Lab 2014 (not on the picture : Joanie Van De Walle, Mathieu Douhard)

Older lab pictures


Graduate students


Nghia Tran - MSc candidate 

BSc Université de Moncton

Parental care in tree swallow (Tachicineta bicolor): Incubation behaviour and nestling provisioning effort

Despite numerous debates on the subject, it is now clear that avian egg brooding imposes a considerable energetic stress for the incubating parent. Also, recent technological advances are now allowing efficient and relatively cheap incubation behaviour monitoring resulting in an increasing interest on the subject in scientific literature. During my master’s project, I will work with a tree swallow population nesting in the southern part of Quebec. The objectives for my project will be 1) to evaluate the individual and environmental factors driving the incubation behaviour. Here, the total incubation duration, the incubation constancy and the off- and on- bouts frequency and duration will be considered. 2) To evaluate the link between the incubation effort and the nestling provisioning effort provided by the parents. The incubation effort will be assessed using automatic temperature data logger (I-Button) which will be directly placed into tree swallow’s nest. Sampling of the food brought back to nestlings by parents will be used as a proxy for the provisioning effort.


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 :




Yoanna Poisson - MSc candidate




Habitat quality and horn growth in bighorn sheep


I will explore the links between habitat quality and horn growth of bighorn rams. We recently showed that horn size of rams has declined in the last 40 years in Alberta. Part of this decline is due to trophy hunting but some could be explained by changes in habitat quality. Thus, we want to combine GIS maps of the Canadian Rockies with data on harvested rams to evaluate whether the decline in horn size is associated with declines in range quality.




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



Martin Leclerc - PhD candidate

BSc  Université de Sherbrooke | MSc UQAR

Ecological and evolutionary impacts of hunting on behavior in a solitary carnivore

Several studies have shown that harvesting has induced ecological and evolutionary changes on morphological and life-history traits. However, the study of the effects of harvesting on the evolution of behavior has received little attention. During my Ph.D., I will look at the ecological and evolutionary effects of hunting on the behavior of brown bears (Ursus arctos). I will work in collaboration with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project, and use longitudinal data of radio-marked bears in a heavily managed landscape in Scandinavia. I will use GPS locations of radio-collared bears, the pedigree of the marked population, and information on bears shot during the hunting season. I will combine methods from wildlife space use ecology, behavioral ecology of personality and evolutionary ecology to look at 1) variability in habitat selection, 2) the selective pressure of hunters on habitat selection of bears, and 3) heritability of habitat selection. I will further investigate the mechanism relating hunting and sexually selected infanticide by looking how the social and spatial structure of male bears is modulated when a male is shot. This study will provide important knowledge on the ecological and evolutionary impacts of hunting on a large carnivore, and on habitat selection, a central behavior in ecology.

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

Email :

Personnal page


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 :


Gabriel Pigeon - PhD candidate

BSc UQAM | MSc Université de Sherbrooke

Importance of contemporary evolution in population dynamics of ungulates 

It is now widely accepted that evolutionary changes can happen on a short time scale. Hence, not only can ecology influence evolution, but evolution can influence ecology, leading to eco-evolutionary feedback loops. This has lead to the emergence of a new field of study: Eco-evolutionary dynamics. A key question is to quantify the relative importance of evolutionary processes and other ecological factors driving ecological dynamic. The main aim of my PhD is to evaluate the role of evolutionary changes on population dynamics of wild ungulates. To do so, I will use data of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) from Ram Mountain and mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) from Caw Ridge. Both long term individual monitoring studies are of rare quality and contain detailed individual data that I will use to evaluate empirically the importance of eco-evolutionary dynamics.

Email :



Clarence Schmitt - PhD candidate

Licence Université de Strasbourg, France | Master University of Leeds, UK

Link between immune response and environment in tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor)

Recent studies have shown that the environment affects the immune response differently between distinct populations of the same species but also within the same population. This new approach called ecoimmunology is useful to investigate the trade-offs between defenses strategies and different fitness components of the host. These trade-offs are important as they play a key role in the evolution of resistance mechanisms of organisms against their parasites. My project aims to investigate these trade-offs by studying the effects of the variations in time and space of parasite distribution on their host immune system as well as the effects of environmental variations within the same population. My study system will be the tree swallow, a group of insectivorous birds which the population is recently declining partly due to agricultural intensification. I will use a data base composed of 100 nests followed since 2007 and I will follow up data collection for 3 years between 2013 and 2015. These nests are located in two different areas: intensive agricultural zones and extensive ones both constitute two distinct environments that have been shown to have an impact on the immune response in this tree swallow species. I will add new variables such as pathogen infection indices and ectoparasite indices.

