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Research

Biology


Read below for an overview of research being done in the department, which encompasses ecology, behaviour and evolutionary biology, physiology, cellular and microbiology, molecular biology and bioinformatics. Applications of our research range from conservation to agriculture and industry to human and animal health. Researchers accepting inquiries or applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs are indicated below.


Robert Anderson
Associate Professor, Biting Fly Ecology and Behaviour

My research involves experimental studies of the behaviour and ecology of hematophagous arthropods, especially mosquitoes, with respect to blood feeding, pathogen transmission and the applied public-health aspects of vector control.


German Avila-Sakar
Associate Professor, Plant Evolutionary Ecology

I study the evolution of 1) plant sexual systems, and 2) defence against herbivores. Both topics are connected through resource allocation theory. How should plants partition their resources between the male and female reproductive functions to achieve greater fitness? How much should plants invest resources on growth, defence and reproduction at the different stages of their life cycles? I approach these questions from both evolutionary and physiological perspectives.

I am currently accepting applications from candidates with full or partial funding to conduct masters, doctoral or post-doctoral studies in any aspect of plant evolutionary ecology, especially in plant-animal interactions, plant defence, sex allocation, and pollination biology.

Website: http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/~gavila 


Alberto Civetta
Professor, Evolutionary Genetics & Genomics

Work in my lab focuses on the evolutionary genetics/ genomics of reproductive traits. We use a combination of classical genetics and molecular approaches to identify genetic variation that contributes to differences in traits such as sperm development, sperm competitive ability and fertility. We make use of genomic data in combination with the characterization of phenotypic differences within and between species to establish associations between gene polymorphisms and phenotypes. The tools of comparative genomic, phylogenetic and bioinformatics are used to test the role of selection during the evolution of genes responsible for reproductive adaptations and differentiation between species.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.

Lab website: http://ion.uwinnipeg.ca/~acivetta


Renee Douville
Associate Professor, Microbiology

Inside our DNA reside thousands of human endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). In certain neurological diseases these normally dormant viruses become re-activated. The key aim of our research team is to delineate the relationship between ERV re-activation and the pathogenesis of ERV-associated neurological diseases. We have recently discovered a novel ERV protein with neurotoxic potential, and we will attempt to determine if this neurotoxic protein is associated with neuronal damage and inflammation in the brain.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.

Website: http://douvillelab.webstarts.com


Scott Forbes
Professor, Behavioural Ecology & Fisheries

My research is currently focused in two areas: the behavioural ecology of families; and fisheries and fish population dynamics. My work has both empirical and theoretical dimensions. I have conducted long-term field studies on the behaviour and ecology of marsh-nesting blackbirds as model systems for the study of family dynamics. I am interested in the resolution of conflict and cooperation among family members, and how finite resources are shared. I am also beginning new projects on the fish and fisheries of Manitoba. This work will look at the potential for the commercial exploitation of non-traditional species, and whether new bioproducts can be developed from the freshwater fish of Manitoba.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs with full or partial funding.


Jens Franck
Associate Professor, Molecular Biologist

My research is in the area of molecular evolutionary biology and genetics.  Research in the laboratory is focused on the molecular evolution and expression of a family of intracellular calcium release channels known as ryanodine receptors (RyRs).  RyRs are integral components of a signal transduction pathway that involves the release of calcium from intracellular stores which is critical in diverse cellular processes including muscle contraction. Students in my lab have revealed how the RyR gene family has undergone several gene duplication events in the vertebrate lineage leading to gene subfunctionialization, the process describing the partitioning of ancestral gene function. Using fish model systems, including zebrafish and medaka my laboratory is investigating the genetic basis for the regulatory difference in expression for the RyR genes and other genes involved in calcium homeostasis.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.


