The Joan Marsden Lecture in Organismal Biology

Joan Marsden was a remarkable woman who made important contributions to the advancement of Biology at McGill.
Her association with McGill spanned a full 60 years, from her undergraduate education, completed in 1943, to her job as Director of the Bellairs Institute in Barbados, a position she held at the time of her death, in Barbados, in 2001. After earning a Ph.D. at Berkeley, she returned to McGill to take up an appointment as lecturer in the Department of Zoology. She proceeded to work her way up the academic ladder, teaching comparative anatomy to legions of pre-med students and conducting research on marine invertebrates.

Shortly after the opening of the Bellairs Institute, in 1961, she and fellow zoologist John Lewis were the first McGill professors to exploit its research opportunities. She became strongly attached to the people and life style of Barbados, and travelled there almost every year for research and personal renewal. Her favorite research subject was a polychaete worm, which she studied from ecological, physiological, and neurobiological perspectives.

Joan Marsden was Chair of Zoology in 1969 when the Department of Biology was formed by fusion of the departments of Zoology, Botany, and Genetics. She was not only instrumental in creating the Biology Department, but she played a major role in shaping its future through her unfailing judgment and strong character. When she retired in 1987, her colleagues established a fund to perpetuate her memory by means of the Joan Marsden Lectures in Organismal Biology.

Her accomplishments as scientist, teacher, and administrator are especially noteworthy for having been achieved during an era when there were few women academics at McGill. As a pioneer and role model, she led the way for the many women who followed and who today enrich our department. That too is part of her legacy.

The marine worm, Polychaete, was Dr. Marsden's research specimen.
Past Seminars in the Joan Marsden Lecture series
Date Speaker & Seminar Title
2018-2019 Ruth Shaw
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior
College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota
Studying the adaptive process in the wild: purple coneflower and partridge pea
2017-2018 Mark Q. Martindale
The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida
Developmental constraints and the origin of the “Cambrian Explosion"
2016-2017 Axel Meyer
Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Germany
Genomics of extreme speciation and adaptation in cichlid species flocks
2015-2016 Daniel Simberloff
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee
Nature as profit center: The new conservation science and the devaluing of biodiversity
2015-2016 Michael J. Ryan
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas
Cognitive Aspects of Mate Choice: The Túngara as a Case Study
2014-2015 Armin P. Moczek
Department of Biology, University of Indiana
On the origins of novelty and diversity in development and evolution: case studies on horned beetles
[view seminar]
2013-2014 Russell D. Fernald
Stanford University, California
How does social information change the brain?
2012-2013 Sarah P. Otto
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia
The Evolutionary Enigma of Sex
2012-2013 Michael Doebli
Department of Zoology & Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia
Adaptive Diversification
2011-2012 Jonathan B. Losos
Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology
Lizards in an evolutionary tree: Ecology and adaptive radiation in anoles
2010-2011 David Tilman
Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota
Diversification, coexistence and the universal trade-off hypothesis
2008 -2009 Iain D. Couzin
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University & University of Oxford
Collective motion and decision-making in animal groups
2007-2008 Robert D. Warner
University of California, Santa Barbara
Social influences on sexual expression in animals: How sexual tactics shape mating systems and life histories
2006-2007 Nipam H. Patel
University of California, Berkeley
The Evolution of Animal Diversity: Uncovering the underlying principles of animal design
2004-2005 Michael Land
University of Sussex
The Evolutionary History of Eyes
2004-2005 Ken Storey
Carleton University
Nature's Frozen Vertebrates: Surviving as a solid
2003-2004 Jeremy B.C. Jackson
Scripps Institution and STRI
Brave New Ocean: What will oceans be like in 50 years
2001-2002 Wayne Hunte
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, Former Director, Bellairs Research Institute, Barbados
Small Questions with Big Impacts for Coral Reefs and Countries: Challenges for Marine Research in the Caribbean
2000-2001 Robert Paine
University of Washington
Alternative states in ecological assemblages: their significance and persistence whether formed naturally or by experimental manipulation
1999-2000 Roger T. Hanlon
Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, USA
How Cephalopods Use Coloured Skin Patterns to Communicate and Defend Themselves
1998-1999 Sallie Chisholm
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Prochlorococcus marinus: A model system for biological oceanography
1995-1996 Thomas Eisner
Cornell University
The chemistry of life – Insect style
1994-1995 Christopher McGowan
Royal Ontario Museum
Diatoms to dinosaurs
1993-1994 Robert R. Sokal
SUNY, Stony Brook
Genetic evidence for the origin of the Indo-Europeans