Dr. Robert Hanner, Professor
I'm the Associate Director for the Canadian Barcode of Life Network, headquartered at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph. I currently Chair the Database Working Group of the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) and also serve as Campaign Coordinator for the Fish Barcode of Life (FISH-BOL) initiative, a project of global scale that aims to assemble a standard reference sequence library for the molecular identification of all fishes. I'm a Past President of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER). Prior to my arrival in Guelph (August of 2005), I served as the Scientific Program Director for the Coriell Cell Repositories (at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research) and prior to that, I was a Curatorial Associate at the American Museum of Natural History where I spearheaded the establishment of the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research.
Undergraduate Faculty Advisor:
Integrative Biology: Biodiversity Major (since Jan. 2017)
School of Environmental Science: Environmental Science - Ecology Major (since Sept. 2019)
Arrell Food Institute (Fellow, since Sept. 2019)
Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (Affiliated Faculty, since Sept. 2005)
Bioinformatics (since Sept. 2011)
Biotechnology (since Sept. 2017)
Integrative Biology (Faculty, since July 2005)
Anibal Castillo, PhD Candidate
I am studying the relationship between above-ground and below-ground biodiversity, and if and how they influence soil health. Is biodiversity a key indicator of soil resilience and health? Does plant diversity increase microbial and invertebrate diversity? I will apply High Throughput Sequencing, qPCR and conventional taxonomy to answer these questions.
I am co-advised by Dr. Kari Dunfield at the School of Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Bob Hanner from Integrative Biology. I hold a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from the Republic University in Uruguay, with emphasis on molecular phylogenetics. I completed an M.Sc. in Zoology at Integrative Biology, studying whole genome duplications and phylogenetics in salmonid fish. I then worked for eight years at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, where I initially produced, and then curated, DNA barcodes of all taxonomic groups.
Jarrett Phillips, PhD Candidate
I work closely alongside Bob on theoretical aspects of DNA barcoding. In my PhD. work, I am developing computational and statistical methods for optimal sample size determination. Assessing levels of standing genetic variation within species is important for accurate and reliable specimen identification, which is only feasible with a comprehensive barcode database. I am a coadvised by Bob and Dan Gillis in the School of Computer Science (SoCS).
Jennifer Gleason, PhD Candidate
I am a PhD candidate in the Integrative Biology department at the University of Guelph and I am co-supervised by Dr. Bob Hanner and Dr. Karl Cottenie. My two major research interests are metacommunity ecology and aquatic entomology, with a focus on impacted ecosystems and bio-indicator taxa. I am currently exploring the influence of local and regional agricultural land use on aquatic insect communities in southern Ontario streams. I am interested in using next-generation sequencing (e.g., metabarcoding) and environmental DNA to characterize these communities for both bio-assessments and ecological analyses. Prior to starting my PhD, I completed a BSc in Biology (Zoology major) at the University of Guelph in 2012. I first became involved in research through the undergraduate thesis program, where I completed a project exploring the functional morphology of damselfly nymphs under different predation regimes. After that, I worked as a lab and field technician for three years at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, where I was responsible for collecting insects in National Parks across Canada, sorting and identifying specimens, and collaborating with researchers at other insect collections. Interested in developing my skills as a researcher, I decided to pursue graduate school and completed my MSc in wetland ecology at the University of Waterloo (2015-2017) with Dr. Rebecca Rooney. My MSc thesis examined the influence of agricultural land use and pond permanence on aquatic macroinvertebrate communities and diversity patterns in the prairie pothole region of Alberta.
