Steven Kembel

Associate Professor,
Université du Québec à Montréal

Department of Biology
Institution page
Personal page


  • Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology- University Of Alberta, 2007
  • M.Sc Ecology and Environmental Biology- University Of Alberta, 2001
  • B.Sc Botany -The University of Manitoba, 1997


Plant leaves and roots are home to thousands of different species of microbes, including bacteria, fungi and microscopic plants and animals. While some of these microbes are harmful, many have neutral or beneficial effects on their hosts. However, methods to measure microbial biodiversity in depth have only recently been developed, meaning that knowledge about how and why plants and microbes interact is only at an early stage of development. Dr. Steven Kembel is studying the biodiversity of microbes living on plants. He aims to better understand how plant hosts influence the microbial communities living on their leaves and roots, and how these microbes, in turn, influence the growth, health and functioning of their hosts. Kembel is examining microbial diversity by sequencing microbial DNA from environmental samples. His research includes studying plant-microbe interactions in tropical, temperate and boreal forests, as well as experimental-manipulating microbes growing on plants in the lab and in natural ecosystems. Kembel’s research is highlighting ecologically important plant-associated microbes in forests around the globe. As well, his research will provide better understanding of the evolution of plant-microbe interactions, and will offer important insights into the potential responses of forest ecosystems to global change. Kembel’s research could also lead to improvements to sustainable forestry and agriculture through the management of plant-microbe interactions.

QCBS students

Mona Parizadeh

Other (co-)supervisor: Benjamin Mimee, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
(Start: 2016)
Characterization of agricultural microbiome in order to monitor the effects of Environmental disturbances on biodiversity in soybean and potato

Pedro Henrique Pereira Braga

(Start: 2014)
Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Pedro Peres-Neto
Multi-scale ecological and evolutionary diversity determinants and conservation patterns of bats

Juanita Carolina Rodríguez

Other (co-)supervisor: Nicole Fenton, UQAT
(Start: 2017, End: 2021)
Effects of tree dominance of black spruce and trembling aspen on the understory vegetation and microbial composition in the Canadian boreal forest
Personal page

Previous students (since 2009)

Rim Khlifa

Postdoctoral fellow
(Start: 2017, End: 2018)
Drought, plant nutrition, and the microbial ecology of Quebec forests
Personal page

Geneviève Lajoie

(Start: 2016, End: 2020)
On adaptive variation in phyllosphere microbial communities

Mathieu Landry

Other (co-)supervisor: Patrick James, UdeM
(Start: 2015, End: 2020)
Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Patrick M.A. James
Link to thesis (pdf)

Melbert Schwarz

Other (co-)supervisor: Dan Kneeshaw, Universite du Quebec a Montreal
(Start: 2015, End: 2018)
Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Patrick M.A. James
Investigating the impact of the gut associated microbial community on the health of Eastern spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana (Clemens) using a “multi-omics” approach.

Luis Tovar

(Start: 2014, End: 2016)
Phylogenetic and functional diversity of microbial communities from the phyllosphere of a tropical forest and its association with plant functional traits and taxonomy
Personal page

Examples of species studied

Ceanothus roderickii
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Arabidopsis thaliana
Acer saccharum


78- Bacterial microbiota similarity between predators and prey in a blue tit trophic network
Dion-Phénix H , Charmantier A , de Franceschi C , Bourret G , Kembel S W , Réale D ,
2021 ISME Journal (Date Added: 2021-03-05)

77- Neonicotinoid Seed Treatments Have Significant Non-target Effects on Phyllosphere and Soil Bacterial Communities
Parizadeh M , Mimee B , Kembel S W ,
2021 Frontiers in Microbiology (Date Added: 2021-02-05)

76- Host neighborhood shapes bacterial community assembly and specialization on tree species across a latitudinal gradient
Lajoie G , Kembel S W ,
2020 Ecological Monographs (Date Added: 2021-02-10)

75- Glial Cell-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Induces Enteric Neurogenesis and Improves Colon Structure and Function in Mouse Models of Hirschsprung Disease
Soret R , Schneider S , Bernas G , Christophers B , Souchkova O , Charrier B , Righini-Grunder F , Aspirot A , Landry M , Kembel S W , Faure C , Heuckeroth R O , Pilon N ,
2020 Gastroenterology (Date Added: 2020-11-23)

74- Adaptive matching between phyllosphere bacteria and their tree hosts in a neotropical forest
Lajoie G , Maglione R , Kembel S W ,
2020 Microbiome (Date Added: 2020-06-02)

