Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei

Associate Professor, 
Principle Investigator (P.I.) 
Centre for Biodiversity Genomics & Department of Integrative Biology

Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei is an internationally recognized expert in molecular evolutionary biology and environmental/ecological genomics and bioinformatics. He is one of the pioneers using high-throughput genomics technologies such as Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) for the assessment of biodiversity in samples. These samples vary from bulk environmental water, soil, sediments to gut contents and diet analysis (e.g. eDNA metabarcoding). Mehrdad has played a leadership role in establishing and managing large-scale research projects and collaborative networks such as the International Barcode of Life (iBOL), Biomonitoring 2.0 and STREAM.

Mehrdad has served on advisory and review panels for major initiatives, international organizations, and major funding agencies. He has independently raised over $10 million in research funds from various agencies, collaborated with various industrial partners and regulatory agencies (e.g. US EPA, US FDA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Parks Canada).

Office:Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, Rm 108
Lab:Centre for Biodiversity Genomics
Phone:519-824-4120 x52487
Email:mhajibab [@] uoguelph.ca

Lab Staff

Tamanna Kohi

Field, Outreach & 
Communications Coordinator

Tamanna received her Bachelor of Environmental Sciences/Studies from Trent University in 2016. During her studies, Tamanna focused her passion for environmental stewardship to water-based stewardship and began to work in the environmental non-profit (ENGO) sector upon graduation.

Tamanna is the current Chair of the Board for the non-profit, Water Watchers. She also has five years of experience in ENGO-based development and communications. As the Field, Outreach and Communications Coordinator for project STREAM, Tamanna works to utilize the Hajibabaei lab’s research to engage in initiatives that work towards improving and maintaining watershed health across Canada.

Room:016 CBG
Lab:Centre for Biodiversity Genomics
Phone:519-824-4120 x56007
Email:tkohi [@] uoguelph.ca
Carley Maitland

Research Technician

Carley joined the Hajibabaei Lab in 2017 as a volunteer in her first year as an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. She was later hired as an undergraduate Research Assistant, where she worked on projects such as STREAM and completed her own undergraduate thesis investigating alternative sampling methods for diatom biomonitoring.

Since graduating in 2020, Carley has continued to foster her interests in molecular ecology and conservation as a full-time Research Technician. Her time is focused on testing new ways to optimize field and lab workflows for eDNA research and supervising the lab’s undergraduate students.

Room:016 CBG
Lab:Centre for Biodiversity Genomics
Phone:519-824-4120 x56007
Email:vmaitlan [@] uoguelph.ca
Artin Mashayekhi

Research Technician

Artin gained his Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of Calgary in April 2021. He is currently working as a Research Technician for STREAM.

This fall, Artin will be starting as a graduate student in Bioinformatics. He is interested in how computers can be applied to the different facets of our lives, and has a passion for the complex machinations of biological life. Artin chose this field to pursue his passions after performing a practicum in his last year of his undergraduate studies. For his Masters thesis, Artin hopes to explore the different bioinformatic tools and programs used within the lab to seek methods to better utilize the constant advancements in the computing field.

Email:amashaye [@] uoguelph.ca
Michael Wright

Laboratory Manager

Mike received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Trent University in April 2011, after completing an honours thesis project on mosquito diversity in rural vs. urban habitats. During his undergraduate studies, Michael had the opportunity to both take (June 2010), and TA (June 2011) a field course looking at wild plants in Ontario. This opened his eyes to the many great and rare ecosystems Ontario has to offer, as well as the flora and fauna that inhabit them.

Mike joined the Hajibabaei lab in October 2012, processing samples relating to the Biomonitoring 2.0 research project. He completed his Master of Science in Integrative Biology with Mehrdad in 2016, where he looked at patterns in spatial and temporal diversity of benthic invertebrate communities identified through DNA metabarcoding as part of the Biomonitoring 2.0 project. Now, as Lab Manager, Mike has a part in a variety of projects, including STREAM, graduate student projects and other collaborations.

Room: 016 CBG
Lab: Centre for Biodiversity Genomics
Phone: 519-824-4120 x56007
Email: mwrigh06 [@] uoguelph.ca

Post-Docs & Researchers

Katie McGee with a critter
Dr. Katie McGee

Research Associate 
Centre for Biodiversity Genomics

Katie’s research involves using DNA metasystematics via Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) to study the ecology and biochemistry of soil organisms in the environment. The goal is to understand the mechanisms of soil biotic community dynamics and their role in biogeochemical cycles, while also applying these mechanistic links to ecosystem ecology. In particular, Katie is interested in the affects of land management on soil microbial, invertebrate, and plant community composition, along with carbon and nitrogen cycle dynamics. The ultimate goal is to determine whether these metrics can serve as good candidates for indicators of ecosystem functioning in the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge (MNWLR) of Costa Rica. Katie’s vision is to eventually identify carbon, nitrogen, and biotic indicators of both ecosystem condition and function, and drivers of ecological processes using molecular techniques.

Email:kmcgee [@] uoguelph.ca
Dr. Teresita M. Porter

Research Associate 
Centre for Biodiversity Genomics

Terri’s research background is in ecology and evolution, mycology, and bioinformatics. She uses environmental DNA (eDNA) and genomics methods to assess biodiversity from soil, water, and freshwater benthic samples to monitor water quality and soil health. Terri has a special interest in taxonomic assignment methods and how methodological bias affects the analysis of biodiversity and biomonitoring data.