Xueqi (Sharon) Wang, PhD Candidate
I am a PhD candidate in the department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. Born and grew up in China, I came to Canada as an international undergrad student in 2008 and graduated with a BSc in biological science and a minor in mathematical in 2013. After a few years of working in the private section, I returned to the University of Guelph to further my education. I am passionate about environmental sustainability and wildlife conservation. As a theoretical ecologist with advanced training in various molecular techniques, I have developed an interdisciplinary set of skills that will allow me to succeed in a scientific environment. My PhD research aims to optimize molecular methods to better facilitate and supplement current biodiversity and long-term population monitoring programs in the aquatic environment. As a first-generation university student, a landed immigrant, a woman, and a visible minority, I am a strong advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) through involvements within my home institution, community, and world renowned conferences. I was the first graduate student co-chair for the Integrative Biology Departmental EDI committee and have been a student representative of the University of Guelph GenEq Advisory group since Fall 2019. I have successfully organized several local and international conferences including the 2018 and 2019 Symposium for Women in Ecology and Evolution that attracted over 300 attendees from various international institutions in the US, Asia and Europe. These involvements have promoted my successful election to be one of the two 2019 - 2021 Graduate student/Post-doc councillors to serve on the board of the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution. I am dedicated to make science more accessible through Students Communicating Research in Biology Education(SCRIBE), STEM 4K outreach, mentorship and youth engagement program MsInfinity, as well as participation in community events. I believe in work-life balance and I enjoy hot yoga, kayaking, hiking, and salsa dancing.
During my 10+ years in Canada, I have experienced the language barrier, cultural-shocks and differences in social dynamics. Please get in touch if you have questions about being an international student and/or about my research.
Yashu Song, PhD Candidate
I am a PhD candidate in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph. I completed my BSc Degree in Biology at the University of Western Ontario and I completed my Master of Bioinformatics at the Univerisity of Guelph in 2017. My research interest is the study of transcriptomics changes of grapevine infected with viruses. My hobbies include kickboxing, pole dancing, and laying bed!
Kathleen Nolan, MSc Student
I am a MSc student in the Integrative Biology department at the University of Guelph and I am supervised by Dr. Robert Hanner. I completed my BSc in Biodiversity and Mathematical Science at the University of Guelph in 2020 and expect to complete my MSc in 2022. I was lucky to have built a strong foundational passion for science during my youth; I had great teachers who encouraged my onslaught of questions, and my parents promoted scientific thinking at home. During my BSc at UofG, I worked with an MSc student to study the effects of UV-C light on the viability of microalgae in a drinking water treatment context. This allowed me to obtain a position in the Heyland Lab as a laboratory technician, which led to me conducting an honours' thesis on microalgal growth under various nutrient conditions within a photobioreactor. At the same time, I took the biodiversity capstone course, in which I helped fundraise for, collect, and analyze environmental DNA from a local, ecologically-important population of Brook Trout with the help of several industry partners. I also participated in the 2019 offering of the Arctic Ecology field course in Churchill, MB, which fostered an appreciation for our northern ecosystems and the unique challenges these ecosystems face. I met Dr. Hanner in the third year of my undergraduate degree when taking the biodiversity capstone course; I stayed because I'm really interested in the use of cutting-edge technology to answer big ecological questions! Currently, I conduct molecular analyses on water samples to identify different species of microalgae. My research interests include big ecological questions, especially relating to aquatic biodiversity. I am particularly interested in statistical and bioinformatic methods for using molecular data to answer these questions. I also have 3 lizards (1 leopard gecko and 2 crested geckos), and building custom enclosures for them is my favourite hobby. I also love to garden (both indoors and outdoors), and I grow much of my own food from my balcony in the summer months. At the moment, I sit on the Graduate Students' Association as a Board Representative from the Department of Integrative Biology. I have also volunteered over the years with organizations like OPIRG, Project Serve, Lets' Talk Science, Guelph Bug Day, and other public interest groups. Finally, I love to make art - acrylic, oil, and watercolour are some of my favourite paints to work with, and I love anything musical. I hope to continue working in research, but I am not sure if I want to stay in academia, or move into the private or government sectors.
Sonja Andrekovic, MSc Student
I am currently completing a MSc of Biotechnology at the University of Guelph. I completed my BSc in Environmental Biology and Molecular Biology and Genetics in 2018 and I expect to complete my MSc in 2021. I was always interested in the way living systems worked, on all scales, and science allowed me to explore and understand the complexity of life even further. I also have a mixed background in environmental studies as well as molecular biology. I worked in a human genetics lab in my undergrad for over 1 year focusing on cell signaling cascades in mammalian disease, as well as worked with Bayer CropScience doing field research for over 2 years. I joined the Hanner Lab because the lab mixes both environmental studies with molecular biology, which is a collaboration of my expertise and interest. Currently, I am working on analyzing soil microbial data for Detour Gold to help understand microbial community dynamics in response to soil amendments. I am also maintaining a research project in the greenhouses looking at lichen growth in response to different treatments. My research interests include environmental research related to restoration as well as climate change, and epigenetic changes in response to environmental variables. My hobbies include long-distance running (and any running really!) - I have been running my whole life and have competed in national races in New Zealand! I love back-country camping, especially in Northern Ontario. I also love Identifying tree species in nature- I find trees so interesting and get excited with new opportunities to learn more about them - my favourite tree right now is the Tamarack! Also travelling and trying new foods!!! I hope to continue integrating molecular biology with environmental biology in a biotechnological lens to create solutions for a more sustainable future.
Steven Rogers, MSc Student
I am a MSc student in the Integrative Biology department at the University of Guelph. I completed my BSc in Marine Biology at Aberdeen University in Scotland in 2017 and plan to complete my MSc in 2021. Prior to joining the Hanner Lab I studied Marine Biology at the University of Aberdeen where I conducted a Honours project under Dr Tara Marshall evaluating harvest control rules in EU fisheries. After receiving my Canadian Permanent Residency I was keen to get back into science through grad school. Following a long search, Dr Hanner's research into DNA Barcoding, targeted qPCR, and Biomonitoring felt like an exciting opportunity. Once we had a few discussions about ongoing work and potential future projects, I was delighted at the chance to join the lab! Once I became a member of the lab, my main focus became designing and validating species specific qPCR primer and probe assays for invasive freshwater fish species in Canada. This work is undertaken under the GEN-FISH project. My other project includes evaluating currently designed freshwater fish assays through taxon specific gene alignments. I have collaborated with Industry and Government partners using eDNA surveys for detection of Brook Trout and American Eel, and working with conservation groups to DNA barcode larval and egg samples to species level identification. My research interest is using eDNA as a biomonitoring tool. I have a keen curiosity in the potential further uses of eDNA in population ecology and food web/ecosystem structure. Within this, I am teaching myself coding to bring bioinformatics into my research. Away from the lab, I enjoy reading books and listening to podcasts on history. I like to travel and I am keen to get to explore more of Canada when safe to do so. I would like to study more coding and learn how to repair and build electronics in my spare time. Beyond my Masters, I plan to start a PhD with the hope of moving into industry on graduation.
Sujani Kanchana Rathnayake, MSc Student
I am a MSc student in the Integrative Biology department at the University of Guelph and I am supervised by Dr. Robert Hanner. I completed my BSc Honors Degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in 2017 at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. My expected MSc completion is in the winter of 2021. My passion to do science experimentation since I was in school brought me to science; I used to re-do the science experiments from scratch when I came back from school along with my father; who motivated and taught me how fascinating science is! Before I joined the Hanner Lab, I was a research assistant in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Peradeniya contributing to research publications through lab work and research writing. I was also a post-secondary teaching assistant at the University of Peradeniya and then at Rajarata University of Sri Lanka which enabled me to guide undergraduates in lab sessions, research, and coursework. My great interest in the field of food authentication and adulteration detection via DNA barcoding approaches made me apply for a position in the Hanner Lab. I am currently conducting research experimentation related to my Master's Thesis in the Hanner Lab, and my research interests include food authentication, food fraud detection, neglected and underutilized crops, and botany. I am also one of the Arrell Food Institute Scholars for the year 2019 and am actively engaged in the scholar outreach activities of AFI. Some of my hobbies include reading: I love to read motivational books and books written by scientists on their life experiences, watching movies on Netflix during my free time, composing poems when I am in the perfect mood, gardening, and enjoying outdoor camping in the summer. I wish to pursue my higher education and then hope to join the academia and research sector in the future.
