Forest and Conservation Sciences
Forest Sciences Centre 3041
2424 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
Canada
phone: 604-822-6020

Our lab seeks to understand the population genetic structure of temperate and boreal trees, and the evolutionary dynamics that have resulted in that structure. We are particularly interested in the extent of local adaptation to climate in tree populations, the phenotypic traits and genes involved in local adaptation, and the capacity of those populations to adapt to new climates. To investigate this question we are using genomic tools as well as phenotypic data from common gardens and controlled environment experiments. We also infer the phylogeography, demographic history, and levels of gene flow of these populations using a variety of selectively neutral genetic markers. Finally, our work is applied to guide genetic conservation and management strategies for our forests. Our research is funded through Genome Canada, Genome BC, the Forest Genetics Council of BC, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).


Projects

Adapting gene resource management to climate change

NSERC Strategic and BIOCAP Canada Foundation

AdapTree: Assessing the adaptive portfolio of reforestation stocks for future climates Current
July, 2011June, 2014
http://adaptree.sites.olt.ubc.ca/

The primary objective of this large-scale genomics project funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions and the Forest Genetics Council of BC is to improve provincial seed transfer policy and operational forest management response to climate change by: 1) comparing the adaptive portfolio of operational seedlots from tree breeding programs and seed orchards to the climatic distribution and landscape genomics of natural populations; 2) developing strategies for operational seed transfer that will reduce the risk of loss of forest productivity and health due to maladaptation in planted forests; and 3) evaluating ecological, economic, social, and legal implications of these results for forest-dependent communities and ecosystems. In the process of meeting these objectives, we are learning a great deal about the genomic basis of local adaptation in conifers, microevolutionary processes in conifer populations, and the capacity of these populations to respond to climate change through adaptation and through phenotypic plasticity.

Conservation and the Genetics of Populations, 2e Completed
20102012
http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-EHEP002672.html

This conservation genetics textbook authored by Fred Allendorf, Gordon Luikart, and Sally Aitken was published in 2012 by Wiley-Blackwell. It provides a comprehensive overview of the essential concepts and tools needed to understand the role of genetics in the conservation of threatened species and in the management of species of ecological and economic importance.

Evolutionary responses of tree populations to climate change
20082012

The synthesis of knowledge about the capacity for evolutionary responses to a rapidly changing climate, and the capacity for human intervention to accelerate those responses, has been the focus of several recent review papers (Aitken et al. 2008, Alberto et al. 2013, Franks et al. In press, Aitken and Whitlock In Press), and these syntheses have influenced research directions in our lab.

Hybridization, introgression and local adaptation
20082012

Professional Affiliations

Canadian Tree Improvement Association
Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution
Western Forest Genetics Association

Awards

Canadian Forestry Scientific Achievement Award, Canadian Institute of Forestry , 2009
UBC Killam Teaching Prize , 2010

Current Graduate Students

Joane Elleouet, PhD
Range expansion and adaptation of Sitka spruce
Ian MacLachlan, PhD
Evaluating the genome-wide effects of selective breeding on adaptive diversity in reforestation seedlots for future climates
C Susannah Tysor, PhD
Mapping potential gene flow in pine and spruce
Colin Mahony, MSc
Trajectories of climate change in British Columbia: Investigating climate variability, differentiation, and novelty using the Biogeoclimatic Ecosystem Classification

Post Doctoral Fellows and Research Assistants

Sam Yeaman
Robin Mellway
Tongli Wang
Pia Smets
Kathryn Hodgins

Current Courses

Winter 2014

FRST210 Forest Plant Biology II Sections

The functional biology of trees and other forest plants in their environment, with an emphasis on gymnosperms.

Winter 2014

CONS501 Topics in Conservation Genetics Sections

The genetics of small populations, inbreeding, extinction risks due to genetic versus demography factors, adaptation and climate change, and methods for assessing genetic diversity for conservation planning.

