Dr. Robert Hanner, Associate 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.

Faculty Affiliations:

Undergraduate Faculty Advisor:

Graduate Faculty:

General Affiliations

Adam Faller, PhD Candidate

I am a PhD candidate in the department of Integrative Biology, co-supervised by Dr. Bob Hanner and Dr. Steve Newmaster. Prior to my graduate work, I obtained a BSc Honours Specialization in Genetics from the University of Western Ontario. My love of genetics allowed me to develop an interest in DNA-based tools, and I fortunately came across my current research program focussing on developing molecular tools for the identification of botanical dietary supplements.

One of the biggest impediments to molecular identification is degradation of target DNA, so I began my graduate work by investigating DNA dynamics in tea supplements through processing. Though a seemingly trivial concept, a gap in knowledge existed in the literature regarding an understanding of how DNA is affected by supplement processing. I was able to travel to China and sample tea leaves (Camellia sinensis) at a farm, as well as plant material after each step of green tea extract production. I measured DNA quality and quantity metrics at each step of processing and found significant degradation and removal of DNA in response to high-heat procedures. Following my investigation into the fundamental concept of DNA degradation through processing, I have shifted my focus to development and application of molecular assays designed for plant-based protein powders.

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.

Maleeka Singh, MSc Candidate

I am a graduate of the University of Toronto, having completed a BSc. in Genes Genetics and Biotechnology, and Sociology; with a minor in English. I am currently pursuing a MSc. in Food Science. My current research is a collaborative project between the Food Science and Integrative Biology departments at the University of Guelph. My primary research, focuses on food forensics; in particular, using, developing and modifying rapid DNA authentication methods to validate commercial species of fish. My research aims to provide a rapid, efficient and cost-effective method, to detect seafood fraud, subsequently reducing its food safety concerns and overall environmental impact.

Reese Solomon, Undergraduate Student

I'm currently in my third year of my BSc majoring in Biodiversity, and minoring in Molecular Biology and Genetics here at the University of Guelph. I started volunteering in the Hanner Lab in my second semester after having Dr. Robert Hanner as my professor in my Biodiversity in Crisis first year seminar. The following fall semester, I was a volunteer TA for that course.

I currently work in the lab building this website, and am writing my first paper for a Canadian freshwater fish qPCR alignment. My research interests include disease vectors, pathobiology, evolution, ecology, and ungulate species, such as Ruben the alpaca in my picture!

My goal is to complete grad school, and continue to work in research.

Olivia Friesen Kroker, Undergraduate Volunteer

I’m a Molecular Biology and Genetics major currently in the first year of my BSc at the University of Guelph. I volunteer in the Hanner Lab, 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. My interest in such experiences began at a young age, and I hope to continue to pursue this through both my current studies and my career path following the completion of my current degree.

Andrew Kiely, Undergraduate Volunteer

As of now, I am in my second year of my BSc, with a major in Zoology and a minor in Chemistry. I'm currently most interested in arthropods, specifically chelicerates, and I plan on continuing my education after my undergrad through obtaining a masters degree, and hopefully a PhD. I started volunteering in the lab during my fourth semester after stumbling upon this website, and it piqued my interest. In my free time, I enjoy composing music on the piano, drinking coffee, and socializing with friends, or my scorpion, Amy.

Manraj Sagoo, Undergraduate Volunteer

At the moment, I am a second year BSc student 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!

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.


Twitter: @Tzitziki_LoezaQ

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.

Brianna Collis, Research Assistant

I'm a Research Assistant in Bob Hanner’s lab, previously having worked in the School of Environmental Sciences and the Department of Plant Agriculture. My research in the lab includes working on a restoration project involving biological soil crusts (BSC’s: mosses, lichens, cyanobacteria, fungi, etc.) as early pioneer species in the post-mine landscape, as well as research related to boreal forest succession and caribou recovery in northern Ontario. I have a BSc. in Plant Science and a Masters in Landscape Architecture, with previous work and academic interests spanning forest ecology, soil microbiology, plant succession, landscape ecological design and planning, field botany, community dynamics, predator-prey interactions, bryology, lichenology, and biogeography.

I have an Instagram account dedicated to documenting mostly tiny plants: @tiny_botany

And you can also follow my Twitter: @brianna_collis

Danielle Bourque, Research Assistant

I obtained my B.Sc. in Biodiversity with a minor in Molecular and Biology and Genetics at the University of Guelph in 2016. However, my journey in the Hanner lab began as an undergraduate volunteer in 2014. Over the course of my B.Sc., spanning several consecutive Work Study and Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) positions, I obtained a molecular laboratory skill-set that equipped me to conduct two fourth-year independent research projects related to molecular ecology. Briefly, I proposed that two chemotype varieties of CladoniaC. bacillarus and C. macilenta—were conspecific at two DNA barcode markers. I also provided quantitative evidence that synthetic DNA oligos persisted longer in saline vs. freshwater solutions.

I have also explored using Whole Genome Amplification (WGA) as a method for producing standard reference material for DNA barcoding applications; as well as designed, optimised, and validated quantitative PCR assays for the detection of four commonly entrained Great Lakes fish species.

I obtained my M.Sc. in June 2019 with the advisory of both Dr. Robert Hanner and Dr. John Fryxell. My research demonstrated the utility of eDNA to track population dynamics of Daphnia magna over time series, using the Limnotron facility in the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.

At present, I am a Research Assistant in the Hanner Laboratory. As a senior member of the lab, I'm happy to lend my experiences to my fellow peers!

Ian Thompson, Research Assistant

Before joining the Hanner lab, I completed a BSc at the University of Guelph, focussing my studies on entomology. Within this degree, I completed an honors thesis with Dr. Adamowicz, where I studied the molecular evolution of caddisflies. I am a research assistant in the Hanner lab, studying biting midges from the Genus Culicoides. This group is known for their ability to vector multiple diseases important to both human and animal health. Within my research I will be DNA barcoding Culicoides to better populate reference libraries with verified records. These will then be used to investigate the success of eDNA biomonitoring for Culicoides, to track and manage the diseases in which they vector.

Kevin Morey, Research Assistant

I completed my Bachelor’s of Science Honour’s degree in 2016, with a major in zoology and a minor in molecular biology and I completed my undergrad research project in the Hanner Lab at the University of Guelph testing the use of eDNA metabarcoding on a diverse mesocosm of marine fishes. I then completed my Master’s of Science in 2018 at the University of Guelph as well, under the advisement of Dr. Amy Newman studying the epigenetic effects of maternal stress on the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis in wild red squirrels in the Yukon, Canada. Currently, I’ve returned to the Hanner Lab as a research assistant who works primarily on the use of environmental DNA for the targeted detection and monitoring of aquatic species. Overall, I’m interested in adapting and expanding molecular and genetics tools to improve our understanding of free-living organisms out in the natural world.

Lauren Janke, Research Technician

In completing my B.Sc. in Zoology here at U of Guelph, I realized that my main research interests are in how the world around us is affected by abiotic changes. This sparked my interest in two broad fields- entomology and ecology. In all of my research, I aim to study how insect populations and communities may be affected by climate change. I currently work as a lab technician in the Hanner lab where in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we DNA barcode a genus of tiny, pesky flies called Culicoides. These are important vectors of arboviruses that are detrimental to livestock populations worldwide, and their distributions are changing and expanding in our climate crisis.

Twitter: @laurenashleyann