Trait measurements

Functional traits are chemical, morphological, structural, of physiological characteristics of organisms that influence their fitness in varying environments. We measure across plant species fine root traits that govern nutrient acquisition, and leaf traits that affect nutrient use.

To do this we use a variety of approaches and instruments in the lab:

  • Analyses of scanned images for morphological measurements
  • Elemental analyses of plant tissue (e.g. C, N, P)
  • Sequential digestions to measure carbon fractions (e.g. cellulose, lignin)
  • Microscopic analyses of mycorrhizal structures
  • Colorimetric analyses of pigments and phenolics

Many of our lab protocols are available here.


As part of the CABO project, we operate two mobile spectroscopy labs (vans, equipped with spectroradiometers, integrating spheres and other lab equipment) to measure foliar spectral-optical properties of plant leaves. Leaf-level spectroscopy is used to support the remote sensing of plant taxonomic and functional biodiversity.

Many of our lab protocols are available here.

We also work closely with the McGill Applied Remote Sensing Laboratory and the National Research Council to acquire imaging spectroscopy data of vegetation, either from drones or airplanes.

Geo-aware ecology

Our field observations guide the interpretation of remote sensing data in terms of plant biodiversity. This requires that observations are accurately geolocated, sometimes at the centimeter level. This is the case for the ultra-high-resolution imagery acquired via drones that we use in our research. We use high-precision GNSS and GIS tools to accurately survey vegetation in our field campaigns.