Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Member Profile: Adriana Almeida-Rodriguez

Adriana Almeida-Rodriguez became interested in genetics and molecular biology while studying biology at Los Andes University in Bogota, Colombia and continued on to do her undergrad thesis at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, where she studied the Quantitative Trait Loci (QTLs, regions in the chromosomes with quantitative effects) associated with yield and related traits in rice.

Adriana describes “one of the most remarkable feelings in my life” as being in the forest, so she did her PhD in Forest Biology and Management at the University of Alberta, under the supervision of Dr. Janusz Zwiazek, studying the effects of drought in the physiology of poplars and how this abiotic stress influences changes in the gene expression patterns of aquaporins (proteins that move water between membranes in living organisms).

After her PhD, Adriana joined the Water Relations Lab of Dr. Uwe Hacke as a post-doctoral fellow (PDF) and continued studying the effects of abiotic stresses like nitrogen deficiency, light and drought in the physiology of poplars, and their effects in aquaporins’ gene expression. She learned about phytoremediation and become fascinated with using plants and microbes for decontaminating soil and water. She also learned about epigenetics, chemical changes occurring in the DNA and associated proteins triggered by the environment that influence the way genes are expressed.

She then applied for a PDF at the University of Montreal and joined an inter-disciplinary project named GenoRem, looking for implementing phytoremediation in polluted areas in Quebec, under the supervision of Dr. Michel Labrecque and Dr. Simon Joly. Her two studies for this PDF were evaluating the physiological and molecular effects of mycorrhizal associations in willows’ responses to soils contaminated with copper and determining the epigenetic changes in willows exposed to hydrocarbons, PCBs and trace metals.

Two years later, Adriana moved to Smithers to spend more time with her partner, Roger, and enjoy this small-but-interesting mountain community. During the first six months, she did a FNLRO-funded research project with the BVRC evaluating the effects of air pollution in the physiology, tree architecture and leaf morphology of western redcedar in the Kitimat Valley. In January 2015, she started to work for the Ministry of Environment as an environmental protection officer.

“This new position is very interesting for me, since I could apply my academic knowledge and experiences looking for ways of reinforcing good waste industrial practices,” Adriana says. “Living in Smithers is also great, since it is a great place for outdoor activities.”