Systematics and Evolution
The Evolutionary Biology and Systematics RIG includes researchers interested in the phylogeny of vascular plant, fungi, marine and terrestrial invertebrates and vertebrates. Also included are researchers interested in genetic diversity of mammals and birds, paleontology and paleobotany. This RIG is the home of many fascinating collections including the Strickland Museum for entomology, the Cryptogamic and Vascular Herbaria, the Zoology Museum and the Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology. It also maintains close ties with the Devonian Gardens and with BioDiTRL a public service-oriented facility which collects and displays images and animations of biological systems on the Web.
View without Grad Students
Dr. Ted Allison
Research interests focus on neurodegeneration and regeneration, especially within the retina. I use an integrative approach spanning molecular biology, electrophysiology & behaviour to study the development of retinas in fishes and how they are tuned to get the most information available from the environment. My research has three major streams:
i) using zebrafish to investigate questions of photoreceptor development, patterning & regeneration as they pertain to human retinal degenerative disease;
ii) The development of zebrafish as an effective model organism for the study of protein folding diseases such as Alzheimer and Prion-related Diseases;
iii) Investigating the visual ecology of fishes - how and why do visual systems change over evolutionary time and during the life history of animals.
Dr. Yan Boucher
When thinking about biological evolution, we usually imagine thousands of years over which animals and plant species change. With microbes however, significant changes can happen in the matter of days or a few moments. In the marine environment for example, as much as a thousand different variants of a single microbial species can be found in a milliliter of seawater, with hundreds or thousands of species present. We ask two main questions: How does this diversity arise ? What role does it play in nature ? To answer such broad questions, we study the evolutionary processes in the Vibrios, a group of bacteria ubiquitous
in aquatic environments, responsible for diseases as diverse as bleaching in corals and cholera in humans. We use techniques from the fields of population genetics, molecular epidemiology as well as experimental evolution.
Dr. Michael Caldwell
Vertebrate palaeontology, i.e., morphology, phylogeny, evolution, and ecology, etc. Organisms of interest include fossil and living squamates (snakes and lizards) as well as of extinct marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Current research is focused on marine and terrestrial snakes from Cretaceous rocks in the southern hemisphere (Gondwana), the cranial anatomy and phylogeny of extant scolecophidian snakes (blind, burrowing snakes), fossil mosasauroids from Upper Cretaceous rocks in New Zealand, Europe, Africa and North America, terrestrial lizards from the Cretaceous rocks of North America, and the molecular genetics of axial elongation in limb-reduced to limbless tetrapods.
Dr. Philip Currie
My work on dinosaurs focuses on problems with growth and variation, the anatomy and relationships of carnivorous dinosaurs, and the origin of birds. It is my goal to get a better understanding of the
rich Cretaceous ecosystem of Dinosaur Park (Alberta), and other sites in western North America and Asia. I am also interested in what can be learned about dinosaurian behaviour, including annual
and intercontinental migrations.
Dr. Maya Evenden
I am broadly interested in the chemical ecology of insects and how message-bearing chemicals (semiochemicals) can be exploited in pest management systems. I approach this research from behavioural, physiological, ecological and evolutionary perspectives. My approach is process-oriented and the research can be adapted to the study of organisms in a variety of habitats. Chemical ecology lends itself to applications in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This allows for short term applied studies to be conducted within the broader context of understanding the ecology and evolution of chemically mediated interactions.
Dr. Warren Gallin
Comparative molecular studies of physiologically functional molecules. We are isolating cDNA and genomic clones encoding voltage-gated ion channels from the hydroid cnidarian Polyorchis penicillatus and comparing the structure and function of these proteins, which are essential for neuronal excitability. We are also isolating cadherins from P. pencillatus. These molecules are essential for cell-cell adhesion and interaction in multicellular organisms. We are also studying factors that control the development of bile canaliculi between liver cells. The canaliculi carry the bile out of the liver and into the gall bladder; thus, defects in their structure can have severe consequences for an individual. We are studying the importance of soluble factors, cell-cell interactions, and cell-substrate interactions in the development and maintenance of the bile canaliculi.
Dr. Jocelyn Hall
Phylogenetic analysis and systematics of Capparaceae, Cleomaceae, Brassicaceae, and
Brassicales; molecular systematics; evolution of floral form; developmental evolutionary biology;
evolution of fruit morphology, specifically Brassicaceae; field and herbarium studies of tropical plants,
specifically Capparaceae; field studies of Old World Capparaceae.
Dr. Catherine La Farge
My current research is focused on the evolution, systematics and diversity of bryophytes. This research is laboratory and field-based with projects spanning Arctic Canada, the western Cordillera, and Madagascar. Current goals include: 1) the evolutionary relationship of basal bryophytes lineages with respect to land plants; 2) the genetic evidence for bryophyte refugia in Beringia; 3) the evolution of reproductive strategies in mosses; and 4) systematic studies of the Dicranaceae.
Dr. Sally Leys
Evolution of animal body plans. My current research focuses on two areas: developmental mechanisms in basal metazoans and mechanisms of cell-cell communication in sponges. We use molecular (incl. in situ hybridization) and cell biological (EM, video and light microscopy), and physiological techniques. We also use a ROV and SCUBA to study the animals in their environment. Field work occurs at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
Dr. Alison Murray
Systematics of fossil and Recent teleost fishes, including phylogenetic studies using osteological characters. Current projects include marine Cretaceous fishes from North America and freshwater fishes from the Tertiary of Africa and Asia
Dr. Richard Palmer
Primary interests: functional morphology, phenotypic plasticity, evolution of development, ecology, systematics and evolution of marine invertebrates. My students and I have documented some striking examples of predator-induced effects on shell form and behavior in marine snails, diet-induced effects on claw form in shell-breaking crabs and wave-induced changes in barnacle leg lengths. I also maintain an ongoing interest in the development and evolution of biological asymmetries as a way of testing models about the evolution of animal development.
Dr. Cynthia Paszkowski
Ecology and behaviour of birds, freshwater fishes and amphibians, especially foraging behaviour, habitat use, inter- and intra-specific competition, and direct and indirect effects of predation.
Dr. Heather Proctor
My main research area comprises the ecology, evolution, systematics and behaviour of mites (Arachnida: Acari). Within this fascinating and diverse subclass there are three groups in which I am most interested: aquatic mites, soil mites, and feather mites. My theoretical research areas
include the community ecology of freshwater and soil invertebrates, determinants of biodiversity, co-evolution of hosts and symbionts, and both macro- and microevolutionary aspects of sexual selection.
Dr. Allen Shostak
Ecology of helminth parasites. Two areas of emphasis are the tolerance of free-living stages to environmental conditions, and the interactions between larval parasites and their hosts. Current interests are field studies in Alberta of trematodes in freshwater snails and Schistocephalus tapeworms in sticklebacks, and lab studies of Hymenolepis tapeworms in Tribolium beetles.
Dr. Felix Sperling
Insect systematics with interests in molecular evolution, population genetics, biodiversity and conservation. Emphasis on speciation in swallowtail butterflies and spruce budworm moths. Also insect pest complexes, phylogeny reconstruction, taxonomy, plant-insect interactions, forensic entomology and internet-accessible faunal inventories.
Dr. William Tonn
My research, and that of my students, focuses on the ecology of fishes and the organisms with which they interact, in boreal and arctic lakes and streams, addressing the general question: what factors of the northern environment affect the ecology of fishes at the individual, population and community levels? Laboratory and field experiments are combined with broad-scale comparisons in studies of community organization, population dynamics and life history.
Dr. David Wishart
PhD (Molecular Biophysics), Yale University, 1991. Professor, Depts. of Computing Science, Biological Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Alberta. Dr. Wishart is the holder of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Chair in Protein Chemistry and in 2003 was cross-appointed as a research scientist with the NRC\'s National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT). He is a co-founder of BioTools Inc. (a bioinformatics company) and Chenomx Inc. (a metabonomics company), both of which are located in Edmonton. Dr. Wishart is also a co-founder of the Canadian Bioinformatics Workshops - a national bioinformatics training program that has been in operation since 1999. Additionally, Dr. Wishart has served as the chair of the Canadian Proteomics Initiative (CPI) conference for the past 3 years. Dr. Wishart\'s research interests lie in 1) the development of bioinformatics software, 2) the modelling of biological systems, 3) structural proteomics and 4) the application of NMR spectroscopy to drug discovery. He is currently supervising 18 students, staff and post-doctoral fellows. Since 1990 he has published nearly 100 papers on a variety of topics ranging from gene prediction, metabolomics, structural proteomics, NMR spectroscopy and cancer detection.
