Prof. Nicholas E. Mandrak

Nicholas E. Mandrak is a Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) in Toronto, Ontario. He is Director of the Conservation and Biodiversity stream of the professional M.Env.Sci. program at UTSC. Nick is a Research Associate of the Royal Ontario Museum and South Africa Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity. He is the Co-Chair of the Freshwater Fishes Species Specialist Subcommittee of COSEWIC. Nick is an Associate Editor of Biological Invasions and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management.  His research interests are the biodiversity, biogeography, and conservation of Canadian freshwater fishes, with emphasis on endangered and invasive fishes. Nick has co-authored over 200 primary publications, over 100 government reports, 40 COSEWIC reports, and four books, including the newly revised ROM Field Guide to Ontario Fishes.

Post-Doctoral Fellows:

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Dr. Alex Van Nynatten

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Mandrak lab. I recently completed my PhD with Belinda Chang and Nathan Lovejoy at the University of Toronto, where I functionally characterized the molecular evolution of visual pigments in fishes that have adapted to highly turbid and tannin-stained freshwater environments. My postdoctoral research uses a combination of genomic techniques, bioinformatics analyses, and experimental assays of visual pigment function to investigate visual evolution in North American freshwater fishes. In general, my research interests include sensory systems, molecular evolution, genomics, and phylogenetics, but I am also passionate about data visualization, bicycling, agriculture, and sports.


PhD Lab Members (UTSC):

Stephanie Allen, MEnvSci

I am a PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, supervised by Dr. Mandrak. I completed my B.Sc. at Trent University in the Environmental and Resource Science program where I conducted research on the early life history of a lake-spawning population of Brook Trout. I then worked for 20 years as an environmental scientist, predominantly for Ontario First Nations in a wide range of fields including: environmental assessment; contaminated sites and landfills; environmental health (POPs and Hg); and, source water protection. In 2019, I returned to university part-time, completing a M.Env.Sci. at the University of Toronto. My research concerned detection probability of one of Ontario’s endangered riverine dragonflies: Rapids Clubtail. My interest piqued, I am continuing my research with Ontario endangered riverine dragonflies, looking at phenology and occupancy modelling to inform the development of monitoring and assessment protocols. I am Kanien’keha:ka (Mohawk) from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. In my free time, I can be found mucking around rivers and wetlands searching for dragonflies, bicycling, knitting and checking out live music.

fter graduating with an M.Sc from Concordia University (Montreal) in 2016, I worked as a research associate in Dr. Fraser’s lab and as a fisheries research intern for non-governmental associations in Sainte-Marie Island (Madagascar). I had the opportunity to contribute to several projects, including evaluating the relationship between population size and effective population size, testing existing guidelines on genetic rescue, or evaluating social-ecological dynamics in reef fisheries. Broadly, my research interests lie in eco-evolutionary dynamics and using genetics as a tool to inform conservation management. Outside of science, I like to run, bike, and drink hoppy beers.

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Erik Dean, MEnvSc

I am a PhD student investigating invasive fishes’ populations under future environmental conditions. My background is in Ecology and Evolution (HBSc, UofT 2015), and Environmental Science (MEnvSc, UTSC 2017). Now, under the co-supervision of Nick Mandrak and Andrew Drake, my research explores how freshwater habitats may transition to alternative states in step with climate change, and how this will impact populations of freshwater fishes. More specifically, I intend to apply this research towards the development of models that predict how populations of invasive carp species will fare under future climate scenarios, within the Canadian Great Lakes Basin. My challenge is to employ both traditional approaches along with promising techniques from the fields of Machine Learning, and High Performance Computing to provide comprehensive answers to these questions. In my free time, I enjoy a laundry list of hobbies ranging from recording music to home renovation. Feel free to check out my website if interested!


Justin Hubbard, MSc

I am a PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Science at UTSC, co-supervised by Nick Mandrak and Andrew Drake. I completed my MSc in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology where I studied how climate change will alter the survival probability of potential aquatic invasive species in freshwater systems. I completed my BSc in Environmental and Resource Science at Trent University and my diploma in Environmental Technology at Sir Sandford Fleming College. Broadly, my current research interests are in how climate change will be a driver of freshwater biological invasions at species and biogeographic scales. Beyond research, I prefer to spend my time outside and camping in the backcountry.

Kyla Greenham, MSc: I am PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. I graduated from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Marine Biology. My research interests centered on the combined impact of environmental pollutants and human cleaning surfactants on the microscopic trophic level. I then completed my Masters degree at the University of Guelph in Aquaculture studying fish health management as a result of stressors in husbandry practices. I am currently the Curator of Conservation & Environment and Acting Curator of Fishes & Marine Invertebrates for the Toronto Zoo. I specialize in the impact of climate change on native wildlife and engaging the public in taking action to mitigate climate change. I also oversee the Zoo’s Sustainability platform to reduce its ecological footprint. I am currently interested in assessing the resiliency of native fish species to invasive species and climate change. I hope to expand the Toronto Zoo’s conservation programs for saving local freshwater fishes with hands on programs to stop the introduction of invasive species and create fish recovery programs to improve the resiliency of fish populations and aquatic habitat against climate change. With what time I have left in my day, I enjoy camping with my husband and son, running the Ontario Bioblitz program and SCUBA diving.


Edina Illyes, HBSc.

I am a PhD student at the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. I graduated from UTSC with Honours Bachelor of Science in Conservation & Biodiversity and Environmental Science. My broad research interests are in biogeography and community ecology. I am currently exploring the impacts of historical dispersal on contemporary lacustrine fish communities of northwestern Ontario in the former glacial Lake Agassiz basin, and anthropogenic effects on fish species in, and potential dispersal from, urban ponds. Otherwise, I love all things nature and use any excuse get outside to identify species and learn about landscape evolution with my best bud, Rum.


Markelle Bio
Markelle Morphet, HBSc.

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I completed my HBSc in Life Science (Origins of Disease) at McMaster University where I concentrated on behavioural ecology and ecotoxicology for my Honours thesis. My interdisciplinary background has guided my research interests toward applied ecology and conservation. Under the supervision of Dr. Mandrak, I plan on comparing conventional and novel fish community monitoring methods with the Nawash biology team in Georgian Bay wetlands. I hope to assess, and possibly recommend changes to current standardized fish sampling methods. In my down time, I enjoy playing board games, doing yoga, and exercising outdoors.


Jennifer Powell, MSc.

I am a PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences at UTSC, co-supervised by Nick Mandrak and Lauren Chapman of McGill University. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from UofT, and a Masters in Conservation Biology from the University of New South Wales in Australia and Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand where I studied kangaroo response to a potential solution for preventing disease transmission into a water catchment and developed a management plan for a group of offshore islands on behalf of an indigenous Māori tribe. Outside of academia, I worked for many years as a fisheries biologist in environmental consulting, primarily conducting aquatic monitoring and assessment work around nuclear and industrial facilities in and around the Great Lakes, and then was the Scientific Coordinator for a cloud forest reserve in Costa Rica where I oversaw research in the reserve and spent my nights chasing glass frogs. My PhD research focuses on developing a habitat occupancy model for the elusive and poorly understood endangered Lake Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta) while examining their behavioral responses to extreme temperature and dissolved oxygen conditions to assess their current and future vulnerability to climate change. As part of this process, I am also working on developing a model for the complex dissolved oxygen cycling that occurs in shallow heavily vegetated lakes. If I’m not working, that usually means I’m out with my dog, but I also enjoy working on crafting projects, playing board or video games, and baking.


Noelle Stratton, M.Env.

I am a PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Science, co-supervised by Nick Mandrak and Nicole Klenk. I completed my undergraduate Biology degree at Algoma University, conducting aquatic invasive species research. I then completed my Master of Environmental Sciences at University of Guelph. I am currently interested in exploring the linkages that exist between policy makers, public perception and scientific researchers, particularly as they relate to the implementation of early detection and rapid response (EDRR) for aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. My hope is to discover some of the factors contributing to the favouring of some species as targets for action at the expense of others, and hopefully produce recommendations regarding how the barriers to effective EDRR might be overcome. Outside of academia, my interests include gaming (video and table-top), traveling, and reading.

PhD Lab Members (McGill University):

Suncica Avlijas, MSc: PhD Candidate co-supervised with Tony Ricciardi.

Dustin Raab, MSc: PhD Candidate co-supervised with Tony Ricciardi.

PhD Lab Members (Laurentian University):

Tharusha Wijewardena, MEnvSci: PhD Candidate co-supervised with Jacqueline Litzgus.

MSc Lab Members:

Dominique Rumball, HBSc.

I am a Master’s Student in the Mandrak Lab. I completed my undergraduate at Queen’s University, earning a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Biology alongside a Business Certificate. My passion to make positive change for the environment and my desire to be a part of a lab with an inclusive culture brought me to the University of Toronto. As a part of the Ecology and Evolutionary Department, my research interests are rooted in understanding and reversing biodiversity loss. My research will focus on evaluating the effectiveness of habitat restoration projects across Southwestern Ontario. I am optimistic that this research will be a positive contribution to future restoration projects in the hopes of creating a healthy, sustainable ecosystem for all. When I am not studying, you will find me at the rugby pitch, spending time with my family, and enjoying a nice cup of tea. 


Lab Alumni:

Dr. Thais Bernos, PhD, 2017-2023

Dr. Emily Chenery, PhD, 2016-2022

Dr. Meagan Kindree, MSc, PhD, 2016-2022

Dr. Lifei Wang, PDF, 2019-2022

Ben Zdasiuk, MSc, 2022

Dr. Paul Bzonek, MSc, PhD, 2015-2022

Dr. Anas Mohammad, PDF, 2019-2021

Kavishka Gallage, MSc 2020

Dr. Tej Heer, PhD 2015-2020

Alexandra Leclair, MSc 2020

Courtney Leermakers, MSc 2020

Lindsay Potts, MSc 2020

Dr. Sara Campbell, PhD 2014-2020

Dr. Fielding Montgomery, PhD 2014-2019

Dr. Rowshyra Castañeda, PhD 2014-2019

Dr. Nathan Lujan, PDF 2016-2018

Brett Allen, MSc 2017

Shannon Ritchie, MSc 2017

Dr. Pasan Samarasin, PDF 2015-2017

Dr. Andrew Drake, PDF 2013-2016

Natalie Rook, MSc 2016

Gabrielle Malcolm, MSc 2015