Rebecca Garner

Rebecca Garner, MSc student

Department of Biology, Concordia University


I am interested in developing and applying molecular genetics and computational biology techniques to probe the ecology and evolution of microorganisms – lifeforms of staggering diversity and importance to the biosphere. My research explores the potential of paleogenetics to push discovery in microbial diversity and community ecology.

LakePulse survey sampling 680 lakes across Canada

Summer 2018: Sampling lakes in July and August with a field team!

Research project: Comparative paleogenetics of contemporary and preindustrial sediments from Canadian lakes

Canada stewards a substantial number of Earth’s lakes, which are integral to environmental health. To assess how anthropogenic disturbances have modified Canada’s lakes from their preindustrial conditions, this project aims to reconstruct the past microbial communities of lakes and compare these with their contemporary assemblages. Using the new and upcoming paleogenetics approach, DNA preserved in lake sediments can be recovered to reconstruct whole ecological communities with high taxonomic resolution. The DNA extracted from sediment cores collected by the LakePulse Network from lakes across Canada will be sequenced and analyzed to evaluate how lake microbial communities have changed in response to human impact.

The specific objectives of this project are to:

  1. Evaluate macro-scale temporal changes in micro-eukaryotic community structure,
  2. Develop DNA-based indicators of lake health,
  3. Compare the coherence and resolution of paleogenetics with classical subfossil morphology based paleoecology (with Katherine Griffiths & Cindy Paquette),
  4. Interpret temporal community turnover in the context of changes in heavy metal cycling (with Alexandre Baud), and
  5. Assess how acidification and eutrophication influence micro-eukaryotic diversity in experimental lakes (with Alexandre Baud).

Project start date: January 2018

Supervisors: David Walsh (Concordia University) and Irene Gregory-Eaves (McGill University)