Research Scientist and Section Head, Zoology

Katriina L. Ilves

Contact Information

Tel: 613.566.4526
Fax: 613.364.4027


  • Molecular systematics.
  • Phylogenomics.
  • Biogeography.
  • Evolution and ecology of fishes.
  • Marine biology.


  • Ph.D., Zoology, University of British Columbia, 2008.
  • B.A., Philosophy, University of British Columbia, 2001.
  • B.Sc., Marine Biology, University of British Columbia, 2000.


Katriina Ilves's research focuses on the evolutionary and ecological processes responsible for generating aquatic biodiversity, with a particular focus on fishes. Using a broad toolkit that includes data from genetics, genomics, morphology, geology, climate, and museum collection databases, Katriina aims to address the interrelated questions about the what (species are present), why (are species found in some areas and not others), and when and how (did diversification occur) of biodiversity in disparate aquatic regions and biomes, such as Caribbean coral reefs, deep-sea Gulf of Mexico, and marine and freshwater habitats of the north temperate and Arctic (Holarctic). Understanding the processes responsible for historical evolution and community composition can also provide insight into the processes that affect species and their communities in today's changing world.

Current research projects include:

  • Study of "species pairs" (ecologically, morphologically, and/or reproductively differentiated populations that may be sympatric at some point in their life cycle) of north temperate smelts in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, in Canada, and Washington, U.S.A.
  • Exploration of deep-sea fish biodiversity of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Systematics and comparative phylogeography of Caribbean reef fishes.
  • Documentation of changes in community composition of Caribbean and north temperate fishes resulting from anthropogenic disturbance using historical and contemporary museum collection data.

Katriina is also passionate about biodiversity education at all stages and is excited to continue museum-based outreach work and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students at the Canadian Museum of Nature.


American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

International Biogeography Society

The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Get to Know Ichthyologist Katriina Ilves (1 min. 37 sec.)


Refereed Journal Papers

Ilves, K.L., D. Torti and H. López-Fernández. Exon-based phylogenomics strengthens the phylogeny of Neotropical cichlids and identifies remaining conflicting clades (Cichliformes: Cichlidae: Cichlinae). 2018. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 118: 232–243.

Hauser, F.E., K.L. Ilves, R.K. Schott, G.M. Castiglione, H. López-Fernández and B.S.W. Chang. 2017. Accelerated evolution and functional divergence of the dim light visual pigment accompanies cichlid colonization of Central America. Molecular Biology and Evolution 34: 2650–2664.

Ilves, K.L. and H. López-Fernández. 2014. A targeted next-generation sequencing toolkit for exon-based cichlid phylogenomics. Molecular Ecology Resources 14: 802–811.

Ilves, K.L., A.M. Quattrini, M.W. Westneat, R.I. Eytan, G.C. Chaplin, H. Hertler and J.G. Lundberg. 2013. Detection of shifts in coral reef fish assemblage structure over 50 years at reefs of New Providence Island, The Bahamas highlight the value of the Academy of Natural Sciences' collections in a changing world. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 162: 61–87.

Ilves, K.L., L.L. Kellogg, A.M. Quattrini, G.W. Chaplin, H. Hertler and J.G. Lundberg. 2011. Assessing 50-year change in Bahamian reef fish assemblages: maintenance of community structure in the face of coral degradation? Bulletin of Marine Science 87: 567– 588.

Ilves, K.L., W. Huang, J.P. Wares and M.J. Hickerson. 2010. Colonization and/or mitochondrial selective sweeps across the North Atlantic intertidal assemblage revealed by multi-taxa ABC. Molecular Ecology 19: 4505–4519.
[Accompanying "News and Views" piece about this study – Riginos, C. 2010. North Atlantic marine communities through time. Molecular Ecology 19: 4389–4390]

Ilves, K.L. and E.B. Taylor. 2009. Molecular resolution of the systematics of a problematic group of fishes (Teleostei: Osmeridae) and evidence for morphological homoplasy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 50: 163–178.

Ilves, K.L., and E.B. Taylor. 2008. Evolutionary and biogeographic patterns within the smelt genus Hypomesus (Pisces: Osmeridae) in the North Pacific Ocean. Journal of Biogeography 35: 48–64.

Ilves, K.L. and E.B. Taylor. 2007. Are Hypomesus chishimaensis and H. nipponensis (Pisces: Osmeridae) distinct species? A molecular assessment using comparative sequence data from five genes. Copeia 2007: 180–185.[180:AHCAHN]2.0.CO;2

Heilbuth, J.C., K.L. Ilves and S.P. Otto. 2001. The consequences of dioecy for seed dispersal: modeling the seed-shadow handicap. Evolution 55: 880–888.

Refereed Book Chapters

Ilves, K.L. and D.J. Randall. 2007. Why have primitive fishes survived? In C.J. Brauner, D.J. MacKenzie and A.P. Farrell (Eds.). Primitive Fishes, Fish Physiology Series Volume 26, Academic Press, New York, pp. 515-536.

Other Contributions

Ilves, K.L. 2007. Molecular systematics and biogeography of the Holarctic smelt family Osmeridae (Pisces). Ph.D. Thesis, University of British Columbia.