Christina Rinas (Ph.D. candidate)

As a new PhD student I quickly learned that there is much more to a tree trunk than meets the eye. I began my research in the summer of 2017 by making observations of arboreal lichen and moss communities. I observed trees of the same species growing right next to one another that had entirely different arboreal communities. I noticed that on certain trees the arboreal communities were completely different depending on the side of the tree you were looking at. These patterns raise fundamental questions about how these communities change depending on environmental or stochastic factors, and as the forest type changes. What are the biotic and abiotic factors underlying the striking patterns of biodiversity in these communities?

I am interested in researching how epiphytic lichens and bryophyte communities change across vertical, elevational, and ecological gradients in Mont Mégantic National Park, Quebec. My study system provides excellent opportunities for addressing questions about the causes of species distribution limits and how those influence biodiversity in the eastern forests. A tree trunk can represent many gradients (i.e., vertical, circular), easily replicated in a single site. Additionally, the distinctive deciduous – coniferous gradient in the park makes it an ideal place to study how the biodiversity of epiphytic species changes between forest types.

En tant que nouvelle étudiante au doctorat j’ai rapidement appris que les troncs d’arbre en ont bien plus à racontrer que ce que l’on voit au premier coup d’oeil. Durant l’été 2017, j’ai commencé ma recherche en faisant des observations des lichens arboricoles et des mousses arboricoles. J’ai observé que des individus de la même espèce d’arbre poussant à proximité ont différentes communautés arboricoles. J’ai remarqué que les communautés arboricoles changent selon le côtes d’arbres sur lequel elles poussent. À la lumiere de ces observations je me demande si ces changements des communautés sont causés par différents types de forêts et s’ils sont causés par des facteurs environmentaux ou des facteurs stochastiques. Quels sont les facteurs biotiques et les facteurs abiotiques qui sont à la base de ces différences de biodiversité dans les patrons intéressants que l’on observe dans ces communatés.

Je m’intéresse aux changements des communautés arboricoles de lichens et mousses à travers les gradients verticaux, élévationnels, et écologiques au parc national du Mont Mégantic, au Quebec. Mon système d’étude fournit plusieurs opportunités pour mieux comprendre les causes de répartition des espèces et comment elles influencent la biodiversité des forêts de l’est. Un tronc d’arbre peux représenter plusieurs gradients (vertical, circulaire) qui sont facilement reproductibles sur un même site. En outre, le gradient forestier particulier du parc passant de décidue à boréale, est un lieu ideal pour étudier les changements de biodiversité des espèces arboricoles selon les types de forêts.

Ming Ni (Ph.D. student)

I have a broad interest in community ecology and biogeography – how environmental gradients influence species distributions and performance. For my PhD research, I will mainly focus on soil effects on plant distributions and migration in eastern North America, and the evolutionary history of plant soil niches.

In North America, there is a marked latitudinal gradient of soil properties. In particular, the soil environments in boreal forests may be not suitable for plants from temperate areas, impeding plant migration under climate change. Therefore, detecting soil variation across space and soil effects on plant distributions at a broad scales has important implications for predicting responses to climate change. Meanwhile, species are evolving; if plant soil niches can evolve quickly, our prediction based on species' current distributions may be biased. I will also explore the evolution of plant soil niches - especially in comparison with historical climatic adaptation.

Madelaine Anderson (Ph.D. Student)

Broadly, I am interested in how plant communities and landscapes are impacted by global change. Growing up, I spent all my summers in northern Canada, which inspired curiosity about and passion for northern ecosystems. The Arctic tundra biome is changing quickly with major implications on biodiversity, climate, and humans. My doctoral research is situated within the Arctic portion of the Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (CABO) project. Working with CABO and Team Shrub, led by Isla Myers-Smith and based out of the University of Edinburgh, I will explore biodiversity change in the tundra biome using remote sensing approaches and field-based surveys. I will ask questions about linking tundra plant spectral signatures to tundra plant phenology, plant traits and biodiversity.

Tadhg Carroll (Postdoc, Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity, co-supervised with Maria Dornelas & Chris Thomas)

I am interested in all aspects of Ecology, but my work has focused to date on Community Ecology. My research at the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity focuses primarily on investigating biodiversity change in contemporary ecological assemblages. Biodiversity is complex, and needs to be viewed in many different ways in order to understand how it has changed in the past, or to have any hope of predicting future trajectories. I’m keen to uncover processes underlying biodiversity change, as well as documenting various aspects of empirical trends over time. Current lines of research include attempts to understand adaptive dynamics in ecological communities, and if and how rare species become common and common species become rare. I also have a deep interest, and gradually growing skillset, in Applied Bayesian Statistics and how such techniques can be used to tease knowledge out from nature.




Anna Crofts (Ph.D. student)

I am a field ecologist, broadly interested in how plant abundance and distributions are changing in response to global change and, in turn, how these changes in plant community composition influence ecosystem properties. During my BSc, at the University of British Columbia, I was hired as an alpine ecologist research assistant which sparked my interest in plant ecology, specifically related to elevational gradients. My MSc, at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, examined how biotic interactions affect boreal conifer recruitment at alpine treeline.

In 2019, I began my PhD working as a part of the Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (CABO), an interdisciplinary research initiative aimed at examining major drivers of plant biodiversity across Canada through spectranomics. Spectranomics is a novel approach to quantifying plant taxanomic and functional diversity, which uses airborne hyperspectral images to identify plant species and quantify foliar traits. I will lead the field-based biodiversity survey in Parc national du Mont Mégantic, Québec. For my doctoral research, I ask: (i) can remotely-sensed, hyperspectral data quantify forest community properties, and in turn, (ii) how do forest community properties vary across climate (elevation) and resource extraction gradients?

Christine Wallis (Postdoc, Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory)

I am an ecologist, working between the fields of remote sensing and biodiversity science. I am broadly interested in species composition of different taxonomic groups and ecosystem functions. To assess their distribution, I make extensive use of spatial analyses, GIS and remote sensing data at different spectral and spatial resolutions. In my PhD thesis I investigated the potential of multispectral remote sensing in tropical biodiversity modelling and worked mainly in forest ecosystems.

Here, I will work as a postdoc in the Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (CABO). Within the CABO project, my research will focus on the multi-scale monitoring of plants and their functions in different Canadian ecosystems using hyperspectral data from airborne surveys. Together with other CABO members, I will analyze whether plant composition within and between the different ecosystems can be determined by spectral diversity. Furthermore, I will investigate the underlying effects of plant and spectral traits on species composition. The goal of my work will be to estimate the plant taxonomic and functional diversity of different Canadian ecosystems. This will help to analyze and answer further questions related to land use change, climate change and plant invasions.

Hasanki Gamhewa (M.Sc. Student)

I am particularly interested in how environmental gradients affect the distribution and performance of different plant functional groups. For my M.Sc. research, I will focus on whether climate warming might influence the duration of the high light period for early spring forest plants in Parc national du Mont Mégantic. Leaves of several understory plants (e.g., in the genera Trillium, Erythronium, Claytonia and Dicentra) emerge 3-4 weeks prior to closure of the tree canopy.  Using estimates of phenology from automated cameras and manipulations of light over 5 years, I will ask the following specific questions; (1) will climate warming alter the duration of this period of high light? and (2) what are the fitness consequences of different durations of high light?

Sabine St-Jean (M.Sc. Student)

Les changements climatiques ont le potentiel de désynchroniser les phénologies d’espèces interdépendantes, comme les plantes et leurs pollinisateurs. Fleurir plus tôt est souvent considéré comme un avantage en conférant une saison de croissance plus longue, mais peut aussi entraîner des coûts comme une insuffisance de pollinisateurs tôt au printemps. Les taux vitaux des plantes, par exemple la production de graines, pourraient s’en trouver affectés. Mon objectif est donc d’évaluer l’effet de la date de floraison des plantes printanières sur leur pollinisation et sur leur reproduction, tout en dressant le portrait de la biodiversité des pollinisateurs le long du gradient d’élévation du Mont-Mégantic.

 Climate change has the potential to alter the synchrony in the phenologies of interdependent species, like plants and their pollinators. Flowering earlier is often considered as an advantage by offering a longer growing season but may also entail costs such as insufficient pollination in early spring. Vital rates of plants, such as seed production, could be affected. Thus, my objective is to evaluate the effect of flowering dates of spring ephemerals on their pollination and on their reproduction, as well as to characterize the pollinator biodiversity along the altitudinal gradient on Mont Megantic

Guillaume Tougas (M.Sc. Student)

J'entame ma maitrise avec l'objectif de mieux comprendre les impacts des changements environnementaux sur nos forêts locales et de contribuer à la planification de la conservation des espèces végétales du Québec. La fréquence et l’intensité de certaines épidémies de pathogènes forestiers sont appelées à augmenter avec les variations dans le climat. Dans cet optique, j’étudierai notamment l'évolution de la maladie corticale du hêtre au parc national du Mont-Saint-Bruno par télédétection à partir d'imagerie hyper-spectrale aérienne. Ce projet est inclus dans CABO (Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory). J’y utiliserai la technologie hyper-spectrale afin de tenter de détecter les stades de la maladie au sein des couronnes d’arbres individuels à partir de variations dans la composition chimique des feuilles.

