People

Rob Colautti - Principal Investigator

Canada Research Chair in Rapid Evolution [CV]

Rob The Anthropocene is marked by several threats to global biodiversity, including climate change, large-scale habitat modification, and long-distance translocation of species across major dispersal barriers (e.g. oceans, mountain ranges, deserts). As a result, species are experiencing environments that are novel with respect to the range of conditions experienced throughout their recent evolutionary history. Rapid evolution in novel environments could prevent extinction, alter species interactions, and ultimately shape the structure and function of ecosystems, yet contemporary evolution and its effects on ecological dynamics are rarely studied in natural populations with a history of human perturbation. Researchers in our group are working hard to understand how and why contemporary evolution occurs in novel environments, and how this influences ecological dynamics.

To help address these questions, we apply cutting-edge advances in next-generation sequencing with tried-and-true methods in basic ecology and quantitative genetics. We combine meticulous field studies at Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) with global-scale collaborative projects to produce scientific discoveries that are both locally accurate and globally relevant. Understanding the genetic and environmental basis of ecological success in novel environments will be important, not only for reducing the impacts of invasive species, but to improve management of local crop varieties and other vulnerable species that are struggling to persist in the face of rapid global change.

Amber Paulson

Amber Paulson - Postdoctoral Researcher

My research utilizes high throughput sequencing approaches to provide ecological and evolutionary insights into complex biological associations between arthropods and their microbial associates, whether parasitic or symbiotic. I am also interested in the molecular evolution of virulence factors, such as bacterial toxins and secretion systems or parasitic wasp venoms. I have developed an expertise in transcriptomics, especially using this powerful tool to gain further insights into the genome-wide expression of pathogenic bacteria inside of the insect model host, the Greater Wax worm (Galleria mellonella). I hope that my somewhat non-traditional approaches to understanding biology will contribute to the development of biological control for vectors of important human disease as well as economically significant agricultural or invasive pests in Canada. Other new and exciting research themes I am continuing to pursue include the entanglement of metabolism and virulence of bacterial pathogens and how the host environment contributes to horizontal gene transfer and adaptive evolution of pathogens and symbionts over ecological scales.

My work in the Colautti lab focuses on microbial communities associated with ticks in Canada, especially within an emerging tick hotspot - Kingston Ontario.

Emilie Norris-Roozmon

Emilie Norris-Roozmon - MSc Student

To what degree do self-reported Tick-Born symptoms form statistically significant syndromes? To what extent can the interaction between patient latency, time to treatment, self-reported medication, dose, age, and pre-existing conditions (cardiac, respiratory, neurological) predict tick symptoms and/or syndromes?

Warmer seasons increase the range and abundance of ticks and incidence of Tick-Borne Diseases (TBD) in Canada. Bacteria in deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) transmit different pathogens, which manifest diverse patient symptoms including, but not limited to erythema migrans, muscle pain, lethargy, facial paralysis, and heart complications. Disease trajectory, and patient manifestations can vary over time and among patients even when the same dose of a pathogen is received. My working hypothesis is that self-reported symptoms of TBD patients form groups of patients with related symptoms that can be analyzed through statistics to identify specific infections or co-infections. This project will be achieved via anonymous self-reported Eastern Ontario Tick Borne-Disease patient responses in affiliation with the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN). This project combines epidemiology and patient lived experiences, to understand how their treatment options lead to different health outcomes.

Richard Honor

Richard Honor - MSc Student

Plant invasions provide great opportunities to study evolutionary processes because invasive plants are subjected to both stochastic and deterministic evolutionary forces upon introduction into the new range. Invasive plants are often released from selective pressures present in their native range, which can result in the loss of previously adaptive traits via genetic drift. On the other hand, novel selective pressures in the invaded range can facilitate the evolution of new adaptative traits. The goal of my research is to identify traits that have evolved following an invasion and determine whether these traits evolved because of stochastic processes or natural selection. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a member of the Brassicaceae family, native to Eurasia. In the 19th century, it was introduced into North America and has since spread across much of the continent. I use genotypes collected throughout the invasive (North American) range and I subject these genotypes to relevant selective pressures to determine which traits may be adaptive in the invaded range. I then determine whether these adaptive traits are expressed in natural populations with a corresponding selective pressure. The main focus of my research is the evolution of glucosinolate and flavonoid compounds in A. petiolata, particularly their role in intra- and interspecific competition.

