Ricciardi Lab
Invasion Ecology & Aquatic Ecosystems

Redpath Museum & Bieler School of Environment
McGill University

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Research Interests

Curriculum Vitae

   Gen D'Avignon
   Sunci Avlijas
   Kennedy Zwarych
   Megan Hutchings
   Christophe Benjamin
   Noémie Sheppard

Selected Publications

Media Coverage

Invasive Species

Lab News

Graduate Students


The fate of microplastics in fluvial food webs.


For my PhD research, I am using a network approach to evaluate the ecological risks associated with microplastic contamination of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River system. To keep this research ecologically and socially relevant, I am using microplastics concentrations reported from environmental samples from the St. Lawrence River to design experiments to generate detailed knowledge of their bioavailability to wildlife, their pathway of entry and fate in food webs, and their impacts on aquatic communities. More specifically, I am using a community module of three highly interacting species: dreissenid mussels, gammarid amphipods and round gobies to understand the role of environmental abundance, vector pathways and species interactions - including trophic (predator-prey) and behavioural (mutualistic, commensalistic) interactions - on microplastic contamination within aquatic food webs.



Spatio-temporal variation in the colonization success and impacts of globally invasive freshwater fishes.


My PhD research investigates patterns of colonization and impact of invasive freshwater fishes. My model species include the Round Goby and the Tench (Tinca tinca). The latter is a Eurasian species that has been introduced globally. I am taking a large-scale approach to understanding context-dependent variation across local, regional and biogeographic scales, using a combination of field surveys, functional response experiments and morphometric (shape space) analysis. My field work is currently being conducted in various areas of North American and South Africa.



Longterm changes to St. Lawrence River freshwater benthic invertebrate communities


With collaborators from Environment Canada, I am compiling historical data from the last thirty years to characterize changes in invertebrate community composition. My MSc research will create a resource that allows for other biologists to test their own hypotheses relating to this data set. Retrospectively, we have good knowledge of when recent invaders became established in the St. Lawrence River and how much the climate has warmed, so it is possible to investigate changes to invertebrate communities in the river before and after these events. Time allowing, this project may hypothesize and explore potential relationships between these external stressors and benthic invertebrates in the river.

Kennedy Zwarych


Comparative functional responses of gobiid fishes under elevated temperatures


For my MSc research, I will be using predictive methods to determine the potential impacts of emerging and existing aquatic invasive species in the St. Lawrence River: the Tubenose goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris) and the Round goby (Neogobius melanostomus). Furthermore, I will examine how climate change will affect the future invasion success of both species, using a comparative functional response approach to quantify prey consumption as a function of prey density. This will allow interpretation of the per capita effects of these invaders towards native prey species. In parallel, I will examine both species’ capacity to perform and survive in increasing water temperatures by measuring Critical Thermal maximum (CTmax).



Impact of European Tench (Tinca tinca) on native benthivorous fishes.


The tench, a globally invasive freshwater fish, has been introduced in the Richelieu River some 30 years ago. Since then, it has spread all over the St. Lawrence River and will soon colonize eastern Lake Ontario. The tench is known for its tremendous environmental tolerance, and negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems have been documented. In recent years, its rapid range expansion has brought this species to the attention of Great Lakes managers and stakeholders. I am particularly interested in the competitive impact of tench on native catostomids, an ecologically important group of fishes which include species-at-risk. To test this, my MSc research compares growth rates of both tench and functionally-similar native species using conspecific and interspecific treatments in mesocosm experiments. In addition, I am working in collaboration with other researchers on methods of tench capture and prediction of establishment success based on historical data.



Predicting context-dependent impacts of invasive crayfishes.


I am primarily interested in the relationship between environmental context and the invasion success. My MSc research predicts how increased surface water temperatures, following climate change, may modify the impacts of invasive crayfish in the Great Lakes. Focusing on two invasive crayfish from aquaria, namely the red swamp (Procambarus clarkii) and marbled crayfish (Procambarus virginalis), my work examines the effect of temperature on resource consumption and competition. Following previous work in the lab, resource consumption will be modelled using comparative functional responses, and resource competition will be modelled with various agonistic interaction experiments. The aim of this research is to better inform policy surrounding the importation of potentially invasive crayfishes into Canada.

Noemie Sheppard