD

Camilo Gomez
The Value of the Sacred: Extraction of Natural Resources in Indigenous Territories. Culture, Spirituality, and Conflict in the Colombian Amazon

My investigation seeks to challenge assumptions about the separation of material from sacred aspects of indigenous territory in the Colombian Amazon, as resource extractive corporations and the State conceive it. Therefore, in order to explore human and other-than-human associations, my study examines current and historic relationships with extractive industries along with theories of Communicative Action, Social Construction of Knowledge, Political Ontology and the indigenous premise of Buen Vivir (Living Well), in the Colombian Amazon rainforest.

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Anthropology
Supervisor: Colin Scott. Department of Anthropology. McGill. Canada
Co-Supervisor: Margarita Serje. Universidad de los Andes. Colombia.


Lotte H Skovmand
Spatial and temporal correlations in gut microbiomes of the howler monkey (Alouatta caraya).

All multicellular organisms contain abundant and diverse microbiota, such as bacteria, archaea, fungi, and viruses, that can be beneficial to their host. A recent perspective proposes that host-microbe relationships should be studied as one entity, as their interaction with one another is crucial for adaption to changing environments. Specifically, variations in microbial communities are suggested to affect host fitness. My research investigates such diversity variations in gut microbiota of wild howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya). I am interested in how the external environment affects gut microbiome composition through diet, habitat changes, and species interactions. I also want to measure possible correlations between herbivore gut microbiota and plant communities, such as whether the microbiome correlates with diversity of plant secondary compounds. Finally, I hope to reveal spatial and temporal patterns that might further explain the role of host-microbe symbioses as a unit of selection. The project is carried out in collaboration with Estación Biológica Corrientes (EBCo) in Corrientes, Argentina.

University: McGill University
Program: PhD in Biology
Supervisor: Andrew Hendry, Redpath Museum, McGill, Canada
Co-Supervisor: Martin Kowalewski, Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, Argentina

Angelly Vasquez-Correa
Origin of caste polymorphism in fungus-farming ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae: Attine)

In social Hymenoptera (Ants), the complexity of caste systems is marked by three major thresholds: the evolution of eusociality, the evolution of worker-queen dimorphism, and the evolution of polymorphic worker castes. Worker caste polymorphism in ants is a particular case of phenotypic plasticity because it is environmentally induced and its expression is regulated during development. My research is focusing on worker polymorphism of tropical ants as new model organisms to understand the diversification of a single worker caste into a complex system of morphological and behavioral subcastes. Specifically, my research examines the origin of caste variation in the polymorphic species of leaf-cutter ants and big-headed ants from an integrative framework, combining tropical ecology, phylogenetic comparative methods, and developmental biology.

University: McGill University
Program: PhD in Biology
Supervisor: Ehab Abouheif, Department of Biology, McGill, Canada
Co-Supervisor: William Wcislo and Owen McMillan, STRI, Panama

Marc-Olivier Beausoleil
The impact of anthropogenic activity on the evolution of Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands 

In order to understand how new species form through evolutionary processes in natural populations, I look at three key points: 1. how the unique morphology (e.g., the width of a bird’s beak) of individuals differentiate from each other because of divergent natural selection, 2. how the populations become reproductively incompatible, and 3. a genetic cause linking the phenotypes under divergent selection and the limit of reproduction between species. Using a long-term dataset of Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands, I am linking these factors using a genotype-phenotype-fitness map. I use Mark-recapture models to infer the relationship between advantageous morphological variation and survival, a measure of Darwinian fitness. Next, I will use cutting edge molecular techniques to find the association between the morphology of the finches and genetic variation at the level of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). I will pursue this objective in two different sites: a natural site and a site influenced by human activity. By doing so, I will be able to test the effect of anthropogenic disturbance on the evolution of these species. Understanding the genetic basis of adaptive divergence will help to develop predictive models of the impacts of global change on the evolution of organisms. On the Galápagos alone, tourism is a major industry and human populations are increasing at a high rate. However, some islands are not colonized by humans and are reserved as protected areas. This mix of island types (human-affected and undisturbed) thus provides an excellent system to study the impact of human populations on the evolution of organisms. 

University: McGill
Program: PhD in Biology. 
Supervisor: Rowan Barrett, Redpath Museum, McGill. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: Owen McMillan, STRI. Panama

Daniel Schöning
Modelling forests as complex social-ecological systems

As human impact on the planet is rapidly increasing, forest governance and management more than ever face the difficult task of combining a multitude of different needs and objectives. This requires a more detailed understanding of how different functions are related to each other, and how trade-offs and synergies are generated. Conceptualizing forests as complex adaptive systems contributes to a bottom-up understanding of multifunctionality and, consequently, ecosystem service relationships. This understanding is required for novel management approaches that not only acknowledge but also take advantage of the inherent complexity of forested landscapes. More specifically, it allows interventions that not only respond to ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies present wihin a landscape, but that actively shape the relationships between services and influence the composition of ecosystem service bundles. In addition, a complex adaptive systems perspective on multifunctionality explicitly takes into account uncertainty as an inherent property of forests. This further integrates with management approaches that explore a range of possible future scenarios, and that account for imperfect knowledge about a forest system's current state and its direction of change.
Two multiple-use forests in Québec and Panama will serve as case studies to model social-ecological interactions. Bayesian networks will be used as a modelling tool to include available qualitative and quantitative data, as well as expert and stakeholder knowledge.

University: UQAM
Program: PhD in Forest Sciences
Supervisor: Christian Messier, UQAM/UQO, QC. Canada
Co-Supervisor: TBD

Chris Madsen
How Above- and Below-Ground Neighbourhood Interactions Between Trees Vary with Species Diversity and Soil Nutrient Availability

This project seeks to add a novel dimension to Neighbourhood Interaction Theory by exploring how trees’ root systems are affected by the identity and size of neighbour trees. First, I hypothesize that species possess root systems of different average radii. Second, I hypothesize that a focal tree’s root system will be larger if its neighbours are heterospecific or smaller, and will be smaller if its neighbours are conspecific or larger. The 2017 data-harvest of Sardinilla, Panama, enabled this project with its root data of 128 trees, which consist of number, bearing and diameter of all roots exposed in a 50-cm radius around the tree’s stem. The total length and distance to neighbour trees was recorded for one root per harvested tree. Root systems will be modelled in ArcGIS by correlating root diameter to length. Statistical and spatial analyses will be carried out with trees’ identities, sizes, and distances from the focal tree, as well as soil carbon and nitrogen concentration distances to the focal tree as explanatory variables. This study’s findings may shed light on the largely unstudied underground component of neighbourhood interactions between trees and their root systems.

University: McGill
Program: MSc in Biology
Supervisor: Catherine Potvin, McGill University, Montreal. Canada.
Co-Supervisor: TBD


Stephen Clare
MSc in Natural Resource Science 







Victoria Reed
MSc in Biology




Flor Santiago
MSc in Biology




Anne Sophie Caron
MSc in Natural Resources Science







Marisol Valverde
MSc in Biology

Brandon Varela
MSc in Biology




Program Director
Andrew Hendry

Program Coordinator
Felipe Pérez-Jvostov 514-398-5151


Funding provided by                   

NSERC/CRSNG     McGill University       UQAM        U. Laval       STRI