Dirk Steinke (Group leader)
Google scholar profile

I have a passion for aquatic life specifically fishes ever since my father and I kept and bred many ornamental fish species in various tanks at our home. Despite this I started my professional life as a gardener before moving on to University and doing my MSc research on the molecular systematics of the land snail group Helicoidea at the Ecology & Evolution department at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. My doctorate research at the University of Konstanz on gene and genome duplication and the evolution of novel gene functions in vertebrates brought me back to fish. In 2006, I joined the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario – Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (CBG) as postdoctoral fellow. I have been involved in DNA barcoding research since its early days. Among other things I coordinated MarBOL, an international research program to barcoding marine species, supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York City. I served as CBG’s Associate Director of Education & Outreach from 2012-2017. During my tenure I initiated an influential blog, edited a quarterly newsletter for the barcode research community, and developed an experiential biodiversity learning program for students in grades K-12. I am also the developer and instructor for three online courses in the field of DNA barcoding that are offered through the University of Guelph’s distance education portfolio. Today, I serve as Associate Director for Analytics managing some of CBG’s research portfolio and in particular its activities within Food from Thought and the CBG Imaging unit. In 2017 I was appointed adjunct professor at the Department of Integrative Biology (IB) and I serve as associate graduate faculty for IB, Bioinformatics, OneHealth, and the Collaborative Specialization in Artificial Intelligence program.


Bettina Thalinger (PostDoc)
Google scholar profile

I’m a PostDoc in the lab of Dirk Steinke at the Centre of Biodiversity Genomics. My current research focus is on the detection of avian environmental DNA from water samples and the optimization of sampling and laboratory processes for this purpose. Before coming to Guelph, I was a PostDoc in the eDNA-Alpfish project at the University of Innsbruck and worked on the DNA-based detection of fish in Alpine rivers. Generally, I am interested in molecular ecology and have a background in studying trophic interactions due to my PhD on molecular methods to study the feeding ecology of cormorants, and my master thesis on the management of click beetle larvae. Before focussing entirely on biology, I also completed the diploma programs International Business, and Political Economy at the University of Innsbruck.  

Analytics staff

Jaclyn McKeown
(Imaging Facility Lead)

I am the Imaging Facility Lead at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics. I oversee the activities of the Imaging Facility which is staffed by one full-time and three part-time technicians. I ensure that a broad range of digital imaging, microscopy and image-processing equipment is well maintained. As well, I ensure that the facility produces high-quality images and validates them before uploading them to the BOLD Systems database.
I met Dr. Paul Hebert and Dr. Dirk Steinke in 2006 during an Arctic Field course at the University of Guelph, when DNA barcoding was at its infancy. Since then I wanted to be a part of the project. After taking over a million images the past decade I still love seeing all the new species that come through the lab.

Jessica Robinson
(Imaging technician)

I completed my B.Sc. in Zoology at Swansea University (Wales, U.K.) and previously worked as a veterinary assistant. I have experience surveying and rehabilitating micro bats through many years of working as a bat ecologist, volunteering with the Bat Conservation Trust, and the National Bat Monitoring Project . Currently I am working in the Analytics group as a Junior Technician. 
My aims for the future is to continue working within the world of environmental science, ecology, and biodiversity. I also manage the website along with the social media accounts. 

Grad students

Sage Handler
(MSc student)
co-Advisor Nigel Raine

I am a master’s student who is co-supervised by Dr. Steinke and Dr. Nigel Raine in the School of Environmental Sciences. I completed a Bachelor of Science in Ecology at the University of Guelph in 2018. I am working on the Bees@Schools project, which has sent bee hotels to high schools across Canada to track wild cavity-nesting bee demography and plant-pollinator interactions. To learn more about my project check out
I grew up on a small, organic farm and have always enjoyed being outdoors more than indoors. I am a 4th generation beekeeper and love to help my dad in the apiary. Since discovering that there are hundreds of other types of beautiful, wild bees, I knew that I wanted to research them. I have been working with wild bees since 2017 when I joined the Raine Lab as an undergraduate research assistant.

Julia Harvie
(MSc student)
co-advisor Dan Tulpan

I am a MSc student in the Bioinformatics AI specialization program at the University of Guelph. I have been a member of Steinke lab for almost three years. My work here has primarily focussed on developing an R script that extrapolates community distribution based on malaise trap data. I enjoy writing code to increase data processing efficiently and to apply statistical techniques to biological data sets.

