Jonathan Rolland

The world is full of life, but some areas have more species than others, and some species are threatened, while others aren't. What's behind the difference? Zoologist and 2016-2017 Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Jonathan Rolland believes that the speed at which a species evolves into a particular niche might explain both questions.

Jonathan Rolland, 2016-2017 Banting Postdoctoral Fellow


Dolph Schluter


Research topic

Reconstructing niche evolution in vertebrates and its consequences on the origin of latitudinal diversity gradient and extinction risk.

Research Description

Understanding why some regions harbor more species than others and explaining why some species are threatened and some are not, are two main unsolved problems of evolutionary biology. Because the climatic preferences (climatic niche) of species determine their distributions and their movements during climate changes, measuring the speed of niche evolution might help to explain both of these problems at once. In this project, I use new models to reconstruct the past species distribution in four large groups of vertebrates (birds, mammals, amphibians, and squamates). This reconstruction will permit me to understand why species are distributed the way they are on the planet (e.g. understanding why there are more species in the tropics than in temperate regions) and potentially also why some species are threatened at present time.

Why did you decide to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship at UBC? Did you consider other opportunities?

UBC is one of the most renowned universities in North America for evolutionary biology. I am very enthusiastic to meet and work with the researchers there.

What specifically attracted you to your research group?

The possibility to link fieldwork (and data at present time) with evolutionary dynamics at longer time scales.

What advice do you have for new postdoctoral fellows?

Keep motivated!

What do you like to do for fun?

Skiing, climbing, mountaineering,...

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your postdoctoral fellowship?

It is always enjoyable to do research without thinking about the funding. I am very glad to take this opportunity during this two next years. I think that the Vanier-Banting fellowship also provides many possibilities to communicate about my research objectives.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced, or anticipate facing, in your career?

Finding a permanent position in research is a quite challenging long-term goal!

What does receiving this award mean for your career?

It will permit me to go further in my research, and to discover the research at UBC.