Sara L. Martin Ph.D.

Research Scientist

Current research and/or projects

Areas of Expertise

  • Determining the potential for transgene escape (Brassicaceae)

  • Understanding the evolution and spread of herbicide resistance

  • Improve information availability for bioresources (Brassicaceae)

  • Understanding the evolutionary role of polyploidization

Research and/or project statements

For most of human history weeds have been controlled using labour intensive hand weeding. Herbicides introduced in the 1940s revolutionized weed control in Canada leading to a relative abundance of food/per unit of labour in most industrialized countries. However, 60 weeds have evolved herbicide resistance in Canada and are estimated to cost Canadian Prairie farmers 1.1-1.5 billion/annually. In the US, farmers are returning to hand weeding because herbicides are now ineffective (e.g. in 2016 85% of cotton in Georgia was hand weeded).

         Herbicide resistance is a clear threat to agricultural production within Canada and globally.

My research addresses this threat to the value chain by 1) determining the potential of herbicide resistance transgenes spread to weedy relatives and, 2) understanding the evolutionary consequences of herbicide resistance arising in weed species. This research is cross cutting with relevance to all nine sectors. However, it fits best within the biodiversity and bioresource sector by:

     1) increasing our knowledge of herbicide resistant species,

     2) enhancing our understanding of Canada’s biodiversity by studying the wild Brassicaceae species that may receive transgenes, and

     3) providing authoritative science to support the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) in meeting requirements of domestic legislation such as the Plant Protection Act, Plant Protection Regulations, the Seeds Act, and Seed Regulations (Part 5).

I am an evolutionary biologist rather than agronomist and I approach projects from that perspective. I combine field work and molecular approaches, which provide unprecedented power to understand evolutionary processes.

Professional activities / interests

Areas of Research

  • Plant Systematics, Ecology and Evolution
  • Weeds and Invasive Species
  • Plant Genetics and Genomics
  • Polyploidy

Areas of Technical Expertise

  • Flow cytometry and cytology

  • Genetics and genomics (e.g. ddRADTAGs and PacBio)

  • Bioinformatics  (e.g. population genetics and genome assembly)

  • Statistics (R)

  • Field work


Research facility

960 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1A 0C6


Carleton University – Adjunct Professor

Canadian Weed Science Society