Research

Post-Doc, Conservation genomics

In my Post-Doc at Concordia I am working on conservation genomics and management in fisheries, primarily with Walleye populations in northern Quebec.

Collaborative population monitoring integrating scientific and traditional knowledge is integral to community-based population management. The Cree Nation of Mistissini, QC, have been collaborating to manage walleye (Sander vitreus) populations in Mistassini Lake. Life history and genomic attributes of walleye populations were compared between 2002/2003 and 2015, between which local population size and fishing-based tourism increased, in four rivers (southern: 1-3; northern: 1). Contemporary reductions in both length (11 to 21%) and mass (24 to 39%) have occurred in the southern rivers, near the only human settlement on the lake, but not in the northern. I am working to determine whether genomic estimates of population size and genetic diversity track changes in life history. Management and monitoring plans for these populations have been undertaken that are complementary to traditional customs and fishing techniques, showing leadership towards maintaining aquatic biodiversity.

Evolutionary genetics, PhD

Population divergence, changes in allele frequency or mean phenotype between populations of the same species, occurs due to a plethora of factors. These include any or all of, mutation, migration, selection and drift. In my PhD thesis, I characterized the origins, patterns and maintenance of genetic diversity in a putatively young threespine stickleback radiation in southwest Alaska. My project was multi-faceted, as most PhD projects are, and components included studying the population genetics of diverging lineages, and measuring differences in body length and recombination rate in these same lineages. My field sites were in and around the spectacular Katmai National Park and Preserve and Aniakchak National Monument, Alaska, and I completed my work in collaboration with the US National Park Service in King Salmon, Alaska.

Dr. Rogers' aquatic facility at the University of Calgary , where I'm conducting experiments with Threespine stickleback.

Dr. Rogers’ aquatic facility at the University of Calgary , where I conducted experiments with Threespine stickleback.

Threespine stickleback sampled for my growth experiment, 2014.

Threespine stickleback sampled for my body length experiment, 2014.

My supervisor, Dr. Sean Rogers, and many of my current fish room volunteers. From left to right: Faizan Malik, Sean Rogers, Abdallah Anam, Andy Moon, Becky Johnston, Shemanti Barua, Me, Amanda Martin, Atefeh Nasiry.

My supervisor, Dr. Sean Rogers, and many of my current fish room volunteers. From left to right: Faizan Malik, Sean Rogers, Abdallah Anam, Andy Moon, Becky Johnston, Shemanti Barua, Me, Amanda Martin, Atefeh.

Quantitative diet analysis, MSc

Accurate estimates of the amount of prey consumed by predators are important for understanding trophic interactions, and also for understanding the demands of an ecosystem on a resource. However, estimates are hard to obtain for predators that spend much of their time foraging under water. Various non-invasive diet analysis techniques are being investigated to address this problem, and during my MSc, I worked on one of these. In Drs. Andrew Trites (Marine Mammal Research Unit) and Trish Schultes’ labs (Department of Zoology) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), I validated a method for determining the relative proportion of prey species in the diets of Steller sea lions using DNA extracted from faecal matter.

Getting the soft-tissue matrix of fresh Steller sea lion faecal matter at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Getting the soft-tissue matrix of fresh Steller sea lion faecal matter at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Retinoblastoma, a childhood eye cancer, BSc and afterward

Retinoblastoma is a childhood eye cancer that affects ~1 in every 15 000 live births in Canada. In Dr. Brenda Gallie’s labs and under the supervision of Drs. Timothy Corson and Brenda Gallie at the U of Toronto, OCI/PMH/UHN, I investigated the genomic changes involved in the development of retinoblastoma tumors.

child with bilateral retinoblastoma.

child with bilateral retinoblastoma.