Eugene Sit

Eugene Sit - MSc Student

Natural selection on individual traits often fails to produce adaptive evolution because of constraints arising from trait correlations. In my research, I study how correlations among life history traits in the North American invasive wetland plant Lythrum salicaria are generated during development. I conducted field surveys across a 1000km latitudinal transect to document phenotypic variation among 20 populations in Canada and the United States, then planted a common garden at Queen's University Biological Station (QUBS) to capture genetic variation among traits such as size at flower and time to flower. This intensive field sampling allows me to explore the developmental basis for genetic constraints which mediate this species' response to environmental variation across its introduced range.

Collaborators

Jake Alexander (ETH Zurich)
Jill Anderson (University of Georgia)
Pedro Antunes (Algoma University)
Oliver Bossdorf (University of Tuebingen)
Spencer Barrett (University of Toronto)
Katrina Dlugosch (University of Arizona)
Chris Eckert (Queen's University at Kingston)
Jill Hamilton (North Dakota State University)
Ruth Hufbauer (Colorado State University)
John Maron (University of Montana)
Tom Mitchell-Olds (Duke University)
Hugh MacIsaac (University of Windsor)
Riyadh Muhaidat (University of Yarmouk)
Loren Rieseberg (University of British Columbia)

Alumni

Name Degree Project Years Post-lab experience
Graduate Students
Muzzamil (Muzz) Abdur-Razak MSc (Co-) Lythrum herbivory 2016-18
Katherine Duchesneau MSc (Co-) GM Soil microbiome 2016-19
Yihan Wu MSc Lythrum + Alliaria genomics 2016-19 PhD with Keith Adams, University of British Columbia
Undergraduate Students
Rhett Andruko BSc (USRA) GM + maple @ QUBS 2017 (summer) 2018 MSc, School of Forestry – Alberta
Meagan Antunes BSc (thesis) Tick microbiome 2018-19 Bioinformatics MSc, U Bern, Switzerland
Emily Bao BSc (work study) baRcodes 2016-18 Job: 2018 Scotiabank – Operating Systems Team Member
Stephanie Barre SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2015-16
Weihang (Kathleen) Chen BSc (Co-mentorship) Ticks + GM 2016-17 Bioinformatics Statup Company, Shangai
Scarlet Choi BSc (mentorship) Technician 2018-19 Intern: PnuVax SL Biopharmaceuticals INc.
Adrian Diaz BSc (Mitacs Intern) Tick microbiome 2019
Kate Ding BSc (mentorship) Tick microbiome 2018-19 Vet Clinic Employee
Kai Ellis BSc (thesis) Tick microbiome 2019-2020
Ke Fang BSc (Mitacs intern) Mitacs mentorship 2018 (summer) MSc in Molecular Biology
Leila Forsythe BSc (thesis) Lythrum herbarium 2015-16 2016 began PhD with Ben Gilbert, U Toronto St. George Campus
Erika Gibbons SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2015-16
Anneke Golemeic BSc (thesis) GM root colonization 2017-2018 2018 MSc with Risa Sargent, U Ottawa
Victoria Guba BSc (mentorship) Tick ID 2016 2018 Concordia, MSc in Environmental Assessment
Arnav Gupta BSc (Mitacs intern) Tick microbiome 2019 MSc in Computational Biology, Carnegie Mellon University
Pallavi Gupta BSc (mentorship + thesis) Tick microbiome + Betula genetics 2017-19 Touring Europe & India
Sierra Klueppel BSc (thesis) Lythrum flowering time + herbivory 2017-2018 Nautilus Environmental, Laboratory Biologist
Jordana de Lima BSc (Co-mentorship) Tick genome 2016-17 2018 Brasil to complete degree (Science without Borders)
Jamie MacKay BSc (thesis) Maternal effects in Lythrum salicaria 2018-19
Mia Marcellus BSc (thesis) Garlic Mustard 2019-2020 MSc at McGill
Derek McLean BSc (thesis) Arctic birch DNA 2016-17
Ahzum Mujaddid BSc (mentorship) Soil DNA extraction 2018-19 MSc?
Evelyn Newman BSc (thesis) Purple loosestrife 2019-2020 MSc at Simon Fraser
Jessie Obeng BSc (work study) Lab servers 2017-18 Job: 2018 eSight – Data Analyst
Haley Richardson (Yakimowski Lab) BSc (thesis) Amaranthus 2018-19
Vanessa Sabourin SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2016-17
Megan Silverthorn BSc (mentorship) Lythrum trichome and stomata density 2018-19 Arnott Lab
Claire Smith BSc (thesis) Purple loosestrife 2019-2020 MSc at Queen's
Joanna Strozak BSc (mentorship) Amaranthus 2018-19
Angela Wong BSc (thesis) eDNA experiment 2016-17
Other Personnel
Almira Siew The Wonder Technician Just about everything 2018-19 Job: 2019 - Lab technician, Octane Medical Group