Patrick A. James - 24 October 2018

Patrick A. James, professor at Université de Montreal, Canada.

"Causes and consequences of mountain pine beetle outbreaks: from genes to ecosystems"


Outbreaks of forest insect pests represent a significant threat to forest health and sustainable development in Canada's boreal forests. In western Canada, an outbreak of the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has attacked and killed over 16 million hectare of pine forest. Although this beetle is a native species with a known history of populations irruptions, the current outbreak is without precedent. Further, the outbreak seems to have facilitated a range expansion such that this species now threatens boreal forest resources in central and towards eastern Canada. There is uncertainty regarding what facilitated this range expansion and whether rapid (co)evolution within and among species that make out the outbreak system (beetles, fungi, trees) has been involved. In this talk I will present spatial genetic and genomic research we have undertaken to address these questions. Specifically, I present a landscape genetics analysis in which we examine the influence of landscape heterogeneity on mountain pine beetle movement and population genetic connectivity. Next, I will present initial results from a landscape genomics analysis in which we identify and map non-random association of adaptive loci among the beetle, its host trees, and a suite of obligate fungal symbionts.  Together, this work helps us to better understand some of the drivers of this outbreak and what might be done to reduce its consequences for forest sustainability.


Patrick James has bachelors degree in Ecology (Dept. of Zoology, University of Toronto, 2002) and a PhD in Spatial Ecology (Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, 2006). He also held a post-doctoral position in landscape genetics at the University of Alberta (2009). Currently, he is Associate Professor in Ecological Modelling in the at the Department des Sciences Biologiques at the Université de Montréal, in Montréal, Québec, Canada. He is also a regular member of the CEF. His research interests include landscape ecology, forest disturbance dynamics, population genetics, and simulation modelling. Current work in his lab currently focusses on the spatial and temporal dynamics of outbreaking forest insect pests and forest fire. Using a combination of theory, statistical analysis, modelling, and field work his group aims to better understand the dynamic and reciprocal feedbacks among human and natural forest disturbances and how these systems can be better managed to maintain forest health. More information can be found at: