PhD Research


Investigating the conservation value of edge populations using Sundial Lupines

In Canada, more than 75% of vascular plants that are protected by the Species at Risk Act are only found at the northermost edge of their range towards the US-Canada border. These edge populations could be valuable for conservation because they may carry unique genetic characteristics, especially adaptations important for northward expansion under climate warming. Yet, genetic studies of edge populations is rare for at-risk plants in Canada, potentially decreasing their overall conservation value with respect to genetic uniqueness.

I'm studying the conservation value of edge populations using Sundial Lupines (Lupinus perennis), a potentially at-risk plant found in southern Ontario. The plant is also an important food source to at least 3 at-risk butterfly species, including the Karner Blue Butterfly (now extirpated in Canada) and the mottled duskywing (endangered but undergoing recovery). 

My research focuses on 3 main questions:

A few of the sites I have visited so far...

High Park in Toronto, ON, Canada

Toledo Metropark in Ohio, USA

Indiana Dunes State Park in Indiana, USA

Maas Family Nature Preserve in Michigan, USA

Where I've visited for my research...

Project Updates

Follow me on twitter for occassional updates!

MAY 2024: And we're off! 3rd year of fieldwork. We just installed our gene flow experiment and will be checking up on them. 

APRIL 2024: Round 3 of fieldwork! This year I'm joining Kristin Olson (ULethbridge) with Jory Griffith to set up new Lupine and Trillium experiments! Wohoo!

MAR 2024: We have a couple undergrads joining the lupine team! Ben Smith and Lilah Wilis. Also, MSc student Simon Petley is studying biotic interactions in soil with lupines. So glad more people are studying this amazing species. 

OCT 2023: I completed a second round of transplants at my field sites. Weather was thankfully very warm this year round!

AUG 2023: I attended ConGen 2023 near Kalispell, Montana. I'm learning techniques to analyze low coverage whole genome sequence data.

JULY 2023:Gabrielle Tai and Nicole Cappellazzo, two field assistants, spearheaded the assisted gene flow experiment.

MAY 2023: I'm heading back out to the field again! I'll be checking on my reciprocal transplants PLUS visiting new sites in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It's going to be a lot of driving... podcast recommendations needed.

APRIL 2023: I completed my qualifying exams! I'm a PhD candidate now!

FEBRUARY 2023: I started growing lupines at McGill's Phytotron in preparation for the assisted gene flow study. 

JANUARY 2023: With funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Hargreaves and Schoen labs completed a reference genome assembly for Lupinus perennis. This work will add to the extremely limited, but growing list of conservation-relevant species with reference genomes

OCTOBER 2022 - I transplanted seed from across the species' range at 3 Canadian and 3 American sites to understand the degree of local adaptation. 

MAY/JUNE 2022 - I travelled with Maggie Blondeau (M.Sc student), April Kowalchuk-Reid (BSc), Nicole Cappellazzo (BSc), and Andrew Kemp (BSc) to southern Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana in search of Sundial Lupines (Lupinus perennis). We collected seed and leaf material for future experiments. 

Fellowship Funding and Support

My research is generously supported by Mrs. and Dr. Milton Leong (McGillU, Faculty of Science), Dr. Richard H. Tomlinson (McGill University), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Friends of Nachusa Grasslands, McGill University mobility awards, a Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science Excellence Award (QCBS), Robert K. Wayne Conservation Scholarship and Research Award, and funding grants to the Hargreaves (NSERC-FQRNT NOVA, NSERC, CFI) and Schoen labs. 

Partner Organizations

Other organizations:

The Nature Conservancy

US National Park Service

US Fish & Wildlife Service

University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum

New Hampshire Dept. of Fish and Game

Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources

Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources