Lab 2018 (not on the picture : Limoilou-Amélie Renaud, Joanie Van De Walle, Julie Landes, Yanny Ritchot)

Older lab pictures


Graduate students


Yanny Ritchot - MSc candidate 

BSc University of Ottawa

Investigating the costs of reproduction to link reproductive success and survival of male bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).

Hunting is a sport that is practiced all over the world and hunted species are usually chosen for a specific morphological trait. This discrimination between individuals may lead to an artificial selection that might have consequences for the whole population. Male bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), rams, are hunted for their massive horns and studies suggest multiple negative impacts. In fact, horn length and body mass are really important for rams during the rut season because the few biggest males will each protect a female while the others will try to copulate by bypassing the dominant rams. These mating strategies require a big effort and might have repercussions on survival. My project rely on the costs of reproduction of rams by trying to find a link between reproductive success and survival.

(Co-supervisor: Prof Marco Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke)

Email :



Pier-Olivier Cusson - MSc candidate 

BSc Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Behavior, growth rate and trophy hunting in a wild population of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).

Harvest of wild population by means of hunting or fishing has been shown to induce ecological and/or evolutionary changes in exploited populations. These changes are well known for morphological and life-history traits but evidence remains scarce concerning behavioral traits. Studies have shown that fishing selectively removes fish based on their behavior and that size-selective harvesting indirectly selects for behavioral traits because individuals showing higher growth rates are usually also bolder. However, very few studies have verified whether harvest of terrestrial species such as trophy hunting could also induce a selective pressure on behavioral traits. During my MSc project, I will investigate whether what has been suggested in fishes can be generalized to terrestrial species like ungulates. More specifically, I will investigate the links between individual differences in behavior, growth rate and vulnerability to trophy hunting for rams in a wild population of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). To achieve this, I will use trapability as a proxy of risk taking and over 40 years of longitudinal data on body weight and horn size. My project will provide key insights into how human activities can impact the evolution of wild populations and will potentially allow for a better management of harvested wild populations of large terrestrial mammals.

Email :



Marie-Christine Poisson - MSc candidate 

BSc Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières

Effects of pesticides on the reproduction and incubation behavior of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor).

Several laboratory studies show toxic, acute and chronic effects of pesticides when given orally to birds. Some are known to cause neurological and endocrinological disturbances, such as a decrease in the number of eggs laid and impaired incubation. Given the growing use of these products, particularly in agriculture, there is an urgent need to better understand their effects on wildlife. My projet aims at identifying the effects of pesticides on the reproduction and incubation behavior of swallows in the wild. I will use a new method that allows to dose 54 pesticides and their derived products within biological matrices. For my project, I will use boluses of insects intended for nestlings to assess swallows' exposure to pesticides. My project uses data from a long term study which follows 400 nesting boxes located along a gradient of agricultural intensity in southern Quebec. I will use the 1648 boluses collected between 2013 and 2016 and will inventory the pesticides to which swallows are exposed.

Email :



Audrey Sigouin - MSc candidate 

BSc Université Laval

Impacts on the hematology, immunity and ectoparasitic load of tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) nestlings exposed to pesticides.

For my master project, I plan to verify whether the exposition to pesticides affects the haematological and immune parameters of tree swallow nestlings. Also, I would like to exploire the possible link between pesticide exposition and the presence of a hematophagous parasite in the nest and their potential combined effects on nestlings.

(Co-supervisor: Prof Marc Bélisle, Université de Sherbrooke)

Email :



Valérie Lemieux - MSc candidate

BSc Université de Sherbrooke


Tree swallow exposition to pesticide during and after the breeding season

My masters project will explore the level of contamination of tree swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) prey to 54 different pesticides present during the breeding season, and relating this to the proportion of intensive agricultural habitat on the landscape. The detection and quantification of pesticides is done by capturing single boluses of insects intended for nestlings and then using analytical chemistry (e.g., mass spectrometer) to detect contaminants. With these data it is possible to relate prey density with the level of contamination for the 40 farms visited.

I will also relate the exposure of Tree Swallows to pesticides on their wintering grounds. Using geolocators we can track individuals during migration through the United States, allowing us to know the time spent in each state. I will then relate these durations to the amount of pesticide sold in each state. Furthermore, geolocators are placed on individuals from broth western and eastern Canada, which allows me to relate the location of the breeding ground and migration route to the level of exposure during migration. This is an important comparison because the population of Western Canada appears to be more stable than the population of Eastern Canada.

Email :




Ludovick Brown - PhD candidate

BSc McGill University (MacDonald Campus) | MSc UQAM


Influence of hunting on lead exposure and the foraging ecology of Scandinavian brown bears (Ursus arctos)

Anthropogenic activities have altered ecosystem integrity, notably by releasing contaminants in the environment. Lead (Pb) is among the most studied contaminants. The use of this toxic metal is severely regulated; however, there are few restrictions regarding the use of Pb ammunitions to hunt large animals. Bullets made of Pb will fragment upon impact, thereby shedding multiple metal fragments in the tissues of the target (usually an ungulate). After field dressing their catch, hunters typically discard a carcass or a gut pile, which are quickly consumed by obligate and opportunistic scavengers. These organisms ingest bullet fragments along with their food and are, thus, at risk of Pb exposure. Among the species at risk, there is the brown bear (Ursus arctos), which in certain part of its range is known to scavenge on the remains of hunter-killed ungulates. My PhD thesis will take place in Sweden, where hunters annually harvest 95 0000 moose, and will be in collaboration with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project. My project aims at documenting an often neglected consequence of hunting: Pb emissions in the environment. My objectives are 1) Identify geographical sources of Pb by using telemetric data from collared bears 2) Verify if there is an association between gut pile consumption and Pb exposure in brown bears and 3) Determine if consuming gut piles affects life history traits in bears. This will help implementing regulations to reduce the use of Pb bullets for big game hunting.

(Co-supervisor: Prof Andreas Zedrosser, Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

Email :


Limoilou-Amélie Renaud - PhD candidate

BSc McGill University (MacDonald Campus) | MSc UQAR


Phenotypic plasticity and maternal effects of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

Phenotypic plasticity is defined as the expression of different phenotypes by a single genotype in response to different environmental conditions. As part of my PhD project, I will explore the relationship between phenotypic plasticity of certain features of life history traits in a bighorn sheep population as a function of seasonal variation in density and climate. To do this, I assess the variation in birthing date (a maternal effect) using data from a sheep population where all individuals have been marked  and followed since birth. In particular, intra- and inter-individual changes in dates mothers give birth to lambs will be analyzed. These data will be analyzed in conjunction with physiological indices such as maternal hormone levels and changes in the composition of milk. We will then assess the consequences of these changes across the population, and how selection acts on phenotypic plasticity of birthing date in the case of inter-individual variation.

Email :


Joanie Van De Walle - PhD candidate

BSc Université Laval  |  MSc Université Laval

Maternal care in a context of high hunting pressure: the case of the Scandinavian brown bear (Ursus arctos)

Maternal care aims at improving offspring fitness, however it is costly. Therefore, how much maternal care should a female provide to offspring? Answer to this question requires an analysis of the associated costs and benefits. I am interested in the determinants (environmental and/or genetic) of the variation in the duration of maternal care and in the impact of such variation on demographic parameters and dynamics of the Scandinavian brown bear population. In Sweden, brown bears suffer from high and increasing hunting pressure, except females accompanied by their dependent cubs that are provided legal protection. On one hand, this protection could select for an extension of the period of maternal care (from 1.5 years to 2.5 years). On the other hand, such extension would likely reduce female fecundity, an important demographic parameter that can affect population growth rate. For my PhD, I collaborate with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Project, a project that carries out a longitudinal monitoring of the Swedish brown bear population since 1984. This long-term study from individually-marked animals represents a formidable opportunity to address changes in life history traits and the sensitivity of population dynamics to changes in reproductive tactics on an individual basis.

(Co-supervisor: Prof Andreas Zedrosser, Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

Email :




Julie Landes - Post Doctoral Fellow

Senescence in a wild population

Senescence is the progressive accumulation of damages to the organism. At the demographic level, it corresponds to an increase in mortality with age. Several factors can affect the patterns of senescence. They can be environmental (e.g. resource availability or meteorological conditions) or intrinsic (e.g. reproduction or growth). My postdoctoral project aims at studying senescence patterns of a wild bighorn sheep population, for which we have access to demographic and individual characteristics monitoring over a long time period. These data will allow me to study the effects of environmental conditions during early life on adult mortality. I will also test the hypothesis that senescence patterns of the females can be affected by reproductive effort. For this second point, I will determine in particular if it is more costly for a female to produce male or female lamb, on short and long term.