Sara Good
Associate Professor, Molecular Genetics and Bioinformatics

In my research group, we combine laboratory techniques in molecular genetics with tools in bioinformatics, phylogenetics, and molecular evolution to study the evolution of genomes and gene families. The two main study systems in the laboratory concern the evolution and expression of relaxin family peptides in vertebrates, especially teleost and the evolution of self-incompatibility systems in plants. The relaxin family of ligands are a diverse group of peptides hormones involved in neuroendocrine and reproductive functions. We are studying the evolution of the gene family across vertebrates and focussing on the expression and evolution of genes in fish. I also perform molecular population genetic analyses of diverse study organisms, especially those that are of concern for conservation, and welcome collaboration on molecular population genetics of plant and animal species.

For additional information or to join the laboratory, you will find more information on my webpage at http://www.saragoodlab.com.


Paul Holloway
Associate Professor, Microbiology


Judith Huebner
Professor, Environmental Biology

My lab has been using ecological and histological methods to investigate the effects of environmental changes related to climate change on life histories and morphology of the commonly used model organism, Daphnia.  We have focused specifically on the effects of increased levels of ultraviolet radiation alone and in conjunction with increases in temperature in a laboratory setting.  Since severe weather events are often associated with climate change, we have also looked at increased turbidity.  More recently, we have examined host (Daphnia)-parasite (Pasteuria) interactions in relation to environmental change and are beginning work on the effects of photosensitive endocrine disruptors.


Susan Lingle
Associate Professor, Behavioural Ecology

My lab group focuses on the evolution of prey defences against predation as these influence the social behaviour, ecology, and, increasingly, the psychology of animals. We continue to collect and analyse data on coyotes, deer and other prey to examine the interface between prey behaviour and predator hunting success, using exceptional field sites on the prairie grasslands of western Canada. Our most novel focus is to investigate the evolutionary continuity in distress calls (cries) of newborns and caregiver responses to these cries – from crocodiles to mule deer to humans. We do this work through acoustic analyses and playback experiments, in the field with species like deer and in the lab with humans.

I am happy to receive inquiries from prospective graduate students or post-docs.

Website: http://www.linglelab.org 


Rafael Otfinowski
Assistant Professor, Restoration Ecology

My research focuses on predicting the invasiveness of exotic plants to conserve, manage, and restore natural ecosystems. To accomplish these goals, I design greenhouse, field, and natural experiments and use statistical models, multivariate and spatial analyses, including GIS, to predict invaders and understand their interactions with native plant communities. My research explores invasive traits, the role of disturbance on the persistence of biological invaders, the impact of changing climate on the distribution of invaders, and the role of functional diversity in resisting invasions. I am interested in expanding my research into the impact of biological invaders on ecosystem function. I continue to collaborate with conservation agencies, including Parks Canada, to contribute to the restoration of native prairie ecosystems in western Canada.

I welcome inquiries from prospective undergraduate and graduate students.


Andrew Park
Associate Professor, Forest Ecology

My research interests are quite eclectic, but are united by a strong belief that sustainable forest management requires us not only to understand the dynamics of forest systems, but to actively manage them.  Over the last nine years I have led research programs on cattle grazing and forest regeneration, the role of local versus regional environments in forest restoration in the Republic of Panama, forest hydrology, and carbon storage.  My current research program is a wide-ranging investigation of the adaptation of forests and forest practices to climate change, involving modelling, research into assisted migration, and investigation of the link between plant functional traits and adaptability.

I welcome expressions of interest from prospective graduate students or post-docs, especially those who are funded through NSERC or another major granting agency.

Lab website: http://andrewpark.org


Eva Pip
Professor, Environmental Contaminants and Aquatic Ecosystems

My research area relates to contaminants in our environment and water as they impact on human health and health of aquatic ecosystems. I have worked on rivers and lakes in every region of our province, as well as in other parts of Canada and the U.S., but during the last few years my research has particularly focused on Lake Winnipeg. I also have interests in poisonous plants that we can find in our gardens and homes.

