Spencer C.H. Barrett is an evolutionary biologist who is well known for his research on the evolution of plant reproductive systems and the genetics and ecology of biological invasions. Born in Bushey, Hertfordshire, UK, he obtained Hons BSc in horticultural botany from the University of Reading, and after a year working in Swaziland as a weed biologist,
moved to the USA where he obtained a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the University of Toronto faculty in 1977, was Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Genetics and is currently University Professor Emeritus. He is a fellow of the Royal Societies of Canada and London, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences and a Distinguished Fellow of the Botanical Society of America. He has been a recipient of the Sewall Wright Award (American Society of Naturalists), Flavelle Medal (Royal Society of Canada), Lawson Medal (Canadian Botanical Association) and Darwin-Wallace Medal (Linnean Society of London). He is a former President of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Proceedings B published by the Royal Society of London. Spencer?s main interests are natural history, gardening and photography.

Research Interests

Spencer C.H. Barrett is an evolutionary biologist with research interests in the evolution of plant reproductive and genetic systems. His laboratory at Toronto uses a wide range of approaches and tools for solving problems in plant evolution including field experiments, comparative methods, theoretical models and genomics. His contributions have rejuvenated plant reproductive biology, making it one of the most active areas within ecology and evolutionary biology. He is the world's leading authority on the selective mechanisms driving evolutionary transitions in plant reproductive systems, particularly the
evolution and breakdown of heterostyly. He has made key contributions to understanding the evolution of self-fertilization from outcrossing, the evolution of separate sexes (dioecy) from hermaphroditism and, more recently, the evolution of wind from animal pollination. He has made novel discoveries concerning floral adaptation and function, particularly how
male mating costs associated with pollen transfer between flowers of a plant have shaped the evolution of many features of floral design and display. Spencer also helped to initiate the rapidly developing field of invasion genetics. Much of his current work is focused on sex chromosome evolution and the mechanisms causing biased sex ratios in plant populations.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology

Secondary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology