Meet some of our Grad Students



Can plants remember? Epigenetics and freezing tolerance.

Boris Mayer (Ph.D. Plant Science)
(Supervisor Dr. J-B Charron)

I study the epigenetic mechanisms of abiotic stress tolerance in plants. My PhD project focuses on DNA methylation and its implication in regulating freezing tolerance in the cereal model Brachypodium. More specifically, I intend to decipher the role that DNA methylation plays in initiating cellular memories. Eventually, I hope to contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms that are behind acclimation, adaptation and on a larger scale, evolution.


Regulating gene expression: computational DNA motif discovery

José Héctor Gálvez Lopéz (M.Sc. Plant Science, Bioinformatics option)
(Supervisor Dr. M. Strömvik)

My research is focused on the use of computational algorithms to analyze the potato (Solanum tuberosum) transcriptome. Using Next-Generation Sequencers, we determine variations in gene expression by comparing the amount of transcript of each gene in different samples. Then, using software developed in our lab in addition to other informatics tools that are common in the field, we can predict the presence of regulatory DNA elements that can explain the variations in the response of different plants to certain stresses, such as lack of nutrients. 




Decision support systems for healthier strawberries

Maryse Gendron (M.Sc. Plant Science)
(Supervisor Dr. V. Gravel)

Powdery mildew is an important disease widely affecting strawberry production. During my project, I am assessing the impact of new production techniques such as winter row covers and high tunnels on the development of the disease. I am also developing a decision support system that could allow for a more rational and efficient management of this disease. In order to develop the decision support system, different variables such as production systems, weather and scouting data are considered. 


Pseudomonas and Bacillus biofilms as plant growth promoting inoculants

Emily Ricci (M.Sc. Plant Science)
(Supervisors Dr. V. Gravel & Dr. D. Smith)

Beneficial free-swimming planktonic plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) have long been used as biofertilizer and biocontrol agents. My project characterizes PGPRs by investigating nitrogen fixation, phosphorus solubilisation, antimicrobial activity, intrinsic antibiotic resistance as well as ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and siderophore production.


Fighting predators with plant toxins

Nicolas Chatel-Launay (M.Sc. Plant Science, Neotropical option)
(Supervisor Dr. J. Bede)

I am completing a Master of Science degree in the Neotropical option (NEO). Like most NEO students at McGill, I conduct the core of my field work in Panama at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute which is affiliated with McGill. I study a cycad-feeding butterfly, Eumaeus godartii. In a nutshell, I focused my project on the relation between the toxins sequestered by this butterfly from its food plant, and the aposematic signals that deter Eumaeus' potential predators.




Assessment of variables for optimal forage quality

Shane Woods (M.Sc. Plant Science)
(Supervisor Dr. P. Seguin)

Predictive Equations of Alfalfa Quality (PEAQ) is a collaborative project between McGill University, the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ), Valacta and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The goal is to develop a tool for Quebec agricultural producers to be used in fields that will provide accurate and rapid estimates of important forage quality variables of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mixtures. This will provide a more accurate assessment of when producers should harvest their forages in order to obtain the highest quality to feed to their animals. By having more accurate and rapid estimates of forage quality, we hope to decrease producer’s reliance on costly grain products, allowing them to increase the profitability of their operation.




Is climate warming likely to result in widespread northern range expansion of Quebec’s temperate forest flora?

Frieda Beauregard (Ph.D. Plant Science, Environment option)
(Supervisor Dr. S. de Blois)

Climate exerts myriad effects on the environment. A plant will experience some of these effects directly and some indirectly through the climate’s influence on soils and on the community of other organisms where the plant grows. A common hypothesis is that under climate change, plants, along with other organisms, will move to areas that are currently too cold. This migration has actually already begun for plants growing on mountains, where the distance to newly warmed habitats is not great. My research investigates the potential for this to happen across a fairly flat region: the forested portion of Quebec. What I have found so far is that the indirect effects of climate, through such mediums as broadleaf tree cover and soil characteristics, play as important a role as cold in shaping the northern limits of our forest plants. These other factors, although partially caused by climate, will not respond immediately to climate warming, and so I conclude that widespread northern range expansion is unlikely for this area.