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Fellows Directory

Graham Bell

Professor Graham Bell FRS


Elected: 2016


Graham Bell is best known for his work on experimental evolution.  He has used laboratory populations of microbes to investigate fundamental questions about how organisms adapt through natural selection to novel environments. His experiments have answered questions such as: what are the conditions that favour specialists over generalists? and, is the course of evolution predictable or idiosyncratic?  His most recent experiments concern the process of evolutionary rescue.    If its conditions of life continually deteriorate a population will sooner or later become extinct, unless it is rescued by the spread of resistant types.  Bell has shown how rescue is affected by the size and diversity of the population, by immigration from neighbouring populations, and by previous exposure to similar stresses.

Bell has made other important contributions to evolution and ecology.  He has written extensively on the evolution of the main features of life cycles, such as sex and senescence.  He was also among the first proponents of the neutral theory of biodiversity, which provides a simple and consistent explanation for large-scale ecological patterns such as the increase of species diversity with area.

Graham Bell teaches at McGill University, Montreal.  He was the founding President of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and is a past President of the Royal Society of Canada.

Professional positions

James McGill Professor, Department of Biology, McGill University

Interests and expertise

Subject groups


Animal phylogeny and evolution, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Community ecology, Evolutionary rescue, Experimental evolution, Genetics of adaptation, Natural selection, Neutral theory of community ecology, Phylogenetic comparative biology