• Research

    Evolution in the context of complex communities

    Experimental evolution and artificial selection have focused on the study of populations of single species in isolation. However, organisms evolve within complex communities that respond to environmental change. Furthermore, communities may evolve in response to environmental change or to artificial selection through both genetic changes within species, but also through changes in the abundance of species and changes in ecological interactions. The study of evolution at any higher level of organisation than the population is controversial, contentious and exciting. Community rescue occurs when populations within a community evolve in response to an environmental stress that was initially lethal to all the constituent organisms. Our results suggest that entire communities have…

  • Research

    Microbial biogeography

    Life is almost ubiquitous on Earth: organisms live wherever there is liquid water. However, whether all types of micro-organisms can be found everywhere is a longstanding debate. Microbes must be put on the map! Because adaptation to extreme environments requires the development of novel specialised capacities not found in other organisms, organisms that can grow in extremes conditions could be expected to be confined to extreme environments and are ideal model organisms for the study of microbial biogeography. Lake Hertel in which organisms that can thrive in extreme conditions were found. Photo credit: Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University – DIZI Films inc. Lake Hertel Using amplifying bioreactors, we have…

  • Research

    Ecological and evolutionary response to global change

    Front row are elevated CO2 cultures, back row are ambient CO2 cultures. The world has been changing faster in the past ten years than it likely has in the last 300 million.  When faced with environmental change, species can avoid the change by moving, evolve and adapt to the new conditions or go extinct. Environmental change will thus cause changes in the composition of communities and in the important functions they provide. We investigate how knowledge of the physiology of individual species can help us predict changes in complex communities.  We also study how the physiology of species can change through evolutionary adaptation to their novel environment and how this…