Todd Gillis

Professor, Interim Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, CBS
Phone number: 
519-824-4120 x58786
SSC 3471
SSC 3409/3410

My interest in biology derives from having spent most of my summers growing up in, or on, the waters surrounding Tobermory, Ontario. These interests led me to study marine biology at the University of Guelph where I became fascinated by the biochemical and physiological adaptations that allow animals to live under extreme environments. I completed an MSc with Dr. Jim Ballantyne at Guelph looking at temperature adaptation in gill mitochondrial membranes from Arctic and temperate marine bivalves. My PhD, with Dr. Glen Tibbits at Simon Fraser University, focused upon the mechanisms that enable cardiac function in trout at their comparatively low physiological temperature. This work specifically focused on the structure-function relationships of a protein called troponin C that enable it to work at low temperatures. As a NSERC Post-Doctoral Fellow in the lab of Dr. Mike Regnier in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, I worked on a variety of projects looking at the thin filament regulatory proteins and their role in controlling cardiac contractility. Here at Guelph my research program is focused upon the vertebrate heart and the mechanisms that regulate its function. The underlying theme of this work is the evolution of protein structure and function and the role this plays in determining the physiological scope of organisms.

  • B.Sc. - Guelph 1994
  • M.Sc. - Guelph 1996
  • Ph.D. - Simon Fraser University 2002
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington 2002-2005

My research program utilizes a comparative approach to examine the cellular mechanisms underpinning cardiac function in vertebrates and how these can be modified to manipulate physiological capability. Specific questions being addressed include:

  1. How has the regulation of muscle contraction evolved?
  2. What are the molecular mechanisms underlying the remodeling capacity of the fish heart?
  3. How does the hagfish heart keep working during prolonged periods of anoxia? 
  4. What are the consequences of bitumen exposure on the development and function of the salmonid heart?


  • IBIO*4200 Integrative Vertebrate Biology
  • IBIO*4220 Lab Studies in Ichthyology
  • ZOO*2100 Animal Developmental Biology
  • Sean Avey
  • Sophie Ding
  • Leo Nataprawira
  • Dr. Georgina Cox