Evolutionary demography and conservation lab - Labo de démographie évolutive et conservation

 

Aims of the projects

The goals of these projects are to understand the effects of individual behaviour, life history traits, environmental conditions and harvesting on survival, reproductive success and population dynamics of large vertebrates. Sheep and goats are ideal to investigate these questions as they are easily observable and philopatric (i.e. they come back to their natal range).

The key of our studies is the long-term monitoring of marked individuals. In all populations more than 95% of the sheep and goats are individually recognizable which allows collecting detailed data on the life-history of these animals. Survival and reproductive success are closely monitored by census conducted mostly between April and September at Ram Mountain and Caw Ridge and all year round at Sheep River. These long-term studies are very valuable to explore the effect of environmental variation (such as climate change) on survival and recruitment. These populations, where almost 100% of individuals are marked, are unique in allowing the investigation of the causes of long-term temporal trends, and their consequences on the demographic rates and evolution of life-history traits in natural settings. The effect of hunting on demography and individual characteristics (such as horn and body mass) is also studied at Ram Mountain. Several projects on the ecology, behaviour, population biology and evolutionary ecology of the alpine ungulates are also conducted in these populations.

Here are some of the main research questions we are addressing:

  • How do environmental conditions affect recruitment and survival?
  • What are the effects of trophy hunting on the demography and the evolution of life history of the bighorn?
  • Why do some males migrate during the breeding season?
  • What are the costs and benefits of social dominance?
  • Is reproduction costly and how does this cost vary according to environmental and individual conditions?
  • What are the relationships between male quality and offspring performance?
  • Are populations of mountain goats genetically structured at small and large spatial scales?
  • What are the main drivers of lifetime reproductive success in both sexes?


 

   

   
    Sheep River: Ram 677 as a lamb and four year later. 677 died at 5 years-old. He was killed by a cougar during a breeding migration in 2005.