Hello and welcome to the Kvist lab website!IMG_1240

I am the Curator of Invertebrates at the Royal Ontario Museum and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. I work on evolutionary biology and I’m interested in the forces that shape biodiversity and that drive evolution. My research focuses mainly on tackling questions regarding the diversity, phylogeny and distributions of representatives of Annelida, a rather large animal phylum with over 17,000 currently recognized species. This phylum includes representatives of three major groups – Polychaeta (bristle worms), Oligochaeta (earthworms and their relatives) and Hirudinea (leeches). Some species within the phylum are frequently used as bioindicators as their absence may suggest an unhealthy ecosystem, and others have been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. Although my research aims at understanding the full spectrum of evolutionary change within the phylum, one of my main topics of interest is the evolution of bloodfeeding in leeches as it pertains to the evolution and diversity of anticoagulation factors that are secreted into the feeding site and bacterial endosymbionts that supply the leeches with necessary nutrients, otherwise lacking form their strict hematophagous diet. I often apply a comparative approach to answering these questions and use several different strategies, from next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to alpha taxonomy and morphological studies, in order to unlock the secrets of annelid evolution and biodiversity.

An additional research interest of mine is the evolution of ribbon worms (phylum Nemertea), which are a group of soft-bodied, non-descript invertebrates that inhabit all major oceans, as well as freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. The morphological variation within this group is astonishing – its representatives range in size from less than 1mm to over 50 m, making it the longest animal in the world. This disparity of morphological shapes has belied any morphological analysis of evolutionary relationships and put pressure on researchers to use molecular data to estimate the phylogeny.

I welcome applications from new students that are interested in these general areas of biology. If you think that you are a good fit, send an email and your CV to skvist@rom.on.ca