Principal Investigator

Rowan Barrett

Rowan is the Canada Research Chair of Biodiversity Science at McGill University. He completed his M.Sc. at McGill in 2005, conducting experimental evolution with microbes. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia in 2010, where he studied the genetics of adaptation in threespine stickleback. He then moved to Harvard University as a Howard Alper postdoctoral fellow, where he investigated ecological genomics using deer mice. Since 2013 Rowan has been a professor in the Redpath Museum and Department of Biology at McGill. He is broadly interested in the reciprocal interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes, and the mechanisms by which these forces impact genomic variation in natural populations.

Rowan’s CV and Google Scholar profile.

Graduate Students

Marc-Olivier Beausoleil

Marco_s_blurb_pictureMarc-Olivier completed his B.Sc in ecology in a problem-based learning program at l’Université du Québec à Montréal. He studied, as an undergraduate with Denis Réale and Anne Charmantier, population genetics of blue tit (Cyanistes cæruleus) birds in Corsica. He is interested in ecology, evolutionary biology and the intrigue of biological diversity on this planet. Multidisciplinary approaches are his hobby horse, and he tries trying to combine scientific popularization, knowledge transfer, and a bit of art. His Ph.D. thesis will utilize population genomic methods to understand the evolution of Darwin’s finches. Marc-Olivier’s website.

Janay Fox

Janay completed a B.Sc. Honours in Genetics and a Certificate in Biological Research at the University of Alberta. As an undergraduate she used a candidate gene approach to investigate the genetic basis of boldness in a free ranging population of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) under the supervision of Dr. Coltman. For her Ph.D. research, as a part of the NEO-STRI Program, Janay will be using a genomic approach to understand evolutionary dynamics between Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) and their Gyrodactylus parasites. Janay’s website.

Alan Garcia-Efring

Alan obtained a BSc from Vancouver Island University. He then joined the Millien lab at McGill University, where he used genomic tools to investigate the evolutionary history of the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) in southern Quebec. For his PhD, Alan is interested in using population genomics to investigate the genetic basis of phenotypic traits. In particular, he will focus on uncovering the genetic basis of recessive colour morphs in ball pythons (Python regius) found in herpetoculture. Alan’s website.

Victoria Glynn

Victoria earned her B.Sc. in Environmental Sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, minoring in Science and Math Education (CalTeach). As an undergraduate, she worked with Dr. Jamie Cate (UC Berkeley) using CRISPR-Cas9 to: genetically engineer yeast for specialized fatty-acid production, and reduce wheat and rice’s susceptibility to bacterial and fungal pathogens. Her honors thesis under Dr. Claire Kremen (UC Berkeley) studied how passerine and near-passerine birds in California’s Central Coast are impacted by agricultural land use change; this was achieved by linking haematological metrics and aerial imagery via mixed-effects modeling. Victoria is also passionate about STEM outreach. With the CalTeach program she designed culturally-relevant science curriculum and taught over 200 hours in K-12 classrooms in the East Bay. For her Ph.D. she is interested in exploring coral’s molecular responses to climate change. Victoria is part of the NEO-STRI Program and is being co-advised by Dr. David Kline (STRI).

Mary Kathleen (MK) Hickox

MK obtained her BScH in Biological Sciences at Queen’s University and is a 2015 Schulich Leader Scholar. During her undergraduate studies, she studied evolution at both the behavioural (Dr. Adam Chippindale, Queen’s University) and genetic levels (Dr. Vicki Friesen, Queen’s University) to investigate speciation events. Her honours thesis, under the supervision of Dr. Steve Lougheed, investigated the population genomics of chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata and P. triseriata) to help inform conservation practices. MK is an avid activist, and, in partnership with a non-for-profit NGO, has advocated to bring activism into academic spaces across the country. Her master’s thesis examines the micro-spatial distribution of Darwin’s finches on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. She is a proud member of the NEO program, and is studying under the co-supervision of Dr. Andrew Hendry.

