Author: Anne-Sophie Caron

The quest for a real-life zombie

The quest for a real-life zombie

by Javier Ibarra-Isassi

During my teenage years, I got captivated by the idea of zombies being real. It all started with playing video games, watching movies and reading books about zombies like “The zombie survival guide” by Max Brooks. I talked so much about this topic that my friends started asking me what we would do to survive a hypothetical outbreak and said that they would trust my judgement to save the group. But then, a friend asked me: “do you actually think they are real?”. This got me thinking in a new direction and I started looking about “real-life” zombies.

After some time searching around, I read about the Cordyceps fungi. Most species from this genus are endoparasitoids (a parasite that lives inside another animal) of insects and other arthropods, infamous for taking control of their hosts. One of the most infamous, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis – a complex of many species – attack Camponotini ants, alter their behavior causing them to leave their foraging trails, climb up a bush or tree to bite the major leaf vein on the abaxial surface (underside) of the leaf. The fungus then quickly grows inside the host, replacing its tissues, and erupts a fruiting body containing reproductive spores out of the host’s head. After finding this, every time I hiked around a forest, I searched for a zombified ant as evidence of “real-life” zombies.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity of going to the cloud forest in Fortuna, Panama, as part of the NEO/BESS Tropical Biology Field Course at STRI. While hiking around, I saw something under a leaf that looked out of place. Upon taking a closer look, I saw a small white dusty bump with a stalk coming out of one side. It was so miniscule that I could not even take a proper picture. Luckily a great mycologist, Dr. Luis C. Mejía, was an instructor during that portion of the field course and confirmed my initial thoughts: it was a parasitized spider! I was stoked to have found evidence of a real-life ‘zombie’, albeit a tiny one.

‘Zombified’ spider, around 3mm in length. Photo credit: Javier Ibarra-Isassi

The white dusty bump that turned out to be a ‘zombified’ spider, around 3mm in length. Chiriquí, Panama. Photo credit: Javier Ibarra-Isassi

Finding the parasitized spider led me to read more about these parasites and the work of Dr. David P. Hughes. I found out that when an insect climbs to the underside of a leaf, it bites into the vein (termed “death grip”) and leaves a distinct bite mark. This has allowed for the identification of the “death grip” in a 48 Ma fossilized leaf found in Messel, Germany. Additionally, I found out that the mechanism through which the fungus parasite manipulates the behaviour of its host is a complex one. Studies point out that there is a downregulation of immune-related, and of maintenance and integrity-related genes. This allows the fungus colony to grow inside the host and to atrophy the mandibular muscles (leading to the “death-grip” phenotype).

Armed with more knowledge, I continued my quest for a real-life “zombie” that was more akin to what I had read about. I had also spent around 5 years looking at ants in tropical forests, so my eyes were a little bit better at spotting small things amidst the leaves. I then had the opportunity to go to the Yasuní National Park, in Amazonian Ecuador to help on a global arthropod monitoring project. During my downtime, I would go out to the trails, looking for the evidence that had eluded me up to this point. While hiking around one day, I spotted a black “twig” beneath a leaf. My heartbeat immediately raised with excitement and wonder. Could this finally be it? Have I finally found what I had read about so many years ago? YES! Low and behold, there it was, a “zombified” Camponotini ant, with the fruiting body of the fungus growing out of its head.

Fungus infected ant biting into the underside of a leaf. Coca, Ecuador. Photo credit: Javier Ibarra-Isassi

Now that I have seen evidence of real-life “zombies” I can return to my friends and tell them they are real. Not in the way we find them in entertainment media, but rather in other interesting ways. Though my quest may feel a little bit more complete now, I will still look beneath leaves and stems when I go around the forest searching for zombies.

Javier Ibarra-Isassi is a PhD Candidate in the Community Ecology and Biogeography lab in the Biology Department of Concordia University. Working under the co-supervision of Dr. Jean-Philippe Lessard (Concordia) and Dr. Tanya Handa (UQAM), he is trying to understand how biodiversity is maintained and influenced by natural and human-influenced processes. For which, he is studying how ant traits and communities vary across broad environmental gradients and how agriculture affects the natural structure of ant communities.

Joining forces: A multidisciplinary approach to biocultural conservation.

Joining forces: A multidisciplinary approach to biocultural conservation.

By Steven Schnoor and Felipe Pérez-Jvostov

We’ve all seen images of rampant deforestation across some of the largest forests around the world. To us, these grim images are merely a distant reality that we see on the news and share on social media. To many indigenous peoples, however, these images define their daily battle in preserving their traditional territories and lifestyles. Nonetheless, not all stories make it to the news. 

During our fieldwork in Panama (Steven studying the politics of engagement with local communities residing near Canadian mines in Central America, and Felipe studying how river-damming can influence the morphology of tropical fishes), we both got to experience first-hand the pervasive loss of habitats within the traditional territories of indigenous communities in Panama.

In the North Santa Fe, where Steven had previously worked, there are several rapidly progressing infrastructure development projects, including a recently constructed highway to the Caribbean Sea and a planned hydroelectric cable, both of which traverse the traditional territory of the Ngäbe and Buglé. Despite the fact that the Panamanian government has recently declared the entirety of their traditional territory to be a new national park – the Parque Nacional Reverendo Padre Jesús Héctor Gallego Herrera – the development projects have recently facilitated the entry into the region of land speculators and possible resource extraction projects. 

On the East side of the country, where Felipe was doing his research, the Emberá Drua of the Majé River face a completely different set of environmental issues than those of the Ngäbe and Buglé: hydroelectric dam development and illegal slash-and-burn deforestation for cattle pasture have destroyed approximately 20,850 acres of the forest that once existed. Without legal titles to the land they inhabit, the Emberá of Majé have long been demanding the Panamanian government to enforce the conservation of their forest. These demands have not yet been met.

With the destruction of these natural habitats we lose more than biodiversity. The livelihoods of indigenous communities like the Emberá, Ngäbé and Buglé are closely intertwined with the plants and animals around them. Traditional names and uses of endemic species are being lost at almost the same rate as the forests in which they live. Biocultural conservation and the preservation of traditional knowledge is significant now more than ever.

During meetings with Rogelio Urriola, President of the Congreso Ngäbé-Buglé and campesino of the North Santa Fe region of Panama, and Lázaro Mecha and Ceferino Zarco, representatives of the Majé Emberá territory in the Bayano region, we discussed the primary threats to biological and cultural diversity in their regions. We developed a multidisciplinary project that would bring their current environmental situation into the spotlight: Felipe would develop community mapping and GIS methodologies in collaboration with the Majé Emberá, and Steven would develop audio-visual communication workshops with the Ngäbé and Buglé. 

The work with the Majé Emberá started by comparing, from the Emberá perspective, their historical and their currently vastly degraded territory. The first map retraces the Majé Watershed, and what was once the Bayano River, during the first half of the twentieth century. The second map displays the rapid loss of biodiversity due to the combined pressures of dam development and frontier expansion. This work was spearheaded by Carmen Umana, who spent several weeks in Majé closely working with the community.   

The work with the Ngäbé and Buglé started with workshops on audio-visual communication technologies and methodologies. Steven trained 9 community members using audio-visual equipment provided by CICADA. This training has been extremely valuable, as it provides the Ngäbé and Buglé the skills to investigate, document, and disseminate the biological and cultural diversity on their territories, and the threats facing them. 

The next steps for this endeavour will be to train our indigenous partners on the use of GIS, and develop an ethnobotanic encyclopedia to investigate and document the specific drivers of habitat degradation within their traditional territories, the various ways in which these threats impact upon their cultures and the strategies for staving off these impacts and preserving the biological and cultural diversity that they now strive to defend. We will have a dedicated website where we will portray the stories (video, photo, and community maps) of how these communities struggle to defend their territories and the biodiversity therein. We hope this website will bring their issues into light and engage the broader Panamanian society to address them.

We would like to thank the QCBS for the support of this project through the HQP grant awarded to Steven and Felipe. We also received funding from CICADA, BESS, and PRISM.

Felipe Perez-Jvostov is a former postdoctoral researcher studying the effects of river damming on the morphology of tropical fish lineages, and the integration of multidisciplinary approaches to solve environmental and social issues. He currently works at the Office of Innovation and Partnerships at McGill.

Steven Schnoor works as a Research Associate with CICADA – the Centre for Indigenous Conservation and Development Alternatives, based at the Dept. of Anthropology at McGill, and teaches part-time at the Dept. of Communication Studies at Concordia. For over a decade, he has worked with Indigenous and local communities throughout Latin America and beyond, that are facing threats to their lives, livelihoods and territories through state-imposed development projects, such as large-scale metal mines.

Reflections of an ecologist on regional bias in biodiversity and conservation research

Reflections of an ecologist on regional bias in biodiversity and conservation research

by Nathalie Jreidini

The Fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO5) was recently released during a series of virtual sessions in preparation for the UN Biodiversity Summit in late September 2020. The GBOs serve as a global summary assessment of the progress achieved towards the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Among the several points the GBO5 tackles, one thing was made clear: countries are failing to carry out the goals set by the strategic plan, consequently failing to halt declines in the natural world resulting from damage, destruction and loss of habitats and wildlife. The countries are set to agree on new targets for 2030 – but what has to change in the next decade in order to actually achieve new goals?

During an internship at the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity last fall, I spent my days reviewing and evaluating National Reports – these constitute summaries of nations’ progress towards Biodiversity Targets. With these targets, also known as the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets expiry date around the corner, my work involved assisting in the design of post-2020 targets and my National Reports evaluations aided in the creation of GBO5.

I don’t intend on going into detail about the internship itself (although I highly recommend interning at the UN CBD!), but rather shed light on a fundamental issue that I noticed while going through 100+ National Reports: most countries’ governments have very limited information, if any, pertaining to their nations’ flora and fauna and consequently the state of their national biodiversity.

Now this shouldn’t have been shocking news to me – I grew up in a third world country where little to no ecological or environmental research takes place, and where environmental causes are not just the last item on governments’ agendas (as it tends to be, even in some first world countries) but rather do not even make the cut. Somehow, I hadn’t truly realized how global this issue was. No wonder countries are failing to achieve biodiversity targets – evaluation through ecological research is a necessary first step in order to consequently take the appropriate actions.

I know what you must be thinking: we can’t blame certain countries for tending to other pressing national matters, which often use up all available resources, before attempting to manage biodiversity issues. Research in underrepresented countries can, however, be carried out by foreign researchers when the country’s own infrastructure (the way their Ministries of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment are run, for example) does not facilitate research by its own institutions. The issue that arises then is that, often (but not always) when North American researchers conduct studies abroad, they publish their findings in their own countries, and the nations where the study actually took place either lack access to that information or simply do not know that it exists. As a result, a National Report submitted by the country in question to the UN for review would not be a correct representation of all the research that has been carried out in that country – research that could itself be beneficial in assessing the nation’s biodiversity and taking the appropriate actions.

The distorted map above illustrates what the world would look like if continents were scaled based on the number of scientific publications (across all STEM fields) issued from each country. The Northern hemisphere produces more scientific articles, in general, while little to no research is conducted in the global south (apart from Australia). Though scientific publications in journals are not the only representation of research output, it is the metric most widely used to measure “the amount of science” taking place in a country. In addition, it is unclear whether the map above takes population size into consideration, but the message it conveys remains a prominent one.

Looking at studies related to conservation biology specifically, the second map (below) classifies the number of national and subnational research articles per country based on where the study area itself was located. The US, UK and Australia accounted for 40% of articles published in the past 3 decades relating to biodiversity and conservation. However, Di Marco et al. (2017) found that some typically under-represented countries, such as China and Brazil, show a rise in the number of studies conducted in the past 3 decades. Though this is promising, there is still an alarming proportion of countries that receive less research attention (especially countries on the African continent), consequently impeding their ability to even begin carrying out global biodiversity targets and goals.

Di Marco, M., Chapman, S., Althor, G., Kearney, S., Besancon, C., Butt, N., … & Watson, J. E. (2017). Changing trends and persisting biases in three decades of conservation science. Global Ecology and Conservation, 10, 32-42.

Are we, as ecologists and conservation biologists, to blame for this bias in research location? Is it due to a lack of funding, or are we incapable of even getting permission to access certain sites? Could it be that so little is already known about some areas that we wouldn’t even know where to start? Should we change our motives for conducting research to begin with? Is it realistic to ask certain nations to allocate more funds towards biodiversity-related studies and assessments? The way I see it, research in the fields of ecology, conservation and biodiversity is a privilege. We cannot expect all countries to carry out the same type or amount of studies – should we then favor collaborations with underrepresented regions?

Despite the fact that this article does not really present a solution to this problem, I hope that I have convinced you to be mindful of where studies were conducted when reading scientific publications. Bottom line is, ecological research is biased towards certain regions as it is a privilege that is out of reach for certain countries, especially those experiencing high political turmoil. This, in turn, impacts nations’ abilities to take the correct actions related to improving the state of their biodiversity – you can’t fix something when you don’t know what’s broken. And so, will nations really be able to achieve more in regards to biodiversity in the next decade?

I realize that even as scientists with the correct training and resources, it is easier said than done to travel abroad and simply evaluate the state of other nations’ biodiversity. I left my home country at 17 in order to become an ecologist here in Quebec. I like to believe that ‘I never looked back’, but that’s not entirely true. The thought of going back equipped with skills acquired through my education abroad has definitely come to mind several times. Alas, it’s not that simple… 

Nathalie Jreidini is currently a PhD student in the Green lab at McGill University Biology Department & Redpath Museum. Her research pertains to population dynamics and movement ecology, for which she is studying the dispersal patterns of an endangered amphibian. She aims to pursue a career as a quantitative biologist where she can address large-scale questions relating to biodiversity.

Q&A: Educator Tanis Mercer on how the Canadian ‘ReNewZoo’ project is bringing together academics and zoos for wildlife conservation

Q&A: Educator Tanis Mercer on how the Canadian ‘ReNewZoo’ project is bringing together academics and zoos for wildlife conservation

By Sarah Nason

Could zoos and aquariums be the solution for species in decline? This might seem like a paradoxical suggestion: working with animals in captivity to help them flourish in the wild. But the vision of the new federally-funded research program in Canada, ReNewZoo, is much broader than that: the program is bringing together academic researchers and zoo professionals to conduct research together that would put zoos at the centre of conservation efforts.

“Zoos are only displayed as the entertainment, on the surface. And people don’t see the research behind it,” explains Tanis Mercer, the ReNewZoo program coordinator. “But I know all these super dedicated people who are working on being able to rehabilitate and address certain environmental concerns.”

Mercer comes from an incredibly diverse background, being trained as an educator, artist and science communicator – and her influence shows in the design of ReNewZoo. The program is training Master’s and PhD students to work specifically at the interface of academic research and zoo/aquarium management to achieve conservation outcomes. Here, she expands more on how she became involved with the project, what it means for wildlife conservation in Canada, and how educational strategies are a huge part of that.

On getting involved with zoos and aquariums

Working somewhere where the initiative agrees with my core values is a very important thing for me, and zoos and aquaria are very interesting to me from a broader scope. I also have a very strong pull towards making things practical. I find in science it’s easy to make things practical because you have your lab component, and you have your experiments, and you have fieldwork, but not necessarily within the organization [university, program] itself. And having that agrees with me in terms of my understanding of education and pedagogy. I just felt that this program would really help students to achieve things. Not just on paper, but in terms of their skill development, and that is one of the things that is very dear to me. Because I’m an educator, I care for students, and I want the best possible outcome to happen for all students that are going through this really time-consuming, blood-sweat-and-tears, laborious activity that is becoming educated.

Image credit: Kathleen Higgins

On the goals for ReNewZoo

There’s nothing like this program, particularly in terms of merging universities with zoo and aquarium institutions. Speaking from my personal opinion, I hope we can lead governments, NGOs, lobby groups, and other large-scale industries to recognize that gap, and to invest in trying to close it. If we can get students through the program and they outshine the competition, then obviously there’s something there worth taking another look at. I feel like university education needs a bit of an overhaul. Not completely from the ground up, but it needs more emphasis on training people for real jobs. Academic institutions need to start investing in, if only just entertaining, the idea that perhaps there’s more they can do to ensure that all students, not even just biology/conservation students, have a way to make what they love and what they study workable as a career. Something that adds to the community, the country, and the academic culture of Canada and the rest of this world.

On communicating science

As an educator I am constantly perplexed that there seems to be a gap in the philosophical understanding of what science is as a discipline. People seem to not understand that we have the products of science, the technologies that arise, the knowledge, the books, the information, but that’s not science: that’s its products. It’s a method, it’s a way of seeing and interrogating the world and phenomena. Actually, one of the ReNewZoo advisors is Dr. Chantal Barriault. She is the co-director of the science communications program at Laurentian University. We understand that there’s so much that can be gained from pulling that aspect of it into a program such as this. Instead of just doing a Master’s of Science, students are also getting all of this worldly experience outside of that, including science communication.

Image credit: Damien Mullin

On advice for students interested in wildlife conservation

From an educator’s perspective, I think that a lot of students – I don’t want to say that they don’t think of it, because it’s not their job to think of it – know how they learn. Understand how you learn best. Understand where your strengths are intellectually, and use those strengths to teach where you’re weaker. If you can do that, you can do anything. And [two]: find something you’re passionate about. Because people can live an awful long time doing jobs that they do not find rewarding, either professionally or intellectually or in terms of their values. Test the waters. If you don’t know what you want, use a gap year. And if you end up in an area of academia that is more theoretically based or more research based, try to diversify your skill set. Try to find a way to apply it in the world: try to find something that will give you a practical edge. Because if you can do that, there’s a job for you.

Tanis Mercer is the Program Coordinator for the NSERC CREATE ReNewZoo Research and Training Program based out of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Ms. Mercer has obtained her graduate diploma in Science Communications from Laurentian University, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Nipissing University. When Tanis is not coordinating and working in curriculum design, she is a dedicated Overwatch Mercy main that is currently disappointed in Jeff Kaplan’s decision to nerf her beloved character into the ground.

Narcoleptique : vers la conciliation études-sommeil / Narcoleptic: finding work-sleep balance

Narcoleptique : vers la conciliation études-sommeil / Narcoleptic: finding work-sleep balance

par/by Mathilde Gaudreau

(English version below)

Épingle par Carissa Potter Carlson @peopleiveloved

L’année dernière, j’ai reçu un diagnostic de narcolepsie, une maladie neurologique auto-immune qui explique pourquoi peu importe la lumière, le bruit, l’endroit et le moment de la journée, je m’endors en quelques minutes à peine. Mais attention, comme cela arrive que je le veuille ou non, ce n’est pas un super-pouvoir. Quand n’importe où/ n’importe quand signifie que des « attaques de sommeil » surviennent en pleins cours, réunions et travaux sur le terrain, pendant que j’apprécie un livre, une conférence, un film ou un souper entre amis, quand le décalage horaire ressemble à s’y méprendre au statut quo, dormir sur commande ne semble plus si intéressant.

Dans notre société qui réclame des bourreaux de travail, le super-pouvoir appartient plutôt aux rares bienheureux pour qui les courtes nuits sont vraiment suffisantes. De l’autre extrémité du spectre, force est de constater l’importance de connaître et de respecter ses besoins personnels en sommeil, mais surtout à quel point il est rare de pouvoir se le permettre. Face au stress et à l’anxiété, aux contraintes familiales et financières auxquelles s’ajoutent des conditions de travail excessivement rigides, s’attaquer au problème de façon systémique, en allant au-delà des accommodations pour les personnes qui souffrent de problèmes de sommeil, encouragerait une meilleure qualité de vie pour tout le monde.

Dormir, une question de santé

Nous avons beau reconnaître plus que jamais la difficulté de prendre soin de sa santé mentale et physique au sein du milieu académique, il ne faudrait pas négliger la place fondamentale que l’hygiène de sommeil occupe au cœur de l’enjeu. Du baccalauréat au poste de titulaire, comment serait-il possible d’atteindre la fameuse « conciliation travail-vie personnelle » de quelque façon que ce soit tout en continuant de normaliser la privation de sommeil, en glorifiant les nuits blanches et en confondant somnolence et paresse? Ne pas reconnaître le sommeil comme investissement fondamental dans les deux autres tiers de notre vie mène à valoriser notre travail dans ses aspects les plus superficiels d’abord. On apprend peut-être à se penser entièrement responsables de nos succès et échecs individuels, mais personne ne possède plein contrôle sur son corps, tant son apparence que son niveau d’énergie. N’oublions pas les privilèges sexistes, racistes, classistes et validistes qui fournissent, sous la forme de temps, ressources, capital social et opportunités, le pouvoir de non seulement incarner, mais également de définir à quoi ressemblent le succès et la santé.

Depuis le début de mon parcours universitaire, je me suis endormie dans tous les cours magistraux et presque toutes les réunions auxquelles j’ai assisté. Bien qu’il ait été réconfortant d’apprendre que ni sommeil nocturne, ni motivation auraient pu y changer quoi que ce soit, un diagnostic ne pourra jamais effacer les conséquences passées, présentes et futures de la narcolepsie. J’ai toujours su que ma somnolence ne passait pas inaperçue et n’était probablement pas bien vue, mais ne saurai jamais comment de tels biais, conscients ou non, ont pu affecter mon cheminement personnel et professionnel. 

Si j’ai appris quoi que ce soit d’avoir une maladie qui, comme tant d’autres, est ni apparente, ni bien connue, c’est la valeur d’obtenir le bénéfice du doute, en particulier de figures d’autorité. La narcolepsie va orienter la façon dont je travaille pour le reste de mes jours, et même si cela signifiait simplement de longues nuits de sommeil, travailler plus tard dans la journée et devoir faire de courtes siestes, les idées préconçues peuvent toujours fermer des portes. J’ai pu trouver un laboratoire où on me fait confiance de faire ce qui fonctionnent le mieux pour moi dans le marathon qu’est l’obtention d’un diplôme d’études graduées, mais si seulement la chance n’avait rien à voir là-dedans…

Narcolepsie 101

La narcolepsie est également appelée Syndrome de Gélineau pour le médecin français qui a le premier avancé le terme en 1880 pour décrire des symptômes de courtes périodes de somnolence diurne fréquentes, excessives et irrépressibles [1]. Le sommeil paradoxal (REM) est bouleversé, induisant des rêves presque instantanés et accompagné de paralysie et d’hallucinations. Chez les patients atteints du type 1, contrairement au type 2, cela implique également des attaques de cataplexie, où des émotions fortes comme la surprise, l’excitation et le rire peuvent provoquer des pertes soudaines de tonus musculaire dans les jambes, l’abdomen et même l’ensemble du corps (pour une revue de littérature, voir [2]). 

Ce qui cause la narcolepsie : un manque de neuropeptides appelées hypocrétines, ou orexines, a été révélé il y a une vingtaine d’années seulement, après que des chiens narcoleptiques aient été montrés présenter une mutation sur le gène codant pour un récepteur spécifique à ces molécules nouvellement découvertes et impliquées dans la promotion de l’éveil [3, 4, 5]. Encore plus récemment, certains globules blancs, les lymphocytes T, ont été observés cibler et détruire les neurones spécialisés dans la production d’hypocrétines, confirmant l’auto-immunité longtemps suspectée de la narcolepsie [6, 7]. À l’instar de beaucoup de telles maladies, tant des prédispositions génétiques que des déclencheurs environnementaux comme une infection par le virus de grippe sont impliqués dans son développement chez l’humain. Avec un historique aussi récent, les traitements actuels visent à soulager les symptômes à l’aide de psychostimulants comme le méthylphénidate (RitalinMD) et le modafinil (ProvigilMD), mais n’offrent pas encore de remède (pour une revue de littérature sur les approches potentielles, voir [8]).

Le diagnostic : suis-je (vraiment) éveillée? 

Vous vous assoyez et, pour un moment, restez alerte, concentré sur la tâche. Puis, vous commencez à dériver, alors que votre énergie est redirigée à combattre le brouillard mental qui s’installe graduellement. La résistance aura toujours été futile, mais ce n’est que bien plus tard que vous réaliserez à quel point inattentif, végétatif même vous étiez devenu en tentant en vain de faire disparaître l’engourdissement. En un rien de temps, vous cognez des clous, griffonnez machinalement ou arrêtez complètement d’écrire, fixant devant vous le regard vide. À présent, vos yeux restent fermés de plus en plus longtemps; toujours en position assise, mais la tête basse, les images et les sons sont remplacés par ceux de votre rêve naissant. Aucune tentative externe de vous réveiller ne fonctionnera pour plus de 30 secondes; vous êtes ailleurs. Environ 20 minutes plus tard, la réalité reprend le dessus, se mélangeant avec le rêve jusqu’à ce que, tout en confusion, vous regagnez complètement conscience. La réalisation s’impose ensuite : vous dormiez… encore. Alors que le brouillard se lève, il vous laisse avec un léger mal de tête, les yeux secs et un peu de honte. Finalement, vous tentez de recommencer à travailler comme si rien ne s’était passé, mais toute trace écrite ou témoin attestera du contraire. Répéter le tout une ou deux fois encore lors d’une bonne journée.

Au fil des années où de tels symptômes ont de plus en plus pris le contrôle sur mes heures d’éveil, on m’a souvent dit qu’ils étaient « normaux pour une étudiante à l’université ». Peu rassurée par mes pairs qui, bien intentionnés, ne pouvaient pas réaliser l’intensité et la fréquence de ces épisodes, j’ai dû présumer que mes difficultés à lire plus de quelques pages ou écouter en classe plus de quelques minutes sans m’endormir indiquaient un faible potentiel académique. Même l’échelle de somnolence d’Epworth [9], qui encourage à chercher un avis médical au-delà d’un score de 11/24 (j’obtenais 17), n’a pas suffi à chasser l’impression que je ne faisais que chercher des excuses faciles au lieu de travailler plus fort. Le syndrome de l’imposteur a plusieurs visages.

Si j’ai pu attendre de compléter mon baccalauréat, commencer une maîtrise et faire un passage accéléré au doctorat avant de finalement en parler à mon médecin de famille, ce n’est pas seulement en travaillant fort, mais surtout parce que mon cas n’est pas aussi extrême que celui des gens que l’on peut voir tomber dramatiquement au sol en cherchant « narcolepsie » sur YouTube. Difficile d’imaginer à quoi peuvent ressembler différents niveaux de symptôme quand la maigre représentation de la narcolepsie dans les médias est peu informative et essentiellement humoristique, de Jinx Monsoon dans la 5e saison de RuPaul’s Drag Race au 575ème épisode des Simpson. Avoir su, j’aurais pu me tourner vers ma propre famille; bien que jamais diagnostiquée elle-même, ma grand-mère a toujours vécu avec cette somnolence diurne que je croyais être une amusante preuve de son âge. 

Une fois référée à un spécialiste, il aura fallu un an avant d’obtenir le verdict pressenti, suivant quelques rencontres avec un pneumologue, un test d’apnée du sommeil à la maison et finalement des examens polysomnographiques au laboratoire du sommeil du CHUM à Montréal. Sans surprises, les nombreux fils et appareils qui enregistraient de multiples paramètres physiologiques en continu ne m’ont pas empêché de dormir, de nuit comme de jour. Lors du test itératif de latence à l’endormissement (TILE), j’ai sombré trop vite, trop profondément; rêvant dans chacune des quatre opportunités de faire une sieste de 15 minutes. Ayant déjà rapporté expérimenter de la cataplexie, cela ne pouvait signifier qu’une chose : narcolepsie type 1. 

Le suivi professionnel et la médication peuvent aider à gérer cette condition à vie, mais pour optimiser mes heures d’éveil, la clé se trouve dans la flexibilité et la liberté d’organiser mon temps. Chose certaine, me forcer à exécuter des tâches qui nécessitent plus de concentration que ce que mon cerveau est en mesure de fournir à ce moment ne peut conduire qu’au sommeil. Si certaines, comme lire et écrire, sont centrales au travail académique et vont demeurer plus longues et ardues peu importe à quel point je les apprécie, le fait que je ne puisse pas rester totalement efficace devant un écran d’ordinateur pour huit heures par jour a probablement bien moins à voir avec la narcolepsie que ce que l’on aimerait bien croire.

Combattre le brouillard mental 

Même sans problème de sommeil, vous éprouvez sûrement le brouillard mental et la somnolence diurne qui viennent avec la privation de sommeil, mais également avec la chaleur, la lumière aveuglante et la consommation de sucre, d’alcool ou de breuvages chauds. Vous savez donc à quel point il peut être difficile de se sortir de ces situations tout en restant assis tranquillement, surtout que les différents trucs qui peuvent aider à rester éveillé, comme gribouiller, mâcher de la gomme et jeter un coup d’œil à son téléphone, ne paraissent pas très professionnels. Malheureusement, éviter les siestes à tout prix mène souvent à perdre quelques heures à demi-endormi au lieu de concéder quelques minutes. 

Lorsque j’enseigne à mon tour, je vois bien à quel point il serait difficile de ne pas remarquer les personnes qui dorment ou s’endorment, mais bien que j’aie sûrement plus de sympathie à cet égard, je ne vois toujours pas comment cela pourrait être vu comme quelque chose d’impoli, irrespectueux, dérangeant ou insultant, à prendre personnel ou à déplorer. Au contraire, pourquoi ne pas y voir un indice pour améliorer la structure du cours de façon à favoriser l’engagement soutenu du groupe envers la matière? Cela peut se traduire par simplement planifier davantage de pauses pendant les séances magistrales, soit toutes les 45 minutes au plus, même si vous pensez que tout se déroule bien, même si vous avez demandé aux étudiants s’ils suivent toujours. Encore mieux, les « pauses actives » qui impliquent des manipulations, remue-méninges, vidéos, débats, discussions, sondages, etc. 

Peu importe vos compétences et dynamisme, lorsque vous parlez une heure sans interruption, c’est la concentration de la majorité qui est en chute libre, pas seulement celle des personnes qui ont des difficultés liées au sommeil ou à l’attention. Oubliez les techniques de micro-gestion comme l’interdiction d’ordinateurs et de téléphones portables en classe ou encore l’imposition d’un horaire de présence en laboratoire de type 9-17 heures; pour créer un environnement accessible propice à l’apprentissage pour une diversité d’étudiants et/ou membres de laboratoire, la clé se trouve dans la flexibilité. 

Il n’y a pas qu’une façon de « bien » travailler, étudier ou dormir et il importe de normaliser les discussions ouvertes et sincères à ce sujet. La version de vous-même la mieux reposée sera aussi la plus heureuse, en santé et donc productive à long terme, alors soyez votre meilleur allié. Nous serons toujours des dormeurs, alors que vous soyez de type lève-tôt, oiseau de nuit ou quelque part entre les deux, connaissez votre corps, croyez-le et, surtout, ne laissez personne vous convaincre que ce qui est nécessaire est luxueux. 


Centre d’études avancées en médecine du sommeil (CÉAMS), Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal

Epworth Sleepiness Scale test (ESS), d’après Johns (1991)

Center for Narcolepsy, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Fondation Wake Up Narcolepsy et leur podcast : Narcolepsy 360


[1] Passouant, P. (1981). La narcolepsie du temps de Gélineau. Histoire des Sciences Naturelles, 2, 1-7.

