Matthew Lemay: Research
My current PhD research employs ‘ultra-high throughput’ sequencing technology to directly measure genome-wide adaptive genetic variation underlying fitness related traits in a natural population. Using this approach, local adaptation can be quantified by identifying outlier loci that display divergent genetic differentiation among populations. The target organism of this study is Lake Okanagan kokanee, which are sockeye salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, that live and reproduce entirely in freshwater. Originally managed as a sport fishery, kokanee are now the subject of major conservation concern. Two sympatric ecotypes have been described: ‘Stream-spawners’ behave similarly to typical sockeye salmon, whereas ‘shore-spawners’ exhibit considerable variation in behavioural traits related to spawning location, substrate, and timing. My PhD research asks whether there is evidence for fine-scale differentiation among the sympatric ecotypes, which if present will manifest as genome-wide outlier single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that associate with each phenotype.
Supervisor: Dr. Michael Russello

The northern abalone, Haliotis kamtschatkana, is a broadcast spawning marine mollusk with a patchy distribution from California to Alaska. Historically, northern abalone supported an important commercial and indigenous fishery, however massive population decline lead to a full ban on harvesting in 1990. Despite this closure, illegal harvesting has exacerbated the population decline, and the northern abalone was subsequently listed as an endangered species in Canada. To assist with abalone recovery, the Bamfield Huu-ay-aht Community Abalone Project (BHCAP) was created as a captive breeding and reintroduction program to supplement wild populations. During my MSc research I used a combination of molecular genetic and pedigree reconstruction tools to assess the ability of this project at preserving genetic diversity among captive-bred offspring; maintaining adequate genetic diversity is essential for the long-term survival of the species as it ensures the ‘evolutionary potential’ required for adaptation to future environmental changes (Lemay and Boulding 2009).

Collaborators:
Dr. E. Boulding (MSc supervisor, University of Guelph), Bamfied Huu-ay-Aht Community Abalone Project.

Increased globalization has facilitated the accidental spread of many invasive species. Wood-boring insects in particular are easily transported as their eggs and larvae may easily go unnoticed in lumber and shipping containers.  The purpose of my work in Dr. Silk’s insect chemical ecology lab was to assist in the development of pheromone-based tools to monitor and control the spread of invasive insects in Canada. The use of pheromones to attract a target insect has the major advantage of being a species-specific non-toxic method for controlling an invasive species. Some of the organisms we studied include: (1) The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, which threatens ash trees across much of central and eastern Canada; and (2) The brown spruce longhorn beetle, Tetropium fuscum, which was introduced from infested shipping containers into the port of Halifax and poses a serious threat to the health of spruce forests in Atlantic Canada (Lemay et al 2010 ; Ryall et al 2010 )

Collaborators:

Dr. P. Silk (Natural Resources Canada), Dr. J. Sweeney (Natural Resources Canada)