The objectives of my master’s degree are to better understand climate change impacts on our local forests and to contribute to plant species’ conservation planning in Québec. The frequency and the intensity of many forest diseases are increase due to climate warming. With this in mind, I will study the progression of beech bark disease (BBD) in Mont-Saint-Bruno National Park using remote sensing with aerial hyperspectral imagery. This project is part of the Canadian Airborne Biodiversity Observatory (CABO). I will use hyperspectral technology in an attempt to detect the different BBD stages within the crowns of individual trees from variation in leaf chemical composition. 


Socially distanced hike on Mont Hatley, October 2021 (from left to right: Mark Vellend, Ming Ni, Christine Wallis, Hasanki Gamhewa, Anna Crofts, Madelaine Anderson)

Socially distanced lab picnic: Diane Auberson-Lavoie, Françoise Cardou, Ming Ni, Mark Vellend, Anna Crofts, Mélanie Béhé, Christina Rinas, Sabine St-Jean, Isabelle Lefebvre (Parc Jaques Cartier, juillet 2020)


Back row: Mark Vellend, Christina Rinas, Françoise Cardou, David Watts, Ming Ni; From row: Anna Crofts, Amanda Young, Diane Auberson-Lavoie (Mont Mégantic, mars 2019)

Same people, same day, selfie version.

Past Graduate Students and Post-docs

Terri Lacourse
UBC NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellow 2006-2007
Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of Victoria

Patrick Lilley
UBC M.Sc. 2005-2007: "Determinants of native and exotic plant species diversity and composition in remnant oak savannas on southeastern Vancouver Island"
Current Position: Environmental Consultant, Kerr Wood Leidal

Emily Drummond
UBC M.Sc. 2006-2009: "The consequences of genetic diversity for invasion success in populations of dandelions"
Current Position: Postdoc, Rieseberg Lab

Hiroshi Tomimatsu
UBC Postdoctoral Fellow (Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science) 2007-2009
Current Position: Associate Professor, Yamagata University
htomimatsu [at]

Will Cornwell
UBC Biodiversity Research Centre Postdoctoral Fellow 2007-2009
Current Position: Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, Australia

Tom Deane
UBC M.Sc. 2008-2010: "Environmental and biotic influences on the abundance and distribution of an introduced grass species: implications for management in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia"

Tanis Gieselman
UBC M.Sc. 2008-2010: "Changes in grassland community composition at human-mediated edges in the south Okanagan"
Current position: Vice-president, Central Okanagan Land Trust

Nathan Kraft
UBC Biodiversity Research Centre Postdoctoral Fellow 2009-2011
Current position: Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles

Isla Myers-Smith
Postdoctoral Fellow 2011-2012
Current Position: Chancellor's Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Carissa Brown
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2011-2013
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Memorial University

Heather Kharouba
Ph.D., UBC, 2008-2013, "The influence of spatial and temporal climate variation on species' distributions, phenologies and interactions"
Current Position (autumn 2016): Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa

Jenny McCune
Ph.D., UBC, 2008-2013, "The long-term history of plant communities on southeastern Vancouver island based on vegetation resurveys and phytolith analysis"
Current Position: Assistant Professor, University of Lethbridge

Robin Beauséjour
M.Sc., 2011-2014, "Influence des perturbations anthropiques historiques sur les patrons d’invasion de plantes et de vers de terre non-indigènes dans une forêt primaire tempérée (Réserve Naturelle Gault, Mont St-Hilaire)"
Current position: Agent technique chez Ville de Montréal

Josée Savage
M.Sc., 2012-2014, "Changements temporels dans la végétation du Mont-Mégantic sur quatre décennies : effet du réchauffement climatique"

Geneviève Lajoie
M.Sc., 2012-2014, "Des sources de l’association trait-environnement entre les communautés végétales : Comprendre la dépendance sur le contexte de la contribution de la variation intraspécifique"
Current position: Ph.D. student, UQAM

Jean-Philippe Lessard
QCBS Postdoctoral Fellow 2012-2014
Current Position: Assistant Professor, Concordia University

Anne Bjorkman
M.Sc., 2006-2009, "Changes in the landscape and vegetation of southeastern Vancouver Island and Saltspring Islands, Canada, since European settlement"
Ph.D., 2009-2014, "Ecological and evolutionary consequences of experimental and natural warming in the high Arctic tundra"
Current Position: Postdoctoral fellow, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Germany

Jamie Leathem
M.Sc., 2009-2014, "Community assembly along subarctic roadsides: the role of plant functional traits in native and exotic species"
Current Position: Ecosystems Biologist, BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Morgane Urli
Post-doctoral fellow, 2013-2015
Current position: Post-doctoral Fellow, Québec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife & Parks

