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Faculty Research Interests

James Bedard

I joined the UFV Department of Biology faculty in 2012. I received my Ph.D (Microbiology) from the University of Manitoba in 2002. My doctoral thesis examined the 5S rRNA (multi)-gene family organization among most species belonging to PythiumPhytophthora, and Halophtophthora, members of the living Kingdom Stramenopila, to assess the evolutionary stability of the 5S rRNA gene sequence and arrangement patterns and to determine which pattern is likely the ancestral state in these genera.

Between 2002-2008 I completed two post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Ohio, USA, that focused in molecular biology and molecular genetics. One interesting area of my postdoctoral studies was the determination of the structure-function properties of ZIC3 isoforms with respect to cardiovascular development and disease. ZIC3 is a transcription factor protein that is critical for proper heart and body development. Mutations within nuclear localization signal (NLS) domains of the Zic3 gene sequence result in improper cellular trafficking of the protein. Using both molecular and bioinformatics techniques I had discovered that multiple isoforms of ZIC3 gene exist and are expressed in embryonic and adult tissues.

From 2008-2012 I was Assistant Professor of Biology at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado, USA, where I began getting involved in providing research opportunities for undergraduate students through the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP). The GEP is a collaborative project designed to allow students to participate in genomics and bioinformatics research. Here at UFV, my students are currently performing gene annotation in different species of Drosophila. The scientific problem being investigated is how to distinguish between heterochromatic and euchromatic domains based on DNA sequence organization and comparative genomics. We compare our results with data generated from the other Drosophila species. We also want to look for potential regulatory elements, in particular noting similarities among the 5’- upstream regions of dot chromosome genes, based on the hypothesis that genes that function within a heterochromatic environment might exhibit special characteristics. The data generated will tell help us learn more about the relationship between DNA sequence organization, chromatin packaging, and gene regulation. Further information about the GEP may be found at


Christine Dalton

I have been teaching at UFV since 2000.  My first undergraduate degree was in Political Science from Occidental College in Los Angeles.  I worked for a number of years in community politics in California and Oregon and then found that my interest in environmental issues compelled me to undertake a biology degree.  After completing an undergraduate degree in biology at Portland State University I continued with a Masters in Wildlife Science at Oregon State University where I studied gray-tailed voles, Microtus canicaudus.  I tested the effect of female kin groups in the voles on population growth rates and reproduction in a field experiment.  The field work for my thesis involved setting traps at dusk and checking them for voles at dawn.  I have always enjoyed being outside and am always keen to get out in the field.  I have also studied long-toed salamanders in Oregon, burrowing owls on a Naval Air Base in central California (while dodging fighter jets), and ducks in the Chilcotin.  Currently I am working with Vicki Marlatt and UFV graduate and wildlife biologist Andrea Geilens to study the amphibians on the UFV campus. 

At UFV I teach primarily first year biology majors courses as well as our two courses for non-science students, Human Biology (Biology 105) and Ecology from an Urban Perspective (Biology 106).  I developed Biology 106 to fill a need for a lab science course for non-science students.  A big bonus to teaching this course is that it allows me to take entire classes outside!  I am also interested in cohort models for delivering first year sciences. 

I am committed to fostering a lifelong interest in science in my students, and in communicating science to the public, especially children. I organize science outreach projects for elementary students at UFV, including our summer science camps (Science Rocks!) and an after school science program (Super Science Club).  Both these programs give UFV students with an interest in teaching the opportunity for paid work engaging school age children in exciting science activities.


Sandra Gillespie

After completing my PhD at the University of Massachusetts, I worked as a postdoc at both the University of California, Davis, and Simon Fraser University.

My work research focuses on pollination ecology, with an eye to understanding both basic and applied aspects of pollination. Bumblebees in particular are wide spread and fascinating pollinator species. We actually have 12 different species of bumblebees in the Fraser Valley!

In the past decade, North America has seen severe range contractions and drastic declines of many previously common bumblebee species. Concurrently, the widespread use of managed bumblebee colonies in agriculture – now recognized as potential disease vectors – has been implicated in this decline. My previous research has documented high prevalence of pathogens and parasites in east coast wild bumblebees and others have shown that certain pathogens are more prevalent in declining species and in wild species foraging near commercial colonies.

Within the Fraser Valley, bumblebees are of key importance as pollinators of high bush blueberry, a crop worth $ 125 million CAD. Wild bumblebees are important pollinators for some varieties of this crop. Furthermore, as efforts are underway to develop new managed bumblebee species for use in this system, understanding local pollinator abundance and health will be key to maintaining the populations of these wild pollinators. Thus it is essential to increase our understanding both wild pollinator health and abundance, as well as the importance of different pollinators for blueberry crop production.

As faculty at UFV, I am working with students to study the diversity and health of both local bumblebee populations and other wild pollinators.


Sharon Gillies

After completing my PhD at Simon Fraser University, I did Post-Doctoral research at the Agassiz Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Research Centre doing postharvest physiology research of fruits and vegetables.  

In addition to first year I teach: BIO 210 Ecology, BIO 307 Plant anatomy and diversity, BIO 308 Plant Physiology, BIO 410 Plant Ecology, and BIO 430 Forest Ecology.   

I have always been interested in plants and I am currently researching a plant I call “Godzilla”.  Originally from Japan, Japanese knotweed is a monster. With underground rhizomes capable of breaking through asphalt, as this photo of a road in Fort Langley shows, and the ability to regrow from just a few centimeters of stem, it is now considered of the top ten worst invasive species in many areas.  Together with biology faculty members Alida Janmaat and Alan Reid we are researching the biology of this invasive shrub.  We have now determined that Japanese knotweed in the Fraser Valley is hybridizing with Giant knotweed, and the hybrid is even more of a problem as it can produce viable seed, making it easier to spread. 

Alida Janmaat, Steven Marsh, and I are members of the Global Rivers Observatory network (  Together with student assistants, we monitor the water quality of the Fraser River and collaborate with the Fraser River Discovery Centre on the My River My Home exhibition (  Coordinated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (, this project has collaborators from around the world. The data we collect will give us some insight into the role of rivers in the transport of carbon to the ocean.


Patrick Harrison

My specialization is in the taxonomy of fleshy fungi.  My master's thesis was an investigation into the fleshy fungi (primarily the Ascomycota and the Basidiomycota) of the rain forest surrounding Mount Rainier National Park. 

At UFV, my primary emphasis is to excite students about biology in general and mycology specifically.  Teaching at UFV is a great place to teach as UFV has a strong commitment to hands on lab programs. 

I have had several third and fourth year students do semester or full year research projects from the distribution of fleshy fungi to the effects of composting on packaging of food stuffs.  I continue to teach at various levels, including first year lab and lecture, and third year mycology. 

I have also been involved in helping to develop, run, and lead several field schools during the summer semester (Tofino, BC, Arizona, and Okanagan).  I am currently working on the taxonomy of conifers and developing a conifer arboretum at my organic blueberry farm in Surrey. 

As an aside, I helped to develop the Centre for Sustainability at UFV.  I formed the Advisory Committee that includes members of the faculty, staff, and students to help guide policies at UFV.  We now have a successful recycling and composting program at UFV campuses. We have developed several campaigns to modify behaviour in achieving sustainability.  In addition, the CFS promotes guest speakers and films on various sustainability issues.  I have received several green awards as a result of my work. 


Alida Janmaat

My current research is on the biological control of invasive plants depends on the assumption that insect herbivores negatively impact the population abundance of their host plant, the invasive weed.  Yet, it is commonly observed that a herbivore’s impact on its host plant varies.  I am interested in determining what abiotic (E.g. environmental conditions such as soil moisture) and biotic factors (E.g. predators) are influencing insect herbivory and how this ultimately impacts the host plant population.  This knowledge may allow us to predict when biological control will be successful.  I am presently studying the interaction between Galerucella calmariensis, a leaf-feeding beetle that was released to control the invasive weed, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).  G. calmariensis has dramatically controlled loosestrife infestations at some locations, yet at other sites has shown minimal impact.  To date, I have focused on the oviposition and adult herbivory patterns of G. calmariensis and I am using this system to study basic models of insect host plant selection.        

