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Important Dates

Understanding biodiversity and ecosystem services across urban landscapes

Plenary Speakers

Opening Plenary
Understanding biodiversity and ecosystem services across urban landscapes

June 12, 1:00 – 2:00 pm  Location: York 2-4 Plenary

Dr. Carly Ziter

Department of Biology

Concordia University

Dr. Carly Ziter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Concordia University, where she holds a University Research Chair in Urban Ecology and Sustainability. As a landscape and urban ecologist, her research asks how landscape structure, land-use history, and biodiversity impact multiple ecosystem services – the benefits we receive from nature – and their relationships in urban and urbanizing areas. Carly Ziter and her students combine field-based studies, sensor and satellite data, community science, and synthesis approaches to understand the ways urban green spaces contribute to safer, healthier cities. Her research is interdisciplinary, including active collaborations with colleagues from urban studies, engineering, fine arts, communications, and political science, and benefits from non-academic partnerships spanning grassroots organizations to federal government. Carly Ziter is also committed to integrating public engagement and science communication into her scientific work, and was recently awarded Concordia’s National Research Communicator of the Year.

Public Plenary
Prioritizing Indigenous values in wildlife conservation

June 12, 7:45 – 9:00 pm (including opening comments)

Location: Canadian Museum for Human Rights

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Dr. Allyson Menzies

School of Environmental Sciences

University of Guelph

Dr. Allyson (Ally) Menzies is of mixed Red River Métis and Settler descent, born and raised in Treaty 1 & 2 territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation (a.k.a Manitoba). She studied hibernation physiology of cave-dwelling little brown bats in central Manitoba for her MSc, and winter physiology and behaviour of red squirrels, snowshoe hares, and Canada lynx in the Yukon for her PhD.


Dr. Menzies currently works with a team of researchers, conservation practitioners, community members and Indigenous Knowledge holders to summarize perspectives on the best practices and on-the-ground examples of interweaving knowledge systems in natural sciences, to identify the Indigenous values that need to be prioritized in environmental monitoring and research, and to determine which methodologies are most effective at doing so. Developing approaches to environmental research, monitoring, and management that truly respect Indigenous rights and knowledge systems ensure that important decisions are made with all of the tools and knowledge available, and will create a path forward for conservation science that is rooted in mutual respect, reciprocity, and reconciliation.

CBA Luella K. Weresub Memorial Mycology Lecture
Animal-associated Ascomycota: the genus Capronia, Onygenales from snake hibernacula, and the xerophilic taxa inhabiting ant mounds

June 13, 7:30 – 8:30 pm  Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Dr. Wendy Untereiner

Department of Biology

Brandon University

Wendy Untereiner is a Professor of Biology at Brandon University. She has twice served as Associate Editor for Mycologia and the Canadian Journal of Botany, participated as a member and chair of committees for the Mycological Society of America. and served as a member of a NSERC Discovery Grant Evaluation Group. Wendy and her partner, Gary McNeely, live with their son on a beautiful tree-lined street in the city of Brandon where - weather and the local invertebrate fauna, permitting - they enjoy walks to local brew pubs, gardening, and listening to music on the deck in their backyard.


Dr. Untereiner’s research focuses on the ecology and systematics of selected lineages of animal-associated Ascomycota. The first of these is the Herpotrichiellaceae, a family of slow-growing Fungi encompassing species capable of causing opportunistic infections in vertebrates. Ongoing investigations of this group are aimed at understanding the distribution, life-histories, and phylogeny of Capronia, a member of this family found on decaying plant material and the fruit-bodies of other Fungi. A second lineage is the Onygenales, an order that includes keratin-degrading ascomycetes and some of the most important pathogens of mammals. Dr. Untereiner is particularly interested in the distribution and diversity of keratinolytic Onygenales in animal-dominated environments such as the hibernacula of overwintering snakes. More recently, she has explored the mycota of the mound nests of thatching ants, an animal-modified environment dominated by Ascomycota adapted to environments with low water activities.

CSEE President’s Award Plenary
Adaptation and maladaptation in plant genomes

June 14, 2:45 – 3:45 pm  Location: York 2-4 Plenary

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Stephen I. Wright

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

University of Toronto

Stephen Wright is Professor and Canada Research Chair in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. Research in his lab focuses on plant evolution at the genome level. His research team of graduate students, undergraduates and postdoctoral fellows investigates the evolutionary processes driving genome evolution, and in turn uses genomic data to test long-standing evolutionary questions. Key questions of interest include the causes and consequences of mating system evolution, the genome-wide extent and rate of adaptive evolution, and the evolutionary forces affecting the fate of transposable elements.  

Stephen is President-elect of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, is on the editorial board for Evolution Letters, Molecular Biology and Evolution, and Genetics, and is the past chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto. His administrative and society activities have included a priority on fostering allyship at conferences and on campus.


In current work, the group has been studying two quite similar plant species that exemplify on the one hand extremely rapid adaptation on contemporary timescales in the case of herbicide resistance and agricultural adaptation, and longer-term maladaptation associated with the evolution of sex chromosomes. This work highlights both the factors that enable and constrain adaptive evolution, and motivates future comparative work to better understand the limits of adaptation.

