PhD research using biologging technology to investigate temporal and spatial variation in energy expenditure of free-ranging mammals (co-supervised by Murray Humphries, McGill University)
To date, our understanding of the link between individual energy expenditure and broad-scale ecological phenomena is limited, likely due to the challenge of monitoring the energetic status of free-ranging animals over ecologically-relevant temporal or spatial scales. Traditionally, energetic studies have employed methods that are limited in their capacity to measure metabolism and energy expenditure over broad spatial and temporal scales; however, recent advances in biologging technology (i.e., miniaturized animal-borne data loggers that relay information about an animal’s behaviour, physiology, and environment) have opened up new possibilities for studying behaviour and energetics in the field. For my PhD, I am combining traditional methods (i.e., respirometry and doubly-labeled water) with more recent biologging methods (accelerometers, heart rate and body temperature loggers, VHF/GPS collars) to obtain estimates of energy expenditure of Canada lynx, snowshoe hares, and North American red squirrels in the northern boreal forest. With these data I aim to verify relationships among activity-time budgets, heart rate, body temperature and daily energy expenditure in order to predict overall energy requirements of free-ranging animals outfitted with these dataloggers. Continuous sampling of behavioural, spatial, energetic and environmental data, over multi-seasonal and multi-annual time periods will allow me to estimate energetic status of these three species over ecologically-relevant spacial and temporal scales and gain a better understanding of how the energetic status of a free-ranging mammal changes in their highly variable environment.
My field work is based at Squirrel Camp in southwestern Yukon, between the town of Haines Junction and Kluane Lake (one of the most beautiful places to visit; see Photos). Ecological monitoring and research has occurred in this area for decades and I am fortunate to be part of the extensive team of professors and graduate students that have done work there. Thank you to the Champagne and Aishihik and Kluane First Nations for allowing us to be guests and conduct field work on their traditional territory, and to the community members of Haines Junction for their hospitality and support.