Research interests: water quality, drinking water and public health, bottled water, algal toxins, heavy metals in aquatic ecosystems, environmental impacts of intensive livestock operations, mining, cottages, pesticides; aquatic macrophytes, molluscs, toxic plants.


Anuraag Shrivastav
Associate Professor, Cellular Signalling Mechanisms and Cancer Therapeutics

Cellular signaling mechanisms are intricately linked to homeostasis through events that control cell proliferation, survival and death. Aberrations in some of these mechanisms are often associated with oncogenic processes, which provide insights into the mechanisms driving development and progression of different cancers. These may also lead to identification of novel biomarkers and potential targets of therapy. Because the evolution of cancer specific therapeutics is intricately linked to our understanding of the unique pathways involved in different cancers, my lab is studying cell-signaling pathways linked to the onset and progression of human cancers.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.


Jacques Tardif
Professor of Biology & Environmental Studies and Sciences, former Canada Research Chair in Dendrochronology

The research interests pursued in our laboratory are centered on understanding forest dynamics and how trees and other plant species are responding to both small and large scale forest disturbances (wind, insect outbreaks, fire, etc.). We use tree-ring analysis to reconstruct forest disturbances and to analyze the response of trees to these agents of change. We also use tree-ring analysis and wood anatomy to study the impact of climate on tree growth. Dendrochronological reconstruction of past environmental conditions also helps us to better understand the linkages between climate variability and forest disturbances. Searching Manitoba for old living and dead trees and studying the ecology of tree species reaching their northern distribution limit are also major research activities of our laboratory.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.

Website: http://ion.uwinnipeg.ca/~jtardif


Richard Westwood
Professor, Dept. of Biology & Dept. of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Environmental Impact Assessment

Dr. Westwood’s undergraduate and graduate students conduct research on environmental impact assessment in boreal forest, prairie and urban forest ecosystems. Areas of research include: 1. Use of arthropods and plants as biological indicators of boreal forest ecosystem health and function and as tools for environmental impact assessment for the forest industry; 2. The management and protection of urban forests which includes assessment of the impacts of biotic and abiotic stresses on the health of urban trees and development of new methods of effective tree protection; 3. The pollination biology of endangered orchids in tall and mixed grass prairie ecosystems including studies on the conservation of endangered orchid species through better understanding of critical pollination factors that limit orchid survival and reproduction; and 4. Conservation and enhancement of endangered butterfly species in Manitoba including studies on the biology and bionomics of endangered butterfly species in relation to habitat requirements and long term management requirements.

I am currently accepting applications from prospective graduate students or post-docs.

Individual website: http://ion.uwinnipeg.ca/~rwestwoo


Murray D. Wiegand
Professor, Fish Reproductive Physiologist

The principal area of interest is fish reproductive physiology, especially related lipid metabolism. Previously, I have studied egg yolk production, yolk utilization by embryos and aspects of larval fish nutrition. More recently, I have investigated maternal influences on egg fatty acid profiles and biochemical determinants of egg quality. I am also active with a group investigating effects of abiotic perturbations, primarily ultraviolet radiation, on freshwater organisms including algae, plants, Daphnia and fish embryos. My long-term plan is to integrate these two areas of interest into the study of fatty acid flow through freshwater food webs.


Craig Willis
Associate Professor, Evolutionary Physiology & Ecology

We aim to understand what motivates small bodied mammals in their decisions about where to live, when to be active and inactive, and how to maintain a balance between energy intake and expenditure. We use insect-eating bats and small ground-living mammals as model organisms and a range of lab and field techniques including bio-logging to quantify physiology and behavior in free-ranging animals, and open-flow respirometry to quantify metabolism in the laboratory.  We are also conducting research to address two crises for the conservation of North American bats, mortality of migratory bats at industrial-scale wind turbines and the emerging infectious disease white-nose syndrome.

I am always interested in hearing from prospective graduate students and post-docs. Please check out http://www.willisbatlab.org for more information.