Erika Myler, Undergraduate Student
I started working in the Hanner Lab in the fall semester of 2020, and am completing my final year of a BSc in Zoology and Microbiology at the University of Guelph with two independent research projects in the Hanner lab. Over the course of my undergrad, I've gained research experience in molecular biology and bacteriology labs at the University of Guelph and the Ontario Veterinary College. I was intrigued by the innovative DNA barcoding projects in the Hanner lab and their potential to transform how we detect species and communities in the environment for biomonitoring and invasive species surveillance efforts. My work in the Hanner lab includes optimizing eDNA extraction from water samples to improve detection of brook trout eDNA by qPCR, as well as developing a metabarcoding assay for fish and mussels to improve community detection efforts. My research interests include molecular biology and genomics as tools to support environmental conservation efforts and to investigate interspecies interactions, including hosts and their pathogens, parasites, and symbionts. In my free time I enjoy biking, playing soccer, and relaxing with my two cats! I plan to pursue a Masters degree after I obtain my BSc in June 2021.
Maya Persram, Undergraduate Student
I started working in the Hanner Lab in October 2020 as a work-study student as I'm interested in methods of studying biodiversity, and eDNA analysis as it is a great way of studying ecosystems with little environmental impact! I'm currently completing a BScH in Marine and Freshwater Biology, with a minor in English at the University of Guelph. In the Hanner Lab, I have started a project to index the lab's biological samples in cryofreeze. I'm also contributing to data gathering and analysis for a few papers currently being worked on. My dream has always been to study coral reef ecology and conservation in Australia. Specifically, I want to examine how weather and other abiotic factors are affecting not only the coral species on reefs, but the reef ecosystem as a whole. I hope to pursue graduate studies in an area related to these issues. Outside of school, I'm probably reading, baking yet another dessert, or listening to musical cast recordings on repeat. I'm also guilty of spoiling Cheerio (the fluffy girl staring right at you) with way too many treats.
Reese Solomon, Undergraduate Student
I started working in the Hanner Lab as a volunteer in the winter 2019 semester after finishing his first-year seminar course, Biodiversity in Crisis. I'm currently completing a BScH in Wildlife Biology & Conservation at the University of Guelph and my current role in the lab is working as a student research assistant, as well as building and maintaining our website. My research interests include invasive species surveillance, the effects modern agriculture has on the environment, ecology, evolution, and ungulate species like my friend Ruben the alpaca in my picture. My hobbies outside of work include art, playing video games, exploring nature, and hanging out with cool animals like my cat Sabbath and my many cherry shrimp! My goal is to complete my BSc and pursue graduate studies.
Olivia Friesen Kroker, Undergraduate Volunteer
I’m currently completing my BSc in Molecular Biology and Genetics major at the University of Guelph. I started volunteering in the Hanner Lab in February 2020, gaining experience in the processes and procedures of the lab.
I grew up in Kenora, a small, isolated lake town in northern Ontario. Living here exposed me to a wide range of wildlife and provided me with unique experiences. This includes trips to go sturgeon netting in the lake system near my hometown and trips to the Experimental Lakes Area. I grew up with a doctor and a geneticist for parents, so I've been exposed to and had an interest in science for as long as I can remember. My research interests include stem cell differentiation and its use for cancer treatment, as well as the effects of the environment on the epigenome. As a volunteer, I'm the Rotary International and District Liaison for the Rotaract club at the University of Guelph. I hope to continue to pursue this through both my current studies and my career path following the completion of my current degree. I plan to pursue a Masters, followed by a PhD.
Manraj Sagoo, Undergraduate Volunteer
At the moment, I am completing a BSc studying Zoology at the University of Guelph. I volunteer in the Hanner lab gaining experience by helping others in the lab with their work.
I am originally from Kenya, and from a young age I developed an interest in ecology and medicine with the hope of one day having a career as a veterinarian.
I love being in nature, as seen in this picture where I am hiking in the Kananaskis area near Banff, Alberta!
