Spencer Monckton's logo that is a square with his initials inside

Spencer K. Monckton

Entomologist & Systematist

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Photo of Spencer Monckton

I am a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. I'm an entomologist and systematist, and I'm interested in anything to do with biodiversity and evolution - especially insect taxonomy, diversity, and biogeography. Hymenoptera are my specialty, and I have expertise in molecular evolution and bioinformatics. I'm a quick & resourceful learner, an enthusiastic problem-solver, and I have a knack for communicating knowledge in a clear, accessible, and engaging fashion.

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Diversity of Northern nematine sawflies (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae)

Presently, the primary focus of my research is to document and understand the diversity of Nearctic sawflies, particularly in the genus Pristiphora. The sawfly subfamily Nematinae is more diverse in northern regions than in the tropics, and there are still many undescribed species yet to be recorded. My doctoral dissertation (completed at PCYUPacker Lab) consisted of a partial revision of the Nearctic members of the genus accompanied by a molecular phylogenetic analysis. I also analyzed genomic DNA from museum specimens in an effort to understand the phylogeographic history of the holarctic species Pristiphora cincta. My postdoctoral work (at CBGCentre for Biodiversity Genomics) is focused on building a high-quality reference library of DNA barcode records for Canadian sawflies, enabling quicker, easier, and more precise identifications for these important insects. I am also using Nanopore sequencing to explore alternative approaches to molecular taxonomy in sawflies and Hymenoptera in general.

Revision of Chilicola (Heteroediscelis), a subgenus of bees endemic to Chile (Master's thesis)

My Master's thesis focused on the systematics and biogeography of a subgenus of bees in the genus Chilicola (Colletidae, Xeromelissinae). These are small, slender bees that nest in plant stems and are found throughout much of Chile, having apparently diversified via north-south disjunctions roughly corresponding with Chile's varied biogeographic regions. I described 8 of the 17 species of Heteroediscelis, and produced a thoroughly-illustrated ID key. You can see the finished work here ZooKeys (open access).


Elm zigzag sawfly, Aproceros leucopoda (Hymenoptera: Argidae), recorded for the first time in North America through community science

Martel, V., Morin, O., Monckton, S.K., Eiseman, C.S., Béliveau, C., Cusson, M., Blank, S.M. 2021. The Canadian Entomologist, 154: 1-18. doi: 10.4039/tce.2021.44

photo of feeding larva of elm zigzag sawfly (Aproceros leucopoda) CC-BY-NC André-Philippe Drapeau Picard
euler diagram showing 4.0% overlap

Inadequate treatment of taxonomic information prevents replicability of most zoological research

Monckton, S.K., Johal, S., Packer, L. 2020. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 98: 633-642. doi:10.1139/cjz-2020-0027

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Parasitoids indicate major climate-induced shifts in arctic communities

Kankaanpää, T., Vesterinen, E., Hardwick, B., ... Monckton, S.K., ... Roslin, T. 2020. Global Change Biology, 26: 6276-6295. doi: 10.1111/gcb.15297

graphical abstract showing shifts in parasitoid community composition
phylogeny of Colletes

The evolutionary history of the cellophane bee genus Colletes Latreille (Hymenoptera: Colletidae): Molecular phylogeny, biogeography and implications for a global infrageneric classification

Ferrari, R.R., Onuferko, T.M., Monckton, S.K., Packer L. 2020. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 146: 106750. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106750

Validating taxonomic identifications in entomological research

Packer, L., Monckton, S.K., Onuferko, T.M., Ferrari R.R. 2018. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 11: 1-12. doi: 10.1111/icad.12284

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vene diagram showing 1.8% overlap
sideview of chilicola

A revision of Chilicola (Heteroediscelis), a subgenus of xeromelissine bees (Hymenoptera, Colletidae) endemic to Chile: taxonomy, phylogeny, and biogeography, with descriptions of eight new species.

Monckton, S.K. 2016. ZooKeys, 591: 1-144. doi:10.3897/zookeys.591.7731

Case 3670 - Chilicola vicugna Toro & Moldenke, 1979 (Insecta, Hymenoptera, COLLETIDAE): proposed replacement of the holotype by a neotype.

Monckton, S.K. 2014. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature, 71(4): 234-236. doi:10.21805/bzn.v71i4.a13

sideview of chilicola
Chart showing ripening indicators

Fruit ripening signals and cues in a Madagascan dry forest: haptic indicators reliably indicate fruit ripeness to dichromatic lemurs.

Valenta, K., Miller, C.N., Monckton, S.K., Melin, A.D., Lehman, S.M., Styler, S.A., Chapman, C.A., Lawes, M.J. 2016. Evolutionary Biology. doi:10.1007/s11692-016-9374-7

It’s not easy being blue: a cost analysis of plant signal trade-offs.

Valenta, K., Brown, K.A., Melin, A.D., Monckton, S.K., Styler, S.A. Jackson, D.A., Chapman, C.A. 2015. PLoS ONE, 10(6): e0131725. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131725

Results chart showing VOC and reflectance



Biology (Hon.), 2011

University of Ottawa


Biology, 2015

York University


Biology, 2022

York University


bioinformatics & it

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From Excel, to R, to the command line, I can tackle most bioinformatics problems. I'm comfortable working with high-throughput sequence data, whether short or long-read, from targeted amplicons or whole genomes. I'm also interested in coding and web development, skills I enjoy practicing as technical editor of CJAICanadian Journal of Arthropod Identification.


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Beyond talks and publications, I've led bioblitz walks, delivered lunch-and-learns, spoken in children's classrooms, and written for The Canadian EncyclopediaTCE author page and The ConversationAuthor profile for The Conversation. I enjoy finding clear and intuitive ways to explain biology to non-experts.


icon of a sawfly on a computer screen

Having processed and curated thousands of specimens, I'm familiar with curatorial best practices and I have experience building and maintaining databases. I have also visited and worked in several large natural history collections.