interested in all manner of things associated with
arthropods at low temperatures (and sometimes at high
temperatures, too!). Below you can read about some
of the things happening in the lab. Watch this space and
the publications page to see how
My interests are broad, and as a result we have a lot of different
projects going on in the lab. Almost all of it is around the
theme of insect low temperature biology (of course), but we do make
occasional forays elsewhere - for example, we have had a few
projects on snails and other gastropods, and (with PhD student Susan
Anthony) we are starting to explore the thermal biology of spiders
and other arachnids, mainly from the Canadian Arctic. Some
current projects (in no particular order):
- Mechanisms underlying insect freeze tolerance
- That's why I started studying insects in the first place, and
we have some great new model systems in which to study it.
Expect to see lots of exciting action from the lab in the next
few years, focusing on the molecular physiology of insects that
survive internal ice formation. This is also the primary area of
recruitment in the Sinclair lab right now.
- Evolution of thermal biology - Together with
Thomas Buckley of Landcare Research, we
are using the well-documented radiation of New Zealand stick
insects to understand how thermal performance curves evolve.
- Multiple stressors during overwintering -
Winter brings with it lots of stressors besides cold - we are
exploring the interactions between cold, immune and chemical
stress in the hopes of figuring out how to predict the impact of
- Temperature effects on the immune system and
microbiome - We are not alone! All animals
carry with them a huge community of symbionts and potential
pathogens. It'd be great to understand how these little
creatures interact with their hosts to modify responses to the
- Ion and water balance in the cold - For a
decade or so, our lab has been at the forefront of understanding
how insect ion and water balance is affected by low
temperatures. Plenty of fun things going on still!
- Cold tolerance of northern arachnids -
spiders are the dominant predator of the Arctic tundra, where
they might experience temperatures spanning more than 60
°C. We have no idea how they deal with this, but would
love to find out...
- New tools for studying insect cold tolerance
- Exciting things are afoot when it comes to conducting
manipulative experiments to understanding the mechanisms
underlying insect cold tolerance. We're working on RNA-Seq,
RNAi, CRISPR/Cas9 and all sorts of other goodies!
- Overwintering energetics - We've been working
on energetics and metabolism of overwintering insects (and
frogs, once), and are continuing to do this, mainly with pest
insects at the moment.
- Invasive species biology - One of the first
questions people ask when a new pest comes to Canada is 'it's
kind of cold here... will it survive the winter?' Well - we're
the people to ask if you want to find out! We work on many of
the biggest and baddest insect pests in the world right now,
including spotted-wing Drosophila, Asian Long-horn Beetle, and
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. Our Asian Long-horn Beetle work is
part of the Genome Canada-funded BioSAFE project.