Past graduate student

Andrée-Michelle D'Aoust-Messier (MSc 2012)



Contact information

Dept. of Biology, S625, Laurentian University

Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, On, P3E2C6

Phone: +1-705-675-1151 ext.2700


Project overview


Colonizing northern landscapes: population genetics patterns observed in populations of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) in the James Bay area


To pursue the efforts initiated by the 2008 campaign “The Year of the Frog”, I am proposing to undertake a genetic study of James Bay’s amphibian population. These robust individuals show incredible adaptations to cold climates and even synchronise their life cycle to the duration of the short northern summers. Without contestation, the amphibian species that has adapted the best to the extreme subarctic conditions is the wood frog (Lithobates (Rana) sylvatica). For this reason and its wide distribution, I will make this freeze tolerant species the central focus of my master’s research project. I will be looking at the biogeography, genetic variation, and population structure of wood frogs to model dispersal of anurans in northern landscapes.

Wood frog populations from the Cree communities of Peawanuck, Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Moosonee, and Moose Factory in Ontario, Chisasibi, Wemindji, Eastmain, and Waskaganish in Québec, as well as Radisson and Akimiski Island were sampled during the field season of 2009 and 2010. Toe clippings were taken from each individual caught, following an animal care protocol. Returning to Sudbury, the DNA from the samples was extracted and PCRs were done in order to detect the polymorphisms present in 9 microsatellite loci. The samples will also, later on, provide mtDNA for determining which post-glacial lineage founded the northern communities.

James Bay’s amphibian population have not been the focus of many research projects. This study will provide the only data describing the genetic characteristics of northern Ontario anuran populations and offer a base for future population studies researching trends or changes in population genetics. This basic information is of high importance for analyses like the impact of climate change on population dynamics. The gained knowledge from this research project could furthermore be used to compare differential degrees of gene flow between the wood frog populations in the Hudson Bay lowlands and the ones in southern Ontario, hinting on the different barriers at work in the respective ecozones. The results from this research will hopefully document the stability or vulnerability of the James Bay amphibian populations, their state, and the importance of monitoring northern population with the looming threat of climate change and anthropogenic influences.