New informatics director at the Biodiversity Centre

David Shorthouse has joined the staff of the Biodiversity Centre as informatics director for the Canadensys network. He received his M.Sc. from Laurentian University in Sudbury (Ontario), where he studied the diversity of terrestrial spiders as an indicator of the effectiveness of mining site rehabilitation. Discovering a passion for disseminating taxonomic information through the internet, he learned database development and became a web programmer. At the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole (Massachusetts), he was director of development for several biodiversity informatics projects linked to the prestigious American network, the Encyclopedia of Life. He has also worked as an informatics analyst for the Global Names and Data Conservancy projects, which link species’ scientific names to those of researchers who have described them. In his new position at the Biodiversity Centre, he will coordinate the networking of data from biological collections, to make them accessible to the public through the web.

David replaces Peter Desmet, who held this position from 2008 to 2012. Peter conceived and developed the structure of the Canadensys network and its portal, including a validated, documented list of all Canadian vascular plants (VASCAN), a monumental achievement. In addition to his work in informatics, Peter established relationships linking network members, and organized several workshops. Along with team members, he developed the Canadensys explorer, which makes it possible to search, sort and download data from Canadensys and to visualize it on interactive maps. Peter has returned to Belgium, where he holds the position of coordinator for LifeWatch, a project of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest.

IRBV researchers have received 25,000 visitors!

Since June 2012, more than 25,000 visitors have viewed the exhibit 1000 days for the planet/Base camp in the André-Bouchard Exhibition Hall of the Université de Montréal Biodiversity Centre. By watching videos presented in the Researcher Space, visitors can learn about the work of researchers, including four from the IRBV – Alain Cogliastro, Alain Cuerrier, Jacques Brisson and Mohamed Hijri. Each original short film showcases the career path and passion of a researcher, as well as his efforts to preserve biodiversity. Inaugurated on June 22, the exhibit 1000 days for the planet continues until 2015. This is a unique occasion to follow the journey of Jean Lemire and the crew of the sailboat Sedna IV, as they travel around the Earth on a mission to educate the public about the planet’s biodiversity. Over the next two years, the exhibit will present the work of other IRBV researchers.
Photo: a three-dimensional presentation of the research being conducted by Alain Cogliastro, as photographed by Barry Russell.

Nymphéas, by Michel Saulnier

Nymphéas, a work of art created for the Université de Montréal Biodiversity Centre by Michel Saulnier, was inaugurated on October 9, 2012. Guests at the ceremony included the artist himself, Gérard Boismenu, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Université de Montréal, Anne Bruneau, Director of the IRBV and Scientific Director of the Biodiversity Centre and Gilles Vincent, Director of the Montreal Botanical Garden. This unique artwork can be viewed in the interior courtyard of the Biodiversity Centre. Artist Michel Saulnier explains his vision of the work and describes his creative process on his blog, at

Urban ecosystems and biodiversity

IRBV researcher Stéphanie Pellerin is participating in the organization of the conference Écosystèmes urbains et biodiversité, which will be held in the Coeur des sciences building at UQAM on October 18, 2012. This will be a unique opportunity to learn more about current research on urban biodiversity in Quebec. To consult the conference program, click here.

Joachim Vieth (1925-2012)

Honorary member-researcher at the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV)

Honorary professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, Université de Montréal

It is with regret that we have learned of the recent death of Professor Joachim Vieth (1925-2012), a founding member of the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV).

Professor Vieth was born in Germany, where he pursued his studies to the doctoral level (Dr. rer. nat. 1957) in natural sciences at the University of Saarbrücken. He then continued his education at the Université de Dijon (France), obtaining a Ph.D. in botany (1965).

He was hired as an associate professor of botany in the Université de Montréal’s Department of Biological Sciences in 1967, and became full professor in 1977. Recognizing the scientific potential in the proximity of a botanical garden to the institution known at the time as the Institut botanique (now the IRBV), he settled there to develop his research program in plant morphology and development, supervising master’s and doctoral students. Among the courses he taught in his long career, students will certainly recall his plant anatomy course, which was renowned throughout the province of Quebec.

In his early years as a researcher, Joachim Vieth and his graduate students were particularly interested in the comparative morphology of plant structures submitted to various chemical treatments. Later, he shifted his focus to the morphogenetic study of plants cultivated in vitro. In the 1980s, this led him to establish the in vitro laboratory that today still plays an important role in research and teaching at the IRBV.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Professor Vieth was a major contributor to the development of scientific activities and training the next generation of researchers at the Institut botanique. Although he officially retired in 1992, he remained actively involved at the IRBV for the next 15 years, through his research on floral morphology.

Joachim Vieth was deeply loyal to the IRBV, an institution he valued immensely. In fact, even in recent years, he stayed in touch with colleagues and expressed enthusiasm about their achievements. Those who knew him in one capacity or another, whether at the IRBV or the Department of Biological Sciences, will remember him as a generous individual, an open-minded and committed professor, and a passionate, rigorous researcher.

Denis Barabé,
Adjunct professor, Department of biological sciences, Université de Montréal
Founding member-researcher and adjunct member-researcher at the IRBV

Inauguration of the Salle André-Bouchard

On June 12th, the Biodiversity Centre’s exhibition hall was officially renamed the Salle André-Bouchard (André-Bouchard Hall) to commemorate the former IRBV researcher who passed away unexpectedly on March 4, 2010. Among those in attendance were members of Dr. Bouchard’s family, and dignitaries including Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay, Université de Montréal rector Guy Breton and Montreal Botanical Garden director Gilles Vincent. To mark the event, a stele with a commemorative inscription was unveiled, honoring Dr. Bouchard’s contribution to the development of the Montreal Botanical Garden and the IRBV. A distinguished researcher in ecology and a great communicator, he was actively involved in training many researchers and enhancing the collections and scientific expertise for which the Botanical Garden is internationally-renowned. A biographical sketch and review of his scientific achievements, written by Gilles Vincent, was published in a recent issue of the journal Quatre-Temps. Read the article here (in French).

TEDx conference by Mohamed Hijri on phosphorus use in agriculture

Irresponsible phosphorus use in agriculture has a critical and little-known impact on the environment, says IRBV researcher Mohamed Hijri. Mycorrhizal fungi may be an effective alternative. This TEDx 18-minute talk is the first in a series organized by the Université de Montréal, launched in March 2012, for which 15 Montreal personalities were invited to present their ideas and projects to a worldwide web audience.

To learn more, view the presentation (in French):

+ Centre sur la biodiversité