(Co-supervisor: Prof M. Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke)



Graduate Student Co-Supervisions


Ève Rioux - Ph.D. candidate

Individual variability in foraging ecology and physiological condition of the Gaspésie caribou population and trophic relationships between moose, coyotes and black bears

Foraging and physiological condition are key determinants in ecology as they can affect individual growth, reproduction and survival. During my thesis project, I will study individual differences in the diet composition and physiological condition of the endangered Atlantic-Gaspésie caribou population. I will evaluate trophic relationships between the caribou, moose, coyote and black bear in the Gaspésie national park using stable isotope analysis. Stable isotope ratios have become a key tool to study the foraging ecology of wild species, as they provide information on trophic relationships and diet composition. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope signatures will be measured for hair samples from nearly half of the caribou population (44 out of 75 animals), 90 moose, 127 coyotes and 58 black bears and for plasma and red blood cell samples from 28 caribous and 13 coyotes. This study will provide essential information to understand the ecology of this isolated herd and to contribute efficiently to its recovery.

(supervisor: Prof Martin-Hugues St-Laurent, UQAR)



Benjamin Larue - Ph.D. candidate

Energy allocation trade-offs and life-history in bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis)

Life history theory predicts energy allocation trade-offs between different life history functions when resources are limited. Paradoxically, several empirical studies conducted in the wild have found positive correlations between life history functions. As part of my project, I will evaluate different possible solutions to the paradox by using morphological, behavioral and life history data of bighorn sheep collected over the past 47 years. More specifically, I will explore different reproductive trade-offs in bighorn ewes at different time scales. This will allow me to see if positive correlations between two functions are paired to negative correlations with other functions or at different time scales. At the same time, I will explore the individual heterogeneity hypothesis which states that some individuals can allocate more energy to several functions simultaneously than other individuals. Ultimately, my project will contribute to our understanding of the role of life story trade-offs in the evolution of life stories.

(supervisor: Prof Marco Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke)

Email :


Elouana Gharnit  -  PhD candidate

Personality and individual niche specialisation in Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

The interindividual variation in behavioural traits (i.e. personality) is the subject of increasing attention in ecological studies. While personality is likely to be involved in several evolutionary and ecosystem processes, few studies have investigated its importance in habitat selection and alimentary niche use. For several years, the conceptual framework of the ecological niche has been studied at the individual level and is referred to as individual specialisation. My research proposes to explore the role of interindividual behavioural variation in niche differentiation, in several dimensions such as habitat, alimentary and social. Individual specialisation at fine scale is likely to reduce the intraspecific competition cost. The long-term monitoring  in a natural rodent population of Eastern Chipmunk in the Mont Sutton (Québec) will allow us to study environmental variables as well as behavioural and life history traits of individuals. This project would provide important insights into ecological and evolutionary implications of the interindividual variation in behaviours linked with both habitat selection and niche specialisation.

(supervisor: Prof Denis Réale, UQAM)



Emilie Lefol - Ph.D. candidate

Study of extra pair copulation determinants in tree swallow

The development of agriculture in recent decades has had a major impact on bird populations associated with agricultural environments in both North America and Europe. Today, most groups of birds species have declined in numbers, but insectivorous species such as the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) have suffered the greatest drops. However, the biological mechanisms behind this decline are still relatively unknown. The aim of my thesis is to study environmental effects (type of crop, congener density) on the determinants (mass, wing size, plumage colour, etc.) of sexual partner's choice as well as parental expenditure, in particular in terms of sex ratio allocation to the offspring in an agricultural context. Among these determinants, I am particularly interested in plumage colouring in Tree Swallows. This species has the peculiarity of having an elaborate plumage, with blue-green metallized, referred to as iridescent, on the back, and white on the belly. The latter also has the peculiarity of emitting within the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum which is invisible to human eye but visible birds. Each of these signals (iridescence and UV) are known to influence independently individuals' reproduction. However, the combined effects of these two signals in the same bird species are still unknown. Thus my work will provide a better understanding of the information transmitted by plumage and on a larger scale of communication in birds.

(supervisor: Prof Dany Garant, Université de Sherbrooke)




Nadine Blais - MSc candidate

Title to come!



Stay tuned for more details!



(supervisor: Prof Marco Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke)


Other Students Involved (internship, honors thesis, etc.)

