Welcome to the Department of Biology



Biology is the study of life. Its scope extends from molecules to organisms and ecosystems. It deals with fundamental questions such as the origin and evolution of plants and animals, interactions between living organisms and their environment, mechanisms of embryonic development, the structure and function of the living cell, the molecular basis of inheritance, the biochemical and genetic basis of human diseases, and the operation of the brain and the nervous system. Staff of the Biology Department conduct research and offer teaching programs in all these areas. The Department of Biology's well-equipped teaching and research laboratories are located in the Stewart Biology Building and the Bellini Life Sciences Building.

Areas of Research




Research Highlights

Rising global shipping traffic could lead to surge in invasive species: Maritime trade likely to far outweigh climate change as driver of bio-invasions over next 30 years, study finds

Rising global maritime traffic could lead to sharp increases in invasive species around the world over the next 30 years, according to a new study by McGill University researchers. “Biological invasions are believed to be a major driver of biodiversity change, and cause billions of dollars in economic damages annually,” says senior author Brian Leung, an associate professor in McGill’s Department of Biology and School of Environment.

>> McGill Channels (March 18, 2019)

Reference:
Sardain, A., Sardain, E and Leung, B. (2019) Global forecasts of shipping traffic and biological invasions to 2050. Nature Sustainability DOI: 10.1038/s41893-019-0245-y

Lessons from the twist and zip of C. elegans microtubules

New work from the Brouhard Lab tackles fundamental questions about microtubules: a conserved component of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton. By studying the  structure and dynamics of microtubules from the C. elegans nematode, they reveal structural divergences in a specific region of the microtubule subunit, tubulin. They show how this divergence might drive the worm's ability to grow microtubules extremely fast, and with non-canonical structures.

Reference:
Chaaban et al. 2018, Dev Cell. 47(2):191-204.e8

   

The worm’s nose knows

Sensory input doesn’t make much sense unless it is interpreted in the context of the position and movements of your own body. The Hendricks Lab is studying a neural circuit in Caenorhabditis elegans (a small roundworm with just 300 neurons), that allows it to interpret stimulus changes that are caused by its own movements and produce appropriate behavioral responses. We don’t normally think of animals like worms as having sophisticated perception, but this work underscores the fundamental need to distinguish self-generated sensation from other kinds of input for any animal that needs to navigate and behave in the world.

Reference:
Ouellette et al., 2018, ENEURO.0121-18.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0121-18.2018
   

Mega-experiment shows interactions between species are strongest in the tropics and lowlands

One of the largest field experiments ever conducted is providing the best evidence yet in support of a key Darwinian theory - that interactions between species are stronger toward the tropics and at lower elevations. "Theory predicts that interactions among species - like predation and competition—will be strongest in the warm, productive, biodiverse ecosystems of the tropics and at low elevations," says lead author Anna Hargreaves.

>> Read more about this study
>> Link to video
>> The Hargreaves Lab

Reference:
http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/2/eaau4403


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