Current Lab Members

Current Postdocs and Research Associates

Gregory McCracken (2012- )
As a research associate, my responsibilities include overseeing day to day laboratory operations including training and aiding both graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, I am continuing work I began during my master’s degree here at Dalhousie which focuses on the landscape genomics of fish in a spatially complex and isolated freshwater system in northern Labrador. The goal of this project is to examine the relationship of landscape and life history diversity with genetic diversity and connectivity in a number of coexisting fish species. I am particularly interested in how the landscape shapes the population structure of fish species that occupy distinct niches within the system.  

Email: gr354555 [at]

Berenice Trovant (2015- )
For my Ph.D I investigated the phylogenetic relationships and phylogeographic patterns exhibited by a species complex of small mussels of the genus Brachidontes inhabiting the intertidal rocky shores of the SW Atlantic and the SE Pacific in South America. For my postdoc, I will change the scale of my research and examine the landscape and population genetics of another marine invertebrate inhabiting the intertidal zones of South America’s coasts. The goal of this research is to examine how environmental factors (temperature, salinity) and life history interact to effect the structure and gene flow among populations of the intertidal crab Cyrtograpsus angulatus (Brachyura, Varunidae). I will use microsatellites to identify genetic discontinuities and associate them with some environmental and/or life history traits. I also pan to study the mating system by looking for evidence of multiple paternity.

Email: trovant [at]


PhD Students

Ivan Vera-Escalona (2010- )

My research addresses questions on the ecology and evolutionary biology of one of the most widespread and intriguing native freshwater fish species in Patagonia, Galaxias platei. In an effort to understand issues of connectivity and molecular diversity in this species, I am examining variability at neutral (microsatellites) and functional (MHC) molecular markers. Fieldwork is conducted in two river drainages in Chile, which contrast in their spatial arrangement and complexity. The San Pedro river drainage in south-central Chile is a simple system located in the northern range of the species distribution, in an area that has been highly impacted by humans, with a high incidence of introduced salmonids. The other drainage, the Serrano River drainage, is a dendritic system in southern Patagonia in an area far less impacted by humans and partly free of introduced salmonids. I am examining genetic diversity and connectivity patterns among G. platei populations in both river systems in an effort to contrast landscape attributes and the presence/absence of invasive species.
Email: iv400568 [at]

Angela P. Fuentes-Pardo (2011- )
Adaptive and neutral genetic variation in Spring and Fall spawning herring in the NW Atlantic.

I am interested in using molecular genetics methods to examine ecological and evolutionary issues regarding endangered or commercially exploited aquatic organisms, and in the transfer of this knowledge to conservation planning, including the design of marine reserve networks and fisheries management in general. Currently, I am examining neutral and adaptive genetic variation within and among populations of spring- and fall-spawning herring Clupea harengus harengus in the Northwest Atlantic. My goal is to improve our understanding of the roles played by historical and contemporary factors in shaping observed patterns of variation in a marine exploited fish.

I am also involved in a project led by the ECOMANGLARES Research Group from Universidad del Valle, Colombia, the aim of which is to estimate genetic population structuring and connectivity among wild populations of the estuarine bivalve Anadara tuberculosa (common name piangua) along the Colombian Pacific coast. The objective of this initiative is to contribute to the assembly of a sustainable fishery management plan for this species. I also participate in a research initiative led by the BIOMMAR Laboratory from Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, on the coevolution of marine snails of the genus Simnia with seafan octocorals in the Eastern Pacific.

Email: apfuentes [at]

MSc Students

Sarah Salisbury (2013- )
Connectivity in a longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus) hierarchical metapopulation in northern Labrador

My general research interests include using molecular genetic techniques to answer questions about fish ecology and evolution. For my master’s project I am using microsatellite markers to assess the factors affecting gene flow and metapopulation structure of the longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus) in the Kogaluk River system (Labrador). I particularly want to determine how the dendritic structure of rivers shapes the genetic structure and connectivity of fish. I am also interested in identifying which factors (including distance, elevation, and physical barriers) are most influential in limiting the dispersal of fish in a natural, pristine environment. The results of this research will better our understanding of the connectivity associated with natural river systems and allow for the development of improved conservation management strategies.
Email: Sarah.Salisbury [at]


Honours Students

Hilary Brewis (2014- )
For my Honours thesis I am interested in examining the genetic diversity, structure and connectivity among lake chub (Couesius plumbeus) populations inhabiting a number of lakes that are part of a dendritic river drainage in northern Labrador. The goal is to improve our understanding of how asymmetries in dispersal affect the spatial distribution of genetic diversity in spatially complex systems. Lake chub is one of four fish species coexisting in this drainage that are currently being examined in our lab.

Email: Hilary.Brewis [at]


Term Positions


Connor Booker (May-Aug 2014) and (Jan-Apr 2015)

Shreeram Senthivasan (UoT - USRA) (May-Aug 2015)

David Malloy (Co-Op May-Aug 2015)

Morgan Colp (Co-Op May-Aug 2015)


Past Lab Members


Past PhD Students

Berenice Trovant (2009-2015) (co-supervised with JM Orensanz and N Basso)

I am interested in phylogeography. For my PhD I am examining the phylogenetic relationships and phylogeographic patterns exhibited by a species complex of intertidal small mussels of the genus Brachidontes. The group inhabits the high intertidal zones of rocky shores and exhibits an antitropical distribution in the western Atlantic: species within the group are distributed in cold- and warm-temperate regions of the northern and southern hemispheres but are absent from the tropics. In the southern hemisphere, their distribution has been affected by the West Wind Drift, the largest and most powerful ocean current in the world. Taxonomic studies within the group have generally been based on shell morphology, but high phenotypic variability has led to taxonomic confusion. My objectives are to clarify the status of the nominal species of Brachidontes from the southwestern Atlantic using genetic information, and to investigate their phylogenetic relations with other species in the group including those inhabiting the northern hemisphere and those that have been affected by the West Wind Drift.
Email: trovant [at]

Edmund Halfyard (2009-2014) (Co-supervised with Fred Whoriskey)
I am interested in salmonid ecology, population regulation, the impacts of non-native fishes and recreational fisheries. My research at Dalhousie is focused on estuarine and coastal near-shore mortality in Atlantic salmon, namely the first 4-8 weeks after they leave their natal rivers and begin the marine-phase of their anadromous life history.





Tyler Zemlak (2006-2011) - The influences of Quaternary processes on native freshwater diversity in Patagonia : molecular insights from the galaxiid fishes

For my PhD research I employed molecular tools in an attempt to better understand what past and present factors are responsible for shaping contemporary genetic diversity within species of the family Galaxiidae inhabiting Patagonia, South America. I used a variety of molecular markers within several contexts, including phylogeography, taxonomy and population genetics, to address questions relating to evolution, biogeography and conservation biology. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University. My primary focus is the development of an alternative treatment for metastatic cancer using synthetic variants of a naturally occurring protein found in the Atlantic flounder.
Email: tzemlak [at]

Cecilia Carrea (2006-2011) - Ecology, genetics and life history of Galaxias maculatus along two important basins in Patagonia

My research interests include applying molecular genetic tools to help answer ecological and evolutionary questions. During my PhD I examined molecular and phenotypic (body shape, meristic traits) variability in Galaxias maculatus, a southern hemisphere fish species native to Patagonia. I developed and used microsatellite markers to study the interaction among evolutionary forces (e.g., genetic drift, gene flow) and landscape features in Patagonia, and their role in shaping the neutral genetic structure among populations of this abundant and widespread Patagonian fish. I studied G. maculatus populations in two important drainages in Argentina: The Negro River drainage in northern Patagonia, and the Santa Cruz river drainages in southern Patagonia. G. Maculatus exhibits a high degree of plasticity in life history, with diadromous, landlocked lacustrine and landlocked riverine populations and the two river drainages studied differ in the types of G. maculatus populations they harbour. The work I conducted for my PhD assisted in our understanding of the relative importance of migratory behaviour (gene flow and population structure) for the establishment of landlocked populations along these two drainages. My previous experience involved the use of mitochondrial DNA sequences in order to identify larvae of two Galaxias species at the Division of Evolutionary Molecular Systematics at Lund University in Sweden. Currently, I am visiting Dr. Christopher Burridge's lab at the University of Tasmania (Australia), where I am analyzing mitochondrial DNA data with the purpose of improving our knowledge on the phylogeography of galaxiid fishes in New Zealand
Email: cecilia.carrea [at]

Friso Palstra (2003-2008) - Currently at the Musium National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

My research interests are centered on elucidating the genetic and demographic context for contemporary evolution, and its relevance for management and conservation. I have addressed these questions in a wide range of study organisms, such as corals and their endosymbiotic algae and, more recently, Atlantic salmon. This research typically employs a combination of molecular genetic markers, demographic analyses and population & quantitative genetics theory. My more recent and current involvement with the lab focuses on empirical estimation of the effective metapopulation sizes in spatially fragmented systems.
Email: palstra [at]

Past MSc Students

Erika Anahi Jorquera (2010-2014)
Seascape genetics of shrimp in the North West Atlantic

I am interested in the ecology and population structure of marine pelagic organisms, especially zooplankton and other groups with planktonic stages. My current research is on population structure in two marine pelagic shrimp species abundant in the NW Atlantic, Pasiphaea multidentata and the deep sea species Acanthephyra pelagica. The region of interest for my research is the Scotian Shelf. Within this region, the two species 2500 m) that is now a marine protected area and also, the main sampling area for my study. My main goal with this research is to evaluate the role of seascape on genetic structure and assess the extent to which gene flow correlates with ocean current in the open sea. I will assess the importance of the main currents and of life history on patterns of population structure
Email: er401812 [at]

Gregory McCracken (2010-2012)
Landscape genetics of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) in a hierarchically structured drainage system in northern Labrador

My research interests include arctic and subarctic ecology. Currently, for my Masters degree I am examining genetic diversity at a suite of microsatellite loci in a population complex of lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) inhabiting a dendritic drainage system in northern Labrador, the Kogaluk river system. Lake trout inhabit a number of hierarchically interconnected shallow barren ground lakes, which ultimately drain into a deep fjord lake and the Kogaluk river. Using landscape and population genetics approaches my objective is to understand patterns of diversity and regional connectivity and the roles played by landscape variables (e.g., waterfalls, etc). Very little is known about intraspecific diversity among fish in northern Labrador and my studies represent an effort to fill this gap.

Email: gr354555 [at]

Honours Students


Visiting Scientists