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Fellows Directory

Spencer Barrett

Spencer Barrett

Professor Spencer Barrett FRS


Elected: 2004


Spencer Barrett is an evolutionary biologist and a worldwide authority on the ecology and genetics of plant reproduction. His work has focused on increasing our understanding of how flowers evolve and the mechanisms responsible for mating system transitions in flowering plants.

Through innovative experiments, amongst his other discoveries, Spencer provided the first experimental evidence for the purging of deleterious genes following inbreeding in plants. He also demonstrated that self-fertilisation owing to large floral displays in plants has a detrimental effect on the male fertility of plants.

Spencer’s research group at the University of Toronto focuses on understanding the mechanisms responsible for the evolution of plant mating strategies, and he has edited several leading books in the field. He received the Sewall Wright Award from the American Society of Naturalists in 2008 and was President of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution from 2010–2011. In 2020 he was elected as an International Member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA and was awarded the Darwin-Wallace Medal by the Linnean Society of London.  He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Proceedings B, the Royal Society’s flagship biology journal.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Organismal biology, evolution and ecology
    • Evolution, Ecology (incl behavioural ecology), Plant sciences / botany


Evolutionary biology, Plant reproduction, Invasive species, Evolutionary ecology

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