Our lab investigates the population genetic structure of temperate and boreal trees, and the evolutionary dynamics that have resulted in that structure. We investigate the extent of local adaptation to climate in tree populations, and the capacity of those populations to adapt to new climates using common gardens and controlled environment experiments. We also infer the phylogeography, demographic history, and levels of gene flow of these populations using genetic markers. Finally, our work is applied to guide genetic conservation and management strategies for our forests.

Natural populations require genetic diversity to evolve and adapt to new environmental conditions, e.g., climate change, insects, and diseases (see Allendorf et al. 2012. Conservation and the genetics of populations.). Many tree species have populations that are locally adapted to environmental conditions, particularly climate, so management and conservation strategies need to be designed accordingly. Genetic variation also provides raw material for tree breeding programs. Rapid climate change is perhaps the single largest challenge facing our forests, and will likely necessitate modified approaches to genetic conservation and genetic management for reforestation.

How do we go about conserving genetic diversity in forest trees, and how can we rigorously assess whether we are meeting this goal? In 2000, the Forest Genetics Council of British Columbia (FGC) realized that, while gene conservation continued to be a high priority, this objective was not being met in a strategic and rigorous manner. As a result, the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics (CFCG) was established in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The CFCG generates knowledge important for the development of genetic conservation strategies for forest trees; assesses and makes available data on the population genetic structure and genetic conservation status of British Columbia’s native tree species; assesses the extent of local adaptation in native species; and evaluates risks of and conservation strategies for tree populations with climate change. While core funding is provided through the FGC’s Genetic Conservation Subprogram, projects within the CFCG are funded through several other agencies, including the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Genome Canada, Genome BC, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, and the University of British Columbia.


We are located on the third floor of the Forest Science Centre, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4