Audrey Vallée (2019)

Audrey Tremblay (2018)

Mathias Gagnon-Barbin (2018)

Camille Brisson (2018)

Gaby Dupont (2017)

Pier-Olivier Cusson (2017)

Marie-Christine Poisson (2017)

Eve Courtois (2016)

Kathy Doyon (2015)

Coralie Gautier (2015)

Dominic Phaneuf (2015)

Valérie Lemieux (2015)

Sabine St-Jean (2015)

Raphaëlle Mercier Gauthier (2014)

Cédric Dussault Frenette (2014)

Sabrina Gignac-Brassard (2014)

Ingrid Fortin (2013)

Édouard Bélanger (2013)

Gaëlle Sartre (2013)

Juliette Duranleau (2013)

Myriam Cadotte (2013)

Mathieu Tétreault (2013)

Miranda Roberge (2013)

Xavier Meyer (2013)

Noémi Charron St-André (2012-2013)

Elsa Poulin (2012)

Anna LeNoël (2012)

Laurence Cousseau (2012)

Geneviève Turgeon (2011)

Julien St-Amand (2012)

Léa Baronnat (2011)

Anne-Sophie Goyette (2011)

Sarah Sherman Quirion (2010-11)

Alessandro Dieni (2010-11)

Pierre-Olivier Benoît (2010-11)

Vincent Cameron-Trudel (2010-11)

Gabriel Pigeon (2010)

Benoît Talbot (2010)

Anne-Marie Lavoie (2010)

Stéphanie Pratte (2010)

Vincent Tremblay-Provençal (2010)

Pierre-Alexandre Dumas (2010)

Valérie Massé (2010)

Mathieu Léger-Dalcourt (2010)

Michela Busana (2010)

Jean-Philippe Boyer (2009-10)

Simon Nadeau (2009)

Martin Leclerc (2008-09)

Charlotte Poeydebat (2008-09)

Former lab members

Yoanna Poisson



MSc Thesis (January 2019)









Martin Leclerc


Ph.D. Thesis (2018)


Current position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Victoria


Personnal page

Sacha Engelhardt




Post-Doctoral Fellow




Mathieu Douhard



Post-Doctoral Fellow (2018)


Nghia Tran



MSc Thesis (May 2018)




Gabriel Pigeon


Ph.D. Thesis (2017)



MSc Thesis (November 2012)



Current position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, Norwegian University of Life Sciences


Jonathan Frenette




MSc Thesis (March 2017)




Clarence Schmitt



Ph.D. Thesis (2016)



Simon Guillemette



MSc Thesis (August 2016)




Olivia Tardy



Ph.D. Thesis (2016)



Sonia Van Wijk



MSc Thesis (July 2015)




Hélène Presseault-Gauvin


Lab Manager (2010 - 2015)



Kathy Doyon




MSc Thesis (May 2015)




Antoine Millet



Post-Doctoral Fellow


Audrey Gagné-Delorme


MSc Thesis (September 2014)




Eric Vander Wal


Post-Doctoral Fellow


Wildlife Evolutionary Ecology Lab


Current position: Assistant Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Jacinthe Gosselin



MSc Thesis (July 2014)




Geneviève Turgeon


MSc Thesis (December 2013)




Sébastien Rioux-Paquette


Post-Doctoral Fellow



Alexandre Martin



Ph.D. Thesis (December 2013)




Patrick Bergeron


Post-Doctoral Fellow


Current position: Assistant professor at Bishop's Univerisity

Dominique Marcil-Ferland



MSc Thesis (December 2012)

Benoit Talbot


MSc Thesis (October 2012)



Current position: Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa

Marlène Massouh



MSc Thesis (2012)


Jennifer Chambers

Lab Manager (2011)

Evolutionary rescue in yeast populations



Current position: Scientific Editor and translation support, FMSS, Université de Sherbrooke

Karine Robert


MSc Thesis (December 2011)



Current position: Lecturer at the Cégep of Ste-Foy in Continuing Education (Évaluation et Suivi Environnemental Program)

Héloise Côté


MSc Thesis (August 2011)



Current position: PhD Candidate, UQAC

Aurélie Bourbeau Lemieux



MSc Thesis in PDF (December 2009)



Current position : Biologist for the Grand Conseil des Cris / Administration Régionale Crie à Montréal


Vincent Careau




PhD Thesis in PDF (November 2010)



Current position: Associate professor at University of Ottawa


2014 Lab

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Département de biologie, Faculté des Sciences Université de Sherbrooke, 2500 boul. de l'Université, Sherbrooke, QC, J1K 2R1