(Co-supervisor: Prof D. Garant, Université de Sherbrooke)

Email :



Geneviève Turgeon- PhD candidate

BSc UQAM | MSc Université de Sherbrooke

Demography and genetics of an endangered population: the Gaspésie woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus)

Global environmental changes are increasing and have the potential to influence wild species1. How the ecology of these species is affected by human activity is a key question to improve management and conservation programs. The Gaspésie woodland caribou population is one of the last representatives of the mountain caribou ecotype and has been designated "endangered" in 2000 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Factors responsible for the decline of this population, are increasing forestry and mining industry, human-induced landscape modification promoting other species (moose, white-tailed deer) and there predators (bears, wolves). Likewise, the number of fawns is low and varies between years. Finally, the population seems to be divided in three subgroup, living in height of the mounts Logan, Albert and McGerrigles, with low rate of movements observed between the three sub-population. The main objective of my project will be to determine the genetic variables that may explain part of the low reproductive rate of females and fawns survival. To do so, tissue, blood and feces samples will be collected from 44 caribous captured in addition to feces samples collected on ground to increase sample size without handling of more caribou. Tissue and feces samples will be genotyped to evaluate genetic diversity, inbreeding and genetic exchanges between subgroups. Fertility will be evaluated by gestation hormones level in feces and tissue samples of females and fawns survival, by field observations during autumn.

(Co-supervisor: Prof M.-H. Saint-Laurent, UQAR)



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 :



Mathieu Douhard - Post Doctoral Fellow

Master Université de Lyon 1  | PhD Université de Lyon 1

Parental and environmental effects in wild populations

I am broadly interested in evolutionary ecology. My postdoctoral research is focused on sex-specific effects of parental characteristics on offspring phenotype in wild populations. Males and females have often evolved under different selective pressures and theory suggests that a particular genotype may have very different effects on fitness in males than in females. However, evidence for sexually antagonistic fitness variation in natural populations is rare. I hope to contribute to filling this gap by investigating sex-specific relationship between parents and offspring fitness in populations of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) and mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus). As part of my project, I will also test whether mothers can modulate their investment in birth sex ratio as well as in expenditure during post-natal life according to their mating partner's characteristics. Finally, as a continuation of my PhD research, I have a number of projects examining the long-term consequences of environmental conditions in early life on life-history traits, including the intergenerational effects of environment around time of birth.

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




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)



Sacha Engelhardt - Post Doctoral Fellow

Title to come!



Stay tuned for more details!






Graduate Student Co-Supervisions


Jonathan Frenette -  MSc candidate


Population demographics and viability of the Gaspésie caribou (Rangifer tarandus)

The aim of my masters is to determine the demographic parameters of the population of Gaspésie woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus). Combining local demography and information from the literature, we will produce a population viability analysis to determine population viability over the  short, medium and long-term. Our analysis will allow us to identify segments of the population most at risk and at what time of year they are most at risk.

(supervisor: Prof M.-H. Saint-Laurent, UQAR and co-director: Chris Johnson, UNBC)



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 D. 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 and (est-ce que ce sont les effets environnementaux sur l'effort parental aussi ou bien c'est une partie différente? si oui, je mettrais "and on parental effort", si non, "as well as parental effort") parental effort allocated (quand tu dis effort, tu veux dire expenditure ou investment? avec investment ça donne: "parental investment into the offspring"; avec expenditure: "parental expenditure, in particular in terms of sex ratio allocation) to the offspring (sex-ratio allocation) 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 M. Festa-Bianchet, Université de Sherbrooke)


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

Kathy Doyon (2015)

Coralie Gautier (2015)

Dominic Phaneuf (2015)

Valérie Lemieux (2015)

Sabine St-Jean (2015)

Sabrina Gignac (2014)

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)

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)



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

Simon Guillemette




MSc Thesis (August 2016)




Olivia Tardif



Ph.D. Thesis in PDF (2016)

Sonia Van Wijk




MSc Thesis in PDF (July 2015)




Hélène Presseault-Gauvin


Lab manager (2010 - 2015)

Kathy Doyon



MSc Thesis in PDF (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 in PDF (July 2014)






Geneviève Turgeon


MSc Thesis in PDF (December 2013)



Current position: PhD Candidate, Université de Sherbrooke

Alexandre Martin



PhD Thesis in PDF (December 2013)





Patrick Bergeron


Post-Doctoral Fellow




Current position: Assistant professor at Bishop's Univerisity

Dominique Marcil-Ferland



MSc Thesis in PDF (December 2012)

Benoit Talbot


MSc Thesis in PDF (October 2012) 



Current position: PhD Candidate, UWO, London, Ontario

Gabriel Pigeon



MSc Thesis in PDF (November 2012)





Current position: PhD Candidate, Université de Sherbrooke

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 in PDF (December 2011)





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

Héloise Côté


MSc Thesis in PDF (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


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