Amane Baba, Undergraduate Volunteer
A friend of mine, Reese Solomon, introduced me to Hanner Lab, and I started volunteering in January 2021. I'm currently completing a BSc in Marine and Freshwater Biology at the University of Guelph. Since I was young, I was influenced by my father who was a mass spec researcher and I'm interested in aquatic biome research. My hobbies include aquarium keeping, fishing, and Kendo (Japanese sword fighting). My goal is to pursue graduate studies.
Ian Thompson, Research Assistant
After I completed my BScH in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the University of Guelph, I Joined the Hanner lab to complete research under the CFIA's Culicoides Project. Over my time in the lab, I began to work more closely with Jennifer Gleason, where I aided in the field collection and sorting of macroinvertebrates for her PhD Research. I then started a course-based Masters of Environmental Science here at UofG, and completed a major research project with Dr. Hanner, assessing the functionality of non-specific amplification in eDNA metabarcoding. After finishing my Masters in 2020, I started back in the Adamowicz and Hanner Labs as a Research Assistant working on a collaborative project with a local consulting firm assessing DNA barcoding in environmental effects monitoring.
My research interests lie in aquatic entomology, bioinformatics, and the integration of sociology and natural sciences. Outside of academia, you can find me tending to my 100+ houseplants or out on a local trail collecting bugs & identifying plants.
Dr. Rob Young, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am a postdoctoral researcher and project manager in the Hanner lab and I am involved in numerous projects funded by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in cooperation with the animal health, plant health, and operations branches. We work with different government and academic protocols to investigate biological targets of regulatory interest toward food protection and sustainability. One challenge of this work is to connect government research and protocols with Canadian interests through efforts to better access and share agricultural research data with industry, academic, and government representatives.
Our work will ultimately contribute to better tracking of animal and plant diseases and disease vectors. We have had numerous successes generating data sets, including DNA barcodes to further populate libraries, metabarcoding data from insect biosurveillance traps, metagenomics investigating plant pathogens, and qPCR data looking at targeted organisms. We have used these data to answer project-specific questions and to address the challenges related to data access. We also use these data to establish consistent formats and centralized storage through protocol development to provide a framework to increase data access and sharing.
Dr. Tzitziki Loeza-Quintana, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Hanner Lab working in collaboration with SLR Consulting. My current project is founded by a MITACS Elevate Fellowship and focus on the application of molecular techniques to advance environmental assessments and the knowledge and technology transfer to the private sector. Overall, I am highly interested in employing molecular tools to answer ecological and evolutionary questions, and their application in conservation, forensics, biomonitoring, and biosurveillance.
For the last few years, I have been developing, standardizing and implementing molecular protocols to detect species-at-risk and invasive aquatic species using environmental DNA (eDNA). I have also collaborated with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) developing and validating of molecular protocols for the detection of pathogens and invasive alien species.
I have a background in molecular ecology and evolutionary biology. I obtained my BSc in Marine Biology (UABCS) and a MSc (CICESE) in Mexico assessing the genetic variability and phylogeographic structure of marine taxa and their implication in fisheries and aquaculture practices. Later, I completed my PhD degree at the University of Guelph working with Dr. Adamowicz. My PhD research explored the rates of molecular evolution and the use of biogeographic events to calibrate molecular clocks in marine taxa.
Dr. Yoamel Milián-García, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. I am working in cooperation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) with numerous projects related to the development of regulatory protocols with respect to DNA barcoding, metabarcoding, and target molecular detection of organisms using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS). My research interests include Conservation Genetics and Genomics of endangered and economically important species, with a recent expansion to invasive alien species for biomonitoring and biosurveillance. I am an active member of The Conservation Genetics Network in Latin America (Spanish acronym, ReGeneC). I have had the opportunity to pioneer studies on the use of molecular tools for the conservation of critically endangered species such as the Cuban crocodile. I am presently a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) for the Crocodile Specialist Group. I have been Research Scholar at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). I have also served as Instructor Professor at the University of Havana, Cuba and more recently at the University of British Columbia, Canada on Molecular Approaches in Ecology and Evolution.