Megan Bontrager


  • Time Zone

  • Organization
    University of British Columbia

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My research focuses on understanding the factors that shape species’ geographic ranges. Currently, I’m investigating how local adaptation to climate may shape range edges, and how species’ ranges will respond to climate change. I’m also interested in understanding whether gene flow across heterogeneous environments can create stable range edges, and I’m studying this using common gardens and landscape genomic tools. My focal species is an annual wildflower, Clarkia pulchella.

    I also examine how climate shapes plant mating systems and how mating system-variation may feed back to shape range edges. My approach to studying these questions utilizes herbarium specimens, climatic niche modeling, and range-wide field manipulations.

  • Profile Question 1
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    One of my favorite things about being a biologist is all of the different ways I get to spend my time and the different skills I've learned. Some days I spend in the greenhouse, planting or pollinating plants. I spend a lot of time in the field: finding, collecting and measuring plants. I also get to work in the lab, extracting and analyzing DNA. Finally, I spend time working on the computer, which I enjoy a lot more than I expected to. In my line of research being a scientist means you get to "wear many hats": naturalist, computer programmer, gardener, and sometimes even construction worker when setting up big experiments.

  • Profile Question 2
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    It's surprising that I ended up being a biologist, since I dropped out of AP Biology in high school. When I was an undergraduate, I took some introductory biology classes and realized how interesting plants are! I discovered that I really loved the problem solving required by science, so I asked my favorite professor if there were any projects that I could help with. She taught me how to design research questions, work in the lab, and learn from my results, and I've been doing it ever since.

  • Profile Question 3
    Do you have advice for students about preparing for a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    You've probably been advised to spend time thinking about what kinds of scientific questions interest you. I wish someone would have also advised me to think about how I want to spend my time. The area of research you go into can really change your day-to-day lifestyle. Do you like traveling a lot and being outdoors most days? Then you should probably focus on research questions that you can answer with data from the field. Are you meticulous and organized, and ready to carry out very precise protocols? Then think about a research career that would put you in the lab often. Or maybe you'd rather stay inside at a desk and use coding and computing? Well, there's plenty of research to be done at desks too.
    Being a researcher is really hard work, so you'll be happier if you can not only find questions that are conceptually interesting, but also allow you to do the type of work that you prefer. It took time for me to learn how to align my research interests with my skills and life preferences.

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?

Recent Posts

Psychotic Apples Megan Bontrager

Hi psychotic apples! It's been great hearing about your experiment. I'm really glad that you tried again when things didn't work out the first time, and got some interesting results. I hope that you've enjoyed being scientists!…

Psychotic Apples Megan Bontrager

Hi team! Nice job on the graphs. I'm glad your plants did better this time around! I couldn't find your conclusion, so maybe you could tell me where to look for it. Hope you're having a nice vacation!

CHYHS Team 3 Megan Bontrager

Hi Ana,

Nice work on your report. One suggestion I have is that you could explain why you hypothesize that less fertilizer will result in a slower lifecycle. What background information led you to form this hypothesis? This information could go…


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