Spencer K. Monckton

Ph.D student, York University
M.Sc in Biology, York University
Honours B.Sc. in Biology, University of Ottawa
Email: monckton@yorku.ca

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the study of systematics & biogeography, particularly as a means to understand and explain the evolution & diversity of insects. I began my graduate research at PCYU on a subgenus of xeromelissine bees endemic to Chile, Chilicola (Heteroediscelis). My revision of this group involved the description of 8 of the 17 species now known for the subgenus. I also found that Heteroediscelis apparently diversified primarily through a series of north-south disjunctions that roughly correspond with Chile's varied biogeographic regions. You can find a link to the finished work below.

For my PhD thesis, I am currently working on a different group of Hymenoptera: sawflies in the genus Pristiphora (Tenthredinidae: Nematinae). This work will consist of an integrative systematic revision of Nearctic Pristiphora. Unlike most living groups, whose diversity is usually highest in the tropics, sawflies reach their peak diversity at more northern latitudes. Yet, comprehensive revisionary works on nearctic nematine sawflies have largely yet to be done, because most species are morphologically very difficult to tell apart. The integrative nature of my research uses of a combination of morphological, molecular, and other data to better differentiate species, with the goal of producing a crystal-clear picture of their diversity in the Nearctic region. As part of this work I am also looking into patterns of sawfly distribution, in order to better understand the reasons (i.e. historical biogeographical) for their diversity here. Feel free to look at my personal website, found here: S.K. Monckton.


  • Packer L, Monckton SK, Onuferko TM, and Ferrari, RR. 2018. Validating taxonomic identifications in entomological research. Insect Conservation and Diversity 11:1-12. doi: 10.1111/icad.12284
  • Monckton SK. 2016. A revision of Chilicola (Heteroediscelis), a subgenus of xeromelissine bees (Hymenoptera, Colletidae) endemic to Chile: taxonomy, phylogeny, and biogeography, with descriptions of eight new species. Zookeys. 591: 1-44. doi: doi:10.3897/zookeys.591.7731
  • Monckton SK. 2014. Case 3670 - Chilicola vicugna Toro & Moldenke, 1979 (Insecta, Hymenoptera, COLLETIDAE): proposed replacement of the holotype by a neotype. Bulleting of Zoological Nomenclature, 71(4): 234-236. doi: 10.21805/bzn.v71i4.a13
  • Valenta, K., Miller, C.N., Monckton SK, Melin, A.D., Lehman, S.M., Styler, S.A., Chapman, C.A., Lawes, M.J. 2016. Fruit ripening signals and cues in a Madagascan dry forest: haptic indicators reliably indicate fruit ripeness to dichromatic lemurs. Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.1007/s11692-016-9374-7
  • Valenta, K., Brown, K.A., Melin, A.D., Monckton SK, Styler, S.A. Jackson, D.A., Chapman, C.A. 2015. It’s not easy being blue: a cost analysis of plant signal trade-offs. PLoS ONE, 10(6): e0131725. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131725

Favorite Recipe

Tofu Pasanda Curry



  • 8 oz tofu, cubed
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 clove
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar


Heat oil over medium heat, add cubed tofu, garam masala, and cinnamon, and cook for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, cook the onion for 4-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, clove, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds, and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato and cook for 4-5 minutes until very soft. Blend to a purée with the coconut milk, then return to pan. Add water, paprika, cayenne, salt, sugar, and cooked tofu. Mix well, cover and cook on low-medium for 15-18 minutes to blend flavours and thicken. Serve with rice or naan.

Funniest Research Story

My funniest field research story involves walking into a gas station after several days of miserable weather, more than two months into a four-month-long trip to Chile. We'd just gotten the car out of yet another sticky situation and needed to use the bathroom and grab a coffee. We'd sat down to drink it in silence, happy for a moment of peace. Then, a man walked in, casually set down a plastic dish at a nearby table, and pulled out his laptop to use the WiFi.

In the plastic dish was a live turtle.

I struggle to explain why any of this was funny (why a turtle? why wasn't it in an enclosed container? why did the turtle need to come in with him at all?), but I have never laughed harder during fieldwork before or since - so, there it is.

[Laurence in a good mood]
Dr. Laurence Packer
Ph.D. (Toronto)
Professor of Biology
416-736-2100 ext. 22663
[Packer Collection @ York University]
[Biology Department @ York University]
Lumbers Building 345
York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3J1P3, Canada