That the Redpath Museum, besides presenting artefacts and specimens from all over the world, is also home to six different research lab groups. With over 30 graduate student researchers in total, their work in the museum spans from paleontology in South America to how climate change impacts invasive species. To learn more about each research group, you can read a short description of the lab's direction below.
Students in the Barrett Lab are interested in understanding how organisms evolve in response to rapid environmental change, by focusing on the ecology and evolution that shapes genetic variation. Research in the lab spans from Trinidadian guppies and threespine sticklebacks to Anolis lizards and Darwin’s finches.
Charles Cong Xu (Ph.D. candidate, Barrett Lab) is working on developing novel genetic methods to detect and monitor illegal production and trafficking of wildlife through steeped alcohol.
Victoria Marie Glynn (Ph.D. student, Barrett Lab) is measuring an anolis lizard’s rectal temperature during her field course at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.
Students in the Green Lab work with frog and toad species to understand their ecology, population dynamics, behavior, genetics, and the conservation of their biological diversity.
Students and volunteers from the Green Lab are recording information for this locally endangered Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) found at their field site in Long Point, Ontario. The wart pattern on this toad’s back acts like a fingerprint, which has allowed Nathalie Jreidini (Ph.D. student, Green Lab) to assess toad movements over the past three decades.
Nathalie Jreidini (Ph.D. student, Green Lab) and Jessica Ford (Ph.D. student, Green Lab) are adding toad eggs to one of the tanks involved in Jessica’s project, where she studies the ecological consequences of tadpole loss. When these eggs hatch into tadpoles and eventually become toadlets, the toadlets will be released to boost the local population.
Students in the Hendry Lab are studying how ecology and evolution interact to shape biodiversity. Their research encompasses Trinidadian guppies, threespine sticklebacks, Darwin’s finches and the Tribulus seeds they feed on, howler monkeys, bluegills and bottlenose dolphins.
Daniel Reyes (Ph.D. candidate, Hendry Lab), is characterizing the shape and size of the plant Tribulus cistoides’ mericarps (seed-bearing organs). He is exploring how this plant’s traits are evolving in response to predation by Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador.
One of the Hendry Lab’s main axes of research surrounds the eco-evolutionary dynamics of Darwin’s finches, pictured here. While working on the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, students ask questions surrounding how differences in beak size may be driving speciation, and how human disturbance may be reversing speciation
Students in the Larsson lab focus on how evolution acting over millions of years shapes the diversity of life. Their projects usually fall within one of the lab’s two main axes of research: (1) palaeobiology and (2) the study of embryonic development. This lab is interdisciplinary in nature, with study systems as varied as crocodiles, extinct marine reptiles, arthropods, fossil plants and chicken embryos.
Alexandre Demers-Potvin (M.Sc., Larsson Lab) is searching for plant and insect fossils in an abandoned mine among the boreal forest near Schefferville, Québec, such as the fossilized whirligig beetle fossil shown here. This potentially new species may help complete the picture of its lineage’s evolution.
José Avila Cervantes (M.Sc., Ph.D., Larsson Lab) conducts fieldwork in Mexico and Central America, focusing on the evolution and ecology of Neotropical crocodiles.
Students in the Millien Lab are answering questions surrounding how diversity is evolving with changing environments at different spatial scales, and how community structure of various taxonomic groups is shaped in different ecosystems.
Kirsten Crandall (Ph.D. candidate, Millien Lab) is conducting fieldwork in Ontario and Québec, comparing the patterns of Lyme disease emergence in these two provinces.
Frédérique Truchon (Master’s candidate, Millien Lab) sets camera traps in the Gault Nature Reserve in Mont Saint-Hilaire, Québec, Canada, to capture white-tailed deers’ (Odocoileus virginianus) spatial use in the reserve.
Jihane Benbahtane (Master’s candidate, Millien Lab) studies parrotfish community structure and its impact on coral reefs in Barbados.
The Ricciardi Lab uses experimental ecology to examine how aquatic food webs are altered by anthropogenic stressors, such as climate change, micro-plastic pollution, and biological invasions. Students conduct their work in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system, as well as on lakes and rivers in the U.K. and South Africa, using freshwater fishes and invertebrates as their study organisms.
The Ricciardi Lab uses crayfishes (Faxonius spp.) as a model organism to assess how invasive species impact native biodiversity under various environmental conditions.
I am Grant Haines, a Ph.D. student in Andrew Hendry’s lab studying adaptive divergence and intraspecific evolution in threespine stickleback. I have been fascinated with animals and nature since I was a toddler from spending time outside fishing and camping with my parents, and then later on as a boy scout and then summer camp counselor. I started out in biology working in an ecology lab at my undergraduate institution, Colgate University, collecting water chemistry data and identifying insects to determine the effects of lime treatments on acidified streams. As I finished my degree there, I decided to pursue biology with a particular interest in the relationships between animals and their environments, and continued on to a master’s degree program at the College of William & Mary. There I studied how the lateral motion associated with swimming facilitates filter feeding in paddlefish, ultimately determining that this motion was crucial to the collection and transport of food particles.
During my Ph.D. at McGill, I have focused on stickleback evolution, especially over much shorter timescales than most people think about when discussing natural selection. Stickleback fish are a particularly good study species for fast evolutionary processes, partly due to their life histories. Most populations spend most of their lives in the ocean, but interestingly adult fish migrate to freshwater to spawn, much like salmon. Sometimes offspring are unable to get back to the ocean and instead establish new, freshwater populations. Because of this, there are now thousands of exclusively freshwater populations of stickleback around the world, all diverging more or less independently of one another. While not particularly flashy, they have a number of traits for defending themselves against predators, for seeing in low-visibility environments, and for feeding, among others, that can evolve very rapidly in response to their environments.
I study how traits that interact with the environment – known as phenotypes – differ between populations, and vary as a result of habitat changes. In particular, I often study differences and changes in shape using a variety of techniques known collectively as geometric morphometrics. These techniques allow me to quantify shape data that I collect from computerized tomography (CT) scans, which are generally too complex to be handled with more conventional statistics. A reconstruction of a stickleback skull from one of these scans is pictured. By studying the evolution of parts of the body directly implicated in interacting with the environment, such as feeding, I hope to contribute to our knowledge of fundamental evolutionary processes, and in the future, inform practices for managing native fish populations.
Reconstruction of a stickleback skull from a CT scan
I have been fortunate enough to go to some incredible field sites in Vancouver Island (Misty Lake pictured) and Haida Gwaii in the course of this work, and I hope to continue working in these systems in the future. Thanks to the Haida nation for permitting ongoing research in Haida Gwaii.
Grant Haines and colleagues doing fieldwork in Misty Lake, located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Credit: Freedom Sorbara