73- Transfer index, NetUniFrac and some useful shortest path-based distances for community analysis in sequence similarity networks
Xing H , Kembel S W , Makarenkov V ,
2020 Bioinformatics (Oxford, England) (Date Added: 2020-05-16)

72- Limited initial impacts of biomass harvesting on composition of wood-inhabiting fungi within residual stumps
Boué C , DeBellis T , Venier L A , Work T T , Kembel S W ,
2019 PeerJ (Date Added: 2020-01-08)

71- Microsite conditions influence leaf litter decomposition in sugar maple bioclimatic domain of Quebec
Bélanger N , Collin A , Ricard-Piché J , Kembel S W , Rivest D ,
2019 Biogeochemistry (Date Added: 2019-11-07)

69- Functional Diversity: An Epistemic Roadmap
Malaterre C , Dussault A C , Rousseau-Mermans S , Barker G , Beisner B E , Bouchard F , Desjardins E , Handa I T , Kembel S W , Lajoie G , Maris V , Munson A D , Odenbaugh J , Poisot T , Shapiro B J , Suttle C A ,
2019 BioScience (Date Added: 2019-10-25)

68- Making the Most of Trait-Based Approaches for Microbial Ecology
Lajoie G , Kembel S W ,
2019 Trends in Microbiology (Date Added: 2019-07-14)

67- The prevalence of nonlinearity and detection of ecological breakpoints across a land use gradient in streams
D’Amario S C , Rearick D C , Fasching C , Kembel S W , Porter-Goff E , Spooner D E , Williams C J , Wilson H F , Xenopoulos M A ,
2019 Scientific Reports (Date Added: 2019-03-25)

66- Plant host identity and soil macronutrients explain little variation in sapling endophyte community composition: Is disturbance an alternative explanation?
Griffin E A , Harrison J G , Kembel S W , Carrell A A , Joseph Wright S , Carson W P ,
2019 Journal of Ecology (Date Added: 2019-03-10)

65- Gut microbiota-mediated Gene-Environment interaction in the TashT mouse model of Hirschsprung disease
Touré A M , Landry M , Souchkova O , Kembel S W , Pilon N ,
2019 Scientific reports (Date Added: 2019-02-05)

64- Soils associated to different tree communities do not elicit predictable responses in lake bacterial community structure and function
Ruiz-González C , Archambault E , Laforest-Lapointe I , del Giorgio P A , Kembel S W , Messier C , Nock C A , Beisner B E ,
2018 FEMS microbiology ecology (Date Added: 2019-04-21)

63- Ecophylogenetics clarifies the evolutionary association between mammals and their gut microbiota
Gaulke C A , Arnold H K , Humphreys I R , Kembel S W , O’Dwyer J P , Sharpton T J ,
2018 mBio (Date Added: 2018-11-04)

62- Experimental evaluation of the importance of colonization history in early-life gut microbiota assembly
Martínez I , Maldonado-Gomez M X , Gomes-Neto J C , Kittana H , Ding H , Schmaltz R , Joglekar P , Cardona R J , Marsteller N L , Kembel S W , Benson A K , Peterson D A , Ramer-Tait A E , Walter J ,
2018 eLife (Date Added: 2018-10-19)

61- Variation in the leaf and root microbiome of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) at an elevational range limit
Wallace J , Laforest-Lapointe I , Kembel S W ,
2018 PeerJ (Date Added: 2018-08-22)

60- Canadian butterfly climate debt is significant and correlated with range size
Lewthwaite J M M , Angert A L , Kembel S W , Goring S J , Davies T J , Mooers A ,
2018 Ecography (Date Added: 2018-08-01)

59- Can sugar maple establish into the boreal forest? Insights from seedlings under various canopies in southern Quebec
Collin, A, Messier, C, Kembel, SW, Bélanger, N
2018 Ecosphere (Date Added: 2018-05-17)

58- Tree Leaf Bacterial Community Structure and Diversity Differ along a Gradient of Urban Intensity
Laforest-Lapointe, I, Messier, C, Kembel, SW
2017 MSystems (Date Added: 2018-05-17)

56- Identifying the core seed bank of a complex boreal bacterial metacommunity
Ruiz-González C , Niño-García J P , Kembel S W , del Giorgio P A ,
2017 ISME Journal (Date Added: 2017-12-25)

55- Leaf bacterial diversity mediates plant diversity and ecosystem function relationships
Laforest-Lapointe, I, Paquette, A, Messier, C, Kembel, SW
2017 Nature (Date Added: 2017-06-02)

