Research and capacity building

The goal of these projects is to identify, analyze, and develop sustainable practices and techniques that rural communities can adopt in order to sustainably use their resources while protecting the health of their ecosystem for future generations.

Global research projects

The general research program has the following objectives:

  • 1) To enhance the current collaboration on the ecological management of agricultural insect pests and contribute to building an international research group based on research excellence.
  • 2) To focus on the functional genomics, population genetics, and landscape ecology of the important insect pests on vegetable crops and tea through innovative and integrative research.
  • 3) To produce influential scientific contributions in the fields of insect pest-host plant co-evolution and ecological control of insect pests, and to advance biological control of insect pests and food security in China using an ecosystem approach.

This is accomplished through several different projects:

The evolutionary relationships and geographical patterns of genetically varied populations of diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.):

Funder/ Project Team:
Natural Science Foundation of China – International program
M. You, FAFU, and L. Vasseur as co-applicants

Agricultural intensification and greater production of cruciferous crops over the past decades have increased worldwide pest status of the diamondback moth (DBM), Plutella xylostella L. However, knowledge on its genetic structure, global movement and distribution, and phylogeographical relationships remains surprisingly limited. This project aims to explore the genetic differentiation and global phylogeography of the DBM populations using molecular marker (SSR), mitochondrial genome and DNA re-sequencing approaches.

Understanding landscape genetics of diamond back moth in China (M. You FAFU; L. Vasseur, collaborator) Natural Science Foundation of China

Funder/ Project Team:
Natural Science Foundation of China
M. You, FAFU, L. Vasseur

The diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.), a destructive pest of cruciferous crops worldwide, is an important species to study as it is resistant to many types of insecticides as well as biological control Bacillus thuringiensis toxins. The projects aim to examine different aspects of the genetics of the species such as ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters, landscape genomics in China, phylogeographical analysis of DBM and its parasitoid Cotesia vestalis using mitochondrial and nuclear markers, etc.

Understanding the influence of the Brassica species distribution and environmental factors on the DBM distribution across Ecuador: a landscape genomics approach

Funder/ Project Team:
L. Vasseur and M. You; FAFU-ESPOCH agreement

The aim of this PhD project is to examine the influence of the distribution of wild and cultivated brassica species and the environmental and climatic conditions in locales along a gradient going from the Amazon to the coastal areas using a landscape approach.

The project will have three components: 1) collection of wild and cultivated Brassica and identification, 2) collection of diamondback moth (DBM) and other Plutella spp. On these plants, and 3) genomics of the DBM specimens collected to understand its landscape genomics in Ecuador.

Innovation Center for Ecologically-Based Pest Management of Subtropical Crops

Funder/ Project Team:
Minsheng You,  in conjunction with State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) of China, 111 Program.

The production of subtropical crops greatly contributes to local and regional economies. It is also crucial for access of diversified food to people worldwide. However, economic crops are constantly subject to damage from a wide range of insect pests under favorable weather conditions. With climate change, such threats are projected to increase with new pests invading crop fields. Habitat management, biological control, and genetic manipulation of insect pests are three novel strategies for ecologically-based pest management that will significantly support food security/safety and environmental sustainability. This is an international collaboration of scientists on well-planned projects to generate theoretically sound and practically applicable outcomes concerning management of pests that need to be dealt with for sustainable crop production. Vasseur is coordinating the habitat management group along with her Chinese partner, Dr. Wenwu Zhou.

Ecology and management of a tea plantation pest, green tea leafhopper.

Funder/ Project Team:
L. Vasseur and M. You

This project has led to the publication of a few papers and a PhD thesis, evaluating  ecology and the influence of lights as a way to control the pest. Other studies have dealt with the hydrophobicity of the species when exposed to water.

Collaborative research program on sustainability of agricultural systems in the face of climate change in the paramos in Ecuador

Funder/Project Team:
Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (FAFU), Brock, and Escuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo (ESPOCH)
Funding from: ESPOCH and FAFU

This research program is in development and will bring collaboration of the universities to examine how sustainable agriculture can be implemented in the paramos where climate change and land degradation are currently affecting the viability of local communities.

This will integrate various aspects from climate change scenarios, carbon inventory, sustainable agriculture including pest management, etc.

Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program

Funder/Project Team:
With Lakehead University (Brian McLaren, PI) for ESPOCH and FAFU

The project, entitled “Agro-biodiversity, Nutrition and Sustainable Marketing of Heritage Crops in Ecuador and Canada,” aims to work with researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Lakehead, Brock, and a university in Ecuador called Escuela Superior Politecnica de Chimborazo (ESPOCH).

Over the next three years, the team will examine how communities in Ecuador and Ontario, Canada, can expand their food production by preserving their heritage crops and growing diversity of crop species together.

EVAMAB stands for “Economic valuation of ecosystem services in Man and Biosphere reserves: testing effective rapid assessment methods in selected African MABs”.

The project addresses the evaluation of the economic value of ecosystem services (ES) in UNESCO-MAB sites from a regional perspective (Africa) and focuses on sites from 4 countries: Benin, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda. The expected results will contribute to the transition to green economy in Africa. This project lasts 30 months (2017-2019) and is financed in the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding between Belspo (Belgian Science Policy) and UNESCO to support research activities in Biosphere Reserves (BR).

EVAMAB closing workshop in Ethiopia, May 2019:



Assessing Ecosystem Services in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves
Évaluation des services écosystémiques dans les réserves de biosphère de l’UNESCO

Collaborative research on the development and potential commercialization of key technologies for agricultural soil remediation and improvement

Funder/Project Team:
Vasseur and M. You
Ontario-China Research and Innovation Fund (Ontario MRI and China MOST)

In partnership with Frederique Guinel (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Boreal Agrominerals

Because of growing concerns about environmental degradation and health risks caused by chemical contamination in soil and crops, farmers are interested in finding strategies to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides while improving overall ecosystem health.

The project aims to examine an innovative strategy where three cover crops, an agromineral (a specific type of soil that possesses fertilizing properties). The ecosystem in its entirety was examined including soil microbes, invertebrates, and chemical composition, ground vegetation, grape performance in terms of grape composition, and terrestrial invertebrates.

Drawing on collaboration and partnerships that span two decades, a joint team will be organized to study the soil remediation of tea plantations in Southern China and that of vineyards in Ontario.