Faculty Project Profiles 2022-23
Here are some of the exciting research areas for Honours Thesis Projects. If something catches your interest, the next step is to contact individual faculty members to see what projects are available this year, then fill in the BIOL 537 Application Form 2022-23. The application deadline is March 22, 2022.
Dr. M. Aristizabal
Dr. S. Arnott
Despite the importance of freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide, lakes are experiencing multiple environmental stressors associated with human activities. We study zooplankton communities to understand how environmental change (e.g., invasive species, aqueous calcium decline, climate change) impacts aquatic food webs.
Our research is conducted at multiple scales. We use field mesocosm experiments to isolate the effects of individual and combined stressors on community structure and function. Population-level lab experiments are used to understand direct effects of stressors on life-history attributes. Regional lake surveys allow us to identify how species distributions are influenced by changing environments.
We work collaboratively with scientists from the Ontario Ministries of Environment and Climate Change, and Natural Resources and Forestry, to improve our understanding of lake ecosystem response to human activities. Our hope is that our research will be used to inform sound environmental policy.
Dr. Wm. Bendena
How the nervous system functions in higher organisms is very complex! Our lab uses model organisms with less complex nervous systems that are amenable to molecular genetic analysis, namely, the nematode Caernorhabditis elegans and the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster. Many genes found in these organisms have counterparts in higher animals and have been shown to function in similar ways. Our focus is on understanding how neuropeptides and neuropeptide receptors act to control behaviours such as muscle contraction (movement), metabolism (weight gain or loss), sleep/biological clock, and hormonal systems. The approaches we use include molecular biology (cloning and gene knockouts), genetics (phenotypes of mutants), microscopy (fluorescent gene expression, fluorescent dyes and immunocytochemistry) and biochemical analysis.
Dr. P. Blanchfield
Rm: 3120 Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-6131
E-mail Faculty Profile
We study how animals respond to changing aquatic environments and habitats, with a focus on cold-water adapted organisms, including various freshwater fish species and the Atlantic Walrus. Research in my lab often uses biotelemetry or behavioural observation approaches, paired with limnological and food-web measures, to examine habitat use under natural conditions and understand the potential consequences of environmental change to populations.
DR. F. BONIER
Rm.: 3523 Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-6000 ext, 77024
E-mail Faculty Profile
Our research explores how organisms cope with diverse challenges like changing temperatures, disease, and urbanization. We approach this broad aim from a number of perspectives, often investigating plastic changes in behaviour, physiology, and life history to better understand adaptations to challenges. BIOL537 projects possibly available for 2022-23 include field studies on urban birds or burying beetles, citizen science research on urban birds, and/or captive experiments involving thermal challenges and parental care in burying beetles. 537 students work closely with graduate students and have the opportunity to develop field, lab, data analysis (in R), and communication skills.
Dr. A. Chippindale
We use experiments with the mighty fruit fly Drosophila to address questions about evolution. Our main line of research at the present time is the impact of sexual conflict on the genome. Fruit flies are an awesome system for a thesis student because they are easy to rear with short generations, meaning that we can get new personnel up to speed quickly and produce high-quality experiments over a relatively short time line.
What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. We are using experimental evolution, genetic manipulations and large scale surveys of survival and reproductive success to unravel the genetic basis of a major form of sexual conflict: conflict in which genes that confer high fitness in one sex have the opposite effect upon the other sex. For example, in a mammal, genes that confer high testosterone activity may be good for sons but bad for daughters. We are interested in identifying both the phenotypes and the genotypes underlying this conflict, as well as mechanisms by which evolution reduces sexual conflict and their impact on genome organization. This conflict is implicated in evolutionary enigmas as diverse as sexual orientation and psychotic/autistic differences in humans.
We will be in an unprecedented position to do experiments related to sexual conflict because of a long term evolution experiment that will offer numerous opportunities for investigation. The Chippindale lab seeks hard-working, enthusiastic and diligent thesis students to join our collegial team.
DR. R. COLAUTTI
Rm: 4325A Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-2353
E-mail Faculty Profile
Human activity is rapid changing all of the earth’s major ecosystems, benefitting some species with adverse effects on others. The Colautti lab investigates how human activity is changing genes, genomes and phenotypes of species in nature, and how these changes affect species persistence in a changing world.
We work at the interface of ecology, evolution and genetics; our research combines greenhouse and field work (primarily at QUBS) with cutting-edge methods in genomics (e.g. Next-Generation Sequencing) and computational biology (in R, Python, Unix). We think knowledge from these experiments will lead to innovative solutions for the conservation and management of natural resources and ecosystem services increasingly threatened by global change.
For a list of current research projects and personnel, visit http://ecoevogeno.org
Dr. B. Cumming
My research focuses on the development of techniques and approaches to assess environmental change in lakes over decades to millennia from both natural (e.g., climate, fire) and anthropogenic stressors. This research involves understanding the modern-day relationships between freshwater organisms and their environment, and how these relationships can be used to better understand past environmental conditions by examining the assemblages of algae and invertebrates in well-dated sediment cores from lakes. An active area of research in my lab involves studies that are designed to understand the role of climate and anthropogenic activities on lakes in boreal and the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Forest regions of Ontario, and the Adirondack region (NY, USA), and how this information can be used in the conservation and management of lakes. Currently, we are working on lakes from the central interior of British Columbia, Cape Breton Island National Park, the Adirondacks, and local lakes that are adjacent to and within Frontenac Provincial Park (just north of Kingston). I strive to provide student-based projects that are possible within the constraints of a fourth-year thesis and the interests of the student.
Our research focuses on understanding complex phenotypes of bacteria using diverse methods spanning molecular genetics to comparative genomics to systems biology.
Our primary focus is a group of bacteria known as rhizobia. Rhizobia are soil bacteria capable of entering a symbiotic interaction with legume plants, during which they convert atmospheric nitrogen gas to ammonia that is provided to the plant as a source of nitrogen. This interaction allows these plants to thrive even in nitrogen-deficient soils, reducing the need for toxic nitrogen-based fertilizers in agricultural settings. We aim to develop a comprehensive understanding of the genetics, metabolism, and regulatory networks that support the entire life history of rhizobia to support attempts at engineering these bacteria for increased agricultural outputs. We also have a long-standing interest in characterizing the structure, function, and evolution of the complex genome structure found in ~ 10% of bacteria including most rhizobia.
More recently, we have become interested in the biodegradation of plastics. Canadians use over 4.5 million tonnes of plastic per year, or which only 9% is recycled while 290,000 tonnes leack into the environment. The low rates of plastic recycling are due in part to the difficulty in recycling contaminated, post-consumer plastic, combined with the limited market opportunities for recycled plastic products. To tackle this problem, we are interested in identifying enzymes and microbes capable of degrading plastics and converting them either back to their monomers or into other valuable chemicals. We will accomplish this using diverse metagenomic and functional genomics approaches. By doing so, we hope to contribute to a foundation supporting the development of novel plastic biochemical recycling technologies.
"For more information on the research in the lab and our team, please refer to: dicenzolab.weebly.com.” with the following sentence "For more information on the research in the lab and our team, please refer to dicenzolab.weebly.com and openplastic.com.”
We are investigating the process of evolutionary adaptation: What is the role of natural selection in relation to other evolutionary forces? How do interactions between ecology & genetics influence the mode & tempo of evolution? What constrains adaptation thereby limiting species geographical and ecological distributions?
And we do all this with plants. Yes plants. Because plants exhibit unparalleled diversity in life history, reproductive mode & genetic system, and they often exhibit striking evolutionary diversity within individual species and sometimes within individual populations. Plus they are really strange and wonderful organisms and very co-operative during experiments. In my lab, we embrace our inner botanist and a large part of training in my lab is learning about plant natural history and ecology.
DR. J. FRIEDMAN
Dr. V. Friesen
As apex predators, seabirds are critical components of marine ecosystems. The capacity for seabirds to survive environmental change through phenotypic plasticity (changes in individual behaviour or physiology), dispersal (movement to a new place) or genetic adaptation is virtually unknown but is critical for conservation. New genomic methods, especially when combined with studies of behaviour and life history, provide powerful opportunities to determine the potential for arctic seabirds to adapt to climate change and industrial development. Three types of projects are available in 2019/20. All students will obtain training in population genetics, seabird ecology, project management, and science communication.
- Do local populations differ genetically, and do they harbour genetic variation that may be important for adaptation to climate change? This will be addressed in one species using genomic data.
- Who does well under climate change? Several projects are possible that use long-term seabird datasets to examine how seabirds are responding to ongoing environmental changes. An example project might consider changes in egg-volume over time and how these affect fledging success.
- Source-sink dynamics are incredibly important in understanding population dynamics. Genomic tools could help us estimate migration rates in populations that aren’t studied in detail. One possible project will compare known immigration rates at an arctic seabird colony to those estimated using genomic data.
Dr. P. Grogan
I am interested in carbon and nutrient cycling and how it affects the structure and functioning of arctic tundra as well as temperate forest and grassland ecosystems. One of the contexts for these studies is to understand how such ecosystems are likely to be affected by perturbations such as climate change, land use change, and atmospheric pollution. For further details, including a listing of specific research projects in which we are currently engaged, please see
Thesis students in my lab are strongly encouraged to develop their own research hypotheses within or outside the general areas outlined above.
Dr. D. Lefebvre
Our research investigates i) the ‘green’ synthetic biology of nanoparticles composed of inorganic elements such as industrially valuable quantum dots, and ii) bioremediation of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms that pollute water bodies globally. Synthetic biology is touted to be the science of the future, and cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms are a persistent threat to potable water on a global scale. Our studies involve environmental assessment and sampling; microbial culturing techniques; in lab, greenhouse and reservoir experiments; chemical, biochemical, genetic and molecular analyses; microscopy and spectroscopy; among others.
Dr. A. LITTLE
My lab is interested in the mechanisms and costs of adaptive plasticity. For instance, we are interested in whether more plastic animals pay a price when the plasticity goes unused (i.e., maintenance costs), or whether multiple stressors promote ecological costs. We use tools in molecular biology, comparative physiology and ecotoxicology to understand how stressors interact to influence animal performance and fitness, focusing on both invertebrate and vertebrate models.
Specifically, we are currently using a starlet anemone (Nematostella vectensis) model to quantify individual differences in plasticity at different stages of development. By comparing genotypes spanning a wide range of plasticity scores, we are beginning to unravel the various tradeoffs associated with plastic phenotypes. We also use transgenic zebrafish (Danio rerio) to investigate the effects of multiple stressors on plastic defences. Here we focus on anthropogenic stressors, including temperature, salinity, hypoxia, and pollution. Many aquatic pollutants target endocrine systems in fish populations already threatened by other aspects of climate change and we are interested in how these interactions may shape plasticity as an adaptive defence.
Dr. S.C. Lougheed
We are interested in understanding the origins of biodiversity from the level of local adaptation and limiting gene flow in single landscapes, through the genomics of entire species' ranges, to understanding the processes that produce new, reproductively isolated species. Our research uses the perspectives of landscape genetics, phylogeography and phylogenetics of select vertebrates (frogs, snakes, lizards, fish, bears, and birds) to understand species origins and the impacts that human activities have on species distributions and genetic diversity. We combine molecular tools, radiotelemetry and GIS, habitat characterization, and ecological experiments to study species of conservation concern in Canada and provide direct inputs into conservation planning and habitat stewardship.
Dr. P. Martin
Our current work focuses on interactions among closely related species and the factors that determine their distributions along environmental gradients (community ecology). Possible honours thesis projects available for this coming year are listed here: https://www.paulmartinlab.com/honours-thesis-projects
Our work for the upcoming year will include both field studies of burying beetles (assuming field work is permitted) and comparative work on birds. Field-based projects would require basing out of the Queen's University Biological Station, likely from mid-May to mid-July. Our comparative work relies on existing phylogenetic, genetic, and geographic range data (using GIS), and measures of traits taken from the literature, museums, or other sources (including community science), and can be completed during the summer and/or fall.
I will take up to 3 honours thesis students next year.
DR. J. MONAGHAN
We are interested in the molecular mechanisms that underpin host-microbe interactions. Just like understanding our own immune system is necessary for the development of effective drugs and vaccines, understanding the plant immune system is necessary for the development of sustainable and environmentally-friendly strategies to fight diseases that affect our crops. Our lab focuses on understanding the regulatory mechanisms that allow plants to defend against a vast array of potential pathogens while maintaining normal growth and development. We use a variety of approaches, but rely heavily on genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, proteomics, and cell biology in the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. For more information on what we do please see our lab website http://monaghanlab.ca and get in touch to discuss your interest. Preference will be given to those ready to use their previous lab experience to tackle a hypothesis-driven project.
DR. C.D. MOYES
Rm 3121, Biosciences Complex
Animals use metabolic pathways to capture dietary energy and transform it into ATP, which is used to support all biological processes, including movement. My lab studies how animals regulate their genes and enzymes to ensure that metabolic pathways provide enough energy to meet biological demands, particularly when the animals face environmental challenges. The research spans cell biology, molecular and evolutionary genetics, metabolic biochemistry and animal physiology. My emphasis is on the underlying mechanisms and common themes, creating a framework to understand how physiological differences arise in cells, tissues and animals. I am not available to supervise BIOL537 students this year, though I expect to co-supervise with other faculty members, contributing a physiological perspective to projects of mutual interest in the realm of evolution, ecology and energetics.
DR. WM. NELSON
The Nelson lab is interested in understanding how the lifecycle of an organism impacts its population dynamics. We work in three experimental systems: Freshwater zooplankton, tortrix moths, and bean weevils. The systems are great for studying ecological and evolutionary processes because they have short generation times and are easy to work with the lab. I typically take on two or three motivated students each year, and am happy to supervise projects that involve either mathematical modeling or laboratory experimentation in any of these systems. I encourage students to propose their own research questions, but I also have several projects that could be used a starting point.
Dr. D. Orihel
Rm: 3127 Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-6000 Ext: 79052
E-mail Faculty Profile
Dr. Orihel leads the Queen's Experimental Ecology and Ecotoxicology (QE3) Research Group (https://qe3research.ca/). Dr. Orihel is accepting two Honours students in 2022/23 to study the fate and effects of plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems. If you wish to be considered for one of these positions, please send the following to Dr. Orihel by email (firstname.lastname@example.org): (i) 1-page cover letter describing your research interests and explaining why you wish to join my research group; (ii) your resume describing your work and volunteer experience ; and (iii) an unofficial university transcript. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for interviews.
Dr. Wm. Plaxton
Our long-term research goal is to characterize the?molecular, regulatory, and functional properties of key enzymes of plant phosphate and carbohydrate metabolism. The current focus is on understanding the functions, regulation, post-translational modifications (especially reversible phosphorylation), protein:protein interactions, and subcellular targeting of key enzyme proteins that help the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana acclimate to nutritional phosphorus starvation. BIOL537 projects may involve growing Arabidopsis suspension cell cultures &/or plants, enzyme purification and characterization, advanced (phospho)proteomic studies using LC-MS/MS, immunological tools (western blotting & co-immunoprecipitation using specific antibodies), &/or molecular/genomic approaches such as mRNA profiling, recombinant enzyme expression and characterization, or analyses of transgenic plants in which enzymes we are studying in have either been knocked out or overexpressed. All of these techniques are relevant to a wide variety of careers in the biological and life sciences, and biotech industry. Our overall research has significant long-term applications to problems in Canadian and worldwide agriculture, particularly the development of phosphorus-efficient crops, urgently needed to reduce mankind’s rampant overuse of non-renewable, unsustainable, and polluting phosphate fertilizers. Preference is usually given to ‘cell & molecular’ oriented students who have completed &/or are planning to take advanced lab courses in physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology (e.g.,?BIOL401-404).?Previous lab volunteer or summer research experience in the biological/life sciences would be an asset, but is not essential. For more info please visit: https://www.queensu.ca/plaxtonlab/
Dr. L. Seroude
The research in our group uses genetics to dissect the molecular changes associated with aging and identify genes influencing how we age. The general strategy is to use Drosophila as a model system in which to identify and isolate genes homologous to humans, using the fly for experimental analysis of their basic functions. The laboratory is the sole in Canada entirely dedicated to understand how and why we age using a model organism whose genes can easily be manipulated. Understanding aging is the only hope to develop interventions to prevent the impairments (such as locomotion or mental impairments) and diseases (such as cancer or Alzheimer's disease) associated with aging.
Dr. J. Smol
Rm: 4307A Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-6147
E-mail Faculty Profile
Our lab’s research focuses on using long-term environmental and ecological approaches to study how lake and river ecosystems have been affected by both human and natural stressors. We work on projects from around the world (e.g. environmental change in the South American Andes, a large program on lakes from polar regions, the ecological effects of oil sands operations, studying the effects of mining activities, to name just a few). Many projects are also based on Ontario and other Canadian lakes. Much of our work deals with using biology to track environmental changes using records preserved in lake sediments. For example, we attempt to resolve questions such as: How are lakes changing and why? How has recent climatic change affected lakes in different ecozones? Can we decipher the relative roles of human impacts versus natural processes? Once lakes have been altered by human activities, can they recover? And if so, how fast? Such information provides critical data for other scientists, policy makers, politicians, and the public-at-large to make evidence-based management decisions.
Dr. W. Snedden
Research projects can be suited to individual student interests but will encompass the theme of calcium-mediated signal transduction in plants. Plant cells respond to stimuli such as pathogen attack, drought, salinity, and cold stress through signal transduction pathways regulated at some level by the secondary messenger calcium. Cells interpret the information encoded in calcium signals through calcium-binding proteins such as calmodulin. Using the tools of molecular biology, bioinformatics, biochemistry, and cell biology, students will address questions formulated to help unravel some of the signaling events between stimulus perception and cellular response. Depending upon the project selected, students will develop familiarity with methodologies involved in cDNA cloning, PCR, gene expression studies, recombinant protein expression, enzyme assays, protein-protein interaction (yeast two-hybrid screening, interactive cloning), cell and tissue culturing. These projects provide marketable skills in biotechnology and a solid foundation for future lab research. A background in plant biology is an asset, but by no means essential.
Dr. B. Tufts
The vast majority of the research carried out in my laboratory falls under the general heading of Fisheries Biology. More specifically, this research can be grouped into studies in either i) conservation of wild fisheries or ii) aquaculture. Students in my lab have often used physiological techniques to understand what is happening in fish under different conditions, but this is not always the case. In recent years, we have incorporated a broad range of approaches to different fisheries issues. Studies may be carried out in the lab, or in the field, or both. I do not have a list of projects ahead of time. The specific details of the 537 projects will normally be decided after students have been accepted.
Dr. V. Walker
Rm: 2522 Bioscience Complex
Tel: (613) 533-6123
E-mail Faculty Profile
The research interests in our lab concern the molecular analysis of resistance to environmental and chemical stresses. This rather broad area allows us to investigate some quite divergent topics; indeed, it is remarkable where an interest in stress resistance can lead you! Please note that starting in 2020, Virginia will be Professor Emerita and 537 students should be co-supervised by regular members of faculty.
DR. Y. WANG
My current research focuses on the physiological and biochemical adaptation of aquatic vertebrates under various environmental conditions and physiological states. Using fish as a comparative model, my lab studies the regulatory mechanisms of various metabolic processes, especially the transmembrane movement of metabolites, the functional links among metabolite distribution, acid-base balance, ionic and osmotic equilibrium, metabolic fuel shift, and energy partition under normal and extreme environmental conditions. We are currently developing a suite of cellular and molecular tools, which allows us to better understand the evolution of the fine-tuned metabolic control system in fish. Several potential undergraduate thesis projects can be derived from this research theme involving a wide range of research techniques in analytical biochemistry, physiology, and molecular biology.
Dr. P. Young
I work on cell proliferation in the fission yeast model system using a variety of approaches ranging from genetics to molecular and cell biology. I focus on mitosis and cell size control and include aspects of environmental stress response in so far as it impinges on that process. Projects are available in these areas and I attempt to match the project to the student's interests and skills.