Email:porter01 [@] uoguelph.ca
Dr. Andrew Riley

Postdoctoral Scholar 
Centre for Biodiversity Genomics

Andrew completed his PhD at the University of Guelph in bioinformatics. During his PhD, his research focused on studying the evolution of dehydration-induced proteins, plant proteins that are intrinsically disordered (proteins that do not form a stable 3D structure). This research expanded into a much broader study of intrinsically disordered proteins and how sequence-based approaches can be used to study their evolution. While most of his research has focused on molecular biology and bioinformatics, Andrew has an interest in natural history, and exploring the world through camping, hiking, and SCUBA diving.  

Andrew’s current research involves developing and applying methods to analyze eDNA data. These methods are focused on how existing data can be used to gain insight on within-species diversity and population structures. 

Email:ariley [@] uoguelph.ca

Graduate Students

Genevieve M. Johnson

Integrative Biology PhD Student
University of Guelph

Before joining the Hajibabaei lab, Genevieve studied Fisheries and Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF).  She worked in fisheries genetics labs at UAF and at NOAA NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center Auke Bay Laboratories.

Genevieve is interested in applications of molecular biology for ecological monitoring and management. Her project builds upon the lab’s STREAM-biomonitoring efforts. She is also using RNA sequencing to study the transcriptomes of benthic arthropods in streams with exposure to agricultural activity.

Email:gjohns08 [@] uoguelph.ca
Josip Rudar

Bioinformatics PhD Candidate 
University of Guelph

Joe received his honours Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from the University of Guelph. Following this, he continued his education and received both a Bachelor of Education from Western University and a Master of Bioinformatics from the University of Guelph.

Joe is currently working towards the completion of his PhD in bioinformatics. He is interested in applying and developing machine learning and statistical methods which can be used to discover and characterize biomarker taxa and genes. The goal of this research is to understand what these biomarkers can tell us about the current state of the environment and how various stressors can impact organisms before long-term ecosystem damage is done. In addition to his research, Joe is passionate about education and helps younger students to develop their skills in STEM.

Email:rudarj [@] uoguelph.ca
Bráulio (2)
Bráulio Silva

Integrative Biology PhD Student
University of Guelph

Bráulio is a Brazilian biologist and joined the Hajibabaei lab in September 2022. He received his Master of Genetics with an emphasis in genomics and bioinformatics in 2021 from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Before joining the lab, Bráulio developed projects focused on comparative genomics and the evolution of repetitive DNA (satellite DNA and transposable elements) using Drosophila (fruit fly) as a model organism of study. Due to his previous work, he developed bioinformatics and wet lab skills and wants to use them in his PhD project.

Bráulio is particularly interested in using Next-Generation Sequencing (metabarcoding data) and eDNA for conservation purposes, such as measuring impact levels and developing strategies to minimize human action in nature. Besides the research environment, Bráulio likes discussing, teaching, and helping people to become more passionate about the fascinating biological world. He is also always available to play soccer and volleyball with friends!

Email:silvab [@] uoguelph.ca

Undergraduate Students

Rebecca Alam

Summer Research Technician 
University of Guelph

Rebecca is completing her third year of her Bachelor of Environmental Science, majoring in Environmental Science. Her summer research project involves identifying and characterising the population genetic structures of Caddisfly and Mayfly benthic communities of Waterloo and Guelph. She will also be applying transcriptomics to find RNA level stress markers to stream conditions. The aim of her project is to find key bioindicator species for stream health.

Rebecca has always been passionate about conservation and the natural environment and is interested in furthering her studies of aquatic systems at the molecular level to improve environmental monitoring efforts. Outside of her studies, you can find her exploring the outdoors and documenting natural landscapes with her drone.

Email:alamr [@] uoguelph.ca
Aleksander Mell

Summer Research Technician 
University of Guelph

Aleksander is a fourth-year student studying Wildlife Biology and Conservation with a minor in Applied Geomatics. He is working on a spatiotemporal analysis using a long-term metabarcoding dataset, investigating how environmental features influence benthic macroinvertebrate communities across the Laurel Creek sub-watershed in the City of Waterloo. Aside his research project, Aleksander assists in various lab procedures such as sample collection, bulk sample homogenization, DNA extraction, and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Aleksander plans to pursue graduate studies in ecology and evolution to investigate how invertebrate communities respond to environmental change.

Email:amell [@] uoguelph.ca
Brennan Stanfield

Summer Research Technician 
University of Guelph

Brennan is entering the fourth year of his honours Bachelor of Science, majoring in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. He is responsible for the conception and completion of a research project focused on environmental RNA as well as processing samples from a variety of water sources. 

Brennan hopes to complete an undergraduate thesis focused on behavioural and evolutionary ecology. He has always been passionate about natural landscapes and the fauna within them, perhaps since he spent most of his summers in the northern forests of Ontario while growing up. Brennan also hopes to pursue a Masters degree in the future, focused on bear ecology in Canada.

Email:stanfieb [@] uoguelph.ca