My interest in plant population biology and evolution developed early in life through many hours of hiking and working in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I completed a B.Sc. and M.Sc. at University of Alberta, where I worked on submerged aquatic plants and developed an interest in the biology of small, isolated plant populations. For my Ph.D., I shifted my focus to the genetic and evolutionary aspects of small populations in a project on genetic drift and mating system variation in a South American aquatic plant. As a Postdoctoral Fellow, I continued this line of study, this time studying inbreeding and its negative consequences.
Since coming to the University of Guelph, my research goal and that of my lab group is to understand the ecological and genetic processes operating in plant populations for the purpose of advancing our fundamental understanding of evolution and for addressing needs in conservation, agriculture and natural resource management.
More specifically, we investigate the mechanisms regulating genetic diversity and phenotypic evolution and, conversely, how evolutionary processes (drift, gene flow, adaptation, genetic diversity) affect ecological function of populations (reproduction, growth, persistence, extinction). To study these relationships, we focus on plant reproductive systems, those attributes that control mutation, gamete formation and quality, pollination, fertilization, and transmission of genetic variability across generations.
Currently, the lab is addressing three general research problems:
I. What are the attributes of small populations and how do we best conserve and restore threatened or endangered populations?
II. Why is the process of genome duplication so prevalent in plants?
III. How do we explain the diversity of reproductive systems in plants?
In addition to my role as a research scientist, I am a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Associate Dean, Academic, in the College of Biological Science.