Selected Publications


Franks, S.J., J. J. Weber and S.N. Aitken (2014). Evolutionary and plastic responses to climate change in terrestrial plant populations Evolutionary Applications 7: 123-139.
AR De La Torre, DR Roberts, SN Aitken (2014). Genome‐wide admixture and ecological niche modeling reveal the maintenance of species boundaries despite long history of interspecific gene flow Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.12710
AR De La Torre, T Wang, B Jaquish, SN Aitken (2014). Adaptation and exogenous selection in a Picea glauca× Picea engelmannii hybrid zone: implications for forest management under climate change New Phytologist 201: 687-699
Yeaman, S; Hodgins, KA; Suren, H.; Nurkowski, KA; Rieseberg, LH; Holliday, JA; Aitken, SN (2014). Conservation and divergence of gene expression plasticity following ~140 million years of evolution in lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and interior spruce (Picea glauca x P. engelmannii) New Phytologist
Reid, K.E., J.A. Holliday, M. Yuen, A. Nguyen, S.N. Aitken, J. Bohlmann. (2013). Sequencing of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) cDNA libraries constructed from autumn buds and foliage reveals autumn-specific spruce transcripts Tree Genetics and Genomes 9: 683-691.
Hamann, A. and S.N. Aitken (2013). Conservation planning under climate change: accounting for adaptive potential and migration capacity in species distribution models Diversity and Distributions 19: 268-280.
Hamilton, J.A., C. Lexer and S.N. Aitken (2013). Genomic and phenotypic architecture of a spruce hybrid zone (Picea sitchensis and P. glauca) Molecular Ecology 22: 827-841.
Hamilton, J.A., C. Lexer and S.N. Aitken. (2013). Differential introgression reveals candidate genes for selection across a spruce (Picea sitchensis x P. glauca) hybrid zone New Phytologist 197: 927-938.
Sork, V.L., S.N. Aitken, R.J. Dyer, A.J. Eckert, P. Legendre, D.B. Neale (2013). Putting the landscape into the genomics of trees: approaches for understanding local adaptation and population responses to changing climate Tree Genetics and Genomes 9: 901-911.
Alberto, F.J., S.N. Aitken, R. Alia, S.C. Gonzalez-Martinez, H. Hanninen, A. Kremer, F. Lefevre, T. LeNormand, S. Yeaman, R. Whetten and O. Savolainen. (2013). Potential for evolutionary responses to climate change – evidence from tree populations Global Change Biology 19:1645-1661.
Aitken, S.N. and M.C. Whitlock (2013). Assisted gene flow to facilitate local adaptation to climate change Annual Review of Ecology Evolution and Systematics.
Hamilton, J.A. and S.N. Aitken (2013). Genetic and morphological structure of a spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong) Carr. x P. glauca Moensch Voss) hybrid zone along a climatic gradient American Journal of Botany 100:1651-1662.
Holliday, J.A., T. Wang and S.N. Aitken (2012). Predicting adaptive phenotypes from multilocus genotypes in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) using Random Forest G3 – Genes Genomes Genetics 2: 1085-1093.
Wang, T., E.M. Campbell, G.A. O’Neill and S.N. Aitken. (2012). Projecting future distributions of ecosystem climate niches: Uncertainties and management applications Forest Ecology and Management 279: 128-140.
McLane, SC and SN Aitken (2012). Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) assisted migration potential: Testing establishment north of the species range Ecological Applications 22: 142-153.
Holliday, J.A., H. Suktan and S.N. Aitken (2012). Divergent selection and heterogeneous migration rates across the range of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 279: 1675-1683.
