About Heather Proctor

HP compilation June 2015My academic career has been somewhat peripatetic, but guided by a strong homing instinct. I was born in Edmonton, grew up in St. Albert, and completed my undergraduate education in the then Department of Zoology at the University of Alberta with Dr. Hugh Clifford (author of Aquatic Invertebrates of Alberta) as my honours supervisor. My honours work involved a survey of water mites of Alberta and literature review of everything I could find out about their biology. Thereafter, I did my M.Sc. degree on the ecology of a sponge-associated water mite with Dr. Gordon Pritchard at the University of Calgary. Having run out of universities in Alberta, I went farther afield and undertook a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto, co-supervised by Drs. Rob Baker and Darryl Gwynne. My thesis topic was the evolution of sperm-transfer behaviour in water mites, a truly fascinating group of >6000 described species of subaquatic arachnids. Darryl and Rob were concerned that after three theses on water mites, I risked being pegged as a “mite person”, and advised me to work on a different taxon for my postdoc. I heeded their advice and studied orchid pollination biology with Dr. Lawrence Harder at the U of Calgary. Further retracing my steps, I completed my PDF with Dr. Doug Craig in the Department of Entomology at the U of Alberta on various orchid and mite projects.

My first academic position was as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Queen’s University in Ontario. There I continued my dual life as an acarologist/pollination ecologist. After three years at Queen’s, I moved to Queensland to take up a lecturer position at Griffith University. During my five years at Griffith I continued to work on water mites and other aquatic invertebrates, but expanded into soil-invertebrate ecology and feather mite taxonomy and biology. I also took part in a fruitful interdisciplinary project on assessment of rainforest restoration using plants, arthropods, vertebrates, forest structure, and various processes such as decomposition rate as indicators of ‘success’. In 2002 there was an opening at the University of Alberta for a freshwater invertebrate biologist. I applied for and was awarded the position. This time I’m home for good.

My main research area still comprises the ecology, evolution, systematics and behaviour of mites (Arachnida: Acari). But as you can see from my students’ pages, working in the Proctor lab does not mean you are shackled to acarines. My theoretical research areas include the community ecology of freshwater and soil invertebrates, determinants of biodiversity, co-evolution of hosts and symbionts, and both macro- and microevolutionary aspects of sexual selection. For fun I enjoy macrophotography and engaging in biodiversity surveys of my backyard and the quarter section of slough and aspen that I have near Elk Island NP.


Collecting aquatic invertebrates in the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton.

%d bloggers like this: