The Bontrager lab will be starting up in July 2022 in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at the University of Toronto (St. George campus). If you are interested in joining the lab or collaborating, please check out the information below and get in touch via email (m.bontrager [at] utoronto [dot] ca).

Work in the lab will broadly focus on drivers of local adaptation and geographic range limits, in western North American systems as well as systems local to Toronto. The lab will be set up for field, greenhouse, and growth chamber experiments. These approaches can be complemented with data synthesis and genomic tools (ideally in collaboration with the strong plant genomics groups here at U of T).

Our group will value diversity and community. I will work to actively create an environment where everyone feels supported to be curious, learn new skills, and do projects that they are excited about. I am very happy to hear from students and researchers who are members of groups that have not historically been supported/included in academic science. I am excited to work with people who are excited about ecology and evolution, of any race, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, disability status, religion, ethnicity, place of origin, immigration status, family status, or socioeconomic status.

Prospective undergrads:

Hands-on undergraduate work in the lab will likely begin in summer/fall of 2022, but I am happy to hear from interested students at any time and may have some computer-based projects ready in winter/spring 2022 for highly motivated students. Undergraduates can participate in research through paid work-study positions, research courses for credit, and undergraduate fellowships and summer research awards. If you are interested in joining the group as an undergraduate, please contact me by email with brief responses to the following prompts in addition to a resume.

  1. Please briefly describe your most relevant experience (course experience, research experience, work experience, etc).
  2. Why are you interested in research and in this lab? What types of skills and experiences would you like to gain?

Prospective grad students:

I am soliciting applications from prospective PhD and MSc students this fall to start in September 2022. Note that applications for the MSc program are only open to domestic students, while the PhD program is open to both domestic and international students. You can find more information about applying here. If you’re interested in working with my group, please get in touch via email before submitting an application to the program. I strongly encourage all applicants to apply for fellowships for which they are eligible, and some of these applications are due this fall, so it is best to get in touch early.

My goals as a supervisor are to help students formalize their interests into hypothesis-driven research projects, to aid students in progressing towards the next step of their career (academic research, conservation management, science education, etc.), and to support students as they build the skill sets that their graduate research projects and future careers require.

I am seeking students who are curious, hard working, self-motivated, and excited to contribute to a positive lab and departmental community. Students can work in lab systems or branch out, and can work on projects I have come up with or those of their own design (or most likely something in between). Regardless, I will be most useful to students whose conceptual interests lie close to my own.

If you are interested in joining as a graduate student, please email me. Indicate whether you are interested in an MSc or PhD, and include brief responses (about one paragraph each) to the following prompts in addition to a CV/resume.

  1. Please briefly describe your most relevant experience (research experience, work experience, upper level course experience, etc).
  2. Why do you want to pursue graduate research and what are your career ideas beyond graduate school?
  3. Why are you interested in joining my lab specifically?
  4. What research directions do you find interesting and what skills would you like to learn during your graduate work?

While not specific to U of T and not mandatory reading for prospective students, here are a few resources for applying to grad school in ecology and evolution that may be helpful as you prepare for and navigate the application process:

  • Carson et al. 2021: Advice on Applying to Graduate School in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: How to Prepare and a Step-By-Step Guide.

  • The UC Davis Population Biology Student Diversity Committee has created and compiled many helpful resources that are available on the website of their very cool E & E Grad School Preview program.

  • EEB Mentor Match matches prospective students from minoritized groups with mentors that can help with applications for graduate school and fellowships. They also have some helpful general information and links on their website. Note that they primarily focus on US students and programs, but if you think their program may be useful to you, you might as well request a mentor.

Prospective postdocs:

My goal is to support postdocs (intellectually, logistically, materially, and in their career development) as they pursue the scientific questions that they are most excited about and continue to develop independent research programs. If you’re interested in working with my group as a postdoc, please email me with a brief description of your research to-date, a brief description of your future research interests, and a CV. If our interests seem like a good match, I will be happy to sponsor/support/collaborate on applications for funding opportunities. There are a number of fellowships that can support postdocs at U of T; some are listed below.

  • Banting Postdoctoral fellowships: This national competition is open to both domestic and international applicants.

  • NSERC postdoctoral fellowships: This national competition is open to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and protected persons that are within 2 years of completing their PhD.

  • Liber Ero fellowships: These fellowships are for postdocs whose research has an applied conservation focus in Canadian systems. Liber Ero fellows are co-mentored by conservation practitioners. This competition is open to both domestic and international researchers.

  • U of T Provost’s fellowships: This university-wide competition is open to Black and Indigenous researchers, both domestic and international.

  • Arts and Science Postdoctoral Fellowship Program: This is a university-wide competition open to both domestic and international researchers.