CSEE Early Career Research Awards
Understanding biodiversity and ecosystem services across urban landscapes

June 14, 1:00 – 1:40 pm Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Quinn Webber

Department of Integrative Biology

University of Guelph

For gregarious animals, sociality is a key driver of fitness. The adaptationist paradigm posits that phenotypes (e.g. sociality) emerge as the result of natural selection driven by the fitness benefits of those phenotypes. For example, in the case of sociality, the fitness benefits of sociality can include improved energy saving through social thermoregulation, reduced per capita predation risk, or conspecific information transfer during foraging. While this paradigm often holds, there are cases where fitness benefits attributed to one phenotype emerge due to confounding fitness-related processes associated with another phenotype. The result is misattribution of causality. Gould and Lewontin (1979) termed these emergent phenotypes that are correlated with, but not causal of fitness ‘spandrels’ in reference to tapered spaces between archways supporting the domed roof of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Here, I extend the ‘spandrels’ concept to spotlight the confounding fitness processes that underpin social and spatial phenotypes. I will present an overview of my work, including findings for bats, elk, and caribou that suggest that to be social, individuals must share space; but, at the same time, sharing space often requires some social interaction. I will extend my work to highlight next steps in our understanding of how social and spatial phenotypes affect fitness and conclude by discussing scenarios where social phenotypes are perceived to be the driver of fitness, but spatial phenotypes could in fact be a misattributed driver of fitness.

CSEE Early Career Research Awards
Towards genomic forecasting of species responses to environmental change

June 14, 1:40 – 2:20 pm  Location: York 2-4 Plenary

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Rebekah Oomen

Department of Biological Sciences

University of New Brunswick

A fundamental aim of biology is to understand the dynamic interactions between organisms and their environment that generate and maintain biodiversity over ecological and evolutionary timescales. The responses of organisms to environmental change are structured across heterogeneous environments and within the genome itself. This is because adaptation to local environments in the past influences contemporary plastic responses and future environmental adaptation, and because the genome itself is a heterogeneous landscape of selection, drift, recombination, and mutation. This talk will focus on the spatial and genomic structure of fish responses to environmental change through three lenses: 1) phenotypic plasticity and reaction norm evolution, 2) the genomic basis of local adaptation with gene flow, and 3) mechanisms of reproductive isolation and speciation. Through common-garden experiments on Atlantic cod, I demonstrate genetic variation in responses to temperature at microgeographic scales and show that chromosomal inversions can have disproportionate impacts on fitness at these scales. I show that such genetic architectures are common in fishes and affect their evolutionary responses to environmental change. Next, I probe behavioural and genomic mechanisms maintaining distinct cod ecotypes in a hybrid zone. Collectively, this work is aimed at creating genomic forecasts for responses to environmental change in species with structured populations and genomes. Forecasts provide tangible predictions for policy makers to develop effective biodiversity management strategies. Their development can also reveal fundamental truths about the predictability of ecology and evolution.

2023 CSEE Doctoral Excellence Awards
Seagrass as a model system: understanding multiple stressors

June 14, 8:30 – 9:00 am  Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Jillian Dunic

Department of Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University

Seagrasses are valuable foundation species that provide services such as carbon sequestration and improved water quality. Unfortunately, as a coastal ecosystem, they are heavily impacted by human activities. With an eye toward management, I used seagrass meadows as a model system to understand the effects of multiple stressors across scales. First, I reconstructed area trends for 547 meadows. I found that one-fifth of the world’s observed seagrass meadow area has been lost since the 1880s. However, losses were variable across time and space, suggesting that local studies are important for informing relevant management actions. I then focused on one species, eelgrass (Zostera marina), to identify critical growth-related values that are pragmatic management targets and test whether these values change when stressors co-occur. I quantitatively reviewed studies of the effects of temperature and light on eelgrass performance. I found that two critical performance values, zero-growth rate and maximum growth rate, shifted across combinations of light and temperature values, suggesting that fixed thresholds are inappropriate targets. My research shows that although local context is important for seagrass management, there are generalisable patterns in how multiple stressors affect seagrass performance, which can be used to guide interventions.

2023 CSEE Doctoral Excellence Awards
On the Origins of Coexisting Species (and the Curious Paradox of the Duckweed)

June 14, 9:00 – 9:30 am Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Takuji Usui

Biodiversity Research Centre and Department of Botany

University of British Columbia

Biodiversity is the outcome of two processes: the creation of new lineages by speciation, and the persistence of these lineages by ecological coexistence. To understand the origins of species diversity, evolutionary biology has primarily focused on the causes of speciation and mechanisms of genetic isolation. However, whether coexistence evolves with lineage divergence, and the mechanisms by which lineage persistence is achieved, remains unclear. In this talk, I focus on a recent experiment in which we quantified the evolutionary trajectory of coexistence among diverging lineages to the species boundary. Specifically, we parameterized coexistence by quantifying the mutual invasion criteria in ~3000 invasion experiments and across 127 unique lineages of the duckweed Spirodela polyrhiza and its sister-species Spirodela intermedia. Our results shed light on whether evolutionary relatedness among divergent lineages predicts the likelihood of coexistence, but in doing so, also uncovers a curious paradox in patterns of natural duckweed communities. By considering how persistence evolves within species, we begin to unravel how coexistence mechanisms themselves can operate as a route for speciation and the origin of coexisting species.