Dr. Gane Wong
Professor Wong is jointly appointed in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Medicine. He is also Associate Director of the Beijing Genomics Institute and a Guest Professor in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The unifying theme behind his research is the relentless improvement in our ability to acquire molecular biology data at lower costs. His two biggest programs are in plant sequencing and in viral metagenomics. In the first instance, he is leading an international consortium to collect gene sequence information for 1000 plant species. In the second instance, he is partnered with medical doctors at the University of Alberta to develop novel methods to identify pathogens in clinical samples. In all cases, enormous quantities of data are collected for these projects, and hence computational analysis plays a central role. Development of algorithms that deal with the practicalities of these data sets is another component of his research. Prospective graduate students and postdoctoral fellows MUST be fluent in mathematics and computational analysis, as well as in biology.
Dr. Lynne Sigler (Adjunct Professor)
As Curator of the University of Alberta Microfungus Collection and Herbarium, my research in fungal systematics is concerned with fungi that cause disease, elicit allergy or hypersensitivity reactions, produce toxins or metabolites of medicinal importance, and occupy vertebrate-associated habitats.
Dr. David Walter (Adjunct Professor)
To explore the underpinnings of biological diversity by studying the varied and often amazing interactions that mites (Acari) have with other organisms and to develop mite identification tools so that others also can study these interactions.
Dr. George Ball (Emeritus)
Research interests are in systematics, morphology, evolution and zoogeography. Currently working with carabid beetles, particularly the Neotropical fauna and its extensions into North America, using the methods of phylogenetic systematics and historical biogeography.
Dr. Douglas Craig (Emeritus)
Current research has focused on the hydrodynamics of evolution of body form in aquatic insects. Hydrodynamics of aquatic insects in relation to: hydraulic regimes, microhabitat selection, evolution of body form, filter feeding, ingestion of DOM, locomotion, escape mechanisms.
Dr. Randolph Currah (Emeritus)
Systematics, ecology and evolution of mutualistic and pathogenic relationships involving fungi and other organisms. Current research involves: 1. mycorrhizas of boreal timber species, arctic, alpine and subalpine plant communities, heath plants, temperate and tropical orchids; 2. keratinophilic fungi (primarily Onygenales and related anamorphs) associated with vertebrate animals and their habitations; 3. fossil fungi associated with plant remains from the Eocene; 4. monographic studies of Dikaryomycota of northwestern North America.
Dr. Richard Fox (Emeritus)
Evolution of Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and early Tertiary tetrapods. Directs the preparation and care of the vertebrate fossil collection.
Dr. Ronald Gooding (Emeritus)
Biochemistry and physiology of haematophagous insects and the genetics of hybrid sterility in insects including the genetics of several species of tsetse flies to elucidate the postmating barriers to gene flow between subspecies of Glossina morsitans and Glossina palpalis, and to explore the possibilities for genetic control of these insects.
Dr. Bruce Heming (Emeritus)
Interests are in evolutionary development, palaentology and phylogeny of insects particularly of the Paraneoptera.
Dr. Jan Murie (Emeritus)
Behavioral ecology of sciurid rodents, primarily ground squirrels, specifically: social behavior and use of space, including territoriality; the role of kinship and familiarity in organizing social relationships; influences on vigilance, alarm-calling, and other aspects of anti-predator behavior; scent communication among ground squirrels; mating systems and the influence of demographic and environmental factors on mating strategies of males and females.
Dr. John Packer (Emeritus)
My main research interests are the origin and evolution of the arctic and alpine flora. In particular the effects of the quaternary glaciations. I am also interested in the production of user friendly floras of Alberta and North America.
Dr. Ruth Stockey (Emeritus)
Paleobotany, anatomy and morphology of vascular plants and fungi. Phylogenetic trands in gymnosperms, evolution and systematics, especially conifers in the Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae. Cretaceous and Tertiary plants: ferns, gymnosperms, angiosperms. Reproductive biology and whole plant biology of fossil aquatic vascular plants.
Dr. Curtis Strobeck (Emeritus)
My research is focused on the use of DNA sequence variation to infer the genetic structure within, and the phylogenetic relationships between, natural populations and the application of molecular techniques to wildlife forensics. Species currently being studied in my laboratory include a variety of ungulates (bison, elk, caribou, and bighorn sheep), bears, trout, and ground squirrels. Techniques being used include DNA sequencing and cloning, DNA fingerprinting, and PCR.
Dr. Mark Wilson (Emeritus)
Vertebrate paleontology with emphasis on morphology, phylogeny, and paleoecology of fishes. Current research projects include anatomical and phylogenetic studies of several species of Paleocene and Late Cretaceous teleosts, studies of temporal variation in the morphology of fish preserved in varved lake sediments of Eocene age, analysis of taphonomic evidence for cause of death and preservation in a mass-death layer of Paleocene fish, and morphological and phylogenetic studies of Silurian and Devonian jawless fish.