[2] Akintomide, G. S., & Rickards, H. (2011). Narcolepsy: a review. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 7, 507-518.

[3] De Lecea, L., Kilduff, T. S., Peyron, C., Gao, X. B., Foye, P. E., Danielson, P. E., Fukuhara, C., Battenberg, E. L. F., Gautvik, V. T., Bartlett II, F. S., Frankel, W. N., Van Den Pol, A. N., Bloom, F. E., Gautvik, K. M., & Sutcliffe, J. G. (1998). The hypocretins: hypothalamus-specific peptides with neuroexcitatory activity. PNAS, 95(1), 322-327.

[4] Lin, L., Faraco, J., Li, R., Kadotani, H., Rogers, W., Lin, X., Xiaohong, Q., de Jong, P. J., Nishino, S., & Mignot, E. (1999). The sleep disorder canine narcolepsy is caused by a mutation in the hypocretin (orexin) receptor 2 gene. Cell, 98(3), 365-376.

[5] Nishino, S., Ripley, B., Overeem, S., Lammers, G. J., & Mignot, E. (2000). Hypocretin (orexin) deficiency in human narcolepsy. The Lancet, 355(9197), 39-40.

[6] Latorre, D., Kallweit, U., Armentani, E., Foglierini, M., Mele, F., Cassotta, A., Jovic, S., Jarrossay, D., Mathis, J., Zellini, F., Becher, B., Lanzavecchia, A., Khatami, R., Manconi, M., Tafti, M., Bassetti, C. L., & Sallusto, F. (2018). T cells in patients with narcolepsy target self-antigens of hypocretin neurons. Nature, 562(7725), 63-68.

[7] Luo, G., Ambati, A., Lin, L., Bonvalet, M., Partinen, M., Ji, X., Maecker, H. T. & Mignot, E. J. M. (2018). Autoimmunity to hypocretin and molecular mimicry to flu in type 1 narcolepsy. PNAS, 115(52), E12323-E12332.

[8] Nepovimova, E., Janockova, J., Misik, J., Kubik, S., Stuchlik, A., Vales, K., Korabecny, J., Mezeiova, E., Dolezall, R., Soukup, O., Kobrlova, T., Pham, N. L., Nguyen, T. D., Konecny, J., & Kuca, K. (2018). Orexin supplementation in narcolepsy treatment: a review. Medicinal research reviews, 39(3), 961-975.

[9] Johns, M. W. (1991). A new method for measuring daytime sleepiness: the Epworth sleepiness scale. Sleep, 14(6), 540-545.

Mathilde Gaudreau est candidate au doctorat en sciences biologiques à l’Université de Montréal dans le laboratoire d’entomologie et de lutte biologique de Jacques Brodeur (Institut de recherche en biologie végétale), co-supervisée par Paul Abram (Agriculture et Agro-Alimentaire Canada). Elle étudie comment l’environnement lumineux ultraviolet influence le fitness et le comportement de micro-guêpes parasitoïdes d’œufs de punaises.

Twitter : @Binaow

Crédit photo : Hugo Germain


Narcoleptic: finding work-sleep balance by Mathilde Gaudreau

Pin by Carissa Potter Carlson @peopleiveloved

A year ago, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, an autoimmune neurological disorder that explains why no matter the light, noise, place, or time of day, I fall asleep in just a few minutes. As this happens whether I want to or not, make no mistake, it’s no superpower. When anywhere/anytime means that “sleep attacks” strike during lectures, fieldwork and meetings, when I’m enjoying a book, a talk, a movie or a dinner with friends, when jet lag is business as usual, napping on command doesn’t seem as useful anymore. 

In our society that commends a workaholic lifestyle, the superpowered are most likely the lucky few who genuinely need little rest at night. On the other end of the spectrum, one can only realize the importance of knowing and respecting personal sleep requirements, and just how difficult it is to do so. In the face of stress, anxiety, insomnia, peer pressure, financial concerns and caregiving responsibilities mixed with excessively rigid work arrangements, enacting systemic changes that go beyond accommodating people with sleep disorders would foster a better quality of life for everyone.

Sleep issues are health issues

As we are more than ever acknowledging the ways in which it is very hard to take care of our minds and bodies in academia, sleep hygiene should be thought of as central to this issue. From the undergraduate studies to the tenure-track position, how can we expect to reach the mythical “work-life balance” in any sort of way while we keep normalizing sleep deprivation, glorifying all-nighters, and mistaking sleepiness for laziness? Not recognizing sleep as a crucial investment into the remaining two-thirds of our lives leads to putting value on the most superficial aspects of our work first. We might think of ourselves as the sole responsible for our wins and failures, but no one has complete control over their body, whether its appearance or energy level. Let’s not forget the sexist, racist, classist, and ableist privileges that provide power in the shape of time, resources, social capital, and opportunities to not only embody, but also define what success and health look like.

Since starting university, I fell asleep in each and every one of the lectures I attended, and nearly all lab meetings. While it was comforting to learn that no amount of nighttime sleep or motivation could have made a difference, no diagnosis will ever erase the past, present, and future consequences of narcolepsy. I always knew how obvious my sleepiness was and how it was likely frowned upon, but will never know how such biases, conscious or not, might have affected my personal and professional relationships.

If I learned anything from having a disorder that, like so many others, is neither apparent, nor well-known, it’s the value of getting the benefit of the doubt, especially from authority figures. Narcolepsy will affect the way I work for the rest of my life, but even if that might only mean longer nights of sleep, later work hours and taking daily naps, preconceived ideas can still mean closed doors. I might have found a lab where I am trusted to do what works best for me in the marathon that is getting a graduate degree, but I shouldn’t have had to be this lucky… 

Narcolepsy 101

Narcolepsy is also called Gélineau’s syndrome for the French physician who first coined the term in 1880 to describe symptoms of, most notably, frequent periods of excessive, irrepressible daytime sleepiness [1]. The rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase is disturbed, inducing almost instant dreams, paralysis, and hallucinations. In type 1 patients, as opposed to type 2, it also comes with cataplexy, meaning that strong emotions like surprise, excitement or laughter can trigger sudden loss of muscle tone in the legs, abdomen, or even in the whole body (for a review, see [2]). 

