The Department of Biology welcomes applications from qualified potential graduate students in all of our research areas. Please view the web pages of individual professors for more information about their research programs, and available graduate positions. We stress that applications are unlikely to be successful in the absence of favourable response from potential supervisors. Thesis projects are usually tightly linked to the faculty research programs that are dependent on funding from external grants.
Interested in graduate studies in biology?
Do you have a keen interest in research? Do you enjoy teaching?
Why not consider graduate studies in Biology at University of Waterloo?
Potential research areas in the Department of Biology are listed below.
PhD Opportunity | Linking Land and Water - Modeling causes and consequences of nutrient loadings to Lake Erie with incomplete information | Prof. Rebecca Rooney
Exciting opportunity for a Ph.D. student to join the Lake Futures: Enhancing Adaptive Capacity and Resilience of Lakes and their Watersheds project, funded under the Global Water Futures.
The successful applicant will work in the laboratory of Rebecca Rooney (University of Waterloo) co-advised by Jan Ciborowski (University of Windsor) and will enroll in the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biology-Water graduate program under the Collaborative Water Program, supported by the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo.
Starting date: Jan 1, 2018
Our ability to effectively manage aquatic ecosystems is limited by our ability to monitor system inputs or to predict the complex environmental responses. Both conceptual and mechanistic models are important tools in helping to understand ecological relationships in aquatic ecosystems and to create hypotheses about causal pathways that can improve natural resource management. Fuzzy Cognitive Maps (FCMs) offer an approach that summarizes qualitative and semi-quantitative information.
The student will have the opportunity to evaluate, refine and develop FCM models to improve our understanding of the associations between land-based drivers of eutrophication (agriculture, rural and urban development) and biological manifestations of concern in Lake Erie (harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, Cladophora fouling, botulism).
The model pathways showing the strongest associations between drivers and biological response variables will identify candidate indicator variables whose association with drivers will be subsequently calibrated using machine learning algorithms. Identification of appropriate indicators is a major knowledge gap constraining management of eutrophication related issues in Lake Erie. This project offers a substantial opportunity for the student to work collaboratively the Lake Erie Management community to plan and undertake co-operative monitoring in Lake Erie and its watersheds.
To be eligible, applicants must have successfully defended and submitted their MSc thesis prior to the proposed start date. Applicants should have strong interests in quantitative ecology and a background in food webs or nutrient dynamics of aquatic ecosystems. They should be highly motivated, with the ability to work independently and collaboratively, and possess strong verbal and written communication skills.
Applications must include a cover letter, C.V., unofficial transcripts, and the contact information of three references. All documentation submitted must be assembled in a single PDF file and sent to: Dr. Rebecca Rooney, c/o Tatjana Milojevic at GWF-UW@uwaterloo.ca with PhD-LFWP3-YourName in the subject line.
Additional Background Information:
Lake Erie has often been used as an example of the effectiveness of adaptive management approaches to resolving various manifestations of environmental problems. The recognition that phosphorus was the key factor responsible of Lake Erie’s eutrophication led to the implementation of pollution controls that resulted in a dramatic recovery by the 1990s. The first evidence of re-eutrophication was observed at a time when total phosphorus loading targets were being met. Although research at the time was insufficient to explain the underlying drivers, the International Joint Commission convened a series of workshops to identify possible causes. A panel of experts used a Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping approach to summarize key variables and relationships among components of the food web and identify the most likely factors. Several years of directed research resolved many of the uncertainties - re-eutrophication is now ascribed largely to greater nutrient loading (during wet springs) and to an increase the relative amount of bioavailable phosphorus entering Lake Erie. Current recommendations call for a 40% reduction in the annual load of phosphorus to western Lake Erie to minimize the frequency of harmful algal blooms.
The student engaged in this project will link human activity to adverse environmental consequences (e.g., eutrophication, algal blooms) using fuzzy cognitive mapping (FCM) and graph theory models (Ozesmi & Ozesmi 2004; Malek 2017).
Building on models first posited in 2009 by the International Joint Commission and the Lake Erie LAMP to identify the causes of harmful algal blooms in the Western Basin of Erie (IJC 2009) this project will address a major knowledge gap, one manifestation of which is causes of blooms of Cladophora in the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie. We will update the FCM model with findings from recent research results, and expand the model by adding novel sub-models that incorporate the roles of agriculture and urban land use to probabilistically evaluate the risks to/improvement in water quality posed by changes in land use and climate. This process will identify relevant, sensitive ecological indicators that will assist GWF end users in monitoring and decision-making. This project integrates the inputs/outputs of coupled lake-watershed nutrient dynamic models to measures and manifestations of the vulnerability, resilience, degradation and recovery of Lake Erie and facilitates the assessment of management objectives that can counter water quality deterioration and abate nuisance algal blooms under changing climate and land-use scenarios.
PhD Opportunity | Next generation solutions to ensure healthy water resources for future generations | Prof. Barb Katzenback & Prof. Paul Craig
The laboratories of Dr. Barb Katzenback and Dr. Paul Craig at the University of Waterloo are seeking a PhD student for a GWF-funded environmental genomics research project: "Next generation solutions to ensure healthy water resources for future generations”.
Our ability to effectively manage aquatic ecosystem health, and the organisms that reside within, is limited by our ability to effectively monitor and detect changes in said environment. An emerging technology is the use of environmental DNA (eDNA) as a molecular fingerprint for the presence and abundance of organisms. The PhD student will be afforded the opportunity to conduct field based experimentation to validate the utility of using eDNA methodologies for detecting target aquatic species and then apply these methodologies to local waterways for the development of end-user tools for monitoring aquatic ecosystem health and prediction of changes to aquatic populations. The goals of this project are to (1) determine whether eDNA signatures are a reliable indicator of species presence and abundance in comparison to traditional survey approaches, (2) determine eDNA signatures in local waterways to inform on the presence and migration of native, non-native and endangered aquatic species, and lastly (3) to determine the feasibility of using eDNA methodologies as a monitoring tool for various users (academia, government, non-government organizations). This work will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Mark Servos and Dr. Andrew Doxey at the University of Waterloo and with Dr. John Giesy at the University of Saskatchewan.
Potential applicants should be highly motivated, with the ability to work independently and collaboratively, and possess strong verbal and written communication skills. Applicants should have meaningful experience in molecular biology and statistical analysis of biological data. Fieldwork experience and proficiency with bioinformatics is considered an asset. However, a willingness to learn these skills is required.
The successful candidate would be enrolled in the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biology-Water graduate program under the Collaborative Water Program, supported by the Water Institute at the University of Waterloo. The candidate’s home department will be the Biology Department at the University of Waterloo.
Information about the Collaborative Water Program can be found here: https://uwaterloo.ca/water-institute/education/collaborative-water-program
Information about Biology Department can be found here: https://uwaterloo.ca/biology/
To be eligible, the applicant must have successfully defended and submitted their MSc thesis prior to the proposed start date.
Starting date: Jan 1, 2018
Qualified individuals are encouraged to apply by email to Dr. Barb Katzenback (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Paul Craig (email@example.com). Please attach a single PDF file that contains a letter of research interest, CV, transcripts and the names and contact information of 2- 3 references. The subject line should read “GWF-PhD Position 2018”. Evaluation of the applications will begin August 1, 2017. Top applicants will be contacted for an interview.
MSc or PhD Opportunity | Quantitative Ecology | Prof. Kim Cuddington
Graduate Positions in Quantitative Ecology
Kim Cuddington (http://ecotheory.uwaterloo.ca), Department of Biology.
I am looking students interested in quantitative ecology to join my lab. Potential research projects include (but are not limited to) the following:
1. Incorporating ecosystem engineering into recovery plans for the recovery of Hine's emerald dragonfly in Ontario
Our mathematical models suggest that if the predator alters the habitat in a way that benefits the prey, then the predator-prey relationship could actually be a net positive for the prey species. However, the engineering impact of the predator on the prey will also depend on the abiotic conditions. As we simultaneously pursue models and laboratory tests of this phenomena, we are also investigating some important applications. Hine's emerald dragonfly is endangered in Canada and the US, and may have a complex relationship with burrowing crayfish. The crayfish dig burrows that reach the water table, and so provide the larval dragonflies with a refuge from drought conditions. But crayfish also consume the larvae, suggesting that crayfish provide a net benefit to the dragonfly population only under some climate conditions.
2. Developing and testing models of the effect environmental variation on invasive species, espcially giant hogweed.
While everyone is now familiar with the trends in mean environmental conditions associated with climate change (e.g., rising temperatures) , it is also clear that the variance of climate is also being modified. Weather patterns are generally highly autocorrelated - a warm day usually follows another above average warm day. The degree to which, for instance, air temperatures will be autocorrelated can be highly affected by geographical factors (e.g. Deserts tend to have very hot days and cold nights due to very low humidity, whereas coastal regions tend to have much more consistent temperatures throughout the year). Therefore, if climate conditions are highly autocorrelated, conditions beneficial or detrimental to a population may perisist over long periods. The study of effects of climate autocorrelation on extinction and invasion dynamics is a major research focus of this lab.
3. Determining the effect of plant morphology on microclimate, and predicting pest species dynamics using 3D simulation
Herbivorous insects and their prey interact on the complicated surfaces offered by plants. Diffusion-limitation caused by plant shape could affect the dynamics of these insects. But in addition, plants also alter the microclimate underneath their canopy, affecting factors such as humidity and temperature. We are investigating these potential effects of plant morphology on predator-prey dynamics using isogenic peas that differ in morphology, aphids and predators such as ladybugs. So far we have determined that plant shape does alter predator consumption rates, but not in the way we first predicted! Predators do best on plants with many edges that allow them to maintain a firm grip. We are conducting large-scale greenhouse experiments to see if this effect on predator success scales up to alter pea aphid population dynamics.
We provide four years of funding for students in a PhD program. Inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org .The application for graduate studies is here (https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-‐studies/application-‐admission/apply-‐online).