Current Students

Kevin Ma

M.Sc. Recruitment and abundance of invasive ascidians in Newfoundland. 2009-present.

I am originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, where I graduated with a B.Sc in Ecology and Environmental Biology from the University of British Columbia. As an undergraduate student, I was mentored by Dr. Kai Chan (Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability) and Dr. Maria Palomares (Fisheries Centre) with whom I developed a keen interested in the distribution, abundance, and biological diversity of native and non-native ascidian species. I moved across the country to pursue an opportunity to do research on a non-native colonial ascidian species in St. John's, Newfoundland. At present, I am an M.Sc Candidate in Biology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, working under the co-supervision of Dr. Don Deibel (Ocean Sciences Centre) and Dr. Cynthia McKenzie (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). My M.Sc thesis aimed to determine the population dynamics of the non-native Golden Star tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri), which is currently established in the subarctic waters of insular Newfoundland. To do so, I studied (1) the patterns of larval settlement and recruitment, and (2) the seasonal trajectory of abundance on wharf structures.



Gavin Applin

M.Sc. Gene probes for early warning of invasive ascidians in Newfoundland. 2010-present

Growing up in St. Barbe, a small coastal community in northern Newfoundland, I have always had a passion for the ocean and the life that exists within it. This has led me to pursue a Bachelor's degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland, focusing in molecular biology with a minor in biochemistry. The aquaculture industry on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada is being threatened by the invasion of non-indigenous species. Two species that are particularly problematic for mussel aquaculture are the ascidians Golden Star Tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri) and Violet Tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus). Without early detection mitigation has proven ineffective. The biggest challenge for early detection is that the eggs and larvae of many ascidian species are morphologically similar, making visual identification difficult. Thus, genetic techniques for identification are being developed. I aim to develop TaqMan assays that may be used to identify the presence of Golden Star and Violet tunicate larvae and fragments globally. The sequence data will also be used to give insight into possible source populations of these ascidians in Newfoundland. Besides my research I very much enjoy watching and playing sports, especially hockey, playing guitar and fiddle, travelling and socializing over food and drink.



Ainsley Latour (

M.Sc. Population structure and connectivity of benthic and planktonic tunicates. 2011-present

I am from Whitby, Ontario. I obtained a B.Sc (Honour's) with a specialization in conservation biology from Trent University in 2006. My honours thesis research focused on the application of microsatellite markers to elucidate patterns of gene flow in the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, under the supervisor of Dr. Brad White. I also hold a B.Ed from Queen's University.

I have also worked on a range of research projects including analyses of the primary productivity of James Bay salt marsh communities with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, as a field assistant for a hydrological project in Northern Ontario with the Watershed Science Centre at Trent University, and on a project investigating factors driving photosynthesis in conifers in elevated CO2 conditions with Natural Resources Canada.

As a M.Sc. student in the Deibel lab, I aim to use genetic markers to study the evolution of tunciates in Newfoundland. Specifically, I will use the mitochondrial cyctochrome oxidase I gene and morphological markers to identify reliable species-specific characters for species delineation in cold water appendicularians. Another aspect of my work will utilize microsatellite loci and a fragment of the cyctochrome oxidase I gene to assess population connectivity in Botryllus schlosseri, a non-indigenous ascidian in Newfoundland.


Ocean Sciences

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000