Biodiversity research aims to document the enormous diversity of life on earth and to identify the factors that generate and maintain this diversity.

Scientists at UBC's Biodiversity Research Centre (BRC) investigate the ecology, evolution, and conservation of biological diversity through research at all levels, from genes to ecosystems through to interactions with society. As the scope of global climate change, human-caused habitat alterations, and associated extinction rates rise, the need to understand and conserve biodiversity and the ecosystem functions that it sustains has never been more pressing.

Research Strengths

  • Community Ecology

    The Earth is losing species at a higher rate than at any other time since the extinction of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago.

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  • Ecosystem Services and Conservation Policy

    The ecological impacts of environmental change have real implications for people (e.g., through ecosystem services, such as air and water purification, natural resource production, and other benefits to humanity) and so demand management and policy responses.

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  • Environmental Change

    Humans are rapidly altering the environment of many species, reducing range size and habitat quality and altering ecological processes. Researchers at the Biodiversity Centre are exploring how species and communities respond to altered environmental conditions, how processes of migration and species assembly are affected, and how evolutionary processes influence which populations are able to keep apace of environmental change.

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  • Evolutionary and Ecological Theory

    Mathematical modeling is an important tool in biodiversity research, as it allows scientists to explore processes that act over large time or spatial scales and to reveal the interrelationships among factors influencing ecological and/or evolutionary processes.

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  • Marine Biodiversity

    The vast majority of the Earth's oceans remain unexplored, and the diversity, distribution, abundance, and interrelationships of marine life represent one of the greatest frontiers in modern science.

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  • Microbial Diversity and Evolution

    Scientists at the BRC investigate the biodiversity present among some of the least understood organisms. These include: microbes, including bacteria, archaeans, eukaryotes and viruses. This research addresses fundamental questions about the interrelationships and evolutionary histories of microbial life forms using genomic, molecular, and detailed morphological comparative approaches. 

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  • Plant Evolution

    Plants are among the most conspicuous organisms around us, they occupy almost every terrestrial habitat, and they are crucial for our food supply. Researchers at the Centre are studying a variety of topics concerning plant evolution including speciation, invasiveness, adaptation, developmental evolution, systematics, gene expression, genomics, mating systems, and polyploidization. Systems studied include natural populations, cultivated plants, and genetic model systems. Some research uses resources in the UBC Botanical Garden and the Herbarium.

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  • Population Ecology

    A myriad of factors influence the population size of a species, including predators, disease agents, and resource levels, as well as natural and human-induced disturbance. There is a long-standing tradition at UBC of world-class research investigating these factors and determining their relative importance, especially in species whose population sizes cycle over time.

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  • Speciation Research

    Understanding biodiversity not only requires that we know what species are present and what factors ensure their survival, but also what factors promote diversification and speciation in the first place.

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  • Systematics and Phylogenetics

    With an estimated 30-50 million species on earth, the vast majority of which have not even been discovered, a major goal of biodiversity research is to identify, describe, and classify species, promote an understanding of their origins, and place them within the Tree of Life, which represents our shared biological heritage.

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