Morwick Summer Research Faculty Sponsors

The following is a list of CBS faculty who are looking for candidates to endorse for the Morwick summer research assistantship in aquatic biology. Please read the faculty's research interests to see who may match with your personal and professional goals, prior to submitting your application to them. Students may approach other CBS faculty not listed on this page however please note not all faculty are looking for summer research assistants. 

Dr. Josef Ackerman (Ecology Theme)

Environmental stressors of aquatic ecosystems including eutrophication, sedimentation, and climate change can impact biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Our lab examines links between the physical environment and the ecology of aquatic organisms (algae, plants, mussels) and ecosystems (rivers, lakes). Student assistant opportunities exist to support projects investigating: (1) threats to/recovery of endangered mussel species in Southern Ontario; (2) nutrient/resource flux between the benthic plants and/or invertebrates and the water column, (3) the effect of turbulence on the zooplankton feeding/interactions, and (4) relationship between hypoxia (low O2) and fish in western lake Erie.  Student assistants will engage in both field and lab work throughout the summer with the opportunity to continue as an honours research project in the F20– W21 semester.   Please contact Dr. Joe Ackerman ( if interested  (

Dr. Sarah (Sally) J. Adamowicz

Our research group explores the evolution and distribution of biodiversity and develops new tools for efficient biomonitoring and environmental protection. Two undergraduate projects are available for summer 2020. The first involves collaborating with others to develop and test new methods for surveying aquatic biodiversity using environmental DNA (eDNA). This project would be excellent experience for those interested in gaining hands-on experience in a molecular lab and as a precursor to pursuing an Honours thesis or graduate studies in Integrative Biology or Bioinformatics. The second involves assisting with the development and testing of software for biodiversity analysis using high-throughput DNA sequence data, which would be a valuable experience for students considering graduate studies in Bioinformatics or interested in a future analytics-focused project in Integrative Biology.

Dr. Sarah Alderman

My lab studies the physiological effects of environmental stressors on fish and other vertebrates, using integrative techniques that range from single gene to whole proteome quantification. A current area of focus is to understand how stress alters neurogenesis in zebrafish. Fish are unrivalled amongst vertebrates in their capacity for adding new functional neurons to the mature brain. Stress can impair this process, which may have lasting cognitive and behavioural effects. We are studying how common environmental stressors influence neurogenesis, the cellular mechanisms that regulate stress hormone signaling in the brain, and the physiological and behavioral outcomes of stress-induced changes to neurogenesis. Summer research assistants will gain hands-on experience in research, from whole animal experiments through to data analysis. Students with a strong interest in physiology and a desire to pursue an honours research project in F20/W21 are encouraged to contact Dr. Alderman.

Dr. Nicholas Bernier

Research topic: Development of novel bioindiators of chronic stress for conservation physiology

Research description: Scales can provide an integrated measure of cortisol production and serve as a chronic stress indicator in fish (Laberge et al. 2019; Conserv. Physiol. 7:coz052).  In Atlantic salmon, previous studies have shown that the hatchery techniques used to breed fish can impart significant stress on the fish and reduce fitness.  The short term goal of this study is to determine whether scales can be used to determine whether captive breeding programs of Atlantic salmon are stressful.  Towards the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon populations, the longer term goal of this research is to determine whether scale cortisol content can predict survivorship. Interested applicants should contact Prof. Nick Bernier for more details.

Dr. Jinzhong Fu

My students and I are studying the adaptation process of a common toad (Bufo gargarizans) along an elevational gradient. We detect and document both phenotypic (e.g. morphological, physiological, behavioural, life history) and genetic variations (e.g. genomic, transcriptional) among populations at different elevations. We are also exploring adaptive convergence and parallelism between the toads and other high-elevation vertebrates. Successful candidate will work in the lab over the summer months collecting genetic data and performing data analysis.

Dr. Todd Gillis

Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) can fully recover from 36 hours of anoxia exposure (Cox et al., 2010). During anoxia exposure, cardiac function is maintained and there is little change in metabolic capacity (Gillis et al., 2015; Gattrell et al., 2019). This project is examining the metabolic pathways that support cardiac function in hagfish during anoxia exposure as well as the cellular mechanisms that help protect the hagfish heart from ischemia reperfusion injury when these animals return to normoxic waters. Ischemia reperfusion injury is a cause of cardiac damage in humans following myocardial infarction. This work involves the use of isolated heart preparations, live animal studies, and the use of advanced analytic techniques (GC/MS) to study metabolic and cellular pathways

Dr. Andreas Heyland

My lab is interested in gaining insight into the mechanisms underlying life history trade-offs in the cladoceran Daphnia magna. Specifically, we are using functional genomics approaches to analyze the multi-generational response of D. magna to nutrient levels to better understand how reproductive, immunity and neuronal allocations are made.  This work is part of the CFREF Food From Thought project, an interdisciplinary research program focusing on sustainable agriculture production.

We interested in developing novel approaches for sustainable aquaculture practices using algae. We developed a novel photobioreactor that allows us to remove nutrients from recirculating waste water systems while growing algae. This system is being tested in the lab and field to assess its productivity and commercial viability

We are studying the evolution of metamorphosis in marine invertebrate groups with specific emphasis on echinoids (sea urchins and sand dollars). We are taking a molecular and cellular approach to analyze the mechanisms underlying this fundamental process.

Dr. Elizabeth Mandeville

We study how evolutionary processes lead to variable outcomes in aquatic systems where anthropogenic modifications (e.g. dams, land use change, species introductions) have occurred. Evolutionary processes vary spatially and temporally, with direct consequences for the persistence and evolution of species. However, specific anthropogenic impacts are insufficiently understood in most ecosystems. We combine high resolution genomic data for fish species with spatial, environmental, and ecological datasets to better understand how evolutionary and ecological processes interact to shape a species’ response to disturbance. Particular areas of focus include genetic differentiation, genetic diversity, and hybridization outcomes. Please contact Dr. Liz Mandeville ( for more information.

Dr. Patricia Wright

We are interested in understanding the variety of strategies that amphibious fish use to cope with life out of water.  We study a diversity of fishes, some that are completely aquatic and others that tolerate terrestrial exposure.  The aim of this laboratory project is to link plasticity in physiological traits in multiple fishes with performance in water and/or on land to understand the characteristics that are most important in tolerance to air exposure.