Research

Current Research Interests

Our research spans the three components of biodiversity: species diversity, genetic diversity and ecological diversity. The interaction between taxonomy and ecology is a strength of our lab and provides great opportunities for collaboration. Our primary focus is the flies (Diptera), Canada’s most diverse order of insects, but the breadth of our insect collection and our research questions creates opportunities for work on other taxa as well. Recent projects in the lab have also focused on Hymenoptera, Coleoptera and Araneae.

Systematics and Taxonomy

Our traditional strength is in the taxonomy of flies. Terry Wheeler is a specialist on the family Chloropidae, one of the most species-rich and abundant families of acalyptrate Diptera and perhaps (along with the family Phoridae) the most ecologically diverse family of flies. Stephanie Boucher studies the leaf-mining flies (family Agromyzidae), a group that is both ecologically diverse and economically important.

Current student theses and side projects in the lab focus on the families Chloropidae (Anna Solecki, Christine Barrie), Mycetophilidae (Chris Borkent), Platypezidae (Heather Cumming), Ulidiidae (Alyssa MacLeod), Piophilidae (Sabrina Rochefort) and Empididae (Elodie Vajda)

Many families of Diptera have no active specialists in North America, and many are in dire need of systematic research so there are opportunities for taxonomic projects in the lab at all levels from undergraduate projects to postdoctoral research.

Genetic Diversity and Phylogeography

There is hidden diversity below the species level that can only be unlocked using molecular sequence data. Two new research directions in the lab are describing and documenting this genetic diversity. We are exploring DNA barcodes for Chloropidae and  other acalyptrate flies in collaboration with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario to see how well they correspond to morphological characters for distinguishing species. We will also be using additional genes to help reconstruct the phylogeny of Chloropidae.

Grad student Anna Solecki (co-supervised with Chris Buddle) is using genetic markers to explore the phylogeography of flies in glacial refugia in northern Canada and some planned future projects in the lab will also use molecular markers to study dispersal and biogeography at multiple scales. M.Sc. student Katie Sim (co-supervised with Chris Buddle) is studying the population genetics of arctic wolf spiders.

Community Ecology

Taxonomy and species inventories provide essential baseline data for studies of community structure and assembly. The taxonomic expertise available in our lab, as well as an excellent reference collection, allows us to use species-level resolution in studying diversity patterns in Diptera assemblages at a variety of spatial scales. Recent and ongoing projects focus on patterns of Diptera diversity in alpine meadows (Alyssa MacLeod), spatial and temporal patterns in arctic flies (Meagan Blair), community assembly and community phylogenetics of Diptera in wetlands (Amélie Grégoire Taillefer), the response of multiple indicator taxa to urbanization in old-field habitats (Christine Barrie) and nested patterns of diversity in temperate deciduous forests (Valérie Lévesque-Beaudin).

Ecological and Evolutionary Change in Northern Arthropods

In association with Chris Buddle (McGill) and Doug Currie (University of Toronto), we are studying large scale spatial, temporal and genetic patterns of diversity in several taxa across Canada’s North as part of the Northern Biodiversity Program. This multi-year project involves a number of Lyman staff and students.  Terry Wheeler, Meagan Blair, Anna Solecki, Sabrina Rochefort and Elodie Vajda explore ecological and evolutionary patterns in several groups of higher Diptera. Postdoc Laura Timms studies ecological diversity of arctic Ichneumonidae, and Katie Sim is assessing the population genetics of arctic wolf spiders.

The Northern Biodiversity Program is generating so much ecological and taxonomic data in several taxa that we will be mining this material for many years to come. Some new funding from other sources will allow Terry Wheeler to continue working on arctic arthropods for the next several years.

Research Collaborations

In addition to the Northern Biodiversity Program, we are involved in a number of national and international projects and networks

Canadensys (Canadian University Biodiversity Consortium) (funded by CFI)

Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science (funded by FQRNT)

Zurqui All-Diptera Biodiversity Inventory (funded by NSF)

The Natural History Network (NGO)

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