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Biological Sciences

Weis, Mike I.
Associate Professor
B.Sc. (Syracuse), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Iowa)

Population ecology of arctic plants; contaminants
in arctic and temperate ecosystems

Contact Information
Office Location: Biology Building - 202
Tel: (519) 253-3000 ext. 2724
Fax: (519) 971-3609

Research Outline
My interests fall into two different areas. My research on arctic plant ecology involves learning about the biological factors determining plant reproductive strategies and setting the northern limits of distribution. It is easy to guess what ultimate factors limit plant range: low temperatures, short summer seasons, thin soil, etc. But I study how climate affects the biology, physiology, and reproduction of arctic plants. My students and I have studied the reproductive biology (resource allocation, pollination, seed size, germination) of dwarf arctic birch, Betula glandulosa at its northern limit in the Canadian arctic. I intend to expand these studies to sites and environmental conditions representing the entire range of conditions under which this species grows. In addition, physiological adaptations are being studied by growing birch plants from different populations under common environmental conditions in Windsor.

My other area of interest is in the role of contaminants in food webs. I am studying dynamics of organic contaminants in arctic food chains, and in key species such as the ringed seal (Phoco hispida) in those food chains. The ringed seal is a major food sources in many Innuit communities. I am assessing geographic and temporal patterns in the contaminant profiles and concentrations of ringed seals across the Canadian arctic.

I also study the transfer of contaminants in temperate climate food chains. I have been measuring the uptake of organic contaminants by aquatic macrophytes like American watercelery (Vallisneria americana) to determine what happens to those contaminants at the end of the growing season, when plants die and decompose. Although aquatic plants typically have low concentrations of contaminants, the biomass of plant material in temperate ecosystems is so large that plants are important to contaminant dynamics.

    Selected Publications
    Weis, I.M. and L.A. Hernamutz - 1993
    Pollination dynamics of arctic dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa; Betulaceae) and its role in the loss of seed production.
    Amer. J. Bot. 80:1 021-1027.

    Cameron, M. and I.M. Weis - 1993
    Organochlorine contaminants in the country food diet of the Belcher Island Inuit, Northwest Territories, Canada.
    Arctic 46:42-48.

    Hermanutz, L.A., D. Innes and I.M. Weis - 1989
    Clonal structure of arctic dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa) at its northern limit.
    Amer. J. Bot. 76:755-761.

    Weis, I.M. - 1995
    The biogeography of the arctic dwarf birch Betula glandulosa in eastern Canada: geographic variation in samara size and germination. Ecography: In press.