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Simon Joly

English
Plant pollination by hand in the Botanical Garden greenhouses.
Photo: Marie-Hélène Croisetière

Ph.D., 2006
Université de Montréal 

  • Botanist, Montréal Botanical Garden
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Université de Montréal
  • Read his articles on our blog

About my work… 

I’ve been a researcher at the Botanical Garden since 2010, studying plant genetics and evolution. I try to understand the biodiversity around us and how plants adapt to their environment.

I observe plants in the wild and conduct genetic analyses. That often involves retracing plants’ genealogy, which then allows me to test my hypotheses about their evolution. My work focuses mainly on a group of tropical species in the Gesneriaceae family found in the West Indies.  I’m especially interested in the changes in the shape of their flowers that have occurred repeatedly as they have evolved, allowing the plants to attract different types of pollinators. Some plants went from being pollinated by hummingbirds to bats and vice versa. Hummingbirds often browse on tubular, colourful flowers, whereas bats prefer pale, open ones. How and why did these changes in shape occur? That’s what I try to find out, in particular by identifying the genes responsible for the change from one flower shape to another. 

I also use similar approaches in more applied projects. For instance, I try to understand how wheat adapts to drought conditions, which are apt to become more frequent with climate change.

Why I like research

It’s hard to find anything more fascinating than research. It’s an endless world of questions, and I want to find answers to all of them! I equate it with problem solving and I like finding the tools that can help me solve these questions. I’m enthusiastic and dynamic by nature, and I like throwing myself 100% into different projects. The recognition I get from my peers for my work adds even more value to my research and encourages me to keep improving and delivering the best possible work. 

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