Mule deer and white-tailed deer - disease spread, ungulate ecology and behavior
My work in the Lingle Lab (University of Winnipeg) focused on the conditions leading to the spread of a fatal prion disease (Chronic Wasting Disease, or "CWD") in mule deer and white-tailed deer. My goal was to identify behavioral (mating tactics; individual personality) and ecological (group size; season; population density) factors that facilitate social interactions that would allow CWD spread. The results of this work may offer new avenues for targeted wildlife management by identifying areas or individuals that may be at risk.
American black bearS - wildlife ecology and genetics
For my Ph.D., conducted in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Trent University, I used an extensive genetic dataset to determine the historical and contemporary genetic structure of American black bears across Ontario. My research showed that Ontario black bears had been historically divided by post-glacial recolonization routes (Pelletier et al. 2011), and that they are now divided into 3 main contemporary genetic groups (Pelletier et al. 2012), two large ones located in northwest and southeast Ontario, and a small one located on the Bruce Peninsula (southeast Ontario). I identified a low genetic diversity in the Bruce Peninsula population, and used simulations to identify the processes that led to this pattern. Finally, I evaluated the usefulness of bringing bears from other locations to boost the genetic diversity of this population to potentially increase its chances of persistence (Pelletier et al. submitted).
Snow Leopards - Wildlife conservation and Monitoring
Since 2008, I have been involved in snow leopard conservation in Kyrgyzstan. I started this project when I was hired by the non-governmental organization Objectif Sciences International to lead a field expedition in the remote natural reserve of Sarychat-Ertash, a site where poaching occurs on a regular basis. The initial goal was to train the participants on field techniques (scat collection, setting of wildlife cameras) and snow leopard ecology and conservation. We are now collaborating with the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensics Center (Peterborough, ON): this lab conducts the DNA analyses of the collected samples so that we can monitor snow leopard presence through individual identification on the long-term.
AlPINE MARMOTS - Behavioral Ecology
My M.Sc. focused on a species that is considered socially monogamous (males and females form exclusive bonds), the alpine marmot. This species lives in family groups with a dominant male-female pair, as well as subordinates and young of the year. I conducted both behavioral observations and genetic analyses to assess if changes in social partners and the production of extra-pair young may represent a strategy to gain access to higher quality mates (mate sampling strategy).
Humpback Whales - WiLdlife conservation and monitoring
I worked with the Centre for Whale Research (Australia) to determine how salt mining activities may affect humpback whales. My objectives were to assess where the whales’ preferred resting areas were located in Exmouth Gulf, what kind of behaviors they displayed, and what changes could be expected if shipping activities became a disturbance. This was done by analyzing extensive behavioral and distributional datasets obtained by both aerial (2004 and 2005) and vessel (2006) surveys, and by creating detailed maps of the whales’ distribution.
Large Predators - Predator-prey Study
Amur Tigers and Asian Elephants - Species Survival Plan
My interest in conservation started early on, so being involved in projects dealing with Species Survival Plans was a logical step. Specifically, I conducted two behavioral projects whose goals were to enhance animals’ welfare in captivity: the first one was an evaluation of stereotypical behaviours of captive Asian elephants prior and following the split of a social group; the second one was an assessment of the social behaviors of Amur tigers of various ages in captivity, a species that is solitary in the wild.