I am also involved in an Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN) project on the effect of riparian vegetation on stream temperature.  In this study, fifteen researchers from twelve institutions across North America are monitoring stream temperatures in a forested stream and a non-forested stream near their home institutions.  See

In addition to BIO 112, I teach BIO 210 Introduction to Ecology and BIO 390 Animal Behaviour.  In the introduction to ecology course, students have been monitoring leaf litter decomposition and aquatic invertebrate diversity in streams with different levels of nitrate and phosphorus pollution.  As part of this study, students have compared the leaf litter decomposition of native salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis ) and invasive Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolourleaves.  


Justin Lee

My research program at UFV involves studying, characterizing and developing lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) encapsulating nucleic acids such as messenger RNA (mRNA) and small-interfering RNA (siRNA). In 2020, LNP therapeutics gained worldwide attention as LNPs encapsulating mRNA for the SARS-CoV-2 “spike protein” are the primary component of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. You will likely be injected with LNPs in the very near future!

At UFV, my focus is on studying LNP-mRNA and LNP-siRNA systems on rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fish cell lines. These systems are well-studied in humans, but have never been studied in fish cells before. My future goals are to develop aquaculture therapeutics to prevent the overuse of antibiotics in commercial fisheries and to develop an LNP-siRNA system on a validated serine protease (Myx-SP1) target to prevent the spread of “Whirling Disease” in Canadian bodies of water.

My current research program is in collaboration with Integrated Nanotherapeutics ( (BCIT: Burnaby, BC) and the fish cell lines employed in my research have been generously donated by UFV’s Dean of Science, Dr. Lucy Lee.

I am currently looking for students interested in completing Directed Studies projects (BIO 408/409) to examine in vitro gene expression, gene knockdown and cellular uptake in rainbow trout fish cell lines. Please contact me if you are interested.


Kelly HM, Lee LEJ, Chen S, Tam YYC, Lee JB (2021) Use of Rainbow Trout Fish Cell Lines to Study Cellular Uptake of Fluorescently DiI-Labeled Lipid Nanoparticles Encapsulating siRNA in vitro (Submitted to SIVB World Congress on In Vitro Biology).

Cho SJ, Braley EF, Kelly HM, Lee PW, Lee JB, Lee LEJ (2020) Astaxanthin effects on salmonid and shrimp cells in vitro. World Congress on In Vitro Biology. Virtual Meeting Abstract A2005. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology 56: S33.

Pritchard DT, Lee JB, Bols NC, Lee LEJ (2020) Use of fish epithelial cell lines to study actions of nitrite in fish. World Congress on In Vitro Biology. Virtual meeting Abstract A2007. In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology 56: S33-S34.


Gregory Schmaltz

I have been working as a Biology Professor at UFV for several years now. In addition to first year, I mostly teach Ecology, Cellular Biology, Animal Physiology courses, Bird Biology, and some field courses (Tofino, Ecuador).  

I completed grad school in Quebec and Ontario but did my entire field work in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico) for over 16 months for my PhD. That ruined it for me in terms of weather and I quickly became a cold weather wimp. After my PhD, I taught for two years in the States (Nevada) before heading back to Canada and landing in BC.

I have always been interested in Birds and I have studied many species throughout my career (Sparrows, Seabirds, Warblers, Cuckoos, Flycatchers). I am currently working with students in Agassiz on the foraging behavior of House Sparrows. These birds overwinter in flocks in the Valley and we are trying to understand which environmental variables determine group size. I am still working on the species I focused on for my PhD (the Smooth-Billed Ani, see insert), also trying to figure out why some birds live in large groups, while others live in small ones. In these large groups, up to 12 individuals (6 males and 6 females) mate and females produce eggs in the same nest. Just like on the Maury Show, we use genetic markers to figure who are the fathers…..

With Debbie Wheeler, I teach a tropical ecology field course in Ecuador and follow the various behaviors of tropical birds (including Anis). Along with our BIO 409 and 499 research projects, these field courses provide a great opportunity for students to develop their own research ideas and develop their own experiments.