The cause of narcolepsy: a lack of neuropeptides called hypocretins, or orexins, was revealed only two decades ago, after narcoleptic dogs were shown to have a mutation in the gene coding for one specific receptor of those then newly discovered molecules involved in the promotion of wakefulness [3, 4, 5]. Even more recently, white blood cells, specifically T cells, were found to be targeting and annihilating neurons specialized in hypocretin production, confirming the long-suspected autoimmunity of narcolepsy [6, 7]. Like many such diseases, both genetic predispositions and environmental triggers such as an infection with the flu virus are involved in its development in humans. With such a recent history, treatments are in early development, alleviating the symptoms with psychostimulants like methylphenidate (RitalinMD) and modafinil (ProvigilMD), but not yet offering a cure (for a review on potential approaches, see [8]).

Getting diagnosed: am I (really) awake? 

You sit down and, for a little while, feel alert and focused on your task. Then, you start drifting away, as your energy is redirected into fighting the brain fog that is slowly creeping in. Resistance was always futile, but only much later will you grasp just how inattentive, vegetative even you became as you tried to brush off the numbness. Before you know it, your head is nodding as you scribble aimlessly or stare blankly in front of you. Now, your eyes are staying closed for longer and longer. Still sitting, but head down, images and sounds are replaced by those of your nascent dream. No external attempt to wake you up will work for more than 30 seconds; you are fully gone. About 20 min later, reality comes back in, mixing up with the dream until, confused, you fully regain consciousness. Realization comes next: you were sleeping… again. As the fog lifts, you are left with a slight headache, dry eyes, and a bit of shame. Finally, you try to resume working as if nothing happened, but any written note or witness will remind you that it very much did. Repeat once or twice on a good day.

Throughout the years of such symptoms gaining more and more hold of my waking hours, I have often been told they were “normal for a university student”. Although not reassured by my well-meaning peers who couldn’t have known just how intense and frequent these episodes were, I could only conclude that my struggles to read more than a few pages or listen for more than a few minutes without falling asleep were evidence of a low academic potential. Even the Epworth Sleepiness Scale test (ESS) [9], which encourages seeking medical advice when scoring higher than 11/24 (I got 17), was not enough to stop me feeling like I was just looking for cheap excuses instead of just working harder. The impostor syndrome has many faces. 

If I managed to wait to complete my undergraduate Honors degree, starting a Master’s and switching to PhD before finally telling my doctor, it’s not only because I worked hard, but because my case is not as extreme as that of people you can watch abruptly falling down if you search for “narcolepsy” on YouTube. When the very thin representation of narcolepsy in the media provides little information and is mostly played for laughs, from Jinx Monsoon in the 5th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race to the 575th episode of The Simpsons, it is hard to imagine what varying degrees of symptoms can look like. If only I had known then that part of the answer could be found in my own family; although never diagnosed herself, my grandmother has always lived with very similar daytime sleepiness symptoms that I thought were just a funny old age quirk. 

Once referred to a specialist, it took a year to get to the suspected verdict, after a few meetings with a pneumologist, a home test that ruled-out sleep apnea, and finally polysomnographic studies at the CHUM laboratoire du sommeil in Montréal. As I expected, all the wires and devices attached to my body, continuously recording different physiological parameters, didn’t prevent me from sleeping throughout the night and following day. During the multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), I fell too quickly, too deeply; dreaming in each of the four opportunities to take a 15 min nap. Having already reported some instances of cataplexy, there could be no doubt: it was type 1 narcolepsy. 

Professional support and medication will help manage this lifelong issue, but to optimize my waking hours, what I especially need is great flexibility and the freedom to organize my day. The most reliable prediction I can make is that I will crash down as soon as I am forcing myself to do things that need more brain power than available in the moment. Nevertheless, certain tasks will stay harder and take longer no matter how I enjoy them, but while some, like reading and writing, might be central to academic work, not being able to remain fully efficient in front of a computer screen for eight hours per day is probably not as narcolepsy-related as we would like to believe. 

Fighting the brain fog

Even without a sleep disorder, you probably experience the brain fog and daytime sleepiness that can come with sleep deprivation, but also with heat, bright lights, sugar, alcohol, or warm beverages. Then, you should know how hard it is to get out of those situations while staying quietly seated, since the various tricks that can help stay awake, like doodling, chewing gum or checking your phone for a minute, are not exactly seen as professional. Unfortunately, being forced to choose power through over power nap so often leads to losing 3 hours half-asleep instead of conceding 30 min. 

When I am teaching, it is indeed hard not to notice the people that are sleeping or falling asleep. Still, while I might have more sympathy in that matter, I really don’t see how that could be seen as impolite, disrespectful, disturbing or insulting, as something to take personally or deplore. Instead, why not use it as a clue to improve the way the class is structured in order to facilitate student engagement and sustained attention? Such changes can be as simple as scheduling more breaks during lectures, meaning every 45 min at most, even if you think that everything is going well, even if you asked if everyone is still following. Better yet, try “active breaks” involving manipulations, brainstorms, videos, debates, discussion, polls, etc. 

No matter your skills as an educator, when you speak uninterrupted for an hour or more, it’s the entire audience that’s losing focus, not just the individuals with sleep or attention issues. Forget micromanaging tactics like banning computers and phones in the classroom or imposing a 9 to 5 lab presence schedule; to create an accessible learning environment for a diversity of students and/or lab members, flexibility is the key. 

There is no “one size fits all” way to work, study or sleep. We need to normalize having more open and sincere discussions about this and, most of all, become our own best advocates and allies. In the long term, the well-rested version of you will always be the more happy, healthy, and therefore productive. We are all sleepers, so whether you are a night owl, an early bird or something in between, get to know your body, trust it, and most of all, don’t let anyone tell you that a necessity is a luxury.


Centre d’études avancées en médecine du sommeil (CÉAMS), Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal

Epworth Sleepiness Scale test (ESS), after Johns (1991)

Center for Narcolepsy, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University

Wake Up Narcolepsy foundation and their podcast : Narcolepsy 360


[1] Passouant, P. (1981). La narcolepsie du temps de Gélineau. Histoire des Sciences Naturelles, 2, 1-7.

[2] Akintomide, G. S., & Rickards, H. (2011). Narcolepsy: a review. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 7, 507-518.

[3] De Lecea, L., Kilduff, T. S., Peyron, C., Gao, X. B., Foye, P. E., Danielson, P. E., Fukuhara, C., Battenberg, E. L. F., Gautvik, V. T., Bartlett II, F. S., Frankel, W. N., Van Den Pol, A. N., Bloom, F. E., Gautvik, K. M., & Sutcliffe, J. G. (1998). The hypocretins: hypothalamus-specific peptides with neuroexcitatory activity. PNAS, 95(1), 322-327.

[4] Lin, L., Faraco, J., Li, R., Kadotani, H., Rogers, W., Lin, X., Xiaohong, Q., de Jong, P. J., Nishino, S., & Mignot, E. (1999). The sleep disorder canine narcolepsy is caused by a mutation in the hypocretin (orexin) receptor 2 gene. Cell, 98(3), 365-376.

[5] Nishino, S., Ripley, B., Overeem, S., Lammers, G. J., & Mignot, E. (2000). Hypocretin (orexin) deficiency in human narcolepsy. The Lancet, 355(9197), 39-40.

[6] Latorre, D., Kallweit, U., Armentani, E., Foglierini, M., Mele, F., Cassotta, A., Jovic, S., Jarrossay, D., Mathis, J., Zellini, F., Becher, B., Lanzavecchia, A., Khatami, R., Manconi, M., Tafti, M., Bassetti, C. L., & Sallusto, F. (2018). T cells in patients with narcolepsy target self-antigens of hypocretin neurons. Nature, 562(7725), 63-68.

[7] Luo, G., Ambati, A., Lin, L., Bonvalet, M., Partinen, M., Ji, X., Maecker, H. T. & Mignot, E. J. M. (2018). Autoimmunity to hypocretin and molecular mimicry to flu in type 1 narcolepsy. PNAS, 115(52), E12323-E12332.

[8] Nepovimova, E., Janockova, J., Misik, J., Kubik, S., Stuchlik, A., Vales, K., Korabecny, J., Mezeiova, E., Dolezall, R., Soukup, O., Kobrlova, T., Pham, N. L., Nguyen, T. D., Konecny, J., & Kuca, K. (2018). Orexin supplementation in narcolepsy treatment: a review. Medicinal research reviews, 39(3), 961-975.

[9] Johns, M. W. (1991). A new method for measuring daytime sleepiness: the Epworth sleepiness scale. Sleep, 14(6), 540-545.

Mathilde Gaudreau is a PhD candidate in biological sciences at Université de Montréal. Working in Jacques Brodeur’s entomology and biological control lab (Institut de recherche en biologie végétale), co-supervised by Paul Abram (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), she studies how the UV light environment affects the fitness and behavior of tiny stink bug egg parasitoid wasps.

Twitter: @Binaow

Photo credit: Hugo Germain

Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific chapter meeting in Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka

Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific chapter meeting in Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka

By Sachin Medigeshi Harish 

I am a PhD student at Concordia University working under the supervision of Dr. Selvadurai Dayanandan. My current research is focused on the regeneration dynamics of forest tree communities in the biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. In September (2019), I had the opportunity to participate in the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific chapter meeting in Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka. I am extremely grateful to the QCBS for providing me the financial support needed to attend the conference.

I had the opportunity to present my research during the session about species interaction and community ecology. My talk focused on the Janzen Connell hypothesis—one of the prominent explanations for biotic neighbourhood interactions such as competition and facilitation among plant individuals inter- or intra     specifically. This hypothesis assumes that species-specific natural enemies—such as pathogens and herbivores—drive conspecific neighbour interactions between tropical tree communities. According to this hypothesis, individuals will experience a reduction in their probability of survival when surrounded by a high density of conspecific neighbours.  This process leads to an increase in space availability for new species recruitment and reduces competitive exclusion.

To test this hypothesis, we analysed the tree survival rates of 5 scrub forest (SF) and 5 deciduous forest (DF) plots, located within the Biligiri Ranganatha Swamy Temple Tiger Reserve (BRT) in the Western Ghats, India. Within a 100 m X 100 m plot all woody trees having 1 cm in diameter at breast height (dbh) were tagged, mapped, measured and identified to species level. To examine neighbourhood effects on the survival of individual saplings (1-4.9 cm dbh), we used generalised linear mixed effect models with binomial errors to model individual survival as a function of conspecific and heterospecific neighbourhood density. 

Our results showed that conspecific density had a strong negative effect on the survival of saplings within scrub forest plots. These results may be due to intraspecific competition for below-ground resources and attack by specialist natural enemies. Conversely, heterospecific density had a strong negative effect on the survival of saplings within deciduous forests. This effect was likely driven by interspecific competition for below-ground resources. However, heterospecific positive density dependence on survival in the SF can be attributed to herd immunity effect in which specialised natural enemies have a harder time locating their host tree saplings, when non-susceptible neighbours are in proximity. 

The effects of heterospecific neighbours varied more widely for individual species survival than effects of conspecific neighbours, in both scrub and deciduous forest plots. Hence, we concluded that heterospecific density is likely to play a larger role in shaping species’ relative abundance in the dry tropical forest communities of BRT. 

The feedback I received after my presentation and sharing of ideas with Prof. Vojtěch Novotný, of the Czech Academy of Sciences and Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke, of the University of Peradeniya was particularly valuable in both the interpretation of my results and my understanding of community assembly of tropical trees. Finally, this meeting provided many exciting networking opportunities that will contribute positively towards the long term development of my career.  

I had an additional opportunity to visit the Maramgamuwa restoration field site with Prof. Ranawana, of the University of Peradeniya and my supervisor—Prof. Selvadurai Dayanandan. This field visit gave me valuable insights into the natural forest regeneration processes that occur after clear cutting (Eucalyptus), and the dynamics of tree species which form secondary forests. During my time, I spent an additional two days learning about tropical tree morphology, endemicity and IUCN status of various tropical tree species at Royal Botanical Gardens Peradeniya.

At ATBC Conference Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka

At Maragamuwa restoration site with Dr. Arvind, Dr. Ravikanth, Dr. Dayanandan and Dr. Rasnawana from left to right respectively. PC – Arun Dayanandan

Maragamuwa restoration site, PC – Arun Dayanandan

Sachin Medigeshi Harish is a Ph.D. student at Dr. Selvadurai Dayanandan’s laboratory in the Department of Biology, Concordia University, Montreal. Before joining Concordia university, he worked for India biodiversity portal, a citizen science initiative  to document biodiversity richness of India. 

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