Dauwe, R., Holliday, J.A., Aitken, S.N., Mansfield, S.D. (2012). Metabolic dynamics during autumn cold acclimation within and among phenotypically divergent populations of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) New Phytologist. 194(1): 192-205.
Allendorf, F.W., G. Luikart and S.N. Aitken (2012). Conservation and the genetics of populations. Second Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
Bower, A.D., S.C. McLane, A. Eckert, S. Jorgensen, A. Schoettle and S.N. Aitken (2011). Conservation of high elevation five-needle pines In Kean, R.E., D.F. Tomback, M.P. Murray and C.M. Smith, eds. The future of high-elevation, five-needle white pines in Western North America: Proceedings of the High Five Symposium 28-30 June 2010, Missoula, MT. Proceedings RMRS-P-63. For Collins, CO. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 376 p.
Bower, A.D. and S.N. Aitken (2011). Changes in genetic diversity of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) associated with inbreeding and white pine blister rust Silvae Genetica 60: 113-123.
McLane, S.C., V.M. LeMay, and S.N. Aitken (2011). Modeling lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) radial growth relative to climate and genetics using universal growth-trend response functions. Ecological Society of America Ecological Applications 21: 776-788.
McLane, S.C., Daniels, L.D., and S.N. Aitken (2011). Climate impacts on lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) radial growth in a provenance experiment Forest Ecology and Management 262: 115-123.
Keir, KR, JB Bemmels and SN Aitken (2011). Low genetic diversity, moderate local adaptation, and phylogeographic insights in Cornus nuttallii (Cornaceae) American Journal of Botany 98: 1327-1336.
Bower, A.D., D. Kolotelo and S.N. Aitken (2011). Effects of length of storage and stratification on germination of whitebark pine seeds Western Journal of Applied Forestry 26: 24-29.
Mimura, M. and S.N.Aitken (2010). Local adaptation at the range peripheries of Sitka spruce Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23: 249-258.
Holliday, J.A., M. Yuen, K.Ritland and S.N. Aitken (2010). Postglacial history of a widespread conifer produces inverse clines in selective neutrality tests Molecular Ecology 18: 3857-3864.
Holliday, J.A., K. Ritland and S.N. Aitken (2010). Widespread ecologically-relevant genetic markers developed from association mapping of climate-related traits in Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) New Phytologist 188: 501-514.
Wang, T., G.A. O’Neill and S.N. Aitken (2010). Integrating environmental and genetic effects to predict responses of tree populations to climate Ecological Applications 20: 153-163.
Chourmouzis C, A Hamann, AD Yanchuk, P. Smets and SN Aitken. (2009). Forest Tree Genetic Conservation Status Report 1: In Situ Conservation Status of All Indigenous B.C. Species. BC Ministry of Forests Technical Report 053. 71 p.
Krakowski J, C Chourmouzis, AD Yanchuk, D Kolotelo, A Hamann, and SN Aitken (2009). Forest Tree Genetic Conservation Status Report 2: Genetic Conservation Status of Operational Tree Species BC Ministry of Forests and Range Forest Science Program Technical Report 054. 45 p.
Holliday J.A., Ralph S., White R., Bohlmann J. and Aitken, S.N. (2008). Global monitoring of gene expression during autumn cold acclimation among rangewide populations of Sitka spruce [Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.] New Phytologist 178: 103-122.
Bower, A.D. and S.N. Aitken. (2008). Genetic Diversity and Geographic Differentiation in Quantitative Traits, and Seed Transfer Guidelines for Pinus albicaulis (Pinaceae). American Journal of Botany 95: 66-76.
Ukrainetz, N. K., Kang, K.-Y., Aitken, S.N., Stoehr, M., Mansfield, S.D. (2008). Heritability, phenotypic and genetic correlations of coastal Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) wood quality traits. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 38:1536-1546.