54- Climate, soil and plant functional types as drivers of global fine-root trait variation
Freschet G T , Valverde-Barrantes O J , Tucker C M , Craine J M , McCormack M L , Violle C , Fort F , Blackwood C B , Urban-Mead K R , Iversen C M , Bonis A , Comas L H , Cornelissen J H C , Dong M , Guo D , Hobbie S E , Holdaway R J , Kembel S W , Makita N , Onipchenko V G , Picon-Cochard C , Reich P B , de la Riva E G , Smith S W , Soudzilovskaia N A , Tjoelker M G , Wardle D A , Roumet C ,
2017 Journal of Ecology (Date Added: 2017-04-28)

53- ‘Equivalent numbers’ for species, phylogenetic or functional diversity in a nested hierarchy of multiple scales
Pavoine, S, Marcon, E, Ricotta, C, Kembel, S
2016 Methods in Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2016-12-05)

52- Host species identity, site and time drive temperate tree phyllosphere bacterial community structure
Laforest-Lapointe, I, Messier, C, Kembel, SW
2016 Microbiome (Date Added: 2016-12-05)

51- Tree phyllosphere bacterial communities: exploring the magnitude of intra- and inter-individual variation among host species
Laforest-Lapointe, I, Messier, C, Kembel, SW
2016 PeerJ (Date Added: 2016-12-05)

50- Phylogenetic turnover along local environmental gradients in tropical forest communities
Baldeck, CA, Kembel, SW, Harms, KE, Yavitt, JB, John, R, Turner, BL, Madawala, S, Gunatilleke, N, Gunatilleke, S, Bunyavejchewin, S, Kiratiprayoon, S, Yaacob, A, Supardi, MNN, Valencia, R, Navarrete, H, Davies, SJ, Chuyong, GB, Kenfack, D, Thomas, DW, Dalling, JW
2016 Oecologia (Date Added: 2016-10-11)

49- A simple approach for maximizing the overlap of phylogenetic and comparative data
Pennell, MW, FitzJohn, RG, Cornwell, WK, Kembel, S
2016 Methods in Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

48- The Biogeography of Putative Microbial Antibiotic Production
H Morlon , T K O'Connor , J A Bryant, LKC, Kembel, SW, J L Green, aBJMB
2015 PLoS ONE (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

47- Blackbones of evolutionary history test biodiversity theory for microbes
O’Dwyer, JP, Kembel, SW, T J Sharpton,
2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

46- A global meta-analysis of the relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities
Siefert, A, Violle, C, Chalmandrier, L, Albert, CH, Taudiere, A, Fajardo, A, Aarssen, LW, Baraloto, C, Carlucci, MB, Cianciaruso, MV, de L Dantas, V, de Bello, F, Duarte, LDS, Fonseca, CR, Freschet, GT, Gaucherand, S, Gross, N, Hikosaka, K, Jackson, B, Jung, V, Kamiyama, C, Katabuchi, M, Kembel, SW, Kichenin, E, Kraft, NJB, Lagerstrom, A, Bagousse-Pinguet, YL, Li, Y, Mason, N, Messier, J, Nakashizuka, T, Overton, JMC, Peltzer, DA, Perez-Ramos, IM, Pillar, VD, Prentice, HC, Richardson, S, Sasaki, T, Schamp, BS, Schob, C, Shipley, B, Sundqvist, M, Sykes, MT, Vandewalle, M, Wardle, DA
2015 Ecology Letters (Date Added: 2015-12-07)

45- Phylogenetic gradient analysis: environmental drivers of phylogenetic variation across ecological communities
Peres-Neto, PR, Kembel, SW
2015 Plant Ecology (Date Added: 2015-10-22)

44- Evolution of the indoor biome
Martin, LJ, Adams, RI, Bateman, A, Bik, HM, Hawks, J, Hird, SM, Hughes, D, Kembel, SW, Kinney, K, Kolokotronis, S-O, Levy, G, McClain, C, Meadow, JF, Medina, RF, Mhuireach, G, Moreau, CS, Munshi-South, J, Nichols, LM, Palmer, C, Popova, L, Schal, C, Täubel, M, Trautwein, M, Ugalde, JA, Dunn, RR
2015 Trends in Ecology & Evolution (Date Added: 2015-04-07)

43- Architectural design drives the biogeography of indoor bacterial communities
Kembel, SW, Meadow, JF, O'Connor, TK, Mhuireach, G, Northcutt, D, Kline, J, Moriyama, M, Brown, GZ, Bohannan, BJM, Green, JL
2014 PloS one (Date Added: 2017-07-31)

42- Bacterial communities on classroom surfaces vary with human contact
J F Meadow, AEA
2014 Microbiome (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

41- Plant traits and taxonomy drive host associations in tropical phyllosphere fungal communities
S W Kembel and R C Mueller,
2014 Botany (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

40- Relationships between phyllosphere bacterial communities and plant functional traits in a neotropical forest
S W Kembel, TKO
2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

39- Drawing ecological inferences from coincident patterns of population- and community-level biodiversity
Vellend, M, Lajoie, G, Bourret, A, Múrria, C, Kembel, SW, Garant, D
2014 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2014-05-01)

38- Ecology in the age of DNA barcoding: the resource, the promise and the challenges ahead
Joly, S, Davies, TJ, Archambault, A, Bruneau, A, Derry, A, Kembel, SW, Peres-Neto, P, Vamosi, J, Wheeler, TA
2014 Molecular Ecology Resources (Date Added: 2014-03-04)

37- Indoor airborne bacterial communities are influenced by ventilation, occupancy, and outdoor air source
Meadow, JF, Altrichter, AE, Kembel, SW, Kline, J, Mhuireach, G, Moriyama, M, Northcutt, D, O'Connor, TK, Womack, AM, Brown, GZ, Green, JL, Bohannan, BJM
2014 Indoor Air (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

36- Global marine bacterial diversity peaks at high latitudes in winter
Ladau, J, Sharpton, TJ, Finucane, MM, Jospin, G, Kembel, SW, O'Dwyer, J, Koeppel, AF, Green, JL, Pollard, KS
2013 ISME Journal (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

35- Global diversity of drought tolerance and grassland climate-change resilience
Craine, JM, Ocheltree, TW, Nippert, JB, Towne, EG, Skibbe, AM, Kembel, SW, Fargione, JE
2013 Nature Climate Change (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

34- Estimating metacommunity extent using data on species abundances, environmental variation, and phylogenetic relationships across geographic space
Maurer, BA, Kembel, SW, Rominger, AJ, McGill, BJ
2013 Ecological Informatics (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

33- A taxonomic comparison of local habitat niches of tropical trees
Baldeck, CA, Kembel, SW, Harms, KE, Yavitt, JB, John, R, Turner, BL, Chuyong, GB, Kenfack, D, Thomas, DW, Madawala, S, Gunatilleke, N, Gunatilleke, S, Bunyavejchewin, S, Kiratiprayoon, S, Yaacob, A, Nur Supardi, MN, Valencia, R, Navarrete, H, Davies, SJ, Hubbell, SP, Dalling, JW
2013 Oecologia (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

32- Phylogenetic sampling theory sheds light on the structure of complex microbial communities
J P O'Dwyer, SWK
2012 PLoS Computational Biology (Date Added: 2016-06-27)

31- Phylogenetic Diversity Theory Sheds Light on the Structure of Microbial Communities
O'Dwyer, JP, Kembel, SW, Green, JL
2012 PLoS Computational Biology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

30- Microsatellite markers from Ceanothus roderickii (Rhamnaceae) using next-generation sequencing technology
Burge, DO, Jui, G, Kembel, SS, Zhukovsky, K
2012 American Journal of Botany (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

29- Incorporating 16S Gene Copy Number Information Improves Estimates of Microbial Diversity and Abundance
Kembel, SW, Wu, M, Eisen, JA, Green, JL
2012 PLoS Computational Biology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

28- Flowering phenology as a functional trait in a tallgrass prairie
Craine, JM, Wolkovich, EM, Gene Towne, E, Kembel, SW
2012 New Phytologist (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

27- Architectural design influences the diversity and structure of the built environment microbiome
Kembel, SW, Jones, E, Kline, J, Northcutt, D, Stenson, J, Womack, AM, Bohannan, BJM, Brown, GZ, Green, JL
2012 ISME Journal (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

26- The phylogenetic diversity of metagenomes
Kembel, SW, Eisen, JA, Pollard, KS, Green, JL
2011 PLoS ONE (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

25- Functional consequences of climate change-induced plant species loss in a tallgrass prairie
Craine, JM, Nippert, JB, Towne, EG, Tucker, S, Kembel, SW, Skibbe, A, McLauchlan, KK
2011 Oecologia (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

