Diego Sotomayor – Bio

I am a 4th year PhD student at the Lab. I am interested in deserts and the processes that maintain their biodiversity. I have worked on plant dynamics and seed banks during my previous studies. My dissertation focuses on nurse plants and how they mediate direct and indirect effects for the surrounding biota, mainly plants and pollinator invertebrates. My field sites are located along the Atacama desert in 2 countries: Chile and Peru. When I am not enjoying research I play basketball, watch different kind of movies and travel to exciting places.



Alessandro (Alex) Filazzola – Bio

I am a 2nd year Masters Student planning on transferring to PhD at York University. I am interested in positive interactions, restoration ecology and biological conservation/sustainability. Currently, I am studying plant facilitation and its restoration applications in two Californian deserts (The Mojave and the San Joaquin Basin). Previously, I have examined cushions in the alpine, the effects of deer herbivory on forest composition and insect physiology. I enjoy greatly biology and what I do, but I also live a second life as a die-hard music enthusiast.

plant Hard at work

Laurent Lamarque

I’m a PhD student working on tree invasions. I’ve been focusing on two maple tree species (Acer negundo and Acer platanoides) that were reciprocally introduced into the other’s native range. Using a biogeographical approach, I tested local and regional patterns of invasion and assessed whether introduced populations have diverged from their native conspecifics in various life-history traits. Further investigations I’d like to conduct involve studying adaptive evolution of invasive tree populations and using them as models for the understanding of tree species’ adaptation to climate change.


My name is Ryan Spafford and I am a second year MSc. student under Dr. Chris Lortie at York University. My research to date focuses on arthropods (primarily the class Insecta) and how their community structure (abundance, diversity, etc.) changes in habitats that are impacted by non-native plants, and reciprocally, how non-native plants respond to native arthropods in novel habitats.

My last season of field work saw me in beautiful Montana, USA, where I spent four months collecting arthropods in grassland habitat invaded by spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe).

Outside of school I enjoy collecting and photographing insects, fishing, and keeping fit with Thai boxing.

Ciaren Fonseca

I am an NSERC student working in Dr. Lortie’s lab this summer. My interests include invasive plants, ecology and biodiversity. Currently, I have been involved in research surveying grassland insect communities in Toronto. In my free time I am an avid fisherman, ice hockey fan and lover of the outdoors.

Hello there

I am a 3rd year PhD candidate working with Dr. Chris Lortie at York University’s Department of Geography. My research deals with plant community ecology and biogeography, although I also have interests in conservation biology. Specifically, my PhD project is related to the fascinating topic of indirect interactions between plants: reviewing and synthesizing the literature, and conducting both manipulative and mensurative experiments in the deserts of South America. I enjoy conforming multi-national teams, since they provide excellent means to understand ecological patterns and processes at larger geographical scales.

Alex Filazzola

I am a new MSc student starting in Dr. Lortie’s lab this fall. My interests generally involve entomology, plants and ecology.  Currently I am looking to see if powerlines can form biotic corridors as well as how the level of plant invasion for a site affects the insect community. I try to be as interdisciplinary and open-minded as possible when approaching problems. Outside of the lab, I am also a huge music fanatic.


Let the ecological mashups begin.

This is my new online home for research and discussions with collaborators in the lab and beyond. I am a community ecologist and runner. My interests include plant interactions, social ecology, insects, pollinators, seeds, and scientometrics. I apply structured creative, critical thinking to problems and use ecological principles. Often, I also blend concepts from other disciplines including physics, sociology, and culture.