Aitken, S.N., S. Yeaman, J.A. Holliday, T. Wang and S. Curtis-McLane. (2008). Adaptation, migration or extirpation: Climate change outcomes for tree populations. Evolutionary Applications 1: 95-111.
Bower, A.D. and S.N. Aitken. (2007). Mating System and Inbreeding Depression in Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.). Tree Genetics and Genomes. 3: 379-388.
Mimura, M. and S.N. Aitken (2007). Increased selfing and decreased effective pollen donor number in peripheral relative to central populations in Picea sitchensis (Pinaceae). American Journal of Botany 94: 991-998.
Gapare, W.J., A.D. Yanchuk and S.N. Aitken (2007). Optimal sampling strategies for capture of genetic diversity differ between core and peripheral populations of Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. Conservation Genetics. DOI 10.1007/s10592-007-9353-8.
Mimura, M. and S.N. Aitken (2007). Adaptive gradients and isolation by distance with postglacial migration in Picea sitchensis. Heredity 99: 224-232.
Wang, T., A. Hamann, D. Spittlehouse and S.N. Aitken. (2006). Development of scale-free climate data for western Canada for use in resource management International Journal of Climatology 26: 383-397.
Chuine, I., G.E. Rehfeldt and S.N. Aitken (2006). Height growth determinants in pines: a case study of Pinus contorta and Pinus monticola Can. J. For. Res. 36: 1059-1066.
Bower, A.D. and S.N. Aitken. (2006). Genetics of cold hardiness in whitebark pine Can. J. For. Res. 36: 1842-1850.
Wang, T., A. Hamann, A. Yanchuk, G.A. O’Neill and S.N. Aitken (2006). Use of response functions in estimating current and future forest productivity of lodgepole pine Global Change Biology 12: 1-13.
Hamann, A., P. Smets, A.D. Yanchuk and S.N. Aitken (2005). An ecogeographic framework for in situ conservation of forest trees in British Columbia. Can. J. For. Res. 35: 2553-2561.
El-Kassaby Y.A., K. Ritland, C.E. Ritland, S.N. Aitken, J. Bohlmann, and J. Krakowski. (2005). Forest genetics. -In: Forestry handbook (S.B. Watts and L. Tolland, eds.), 5th ed. Faculty of Forestry, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. 474-486pp.
Wheeler, N.C., K.D. Jermstad, K.V. Krutovskii, S.N. Aitken, G.T. Howe, J. Krakowski and D.B. Neale. (2005). Mapping of quantitative trait loci controlling adaptive traits in coastal Douglas-fir. IV. Cold hardiness QTL verification and candidate gene mapping. Molecular Breeding 15: 145-156.
Gapare, W.J., S.N. Aitken and C. Ritland (2005). Genetic diversity of core and peripheral Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr) populations: implications for conservation of widespread species. Biological Conservation 123: 113-123.
Gapare, W.J. and S.N. Aitken (2005). Strong spatial genetic structure in peripheral but not core populations of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) Molecular Ecology 14: 2659-2667.
Aitken, S.N. (2004). Genecology and adaptation of forest trees. Elsevier Encyclopedia of Forest Sciences Article 86, pp. 197-2004.
Wang, T., S.N. Aitken, J.H. Woods, K. Polsson and S. Magnussen (2004). Effects of inbreeding on coastal Douglas-fir growth and yield in operational plantations: A model-based approach Theoretical and Applied Genetics 108(6): 1162-1171.
Hamann, A., S. N. Aitken, A. D. Yanchuk (2004). Cataloguing in situ protection of genetic resources for major commercial forest trees in British Columbia Forest Ecology and Management 197: 295-305.
Bennuah, S.Y., T. Wang and S.N. Aitken (2004). Genetic analysis of the Picea sitchensis x glauca introgression zone in British Columbia Forest Ecology and Management 197: 65-77.
O’Neill, G.A. and S.N. Aitken (2004). Area-based breeding zones to minimize maladaptation Can. J. For. Res. 34: 695-704
De La Torre, A.R., T. Wang, B. Jaquish. S.N. Aitken (2004). Adaptation and exogenous selection in the Picea glauca x P. engelmannii hybrid zone: Implications for forests under climate change New Phytologist (In press)
Howe, G.T., S.N. Aitken, D.B. Neale, K.D. Jermstad, N.C. Wheeler and T.H.H. Chen (2003). From genotype to phenotype: Unraveling the complexities of cold adaptation in forest trees Can. J. Bot. 81: 1247-1266.
Wang, T.L., S.N. Aitken and K.L. Kavanagh. (2003). Selection for improved growth and wood quality in lodgepole pine: effects on phenology, hydraulic architecture and growth of seedlings. Trees Structure and Function 17:269-277.
Woods, J., Wang, T. and Aitken, S.N. (2002). Effects of inbreeding on coastal Douglas-fir: nursery performance. Silvae Genetica 51(4): 163-170.
Anekonda, T.S., C. Lomax, W.T. Adams, K. L. Kavanagh and S.N. Aitken. (2002). Genetic variation in drought hardiness of coastal Douglas-fir seedlings from British Columbia. Can. J. For. Res. 32: 1701-1716.
O’Neill, G.A., S.N. Aitken, J.N. King and R. Alfaro. (2002). Geographic variation in resin canal defenses in seedlings from the Sitka x white spruce introgression zone. Can. J. For. Res. 32: 390-400.
Adams, W.T., S.N. Aitken, D.G. Joyce, G.T. Howe and J. Vargas-Hernandez. (2001). Evaluating efficacy of early testing for stem growth in coastal Douglas-fir. Silvae Genetica 50(3-4): 167-175.
Hannerz, M., S.N. Aitken, T. Ericsson and C. C. Ying. (2001). Variation in strobili production within and among provenances of lodgepole pine. Forest Genetics 8(4):325-331.
Wang, T. and S.N. Aitken. (2001). Selection for improved growth and wood quality in lodgepole pine: effects on xylem anatomy of tree stems. Can. J. For. Res. 31: 2049-2057.
Chuine, I., S.N. Aitken and C. Ying. (2001). Temperature-dependent growth in provenances of Pinus contorta. Can. J. For. Res. 31(8):1444-1455.
Jermstad, K.D., D.L. Bassoni, N.C. Wheeler, T.S. Anekonda, S.N. Aitken, W.T. Adams and D.B. Neale. (2001). Mapping of quantitative trait loci controlling adaptive traits in Douglas-fir. II. Spring and fall cold hardiness. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 102:1142-1151.
O’Neill, G.A., W.T. Adams and S.N. Aitken. (2001). Quantitative Genetics of Spring and Fall Cold Hardiness in Seedlings from Two Oregon Populations of Coastal Douglas-fir. For. Ecol. Manage. 149:305-318.
Adams, W.T., S.N. Aitken, D.G. Joyce, G.T. Howe and J. Vargas-Hernandez (2001). Evaluating efficacy of early testing for stem growth in coastal Douglas-fir Silvae Genetica 50(3-4): 167-175.
Aitken, S.N. and M. Hannerz (2001). Genecology and gene resource management strategies for conifer cold hardiness Kluwer Academic Press, NY. Chapter 2 in “Conifer Cold Hardiness”, F. Bigras and S. Columbo, Eds.
Anekonda, T.S., Adams, W.T., and Aitken, S.N. (2000). Cold hardiness testing for Douglas-fir tree improvement programs: Guidelines for a simple, robust, and inexpensive screening method West. J. Appl. For. 15(3):129—136.
Anekonda, T.S., W.T. Adams, S.N. Aitken, D.B. Neale, K. D. Jermstad, N.C. Wheeler et al. (2000). Genetics of cold hardiness in a cloned full-sib family of coastal Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) Can. J. For. Res. 30(5): 837-840
Bennuah, S.Y. and S.N. Aitken (2000). Admixture estimation for introgression between Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and white spruce (Picea glauca) in northwestern British Columbia. Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Australia. In: “Hybrid breeding and genetics of forest trees” Proceedings of QFRI/CRC-SPF Symposium 9-14 April 2000, Noosa, Queensland, Australia. Dungley, H.S., Dieters, M.J. and Nikles, D.G. (eds.). Pp 147-152.
