Courtney Van Den Elzen
Student Alumni
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

All species have a set of environmental conditions in which they can survive and reproduce (i.e. the species niche), as well as one or more mechanisms for movement. Together, the species niche and its movement ability determine where a species is found both on large and small spatial scales. In plant species, movement, or dispersal, usually only occurs once, as a seed, spore, or other propagule. My research focuses on the evolution of seed dispersal in plants, and how it interacts with the evolution of the species niche. In particular, there is growing evidence that dispersal and niche characteristics interact in an evolutionary feedback loop, each influencing the evolution of the other. This usually occurs due to both spatial and temporal variation in environmental conditions. Understanding this feedback loop better will allow us to make better predictions about how species may respond to environmental change such as contemporary climate change. 

IQ Biology had increased my collaborator network and my research toolkit through both the first-year research rotations and relationships with my interdisciplinary cohort.

Courtney received a BS degree from the University of British Columbia and majored in Mathematics. She is rostered in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She rotated with Dr. Nancy Emery in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dr. Zachary Kilpatrick in the Department of Applied Mathematics, Dr. Brett Melbourne, and Dr. Sam Flaxman in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Courtney is advised by Dr. Nancy Emery. 

Van Den Elzen, C.L., E.J. Kleynhans, and S.P. Otto. 2017. Asymmetric competition impacts evolutionary rescue in a changing environment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284(1857): DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0356.

Van Den Elzen, C.L., E.A. LaRue, and N.C. Emery. 2016. Oh, the places you’ll go! Understanding  the evolutionary interplay between dispersal and habitat adaptation as a driver of plant distributions. American Journal of Botany 103(12): 2015-2018.

National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Postgraduate Scholarships-Doctoral Program (NSERC PGS-D)

Van Den Elzen, C.L. & N.C. Emery. 2018. Dispersal trait evolution correlates with microhabitat adaptation in wind-dispersed vernal pool congeners. American Society of Naturalists Meeting. Pacific Grove, CA.

Van Den Elzen, C.L., N.C. Emery, S.L. Flaxman, and B.A. Melbourne. 2017. Not all those who wander are lost: A model of evolutionary interplay between dispersal and niche evolution in plants. Evolution Meeting. Portland, OR.