The Friesen Lab Queens The Friesen Lab
Gabriela Ibarguchi

Gabriela Ibarguchi, PhD
Research Associate

gaby_ibarguchi [at] tricolour [dot] queensu [dot] ca
(613) 533-6000 ext. 75539

PhD (Queen's University): Evolution, Biogeography and Phylogenetics  Thesis: Biogeography and diversification of Andean birds - the seedsnipes (Family Thinocoridae).
MSc (Queen's University): Evolution, Behaviour and Molecular Ecology  Thesis: A study of kin groups and genetic structure in the thick-billed murre, Uria lomvia.
Hon BSc (University of Toronto, Scarborough): Ecology and Environmental Studies Thesis: Kinship in the lacebug, Gargaphia tiliae.

Research Interests

I am keenly interested in biodiversity that thrives in harsh and unusual environments, from the origin of such lineages, their processes of diversification and their adaptations, to the maintenance of their diversity. Studies of these lineages are multi-faceted, as they involve explaining how ancestral lineages colonise these habitats, what environmental, geographic, ecological, and non-physical factors promote diversification, and what factors cause present-day changes. I employ genetics as a tool in wildlife studies to investigate population connectivity, the diversification of lineages (phylogeography and phylogenetics), behaviour, molecular evolution, and the evolution of ecological traits. My current research includes the study of biodiversity in cold regions such as the Arctic, high altitude niches, and Antarctica. To study such systems, I use multidisciplinary approaches that include tools and knowledge borrowed from other fields such as geology, biogeography, statistics, ecology, conservation biology, physiology, forensics, molecular biology, and stable isotope chemistry. I often collaborate with museums, other universities, parks, governments, landowners, and communities locally and abroad.

Currently, I am a Sessional Instructor at Carleton University, where I am teaching Ornithology, and I am a Research Associate at Queen's University. For the past few years, and in collaboration with Vicki Friesen, Tim Birt, Steve Lougheed, and other researchers, I have been investigating the biogeography, origin, and diversification of the Andean avian family Thinocoridae (the seedsnipes). Seedsnipes, an enigmatic, herbivorous shorebird group of four species, inhabit cold regions from Tierra del Fuego to Ecuador, ranging from lowland arid scrublands to high altitude grasslands and mountain peaks (upwards of 4500 m). I have been investigating how the uplift of the Andes Mountains (within the last 35 Ma) may have promoted their diversification. I have been investigating the hypothesis that Antarctica has been an important centre of diversification for many cold-hardy lineages in South America (including seedsnipes) and worldwide, since the Oligocene and even within the last few million years. I have been studying the potential but important role of Antarctic mountains also in promoting early speciation (analogous to the modern Andes). This seedsnipe study has included collaborative projects on the ecology (distribution, reproduction, behaviour, diet, conservation, and movements), and ecological and molecular adaptations (hemoglobins) of these poorly known species. In the lab, I have developed protocols to exploit novel DNA sources, simplifying and optimising ancient DNA protocols for wildlife studies.

I am also interested in how wild populations are structured and the effects that behaviours such as natal site fidelity, helping behaviour, and assortative mating may have in influencing within-population differentiation. I have been studying how within-population structure arises in a highly mobile, strongly philopatric, colonial seabird, the thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia, family Alcidae). Studies such as these are needed to investigate how population differentiation (and ultimately speciation) may occur, as the first stages may involve subtle differences in ecological traits, behaviour, or morphology, which may lead over time to genetic differentiation in the presence of assortative mating or other processes. To interpret genetic patterns, I conduct parallel studies in behavioural ecology to understand reproduction, movement, and survival, and such studies can provide insight into sex-biased dispersal, mutation, helping behaviour, parentage, and aging.


Ibarguchi G., Gaston A.J., and Friesen V.L. (2011) Philopatry, morphological divergence, and kin groups: structuring in thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia, Alcidae) within a colony in Arctic Canada. Journal of Avian Biology 42: 134-150
Ibarguchi G., Friesen V. L., and Lougheed S. C. (2006). Defeating numts: Semi-pure mitochondrial DNA from eggs and simple purification methods for field-collected wildlife tissues. Genome 49: 1438–1450

Ibarguchi G., Gissing G. J., Gaston A. J., Boag P. T. and Friesen V. L. (2004). Male-biased mutation rates and the overestimation of extra-pair paternity: problem, solution, and illustration using Thick-billed Murres (Uria lomvia, Alcidae). Journal of Heredity  95(3): 209-216 (cover article)

Ibarguchi G., Birt T. P., Warheit K. I., Boag P. T., and Friesen V. L. (2000). Microsatellite Loci from Common and Thick-Billed Murres, Uria aalge and U. lomvia. Molecular Ecology  9: 638-639

Selected Reports

Gaston, T., Provencher J., Ibarguchi G. (2011) Studies of Marine Birds at Coats Island, 2010 (Technical report for the Government of Nunavut and Environment Canada).

Ibarguchi G. (1999) Estimates of evolutionary divergence and phylogenetic relationships within Cracidae and among other [basal] birds. (Canadian Museum of Nature, Aylmer, Quebec)

Ibarguchi G. (2005) Diversificación de la Avifauna Andina: las agachonas (Fam. Thinocoridae). Informe-2005. (Report written for Chile and Argentina government and park offices: CONAF [National Parks, Chile], SAG [National Wildlife Service, Chile], Administración de Parques Nacionales [Argentina], and provincial natural resources governments [Argentina])

Ibarguchi G. (2004). Mitochondrial DNA purification for use in wildlife studies using the MtDNA Extractor WB and CT Kits (Wako Chemicals USA). (Report written for Wako Chemicals USA, Inc.)

Ibarguchi G. (2002) Diversificación de la Avifauna Andina: las agachonas (Fam. Thinocoridae). Primer Informe Anual. (Report written for government and park offices in Argentina: Secretaría de Turismo y Áreas Protegidas in Chubut Province, Administración de Parques Nacionales, and eight provincial natural resources offices)

Ibarguchi G. (1999) Genetic sexing of thick-billed murres: A technical note for the Canadian Wildlife Service. (Protocols written for Environment Canada)