Ananda Martins

Ananda completed her BA in Biological Sciences at Federal University of Maranhão – Brazil (UFMA). As an undergraduate she worked on the systematics and phylogenetics of Arcas Swainson (Lycaenidae) and evolutionary aspects of male secondary sexual organs, under the supervision of Dr. Robert Robbins (National Museum of Natural History – Smithsonian Institution) and Dr. Gisele Garcia Azevedo (UFMA). She completed her M.Sc. at the Museum of Zoology – University of São Paulo/Brazil (MZUSP), working on the systematics and phylogenetics the Atlides Section (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae, Theclinae, Eumaeini), under the orientation of Dr. Marcelo Duarte (MZUSP) and Dr. Robert Robbins (Smithsonian Institution). For her Ph.D. research, Ananda is interested in patterns of biodiversity and mechanisms that drive these patterns. She will focus especially on the process of hybridization, working with Heliconius butterflies of the Brazilian Amazon. Ananda is a member of the NEO program and is co-advised by Dr. Owen McMillan (STRI). Ananda’s website.

Mathilde Salamon

Mathilde earned her BSc in Biological Sciences from the University Paris-Sud. As an undergraduate, she worked on the evolution of reproduction strategies in the ant Cataglyphis cursor (supervised by Dr. Thibaud Monnin, University Pierre and Marie Curie). She completed her MSc in evolutionary ecology at the University Paris-Saclay after a one year exchange at the University of Calgary. During her MSc, she worked on invasive species at the Roscoff Marine Station, studying trophic characteristics of native and invasive sympatric Ascidian species (co-supervised by Dr. Christophe Lejeusne and Dr. Thierry Comtet), as well as connectivity patterns and population dynamics in the invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida (supervised by Frédérique Viard). For her Ph.D, she will use genomic tools and experimental approaches to study the adaptation of calanoid copepods to climate change and toxicity. Mathilde is based at the Université du Québec à Montréal and is co-supervised by Alison Derry. She is a member of the EcoLac program.


Charles Xu

Charles received his B.Sc. in environmental sciences from the University of Notre Dame. During his undergraduate, he worked on aquatic environmental DNA, speciation genomics of apple maggot flies, and spider web DNA. He then participated in the MEME Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme in Evolutionary Biology where he earned M.Sc. degrees from the University of Groningen, University of Montpellier, and Uppsala University. In his masters, he worked on the genetics of starvation tolerance in European seabass, population estimation of giant pandas using genetic mark recapture, and taxonomic assignment of metabarcoding data. Charles is broadly interested in the application of genetic tools towards answering questions and solving problems in ecology, evolution, and conservation. He also advocates for greater diversity and science outreach whenever possible. Charles was awarded a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship to support his Ph.D. on the discovery, study, and protection of biodiversity via metagenomics. Charles’ website.


Research Associate

Åsa Lind

Åsa received her B.Sc. with Honours from the University of Glasgow in 2017. As an undergraduate, she conducted a project on population genetics in Atlantic salmon. After graduating, she worked as a technician at the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas at Austin. During her time at UT, she worked on a meta-analysis on asymmetric premating isolation for Prof. Daniel Bolnick, conducted phonotaxis experiments on Túngara frogs for Prof. Michael J. Ryan and did ancient DNA work for Prof. Deborah Bolnick.

Undergraduates and volunteers

Wing-Zheng Ho

Wing majored in B.Sc Biology with a Specialization in Ecology at Concordia University. He is interested in developing new tools and frameworks to assist his peers in their ecological research and education. Currently volunteering at the Barrett lab, Wing is assisting with an experimental evolution project involving transplants of threespine stickleback into several Alaskan lakes. His current personal project consists of porting the Java based ecological modeling software Populus into an easily accessible web app for students without access to a compatible computer due to COVID-19 restrictions on computer lab access. App demo:  Wing’s website.

You can see photos from lab social events and outings here!

Lab alumni

Graduate student alumni

Tim Thurman

IMG_6490Tim conducted his Ph.D. in the Barrett lab, investigating adaptation in natural populations of Heliconius butterflies and Anolis lizards. Tim is currently an NSF postdoctoral fellow in Jeff Good’s lab at University of Montana, investigating landscape genomics in snowshoe hares.

Sara Wuitchik

Sara conducted her Ph.D. in the Barrett and Rogers (University of Calgary) labs, investigating the ecological consequences of genetically-based thermal traits in fishes. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow with Michael Sorenson (University of Boston) and Tim Sackton (Harvard University), where she is working on the comparative genomics of avian brood parasitism. Sara’s website.

Juntao Hu

Juntao completed both his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Agronomy at China Agricultural University. During his undergraduate and M.Sc., he worked on developing DNA barcoding techniques to identify invasive insect species, and explored molecular mechanisms, particularly heat shock protein expression, underlying the distinct range expansion patterns of two invasive fruit fly species. Juntao conducted his Ph.D. thesis in the Barrett lab, studying epigenetic responses to environmental change in wide range of animal taxa. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard University, focusing on developing models to explore the relationship between DNA methylation, chronological age, and biological age in animals.

Dieta Hanson

Dieta investigated ecological speciation in threespine stickleback during her Ph.D. in the Barrett lab. She is currently a data scientist at Dieta’s website.

Arash Askary

Ari investigated epigenetic responses to stress in Anolis sagrei during his Ph.D. He is currently doing market research for Hotspex.

Sara Kurland

Sara was a visiting M.Sc. student in the lab. Her project focused on migration-selection balance in populations of threespine stickleback inhabiting bar-built estuaries in California. She is currently conducting her Ph.D. at the University of Stockholm.

Bushra Sial

Bushra was a visiting Ph.D. student from Pakistan. Her project involved DNA barcoding for identification of Pakistan’s marine and freshwater fish species.

Postdoctoral fellow and research associate alumni

Madlen Stange

Madlen was a postdoctoral fellow with a Swiss mobility fellowship to study ionic adaptation in freshwater fishes of the St. Lawrence river and freshwater adaptation in a sea catfish species in the Panama Canal. She is currently tracing the sars-cov2 outbreak using whole genome sequencing data as a postdoctoral fellow at the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland. Madlen’s website.

Antoine Paccard

Antoine was a postdoctoral fellow in the Barrett lab, investigating eco-evolutionary dynamics in threespine stickleback. He is currently a research professional in genomic studies at the McGill Genome Center. Antoine’s website.

Caroline LeBlond

Caroline LeBlond was the lab manager for the Barrett and Hendry labs. She is currently an administrator for the Redpath Museum at McGill.

Undergraduate alumni

Juliette Lemoine (BIOL 479)

Juliette is completing her B.Sc in Biology at McGill University. For her Honours research project in BIOL 479, she worked with Charles Xu to investigate how the microbiome inhabiting skin piercings and how it changes over time after a disturbance event. She is using earlobe piercings as her study model to compare the microbiome of pierced and non-pierced skin from participants over time.

Savannah Bissegger O’Connor (BIOL 466)

Savannah is majoring in Biology at McGill University. For her Independent Research Project (BIOL 466), she worked with Victoria Glynn to study the symbiotic relationship between the sea anemone Exaiptasia pallida and dinoflagellates. Her work involves developing protocols for optimal tank pH and salinity for the anemones, and propagating the lines through asexual reproduction by cutting. Savannah will also be gaining a solid foundation on basic molecular biology techniques, such as PCRs, gel electrophoresis, and DNA sequence analyses.

Frida-Cecilia Acosta-Parenteau (BIOL 466)

Frida-Cecilia is majoring in Quantitative Biology at McGill University. For her Independent Research Project (BIOL 466), she worked with PhD student Victoria Glynn, and the undergraduate researcher Savannah Bissegger, studying the effects of water salinity and asexual reproduction in the emerging model system for corals, the sea anemone Exaiptasia pallida.

Avery Albert

As an undergraduate, Avery worked closely with Charles in summer 2019 in order to help plan the “Microbiome of Human Piercings” project. Participants are currently being collected from a Tattoo Lounge in Montreal and we hope to begin bacterial sequencing of samples soon! Avery is currently completing a double major in the departments of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, as well as working in the lab of Dr. Aneil Agrawal in the EEB department.

Emily Brown

Emily is a U2 Biology student at McGill. She volunteered with Ananda in 2019 and helped with standardized photography and digitization of the wings of Heliconius butterflies, and with finding patterns in wing colouration using R. Since her time in the Barrett lab she has worked on independent research in the von Sperber lab studying changes in phosphorus concentration in plants with varying altitude, bedrock type, and time in the growing season. Emily is currently studying in New Zealand for a semester, and hopes to continue to study human impacts on biodiversity in the future.

Nicole Stinson

Nicole worked as a volunteer in Dr. Barrett’s lab during her undergrad, assisting Charles Xu with extracting environmental DNA from samples collected at the Large Experimental Array of Ponds (LEAP) to study community and evolutionary rescue. While working in the lab, she was able to practice DNA extractions, get comfortable with doing standard lab protocols such as PCR and gel electrophoresis. Nicole currently works for a non-profit, teaching and promoting science and robotics in schools in Kahnawake, and is planning to return to academia to complete a masters in evolutionary biology in the next few years.

Rachel Takasaki

Rachel is a U2 biology student who worked on the DNA extractions from the 2017 Large Experimental Array of Ponds experiment, which used environmental DNA samples to study evolutionary and community rescue. Since leaving the Barrett lab, she has been working at the McGill Farmers’ Market and studying in Panama for a field study semester. She aspires to study the intersection of how ecosystems and human societies are adapting to climate change in the future.

Michael Maddalena

In 2018, Michael was an undergraduate volunteer in the lab. He performed eDNA extractions from water samples collected at the Large Experimental Array of Ponds (LEAP) located at the Gault Nature Reserve to study the adaptability of the aquatic communities to acidity. Since then, Michael has also worked as an intern at INRS Armand-Frappier for Dr. Éric Déziel, studying the effects of multiple species and strains from the Burkholderia cepacia complex (BCC) on the growth of plants and the virulence of variant strains having lost a chromosome in a Galleria model. He is currently working towards his undergraduate degree in Microbiology and Immunology here at McGill.

Lauren Bennett

Lauren worked in the Barrett lab in the spring and summer of 2018 assessing the effect of charged membrane filters in the collection of environmental DNA (eDNA) from natural water samples. In addition, Lauren helped extract eDNA from samples collected at the Large Experimental Array of Ponds (LEAP) facility in the summer of 2017 testing the effect of acidity on lake communities. She also participated in fieldwork for the LEAP 2018 experiment. Currently, Lauren teaches high school science to students with learning difficulties and continuously strive to make science exciting and accessible for all.

Scarlett (Yiyi) Xiao

In summer 2018, Scarlett worked on measuring the surface area of leaves by using the Lamina program under the supervision of Tim Thurman and Charles Xu. These leaves were collected from experimental islands in the Bahamas and served as an indicator of herbivory. Scarlett is currently finishing her degrees in computer science and biology.

Kiran Yendamuri

In the summer of 2017, Kiran assisted Charles Xu to develop an updated protocol for extracting DNA of spiders and their prey from spider webs. Kiran also worked with Charles as the director of videography for the STEMM Diversity @ McGill student initiative at the Redpath Museum. He has recently been accepted to the University of Manitoba to pursue an MSc in Arctic Oceanography and will start in the summer of 2020.

Samantha LaPenna

Samantha worked in the Barrett Lab while completing her DEC in Health Science at Vanier College. She entered the BioGenius Competition in 2017 under the mentorship of Charles Xu. Her project was titled, “DNA extractions on spider webs vs DNA extractions from spider tissues; the next steps in conservation”. She is now in her final year at McGill University in Honours Life Sciences with a specialization in Animal Biology. She is currently conducting research in the Bordignon Lab on the Macdonald Campus. Her current project tests the efficiency of microinjection and electroporation in the delivery of CRISPR Cas9 and gene editing in porcine embryos. After graduation, she wishes to study veterinary medicine.

DRY-BAR Lab group

The BARrett lab also spends a lot of time with people in Andrew HenDRY‘s lab group at McGill. We share a number of research interests and our offices are all nearby each other in the Redpath Museum. Every Thursday the two groups get together for a big shared lab meeting, which is always good fun and has initiated many fruitful collaborations between members of both labs and our visitors!

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