Martine Fugère
M.Sc., 2013-2015, "Étude du patron d'invasion des vers de terre exotiques dans le Parc national du Mont-Tremblan et de leurs impacts sur le milieu forestier"
Current position: Rédactrice/animatrice en vulgarisation scientifique chez Zapiens

Benjamin Marquis (co-supervised by Matthew Peros, Bishop's)
M.Sc., 2014-2016, "La limite de répartition supérieure de l’érable à sucre et du bouleau jaune sous contrôle climatique : étude dendroécologique le long d’un gradient d’élévation".
Current position: Ph.D. student, UQAT

Julien Beguin
FQRNT Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-2015
Current position: Biologist, Centre de Foresterie des Laurentides

Cesc Murria
Beatriu de Pinós Research Fellow, 2013-2016
Current position: Freshwater Ecology and Management, Departament d'Ecologia, Universitat de Barcelona

Sébastien Rivest
M.Sc. 2015-2017, "Variations altitudinales des interactions biotiques et de la phénologie de la floraison chez deux plantes de sous-étage de l'est de l'Amérique du nord"
Current position: Ph.D. student, University of Ottawa

Liz Kleynhans
Ph.D. 2011-2018 (UBC), "Community context of adaptation to environmental change"
Current position: Postdoctoral fellow, University of British Columbia

Antoine Becker-Scarpitta
Ph.D. 2014-2018, "Dynamiques temporelles des communautés végétales forestières en réponses aux changements globaux"

Julie Messier
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2016-2018.
Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo

Véronique Boucher-Lalonde
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2016-2018
Current position: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Diane Auberson-Lavoie
M.Sc. 2017-2019. "Causes et conséquences de l'herbivorie par le cerf de Virginie sur Trillium erectum le long d'un gradient élévationnel"
Current position: Animatrice, Parc Yamaska, SÉPAQ

Amanda Young
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2017-2019
Current position: Spatial and Environmental Data Center Manager, Toolik Field Station, Alaska.

David Watts
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2017-2019

Sabine St-Jean
Technicienne, 2019-2020
Current position: Coordonateur de laboratoire, Université de Sherbrooke

Alexis Carteron
Ph.D. 2016-2020 (co-supervisé, U. Montréal). "La dominance mycorhizienne en tant que facteur local déterminant des processus écologiques forestiers".
Current position: Postdoc, Université de Montréal

Victor Danneyrolles
Postdoc, 2017-2020 (co-supervisé, Rimouski, Abitibi)
Current position: Postdoc, Université de Sherbrooke

Erin Crockett
Ph.D. 2021 (co-supervised with Elena Bennett, McGill University)
Current position: Postdoctoral researcher, United States Forest Service / University of New Hampshire

Françoise Cardou
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2020
Current position: Postdoc, University of Toronto

Inês Martins
Postdoctoral Fellow, Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity (co-supervised with Chris Thomas & Maria Dornelas)
Current position: Postdoc, University of St. Andrews

Old lab pictures...


Diane Auberson-Lavoie, Mark Vellend, Sébastien Rivest, Amanda Young (Mont Mégantic, mars 2017)

Labo, August 2016: Yuanzhi Li (Shipley lab), Chuping Wu, Julie Messier, Jinliang Liu, Mélissa Paquet, Antoine Becker-Scarpitta, Mark Vellend, Nikola Tutic, Sébastien Rivest

Labo, mars 2014: Morgane, Antoine, Cesc, François, Geneviève, Benjamin

Labo, juillet 2012: Anne-Sophie, Geneviève, Leonardo, Josée, Carissa, Robin, Isla, Valérie, Mark

July 2007, Vancouver Island: Anne Bjorkman, Emily Drummond, Laura Super, Mark Vellend, Patrick Lilley, Jen Muir, Hiroshi Tomimatsu

May 2008, Golden Ears Provincial Park: Hiroshi Tomimatsu, Jenn Muir, Mark Vellend, Maurice Agha, Heather Kharouba, Emily Drummond, Anne Bjorkman, Nozomi Tomimatsu, Will Cornwell, Tanis Gieselman, Jenny McCune

May 2010, Taylor Point, Saturna Island: Nathan Kraft, Jenny McCune, Heather Kharouba, Mark Vellend, Tanis Gieselman, Jamie Leathem, Anne Bjorkman

Christmas/Farewell Party 2010: Back row: Jamie, Jenny, Emily, Dan, Annabelle, Heather, Anne, Hannes, Patrick, Mark, Félix, Véronique, Nathan; Front row: Liz, Joe, Janet, Tanis