Anthony Stea

My name is Anthony (Tony) Stea and I am an associate Professor in the Biology Department at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). I have been here since 1996 and in that time have taught and mentored many bright and engaged students. UFV facilitates a close connection between faculty and students and supports the unique hands-on learning approach we employ for our Biology students. I teach cell biology courses on metabolism and biochemistry (BIO201) and on gene regulation and signal transduction (BIO202) to our second year students. These courses allow students to learn about the cellular and molecular mechanisms of life using both theoretical and practical approaches. I also teach upper level (3rd + 4th year) students in a few courses; Developmental Biology (BIO312) and Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy and Physiology (BIO305 + BIO306). My developmental biology course focuses on the mechanisms of human development from fertilization to birth by referring to historical and modern studies on model organisms. One of my main teaching interests in this course is the potential uses and controversies surrounding stem cells. Much of my education and research has centered around vertebrate animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) and in my BIO305 + BIO306 courses we look in depth at the diversity and adaptations in these fascinating creatures.

My research started at McMaster University where I studied a respiratory control organ called the carotid body for my Ph.D. I published many papers elucidating the cellular mechanisms by which this organ is able to sense oxygen levels in the blood and trigger changes in breathing (e.g. Stea A, Jackson A, Nurse CA. P.N.A.S, 89: 9469-9473 – 1992). I then worked at the University of British Columbia researching the roles of important proteins in nervous system signaling. I determined the roles of several key calcium ion channels in particular neurons in the brain (e.g. Stea A, Soong TW, Snutch TP. Neuron, 15: 929-940 – 1995). I have mentored students doing research at UFV for more than 20 years. My students have done a variety of interesting projects including; studying the effect of pesticide pollutants on rainbow trout embryo development, studying the toxic effect of insecticides on in vitro cultures, studying the prevalence of genetically modified food ingredients in processed foods, studying the toxic effects of antipsychotic drugs, etc. About 15 years ago, I began some research on a group of insecticides called pyrethroids which are synthetic forms of a natural chemical found in certain plants (e.g. Chrysanthemum). A student I had at the time determined that pyrethroids affect calcium ion channels and we published a research paper on the topic (Hildebrand ME, McRory JE, Snutch TP, Stea A. (2004) Mammalian voltage-gated calcium channels are potently blocked by the pyrethroid insecticide allethrin. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 308(3):805-13). That student, Mike Hildebrand is now an associate Professor at Carleton University.


Debbie Wheeler

I have worked at the University of the Fraser Valley since 1992. Much of my teaching is centered on first year students, both in introductory first year lectures and in the more hands-on and practical first year labs. In addition to first year, I teach Entomology and Plants and Animals of B.C. I have also been very involved in all of the field schools that are offered by the Biology Department. These range from the majestic Andean mountain ranges and hot, humid rainforests teeming and humming with life in Ecuador, to the barren, inhospitable volcanic slopes and the myriad of rainbow colours of the coral reefs of Hawaii to the misty, hauntingly beautiful old growth forests and the long, empty stretches of golden sands of the Pacific Rim Natural Park on the wild west coast of Vancouver island.

I was born in Hertfordshire, north of London, in England. My colleagues and qualifications will tell you that I am an entomologist. An entomologist studies insects, and do you know how many of them there are out there? Well, conservative estimates put it in the over a million range. So, next time you catch an insect, don’t expect me to know what species it is! Given the difficulties associated with identifying insects, I have decided to branch out, widen my horizons, spread my wings, so to speak, and I have started to develop an interest in birds. There are apparently less than 700 bird species in Canada, so my chances of correctly identifying one are dramatically improved. However, I am  is still a neophyte bird nerd, so I may require a little more time before I can distinguish a herring gull from a western gull or a dusky flycatcher from a grey flycatcher. Since 2009, I have been actively involved with the Vancouver Avian Research Centre. VARC conducts bird monitoring and banding, provides research, education, volunteer opportunities, and visitor programs at its main Colony Farm field station. I have been most involved with the research program, regularly attending banding sessions to collect data that tracks the use of the park by different bird species. In collaboration with VARC, I have been researching the moult dynamics for the fox sparrow and the use of beak colouration in determining the age of individual birds. I have also recently started a research project on the nesting habits of the tree swallow and hope to start monitoring next box use by nesting adults through the use of radiotags attached to the birds.

My other passions are natural history, travel and nature photography, be it flora or fauna, furry or feathered, leafy or scaly. I have travelled the world looking for that grizzly bear about to catch a salmon as it struggles its way upstream or that leafy sea dragon hovering serenely over a bed of seaweed. I have puked my guts out while struggling over the high passes of the Inca trail and vomited through my regulator while scuba diving with over 50 sharks in the Coral Sea – I will do anything for a good photo!