Anekonda, T.S., W.T. Adams and S.N. Aitken. (2000). Cold hardiness testing for Douglas-fir tree improvement programs: Guidelines for a simple, robust, and inexpensive screening method. West. J. Appl. For. 15(3):129-136.
O’Neill, G.A., S.N. Aitken and W.T. Adams. (2000). Genetic selection for cold hardiness in coastal Douglas-fir seedlings and saplings. Can. J. For. Res. 30:1799-1807.
Wang, T.L., S.N. Aitken, P. Rozenberg, and F. Millier. (2000). Selection for improved growth and wood density in lodgepole pine: Effects on radial patterns of wood formation. Wood & Fiber Sci. 32(4):391-403.
Aitken, S.N. (1999). Conserving adaptive variation in forest ecosystems. J. Sust. For.8(7/8):1-10.
Balduman, L.M., S.N. Aitken, M. Harmon, and W.T. Adams. (1999). Genetic variation in cold hardiness of Douglas-fir in relation to parent-tree environment. Can. J. For. Res. 29(1):62-72.
Hannerz, M., S.N. Aitken, J.N. King, and S. Budge. (1999). Effects of genetic selection for growth on frost hardiness in western hemlock. Can. J. For. Res. 29(4):509-516.
Kavanagh, K.L., B.J. Yoder, S.N. Aitken, B.L. Gartner, and S.A. Knowe. (1999). Vulnerability to xylem cavitation in Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii and var. glauca. Tree Physiology 19(1):31-38.
Namkoong, G., M.P. Koshy and S. Aitken. (1999). Selection. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, Australia. Pp 101-110 in Andrew Young, Tim Boyle and D. H. Boshier (eds.), Forest Conservation Genetics: Principles and Practice.
Wang, T., S.N. Aitken, P. Rozenberg, and M.R. Carlson (1999). Selection for height growth and pilodyn pin penetration in lodgepole pine: effects on growth traits, wood properties, and their relationships. Can. J. For. Res. 29(4):434-445.
Anekonda, T.S., W.T. Adams and S.N. Aitken. (1998). Influence of second flushing on genetic assessment of cold hardiness in coastal Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco). -For. Ecol. Manage. 111:119-126
Aitken, S.N. and W.T. Adams. (1997). Spring cold hardiness is under strong genetic control in Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii. Can J. For. Res. 27(11):1773-1780.
Schermann, N., W.T. Adams, S.N. Aitken, and J.C. Bastien. (1997). Genetic parameters of stem form traits in a 9-year-old coastal Douglas-fir progeny test in Washington. Silvae Genetica 46(2-3):166-170.
Aitken, S.N. and W.T. Adams. (1996). Genetics of fall cold hardiness in coastal Douglas-fir in Oregon. Can. J. For. Res.26:1828-1837.
Aitken, S.N., W.T. Adams, N. Schermann, and L.H. Fuchigami. (1996). Family variation for fall cold hardiness in two Washington populations of coastal Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco). -For. Ecol. Manage. 80:187-195.
O’Neill, G.A., W.T. Adams and S.N. Aitken. (1996). Susceptibility to autumn frost can be predicted by the timing of bud-set in Douglas-fir seedlings but not in saplings. pp. 208-209 in Proc. Tree Improvement for Sustainable Tropical Forestry. QFRI-IUFRO Conf., Caloundra, Australia.
Aitken, S.N., K.L. Kavanagh and B.J. Yoder. (1995). Genetic variation in seedling water-use efficiency as estimated by carbon isotope ratios and its relationship to sapling growth in Douglas-fir Forest Genetics 2(4): 199-206
Aitken, S. N. and W. T. Adams (1995). Impacts of genetic selection for height growth on annual developmental cycle traits in coastal Douglas-fir AD-1 In ‘Evolution of breeding strategies for conifers from the Pacific Northwest. Proc., IUFRO Conference, 31 July – 4 Aug. Limoges, France.
Aitken, S.N. and W.J. Libby (1994). Evolution of the pygmy-forest edaphic subspecies of Pinus contorta across an ecological staircase Evolution 48(4): 1009-1019.