2023 CSEE Doctoral Excellence Awards
What does the squirrel say: understanding the role of individual physiology in social information

June 14, 9:30 – 10:00 am  Location: York 2-4 Plenary

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Alexander Hare

Department of Integrative Biology

University of Guelph

My thesis aims to understand the ways in which physiology regulates the exchange of social information, shaping individual behaviour. In order to do this, I have used an integrative approach to examine the effects of hormones on territorial vocalizations in North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). First, I tested a previously posited hypothesis that the vocal cues used for kin discrimination in red squirrels are accentuated by increases in acute stress hormones. I found no evidence to support this hypothesis yet found evidence that kin discrimination may be dependent upon yearly fluctuations in food resources. Second, I examined whether female vocalizations contained cues reflecting changes in reproductive hormones associated with estrus. I found that both the pitch and entropy of female vocalizations significantly increased during pregnancy, but there were no distinct estrus cues. Finally, I examined how cortisol concentrations of conspecifics within an acoustic neighbourhood can influence each other. I found that neighbouring squirrels’ cortisol interacted in a density dependent manner to influence an individual’s own cortisol, with a close positive association existing at low conspecific densities, and a negative association between neighbours at higher densities. My research advances our understanding of how, even in what is traditionally viewed as an asocial species, social interactions play a significant role in driving an organism’s physiological response to the environment. 

2023 CSEE Doctoral Excellence Awards
Oh look, a squirrel! Studying variation in resource acquisition by red squirrels, and other doctoral distractions

June 14, 10:30 – 11:00 am  Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Andrea Wishart

Department of Biology

University of Saskatchewan

Why do organisms vary so much in acquiring energy, when energy is critical for survival and reproductive success? For my doctoral thesis research, I set out to better understand the contributions of genetic, physiological, ecological, behavioural, and energetic components of resource acquisition in the context of food caching by the North American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Leveraging data collected by collaborators and field technicians across more than three decades by the Kluane Red Squirrel Project and implementing additional field studies, I investigated evolutionary, physiological, behavioural, and ecological facets of caching by squirrels in their natural, dynamic environment. I estimated the heritability of food-caching, and determined whether high interannual variation in food abundance (cones of white spruce Picea glauca) leads to fluctuating selection on caching. I examined the interaction between local food abundance and energetic constraints on foraging effort imposed by lactation. Finally, I explored the influence of currently available energy levels (in the form of current cached cones, supplemental peanut butter, and body fat levels) on future caching activity. My thesis research provides evidence that resource acquisition is dynamic within individuals and can be largely dependent on the resources made available to individuals, further implicating environmental stochasticity in the fitness of organisms. In this award talk, I will weave in additional projects I have undertaken as a doctoral student, from squirrel sex ratios to championing graduate student issues, finally drawing attention to the critical role of resources in scientific research in Canada.

2023 CSEE Doctoral Excellence Awards
Uncertainty of risk and information limitations shape neophobic responses in prey

June 14, 11:00 – 11:30 am  Location: York 2-4 Plenary


Laurence Feyten

Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science

Concordia University

The combined effects of changing climates, anthropogenic disturbances, and invasive species lead to short and long-term ecosystem changes. As a result, prey populations may be faced with increased uncertainty of risk (i.e., inability to predict predation events due to limitations on the quantity or quality of information). This uncertainty impacts decision-making and risk-assessment abilities among prey. Therefore, it is critical to understand the ecological factors driving uncertainty, and how prey deal with information limitations. Recently, phenotypically plastic neophobic predator avoidance (NPA, increased vigilance towards novel stimuli) has been suggested as a response of prey to uncertainty, without the costs associated with learning specific predator cues. Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) from high-predation populations exhibit NPA, and NPA can be induced in predator-naïve populations after increasing mean predation risk. However, it remains unclear what specific factors drive uncertainty and the resulting NPA. Using Trinidadian guppies as a model system, I conducted a combination of laboratory and field experiments to identify potential drivers of uncertainty of risk within prey populations. I have proposed a framework based on information theory, which suggests uncertainty of risk may arise from the information source (i.e., predators and/or conspecifics), the environment through which information must travel, and prey experience during risk information detection. I assess potential effects of predator density and diversity, the presence of social cues with novelty, the mean and variance of microhabitat variables (e.g., water velocity, habitat complexity, and habitat heterogeneity), the presentation of simultaneous cues of mixed reliability (i.e., known and/or novel), and the spatial predictability and diversity of novel cues presented over time. Uncertainty of risk may have deleterious impacts on the distribution and abundance of predator and prey species. My research identifies factors contributing to uncertainty, enables prediction of prey responses to such conditions, and can contribute to conservation and management efforts of socio-economically important, endangered, or invasive species.

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Important Dates

Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution AND Canadian Botanical Association

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