Ontario Genomics-CANSSI Ontario Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genome Data Science – Award Recipient: João Pedro Fontenelle

Ontario Genomics-CANSSI Ontario Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genome Data Science - Joao Pedro Fontenelle
Ontario Genomics and CANSSI Ontario (OG-CO) are pleased to announce Dr. João Pedro Fontenelle as the recipient of one of two Ontario Genomics-CANSSI Ontario Postdoctoral Fellowships in Genome Data Science. Dr. Fontenelle is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Toronto, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, working with Drs. Patrick James of the Daniels Faculty and Catherine Cullingham of Carleton University. Dr. Fontenelle’s research uses genomic data to investigate how biotic and abiotic factors influence the generation and maintenance of biological and genetic diversity. His research focuses on how complex population dynamics, including outbreaks, affect spatial and temporal genetic variation and their implications on ecological and evolutionary processes. His particular focus is on spatially synchronous and economically important outbreaking forest insect pests. This research aims to bridge the gap between population genetics, landscape ecology and conservation biology to identify how genomic information can improve our understanding of complex spatiotemporal ecological and demographic processes. Dr. Fontenelle obtained his B.Sc. in Biological Sciences and M.Sc. in Zoology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, with his Honours and M.Sc. theses focusing on the diversity of Neotropical freshwater stingrays and its relation to their distribution patterns. He acquired his Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences from the University of Toronto, where his thesis examined how different geological and environmental factors have influenced biogeographic and phylogenetic diversification. This body of work has led to the publication of more than 10 peer-reviewed articles, as well as book chapters and IUCN red list assessments.  Dr. Fontenelle’s current research uses bioinformatics and individual-based demo-genetic simulations models to investigate how outbreaking population dynamics influence the spatial and temporal apportionment of genetic variation under different spatial and demographic scenarios.  Additionally, his research examines empirical time series of genomic and demographic data for outbreaking forest defoliators to characterize how patterns of  ecological adaptation can be meaningfully identified in populations undergoing demographic and geographic expansions.

OG-CO PDF Project Synopsis

Genetic variation within a population is influenced by numerous processes, such as random (neutral) events like genetic drift during geographic expansion and bottlenecks following population crashes, and adaptive processes like selection. As populations expand and contract, meaningfully inferring ecological and evolutionary processes underlying genetic data can become challenging. Specifically, rapid changes in population demography can amplify the effects of neutral processes on genetic structure and composition, producing patterns that can mislead landscape genomic inferences (e.g. misidentifying neutral variation as adaptive patterns) and/or mask demo-genetic variation due to limited temporal information and representation on empirical genomic datasets. To address this challenge, Dr. Fontenelle is developing novel simulation and statistical models of population cycles to gain insights into how they affect genetic variation over time. By improving our understanding of the genetic consequences of population outbreaks, this research has the potential to inform real-time management strategies and enhance conservation efforts.


The Ontario Genomics-CANSSI Ontario Postdoctoral Fellowship in Genome Data Science was created to support research projects that deepen our understanding of genomic epidemiology of infectious disease, using genomics for pathogen surveillance or host-virus genetic interaction by providing salary support for up to two years for an early career investigator pursuing research in the areas of statistical genetics or genetic epidemiology. Established in 2000, Ontario Genomics is a not-for-profit organization leading the application of genomics-based solutions to drive economic growth, improved quality of life, and global leadership for Ontario. As part of its strategic vision, Ontario Genomics (OG) is dedicated to supporting the development of educational resources that demonstrate how genomics plays a vital role to address key challenges in our society. Ontario Genomics also plays a role in advancing genomics projects and programs across the province by supporting the development of proposals, helping researchers access diverse funding sources, and finding the right industry partners to take this research out of the lab to apply it to the world’s most pressing challenges. Since its inception, Ontario Genomics has raised more than $1.27 billion for genomics applied research in Ontario and directly supported more than 9,100 trainees and jobs. OG supports 110+ active projects, 500+ impactful partnerships and has secured $1.34 billion in follow-on investments. CANSSI Ontario is the Ontario Regional Centre of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI). Its goal is to strengthen and enhance research and training in data science by developing programs that promote interdisciplinary research and enable multidisciplinary collaborations.

OG-CO Fellowship News