Professor, Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Polar Microbiology
514-398-7889 | lyle.whyte [at] mcgill.ca (Email) | Macdonald-Stewart Building MS3-036 | Website
Lyle Whyte completed his PhD at the University of Waterloo in 1992, following undergraduate studies at the University of Regina. From 1993 to 2002, he served as a Research Officer at the Biotechnology Research Institute, National Research Council of Canada in Montreal. In 2003, Prof. Whyte joined McGill University. In 2004, he was awarded the Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) Fisher Award (Outstanding Contribution to Research by a New Researcher). He is a former Canada Research Chair (2003-2010) and lead the NSERC CREATE Canadian Astrobiology Training Program (2009-2015). He is presently a member of the European Space Agency ExoMars 2020 Landing Site Selection Working Group and of the new McGill Space Institute. He is an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Microbiology, a Review Editor for Frontiers in Microbiology and an Editorial Board Member for the International J. Astrobiology. His research program examines microbial biodiversity, activity, and ecology in polar ecosystems, especially permafrost and unique cold saline springs, in the emerging field of cryomicrobiology, the exploration of the low-temperature limits of microbial life.
Awards and Recognitions
Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology (2003-2013)
Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) Fisher Award – Outstanding Contribution to Research by a New Researcher (2014)
Member, European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars 2018 Landing Site Selection Working Group (LSSWG). 2013-2018
Member, Canadian Space Agency Planetary Exploration Consultation Committee (PECC) 2013-2015
Review Editor, Frontiers in Microbiology (Terrestrial Microbiology Section)
Associate Editor (Microbial Ecology Section), Can. J. Microbiol.; Associate Editor, Int. J. Astrobiology
Principal Investigator, NSERC CREATE Canadian Astrobiology Training Program (CATP) 2009 - 2015
Co-Chair, Canadian Local Organizing Committee, ISME 2016 Conference in Montreal.
Invited Member, International Scientific Board (ISB), 5th Int. Conf. Polar & Alpine Microbiology. Big Sky, Montana (USA) Sept. 8th -12th, 2013
Vice-Chair, Canadian Astrobiology Network, Affiliate Partnership, NASA Astrobiology Institute (2012-2016).
Co-Chair, The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) – Astrobiology Workshops. 2009, 2010, 2012
Member, NSERC Ecology and Evolution Grant Selection Committee (2008-2011)
Member, NSERC Interdisciplinary Grant Selection Committee (2009-2010)
Professor Whyte's research projects focus on examining microbial biodiversity and ecology in the Canadian high Arctic where very unique habitats exist, using both classical microbiology and novel genomics-based molecular techniques for studying microbial communities. These habitats include unique cold saline springs, permafrost and ground ice, and ice shelf microbial matt communities. These investigations explore the biodiversity, ecology, adaptations, and activity of microbial communities at subzero temperatures in cryoenvironments (subzero habitats) in an emerging field perhaps best described as cryomicrobiology. This area is presently very poorly understood but crucial for determining if such communities are active in situ at subzero temperatures and determining the impact of such activity on global biogeochemical cycling. The utility of these unique cryoenvironments as extraterrestrial analogs for astrobiology studies is also being examined and biotechnological applications of these microorganisms will be investigated in the longer term.
Please see the following video that highlights Dr. Whyte’s high arctic research projects
- Effects of Climate Change on Permafrost Microbial Communities
- Stable Isotope Probing and “omic” Analyses of Permafrost Samples
- Microbial Ecology and Biodiversity of High Arctic Cold Saline Springs
- Characterization of Microorganisms Capable of Subzero Growth and Activity
- Genome / transcriptomic sequencing of cryophilic microorganisms
- Microbial bioprospecting of high Arctic strains and genetic resources for cold active enzymes and antimicrobials.
- Culturing the unculturable: Isolation, identification and characterization of novel polar microbes using cryo-ichip prototypes
- Astrobiology-Related Research
- MICRO Life Detection Instrument Platform Developing and Testing (CSA)
- Microbial diversity / ecology / activity in a Mars analogue Antarctic RSL.
Invited lecturer in: