Background and activities
Links between evolution/epigenetics and population dynamics
A fundamental aim in ecology is to understand how organisms respond to changing environmental conditions. Empirical studies typically focus on direct effects on phenotypes through movement along reaction norms and corresponding effects on demographic rates and population dynamics, or on evolutionary/epigenetic changes in the shape of reaction norms. Yet, it is becoming increasingly clear that feedback between reaction norm shapes and population dynamics may substantially influence biological outcomes. Including such feedback mechanisms between these two processes provides great promise in advancing understanding of evolutionary and ecological dynamics, but is inherently challenging, and choice of suitable model systems are crucial for success. In our lab we are currently approaching these problems using Daphnia (D. magna) as a model organism, where we aim to quantify variation in both life history traits and population dynamics caused by exogenous (i.e. environment) and endogenous variables (i.e. acclimation, epigenetic effects, genetic variation). Daphnia are small crustaceans which commonly dominate the grazing communities in lakes and ponds, and they have several biological characteristics that make them favourable for such studies, such as clonal reproduction, short generation time, and a long history as model organisms in freshwater labs throughout the world.
Daphnia are famous for their high degree of phenotypic plasticitiy, with the presence of predators inducing production of a helmet-shaped carapace (right below)
Plants and other sessile organisms are commonly observed to vary in their population density over small spatial scales within single populations. For mobile organisms, such variation is commonly assumed to be minimized due to the ability to disperse away from patches of high density. Yet, even for such organisms (e.g. insects, fish), density has been shown to vary over surprisingly small spatial scales. This may have important consequences for mean levels of and within-population variation in competition intensity, population dynamics, and perhaps even evolutionary processes. Much of my recent research has focused on the issue of how the spatial distribution of individuals and resources within populations translates into population-level effects, using Atlantic salmon as a model organism.
Maternal effects can be defined as phenotypic variation in the offspring generation caused by genetically or environmentally induced phenotypic variation (i.e. maternal traits) in the maternal generation. One of my long-term scientific interests has been to understand the evolutionary dynamics of and empirically test theories underlying the spatiotemporal variation in maternal traits (in particular, breeding time and egg size). This has been accomplished through a series of small and large scale experiments (using salmonids) combined with comparative studies of fish. These studies have provided evidence for a causal effect of these traits on the fitness of juveniles. Furthermore, the effect of such traits on juvenile performance depends on environmental quality, suggesting a scope for local adaptations to occur among populations, but also for adaptive variation to occur within populations.
Divergence of wild and cultured fish
Billions of cultured fish are released intentionally or accidentally into nature each year, and biologists have for a long time been concerned about the effects such releases can have on wild fish populations. We have quantified experimentally and through meta-analyses to what degree and why cultured fish differ from wild ones. These studies have identified genetic divergence to occur in fitness related quantitative traits as well as in gene expression patterns between wild and cultured fish, and a high potential for interbreeding between wild and cultured fish. The results of this work indicate that inappropriate management using cultured fish and invasions of escaped farmed fish has the potential to negatively impact the productivity and genetic integrity of wild populations, and thus their long-term viability.
Scientific, academic and artistic work
A selection of recent journal publications, artistic productions, books, including book and report excerpts. See all publications in the database
- (2017) No evidence for thermal transgenerational plasticity in metabolism when minimizing the potential for confounding effects. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences. vol. 284 (1846).
- (2016) Spatial diffusion modelling of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) shows ontogenetic increase in movement rates. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
- (2016) Linking watershed and microhabitat characteristics: effects on production of Atlantic salmonids (Salmo salar and Salmo trutta). Ecology of Freshwater Fish.
- (2016) Post-copulatory opportunities for sperm competition and cryptic female choice provide no offspring fitness benefits in externally fertilizing salmon. Royal Society Open Science. vol. 3.
- (2016) Negative relationships between population density and metabolic rates are not general. Journal of Animal Ecology. vol. 85 (4).
- (2015) Can timing of spawning explain the increase in egg size with female size in salmonid fish?. Ecology of Freshwater Fish. vol. 24 (1).
- (2015) Effects of intra-and interspecific competition and hydropeaking on growth of juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Ecology of Freshwater Fish. vol. 25 (1).
- (2015) Seasonal effects of hydropeaking on growth, energetics and movement of juvenile atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Rivers Research and Applications: an international journal devoted to river research and management. vol. 31 (9).
- (2015) No Evidence for Activity Adjustment in Response to Increased Density in Daphnia magna. PLoS ONE. vol. 10 (12).
- (2014) Ecological modeling of metabolic rates predicts diverging optima across food abundances. American Naturalist. vol. 183 (3).
- (2014) Spatial variation in the relationship between performance and metabolic rate in wild juvenile Atlantic salmon. Journal of Animal Ecology. vol. 83 (4).
- (2014) Assessing risks of invasion through gamete performance: Farm Atlantic salmon sperm and eggs show equivalence in function, fertility, compatibility and competitiveness to wild Atlantic salmon. Evolutionary Applications. vol. 7 (4).
- (2013) Historical abundance and spatial distributions of spawners determine juvenile habitat accessibility in salmon: implications for population dynamics and management targets. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. vol. 70 (9).
- (2013) Offspring size effects vary over fine spatio-temporal scales in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. vol. 70 (1).
- (2013) Ontogenetic timing of density dependence: location-specific patterns reflect distribution of a limiting resource. Population Ecology. vol. 55 (4).
- (2013) CRYPTIC CHOICE OF CONSPECIFIC SPERM CONTROLLED BY THE IMPACT OF OVARIAN FLUID ON SPERM SWIMMING BEHAVIOR. Evolution. vol. 67 (12).
- (2012) Natal movement in juvenile Atlantic salmon: a body size-dependent strategy?. Population Ecology. vol. 54 (2).
- (2012) Spatial distribution correspondence of a juvenile Atlantic salmon Salmo salar cohort from age 0+ to 1+ years. Journal of Fish Biology. vol. 81 (3).
- (2012) The penalty for arriving late in emerging salmonid juveniles: differences between species correspond to their interspecific competitive ability. Functional Ecology. vol. 26 (1).
- (2012) Growth hormone reduces growth in free-living Atlantic salmon fry. Functional Ecology. vol. 26 (4).