24- Effect of local community phylogenetic structure on pollen limitation in an obligately insect-pollinated plant
Sargent, RD, Kembel, SW, Emery, NC, Forrestel, EJ, Ackerly, DD
2011 American Journal of Botany (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

23- PhyLOTU: A high-throughput procedure quantifies microbial community diversity and resolves novel taxa from metagenomic data
Sharpton, TJ, Riesenfeld, SJ, Kembel, SW, Ladau, J, O'Dwyer, JP, Green, JL, Eisen, JA, Pollard, KS
2011 PLoS Computational Biology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

21- Independent evolution of leaf and root traits within and among temperate grassland plant communities
Kembel, SW, Cahill Jr , JF
2011 PLoS ONE (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

20- Diversification of Ceanothus (Rhamnaceae) in the California Floristic province
Burge, DO, Erwin, DM, Islam, MB, Kellermann, J, Kembel, SW, Wilken, DH, Manos, PS
2011 International Journal of Plant Sciences (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

19- Relationship between cystic fibrosis respiratory tract bacterial communities and age, genotype, antibiotics and Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Klepac-Ceraj, V, Lemon, KP, Martin, TR, Allgaier, M, Kembel, SW, Knapp, AA, Lory, S, Brodie, EL, Lynch, SV, Bohannan, BJM, Green, JL, Maurer, BA, Kolter, R
2010 Environmental Microbiology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

18- Phylogenetic diversity metrics for ecological communities: Integrating species richness, abundance and evolutionary history
Cadotte, MW, Jonathan Davies, T, Regetz, J, Kembel, SW, Cleland, E, Oakley, TH
2010 Ecology Letters (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

17- Paleotemperature proxies from leaf fossils reinterpreted in light of evolutionary history
Little, SA, Kembel, SW, Wilf, P
2010 PLoS ONE (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

16- A floristic study of the white-sand forests of Peru
Fine, PVA, Garca-Villacorta, R, Pitman, NCA, Mesones, I, Kembel, SW
2010 Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

15- Picante: R tools for integrating phylogenies and ecology
Kembel, SW, Cowan, PD, Helmus, MR, Cornwell, WK, Morlon, H, Ackerly, DD, Blomberg, SP, Webb, CO
2010 Bioinformatics (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

14- The merging of community ecology and phylogenetic biology
Cavender-Bares, J, Kozak, KH, Fine, PVA, Kembel, SW
2009 Ecology Letters (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

12- Shoot, but not root, competition reduces community diversity in experimental mesocosms
Lamb, EG, Kembel, SW, Cahill Jr , JF
2009 Journal of Ecology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

11- In situ phylogenetic structure and diversity of wild Bradyrhizobium communities
Sachs, JL, Kembel, SW, Lau, AH, Simms, EL
2009 Applied and Environmental Microbiology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

10- Phylocom: Software for the analysis of phylogenetic community structure and trait evolution
Webb, CO, Ackerly, DD, Kembel, SW
2008 Bioinformatics (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

8- Improving the scale and precision of hypotheses to explain root foraging ability
Kembel, SW, De Kroon, H, Cahill Jr , JF, Mommer, L
2008 Annals of Botany (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

7- Does phylogenetic relatedness influence the strength of competition among vascular plants?
Cahill Jr , JF, Kembel, SW, Lamb, EG, Keddy, PA
2008 Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

6- The phylogenetic structure of a neotropical forest tree community
Kembel, SW, Hubbell, SP
2006 Ecology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

5- Causes of pattern in plant communities where environmental change is rapid and species longevity is short
Cousens, RD, Dale, MRT, Taylor, J, Law, R, Moerkerk, M, Kembel, SW
2006 Journal of Vegetation Science (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

4- Within-stand spatial structure and relation of boreal canopy and understorey vegetation
Kembel, SW, Dale, MRT
2006 Journal of Vegetation Science (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

3- Plant phenotypic plasticity belowground: A phylogenetic perspective on root foraging trade-offs
Kembel, SW, Cahill Jr , JF
2005 American Naturalist (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

2- Differential genetic influences on competitive effect and response in Arabidopsis thaliana
F Cahill Jr , J, Kembel, SW, Gustafson, DJ
2005 Journal of Ecology (Date Added: 2014-02-19)

1- Short-term effects of cut-to-length versus full-tree harvesting on conifer regeneration in jack pine, mixedwood, and black spruce forests in Manitoba
Waters, I, Kembel, SW, Gingras, J-F, Shay, JM
2004 Canadian Journal of Forest Research (Date Added: 2014-02-19)