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Dr. Mark Lesser

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science (Ecology)

Portrait of Dr. Lesser doing research in a forestMy broad research interests lie in understanding controls on species’ distributions. I am particularly interested in the factors that dictate range-limits and migration patterns of tree species. My research program asks (1) What are the climatic factors controlling a species’ range? (2) What other extrinsic factors, both abiotic (e.g. nutrient and moisture limitations) and biotic (e.g. competition, herbivory), interact with climate to allow species to successfully colonize and inhabit an area?  (3) How do intrinsic factors such as population dynamics, dispersal capability, and genetic variability also act on controlling species’ distributions?


  • Ph.D., Ecology University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming
  • Masters of Science, Forestry Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Honours Bachelor of Science, Forestry Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Bachelor of Arts, History University of King’s College (Dalhousie), Halifax, Nova Scotia

Courses Taught

  • ENV 432 Forest Ecology
  • ENV304 General Ecology Lab
  • ENV436 Population and Community Ecology
  • ENV343 Dendrology
  • ENV332 Plant Ecology

Research Areas

  • Species distributions and range limits
  • Dendroecology
  • Population dynamics
  • Dispersal and colonization


  • Lesser, M. R. and J.D. Fridley. 2015. Global change at the landscape level: relating regional and landscape-scale drivers of historical climate trends the Southern Appalachians. International Journal of Climatology. DOI: 10.1002/joc.4413
  • Siefert, A., M.R. Lesser and J.D. Fridley. 2015 How do climate and dispersal traits limit ranges of tree species along latitudinal and elevational gradients? Global Ecology and Biogeography. 24: 581-593
  • Lesser, M.R., T.L. Parchman, and S.T. Jackson. 2013. Population genetics through time: the development of genetic structure in four ponderosa pine populations over 500 years. Molecular Ecology. 22: 2640-2652
  • Lesser, M.R. and S.T. Jackson. 2013. Contributions of long-distance dispersal to population growth in colonizing Pinus ponderosa populations. Ecology Letters. 6(2): 380-389. Recommended by Faculty of 1000.
  • Lesser, M.R. and S. Brewer. 2012. How sampling affects estimates of demographic parameters. Journal of Vegetation Science. 23: 1170-1179
  • Lesser, M.R. and S. T. Jackson. 2012. Making a stand: Five centuries of population growth in colonizing stands of Pinus ponderosa. Ecology. 95(3): 1071-1081
  • Lesser, M.R., T.L. Parchman, and C.A. Buerkle. 2012. Cross-species transferability of SSR loci developed from 454 transcriptome sequencing in lodgepole pine. Molecular Ecology Resources. 12: 448-455. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2011.03102.x
  • Lesser, M.R. and S.T. Jackson. 2011. Reliability of woodrat (Neotoma) middens for detecting low-density tree populations. Paleobiology. 37(4): 603-615.
  • Lesser, M. R. and W. H. Parker. 2006. Comparison of canonical- and regression- based focal point seed zones of white spruce. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 36: 1572-1586.
  • Lesser, M. R. and W. H. Parker. 2004. Genetic variation in Picea glauca for growth and phenological traits from provenance tests in Ontario. Silvae Genetica. 53(4):141-148.
  • Lesser, M. R., M. Cherry and W.H. Parker. 2004. Investigation of limestone ecotypes of white spruce based on a provenance test series. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 34: 1119-1127

Faculty Website

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