Rowan Barrett

Associate Professor,
McGill University

Redpath Museum
Institution page


  • PhD (Zoology), University of British Columbia, Canada, 2010
  • MSc (Biology), McGill University, Canada, 2005
  • BSc (Biological Sciences), University of Guelph, Canada, 2003


Rapid environmental change has been shown to result in elevated extinction rates and thus poses a significant threat to Canadian biodiversity. By using manipulative field experiments to connect fitness-related traits with underlying genetic architecture in relevant ecological scenarios, my research program investigates the evolutionary capabilities of natural populations to adapt to changing environments. My long-term goal is to address several basic questions about the genetics of adaptation that would aid our ability to generate predictive models of evolutionary change; these include but are not limited to: 1) How strong is natural selection on phenotypes, and how does this selection “filter down” to the genetic level? 2) How are regions affected by selection distributed throughout the genome? 3) What are the causal agents of natural selection? 4) What are the mechanisms underlying population responses to environmental change? There is theory addressing several of these questions, but we have few empirical tests in nature. Using two key study systems (stickleback fish and deer mice), my research program combines field-based selection experiments with molecular and computational biology to focus on two key areas: adaptation to changing environments and experimental genomics. The strength of this research program for enabling predictions about how biological systems will respond to environmental change lies in its interdisciplinary nature, integrating methods and knowledge from ecology, evolution and genomics. Solving climate change related problems such as species extinctions, invasive species, and the environmental health of society depends directly on the intersections between these disciplines of biology.

Prizes and honours

  • 2019 - Principal's Prize, McGill University
  • 2018 - Canada Research Chair in Eco-evolutionary genomics
  • 2013 - Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity Science
  • 2013 - Dobzhansky Prize, Society for the Study of Evolution
  • 2012 - Young Investigators Prize, American Society of Naturalists
  • 2011 - John Maynard Smith Prize, European Society for Evolutionary Biology
  • 2011 - Governor General Gold Medal, Government of Canada
  • 2011 - Faculty of Science Graduate Prize, University of British Columbia
  • 2010 - Howard Alper Prize, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • 2010 - Best Talk, Evolutionary Biology of the Northwest meeting
  • 2008 - Best Talk, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution meeting

  • QCBS students

    Madlen Stange

    Postdoctoral fellow
    (Start: 2018)
    Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Andrew Hendry
    Illuminating the genomic basis of adaptation to ionic gradients in Canadian freshwater fishes during invasion of an exotic species in the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers
    Personal page

    Marc-Olivier Beausoleil

    (Start: 2017, End: 2022)
    The impact of anthropogenic activity on the evolution of Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands
    Personal page

    Victoria Marie Glynn

    Other (co-)supervisor: David Kline, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)
    (Start: 2019)
    Corals’ molecular response to climate change in the neotropics: Using CRISPR-Cas9 to ascertain the functional importance of differentially-transcribed and methylated genes

    Ananda Regina Pereira Martins

    (Start: 2016)
    Bates Revisited: The origin of wing pattern variation in the Amazon
    Personal page

    Charles (Cong) Xu

    (Start: 2016)
    Discovery, study, and protection of biodiversity via metagenomics
    Personal page

    MK Hickox


    Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Andrew Hendry
    Microgeographic Divergence of Darwin's Finches

    Previous students (since 2009)

    Antoine Paccard

    Postdoctoral fellow
    (Start: 2014, End: 2017)
    The genomics of adaptation de temperature tolerance in the threespine stickleback fish
    Personal page

    Dieta Hanson

    Other (co-)supervisor: Rowan Barrett, McGill University
    (Start: 2012, End: 2016)
    Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Andrew Hendry
    Parallelism in ecological speciation of Threespine Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
    Personal page

    Juntao Hu

    (Start: 2015, End: 2018)
    Evolutionary adaptation of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) to temperature regime

    Examples of species studied

    Gasterosteus aculeatus
    Cucumis sativus
    Spodoptera exigua
    Peromyscus leucopus
    Peromyscus maniculatus
    Poecilia reticulata


