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.

Yihan Wu

Yihan Wu - MSc Student

I am interested in the evolution and population genetics of invasive species as well as the underlying genetics of the “mustard oil bomb” in the Brassicaceae. My research focuses specifically on the population genetics of eastern North American garlic mustard, a noxious weed that has invaded forest understories and reduces native plant diversity. To do this, I am utilizing next-generation sequencing and software pipelines to examine genetic differentiation between populations. I am studying the phenology of invasive purple loosestrife and latitudinal flowering clines on the east and west coasts of North America.

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.

Kai Ellis

Kai Ellis - BSc Thesis Student

I am fascinated by the fields of molecular biology and bioinformatic analysis, and aim to tie these interests together through the extraction and analysis of large nucleic acid datasets. My project examines the microbiome of deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) through the use of 16s amplicon analysis of high-throughput sequencing data.

Mia Marcellus

Mia Marcellus - BSc Thesis Student

I am interested in the evolutionary genetics and ecology of invasive species. My project examines genetic variation and plasticity of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in invasive North American populations.

Evelyn Newman

Evelyn Newman - BSc Thesis Student

I am intersted in ecology, natural history, evolution, and conservation work. I am investigating evolution of flowering time and resistance to a specialist herbivore in invasive North American populations of purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and herbivory.

Claire Smith

Claire Smith - BSc Thesis Student

I’m studying the evolution and ecology of purple loosestrife. I’m interested in plant ecology, genetics, and the intersection of biology with math.


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 (University of Colorado)
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)


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
Undergraduate Students
Leila Forsythe BSc (thesis) Lythrum herbarium 2015-16 2016 began PhD with Ben Gilbert, U Toronto St. George Campus
Stephanie Barre SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2015-16
Erika Gibbons SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2015-16
Victoria Guba BSc (mentorship) Tick ID 2016 2018 Concordia, MSc in Environmental Assessment
Jordana de Lima BSc (Co-mentorship) Tick genome 2016-17 2018 Brasil to complete degree (Science without Borders)
Emily Bao BSc (work study) baRcodes 2016-18 Job: 2018 Scotiabank – Operating Systems Team Member
Angela Wong BSc (thesis) eDNA experiment 2016-17
Derek McLean BSc (thesis) Arctic birch DNA 2016-17
Weihang (Kathleen) Chen BSc (Co-mentorship) Ticks + GM 2016-17
Vanessa Sabourin SLC (Co-op) Lab Technician 2016-17
Jessie Obeng BSc (work study) Lab servers 2017-18 Job: 2018 eSight – Data Analyst
Rhett Andruko BSc (USRA) GM + maple @ QUBS 2017 (summer) 2018 MSc, School of Forestry – Alberta
Anneke Golemeic BSc (thesis) GM root colonization 2017-2018 2018 MSc with Risa Sargent, U Ottawa
Sierra Klueppel BSc (thesis) Lythrum flowering time + herbivory 2017-2018
Pallavi Gupta BSc (mentorship + thesis) Tick microbiome + Betula genetics 2017-19
Ke Fang BSc (Mitacs intern) Mitacs mentorship 2018 (summer)
Kate Ding BSc (mentorship) Tick microbiome 2018-19
Haley Richardson BSc (thesis) Amaranthus 2018-19
Jamie MacKay BSc (thesis) Maternal effects in Lythrum salicaria 2018-19
Joanna Strozak BSc (mentorship) Amaranthus 2018-19
Megan Silverthorn BSc (mentorship) Lythrum trichome and stomata density 2018-19 Arnott Lab
Meagan Antunes BSc (thesis) Tick microbiome 2018-19 Bioinformatics MSc, U Bern, Switzerland
Scarlet Choi BSc (mentorship) Technician 2018-19 Intern: PnuVax SL Biopharmaceuticals INc.
Other Personnel
Almira Siew The Wonder Technician Just about everything 2018-19 Job: 2019 - Lab technician, Octane Medical Group