Christopher Hempel
(PhD candidate)
co-Advisor Sarah Adamowicz
Google scholar profile

I’m originally from Germany, where I finished my BSc in Biology and MSc in Biodiversity, and am now in the second year of my PhD at the University of Guelph. I’m interested in freshwater biodiversity and how to use it for freshwater biomonitoring. I would classify myself somewhere between a molecular biologist and a bioinformatician, trying to improve molecular methods for most accurate bioinformatical data analysis. My project aims to compare metagenomics and metatranscriptomics of multi-kingdom freshwater communities for biomonitoring. In particular, I want to make use of machine learning algorithms to generate predictive models for the ecological status of a freshwater ecosystem. My long-term goal is to implement predictive models into biomonitoring on a worldwide scale, leading to an internationally standardized system for environmental protection, preservation, and restoration.

Natalie Houde
(MSc Student)
co-advisor M. Alex Smith

I am a new MSc student in the Steinke lab. I graduated in Biology and French in the Bachelor of Arts and Science program and completed a certificate in Environmental Conservation. As I have developed an enormous interest in Ecology, I am beginning my masters in Integrative Biology with a focus in this field.

Marie-Eugenie Maggia
(PhD candidate)
co-advisor Karl Cottenie

My current research areas include community ecology and invertebrates (earthworms). Understanding how communities are formed enables us to predict their dynamics in response to environmental changes. This information is therefore of great value. Earthworms are abundant invertebrates representing an important part of soil biomass. They are involved in essential ecological processes that govern soil function and production of ecosystems services (key species). My PhD project aims to assess diversity level, community composition and assembling rules for earthworm communities, as well as the impact of agricultural practices on them. For this, I will use a comparative approach utilizing data from tropical and temperate regions, and an integrative approach that combines the use of molecular taxonomic, functional trait and community phylogeny features. Prior to my PhD, I was involved in research during my BSc in Biology and Ecology where I did a phylogenetic analysis of a red algae (Asparagopsis taxiformis) from the Pacific Ocean with the use of barcoding technology. Then, I completed two masters in Ecology and Marine Biology in France. During my masters, I did several studies on the analysis of the diversity of the genus Halimeda (calcified green algae) in coral reef environments, the development of a new NGS (Next Generation Sequencing) sequencing method for studying the specific diversity of Peruvian Amazonian catfish larvae and the analysis of genetic diversity of a Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) Australian population. All these studies where based on the use of molecular tools such as barcoding and metabarcoding.
Having been raised in tropical countries, such as French Guyana and New-Caledonia, in contact with nature was a chance and sparked my curiosity about the diversity of organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. These personal and professional experiences allowed me to develop an interest for the study, the understanding and the preservation of the environment and the ecosystems which compose it, with the help of molecular tools.


Rachel Empey (work study student)
I am currently completing my Biological Science degree, with a minor in Geography. I work in the Steinke Lab for Bettina, currently working on bird tissue DNA extracts. After I graduate, I hope to find a hands-on research experience that will give me valuable experience in data collection. I hope one day I can travel to remote destinations and discover new biological mysteries!

Shanna MacDonald (work study student)
I am a research assistant and an undergraduate student completing a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science. I was involved in collecting field samples for several malaise trap projects over the summer and I am currently processing those samples. One of these projects is trying to determine what effect wind has on terrestrial arthropod community composition.

Katerina Coveny (volunteer 2019-)
I am in my third year of the BSc Biological Sciences program at the University of Guelph with a minor in Ecology. I am a volunteer in the Steinke lab, assisting Sage with her work on the Bees@Schools project. After completing my degree, I am hoping to pursue research and complete a masters degree.

Former Lab members

Thomas Braukmann (PostDoc 2018-2020) – Research Associate at Stanford University
Bilgenur Baloğlu (PostDoc 2018-2020) – Lead bioinformatician at Sequential Skin
Vasco Elbrecht (Postdoc 2017-2019) – PostDoc at ETH Zurich – Environmental DNA group (Kristy Deiner)
Akshaya Chandrashekar (BSc FS2019, WS2020) – Graduate student at Ontario Veterinary College
Ellen Richard (MSc Environmental Science 2017-2019)
Jennien Raffington (MSc Bioinformatics 2019-2020) – Data Analyst at Bonfire
Mieke Boecker (Co-op WS2020)
Yara Ibrahim (Co-op WS2020 and FS2020)
Natalie Wright (Co-op WS2020, BSc student SS/FS 2020)
Allison Zyba (Co-op WS2020)