    55- Using seasonal genomic changes to understand historical adaptation to new environments: Parallel selection on stickleback in highly-variable estuaries
    Garcia‐Elfring A , Paccard A , Thurman T J , Wasserman B A , Palkovacs E P , Hendry A P , Barrett R D H ,
    2021 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2021-04-23)

    54- Heritability of DNA methylation in threespine stickleback ( Gasterosteus aculeatus )
    Hu J , Wuitchik S J S , Barry T N , Jamniczky H A , Rogers S M , Barrett R D H ,
    2021 Genetics (Date Added: 2021-03-14)

    53- The importance of genomic variation for biodiversity, ecosystems and people
    Stange M , Barrett R D H , Hendry A P ,
    2020 Nature Reviews Genetics (Date Added: 2020-10-24)

    52- Ecosystem size shapes antipredator trait evolution in estuarine threespine stickleback
    Wasserman B A , Paccard A , Apgar T M , Des Roches S , Barrett R D H , Hendry A P , Palkovacs E P ,
    2020 Oikos (Date Added: 2020-09-09)

    51- Horizon scan of conservation issues for inland waters in Canada
    Pérez-Jvostov F , Sutherland W J , Barrett R D , Brown C A , Cardille J A , Cooke S J , Cristescu M E , St-Gelais N F , Fussmann G F , Griffiths K , Hendry A P , Lapointe N W , Nyboer E A , Pentland R L , Reid A J , Ricciardi A , Sunday J M , Gregory-Eaves I ,
    2020 Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (Date Added: 2020-05-09)

    50- Community rescue in experimental phytoplankton communities facing severe herbicide pollution
    Fugère, V, Hébert, M-P, da Costa, NB, Xu, CCY, Barrett, RDH, Beisner, BE, Bell, G, Fussmann, GF, Shapiro, BJ, Yargeau, V, Gonzalez, A
    2020 Nature Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2020-03-24)

    49- Repeatability of Adaptive Radiation Depends on Spatial Scale: Regional Versus Global Replicates of Stickleback in Lake Versus Stream Habitats
    Paccard A , Hanson D , Stuart Y E , von Hippel F A , Kalbe M , Klepaker T , Skúlason S , Kristjánsson B K , Bolnick D I , Hendry A P , Barrett R D H ,
    2020 The Journal of heredity (Date Added: 2020-02-14)

    48- The Epigenetic Signature of Colonizing New Environments in Anolis Lizards
    Hu J , Askary A M , Thurman T J , Spiller D A , Palmer T M , Pringle R M , Barrett R D H ,
    2020 Molecular biology and evolution (Date Added: 2020-02-14)

    46- The Epigenetic Signature of Colonizing New Environments in Anolis Lizards
    Hu J , Askary A M , Thurman T J , Spiller D A , Palmer T M , Pringle R M , Barrett R D H ,
    2019 Molecular biology and evolution (Date Added: 2019-10-13)

    45- Understanding maladaptation by uniting ecological and evolutionary perspectives
    Brady S P , Bolnick D I , Barrett R D H , Chapman L , Crispo E , Derry A M , Eckert C G , Fraser D J , Fussmann G F , Gonzalez A , Guichard F , Lamy T , Lane J , McAdam A G , Newman A E M , Paccard A , Robertson B , Rolshausen G , Schulte P M , Simons A M , Vellend M , Hendry A ,
    2019 American Naturalist (Date Added: 2019-09-15)

    44- Causes of maladaptation
    Brady S P , Bolnick D I , Angert A L , Gonzalez A , Barrett R D , Crispo E , Derry A M , Eckert C G , Fraser D J , Fussmann G F , Guichard F , Lamy T , McAdam A G , Newman A E , Paccard A , Rolshausen G , Simons A M , Hendry A P ,
    2019 Evolutionary Applications (Date Added: 2019-08-31)

    43- Conservation through the lens of (mal)adaptation: Concepts and meta-analysis
    Derry A M , Fraser D J , Brady S P , Astorg L , Lawrence E R , Martin G K , Matte J , Negrín Dastis J O , Paccard A , Barrett R D H , Chapman L J , Lane J E , Ballas C G , Close M , Crispo E ,
    2019 Evolutionary Applications (Date Added: 2019-08-31)

    42- The population genetics of crypsis in vertebrates: recent insights from mice, hares, and lizards
    Harris R B , Irwin K , Jones M R , Laurent S , Barrett R D H , Nachman M W , Good J M , Linnen C R , Jensen J D , Pfeifer S P ,
    2019 Heredity (Date Added: 2019-08-20)

    41- Trophic structure modulates community rescue following acidification
    Bell, G, Fugère, V, Barrett, R, Beisner, B, Cristescu, M, Fussmann, G, Shapiro, J, Gonzalez, A
    2019 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Date Added: 2019-06-25)

    40- Predator-induced collapse of niche structure and species coexistence
    Pringle R M , Kartzinel T R , Palmer T M , Thurman T J , Fox-Dobbs K , Xu C C Y , Hutchinson M C , Coverdale T C , Daskin J H , Evangelista D A , Gotanda K M , A Man in ’t Veld N , Wegener J E , Kolbe J J , Schoener T W , Spiller D A , Losos J B , Barrett R D H ,
    2019 Nature (Date Added: 2019-06-20)

    39- Linking a mutation to survival in wild mice
    Barrett R D H , Laurent S , Mallarino R , Pfeifer S P , Xu C C Y , Foll M , Wakamatsu K , Duke-Cohan J S , Jensen J D , Hoekstra H E ,
    2019 Science (Date Added: 2019-02-08)

    38- Keystone Genes
    Skovmand L H , Xu C C , Servedio M R , Nosil P , Barrett R D , Hendry A P ,
    2018 Trends in Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2018-08-15)

    37- Genome-wide DNA methylation signatures of infection status in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
    Hu J , Pérez-Jvostov F , Blondel L , Barrett R D H ,
    2018 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2018-08-04)

    36- Adaptation in temporally variable environments: Stickleback armor in periodically breaching bar-built estuaries
    Paccard A , Wasserman B A , Hanson D , Astorg L , Durston D , Kurland S , Apgar T M , El-Sabaawi R W , Palkovacs E P , Hendry A P , Barrett R D H ,
    2018 Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Date Added: 2018-04-16)

    35- Admixture on the northern front: Population genomics of range expansion in the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and secondary contact with the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)
    Garcia-Elfring A , Barrett R D H , Combs M , Davies T J , Munshi-South J , Millien V ,
    2017 Heredity (Date Added: 2017-11-16)

    34- Heritable gene expression differences between lake and stream stickleback include both parallel and antiparallel components
    Hanson D , Hu J , Hendry A P , Barrett R D H ,
    2017 Heredity (Date Added: 2017-10-22)

    33- Contrasting effects of environment and genetics generate a continuum of parallel evolution
    Stuart Y E , Veen T , Weber J N , Hanson D , Ravinet M , Lohman B K , Thompson C J , Tasneem T , Doggett A , Izen R , Ahmed N , Barrett R D H , Hendry A P , Peichel C L , Bolnick D I ,
    2017 Nature Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2017-10-01)

    32- Epigenetics in natural animal populations
    Hu J , Barrett R D H ,
    2017 Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Date Added: 2017-09-20)

    31- Predicting responses to contemporary environmental change using evolutionary response architectures
    Bay R A , Rose N , Barrett R , Bernatchez L , Ghalambor C K , Lasky J R , Brem R B , Palumbi S R , Ralph P ,
    2017 American Naturalist (Date Added: 2017-05-06)

    30- Multilocus approaches for the measurement of selection on correlated genetic loci
    Gompert Z , Egan S P , Barrett R D H , Feder J L , Nosil P ,
    2017 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2017-02-09)

    29- Assessing reproductive isolation using a contact zone between parapatric lake-stream stickleback ecotypes
    Hanson, D, Moore, J-S, Taylor, EB, Barrett, RDH, Hendry, AP
    2016 Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Date Added: 2016-11-24)

    28- The genetic consequences of selection in natural populations
    Thurman, TJ, Barrett, RDH
    2016 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2016-04-26)

    27- Testing for parallel allochronic isolation in lake-stream stickleback
    Hanson, D, Barrett, RDH, Hendry, AP
    2016 Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Date Added: 2016-01-15)

    26- Dramatically different strengths of selection on a phenotypic trait and its major underlying gene in threespine stickleback
    Rennison, DJ, Heilbron, KA, Barrett, RDH, Schluter, D
    2015 American Naturalist (Date Added: 2016-06-21)

    25- Evolutionary rescue under environmental change?
    Barrett, RDH, Hendry, AP
    2015 Behavioural Responses to a Changing World: Mechanisms and Consequences (Date Added: 2015-08-24)

    24- Discriminating Selection on Lateral Plate Phenotype and Its Underlying Gene, Ectodysplasin , in Threespine Stickleback
    Rennison, DJ, Heilbron, K, Barrett, RDH, Schluter, D
    2015 The American Naturalist (Date Added: 2015-01-15)

    23-Molecular plasticity facilitates the colonization of freshwater in threespine stickleback
    Morris, M
    2014 Molecular Ecology ( Date Added: 2016-06-20)

    22- Gene expression plasticity evolves in response to colonization of freshwater lakes in threespine stickleback
    Morris, MRJ, Richard, R, Leder, EH, Barrett, RDH, Aubin-Horth, N, Rogers, SM
    2014 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2014-07-08)

    20- Bad coat, ripped genes: cryptic selection on coat colour varies with ontogeny in Soay sheep
    Barrett, RDH
    2012 Molecular Ecology (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    19- Evolutionary rescue under environmental change?
    Barrett, R, Hendry, A
    2012 Behavioural responses to a changing world : mechanisms and consequences (Date Added: 2012-08-10)

    18- Molecular spandrels: tests of adaptation at the genetic level
    Barrett, RDH, Hoekstra, HE
    2011 Nature Reviews Genetics (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    17-Clarifying mechanisms of evolution in stickleback using field studies of natural selection on genes
    Barrett, RDH, Schluter, D
    2010 In search of the causes of evolution: from field observations to mechanisms ( Date Added: 2013-09-05)

    16- Rapid evolution of cold tolerance in stickleback
    Barrett, RDH, Paccard, A, Healy, TM, Bergek, S, Schulte, PM, Schluter, D, Rogers, SM
    2010 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    15- Natural selection and the genetics of adaptation in threespine stickleback
    Schluter, D, Marchinko, KB, Barrett, RDH, Rogers, SM
    2010 Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    13- Environment specific pleiotropy facilitates divergence at the ectodyplasin locus in threespine stickleback
    Barrett, RDH, Rogers, SM, Schluter, D
    2009 Evolution (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    12- Should I stay or should I go? The Ectodysplasin locus is associated with behavioural differences in threespine stickleback
    Barrett, RDH, Vines, TH, Bystriansky, JS, Schulte, PM
    2009 Biology Letters (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    11- Ecology and evolution join forces to good effect
    Barrett, RDH, Vamosi, JC
    2008 Biology Letters (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    10- Natural Selection on a Major Armor Gene in Threespine Stickleback
    Barrett, RDH, Rogers, SM, Schluter, D
    2008 Science (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    9- Adaptation from standing genetic variation
    Barrett, R, Schluter, D
    2008 Trends in Ecology & Evolution (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    8- The Distribution of Beneficial Mutant Effects Under Strong Selection
    Barrett, RDH, M'Gonigle, LK, Otto, SP
    2006 Genetics (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    7- Mutations of intermediate effect are responsible for adaptation in evolving Pseudomonas fluorescens populations
    Barrett, RDH, Craig MacLean, R, Bell, G
    2006 Biology Letters (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    6- The dynamics of diversification in evolving pseudomonas populations
    Barrett, RDH, Bell, G
    2006 Evolution (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    5- Erratum
    Barrett, R, MacLean, R, Bell, G
    2006 The American Naturalist (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    4- Experimental Evolution of Pseudomonas fluorescens in Simple and Complex Environments
    Barrett, R, MacLean, R, Bell, G
    2005 The American Naturalist (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    3- Reply to the comment by L. Prendini on "Identifying spiders through DNA barcodes"
    Hebert, PDN, Barrett, RDH
    2005 Canadian Journal of Zoology (Date Added: 2013-09-04)

    2- Identifying spiders through DNA barcodes
    Barrett, RDH, Hebert, PDN
    2005 Canadian Journal of Zoology (Date Added: 2013-09-04)