We are pleased to announce the 2013 Liber Ero Fellows!
To apply to the 2014 program, please see Fellowship Details.
Project: Monitoring and managing the effects of industrial development on disease and stress in caribou and moose
Primary mentor institutions: University of Calgary; Environment and Natural Resources (ENR; Government of the Northwest Territories)
Summary: The Sahtu Settlement Area, Northwest Territories, is currently experiencing unprecedented landscape changes associated with increasing exploration and development of shale oil reserves. This project will provide a comprehensive baseline dataset for disease and stress in caribou and moose in the Sahtu and will be a stepping stone for sustainable long-term hunter-based monitoring of impacts of development on wildlife health. Specifically this project will attempt to answer if (i) there is a difference in parasite abundance between development and non-development sites, (ii) there is an association between glucocorticoids levels, industrial development and parasite abundance, and (iii) there is a difference in parasite abundance between caribou and moose.This project will highlight the importance of incorporating disease ecology and the existing knowledge and skills of subsistence hunters in environmental impact assessment and monitoring.
Project: Combining novel genetic methods for conservation and management of Canadian bats
Primary mentor institutions: Dr. Christopher Kyle, Trent University; Dr. Craig Willis, University of Winnipeg; Lesley Howes, Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment Canada); Elaine Williams, Wildlife Preservation Canada
Summary: In 2006 a novel fungal pathogen (Geomyces destructans) emerged in a bat hibernaculum near Albany, New York. The white, cottony patches on the muzzle, ears and wings of infected, hibernating bats led biologists to name the disease “white-nose syndrome” (WNS). Over 5.7 million bats are thought to have died from WNS since 2006, which represents the fastest decline of wild mammals ever documented and threatens previously common species such as the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) with extinction. This conservation crisis is being tackled through extensive collaborations among academia, governments and NGOs. My project targets the following specific priority research gaps identified in the Canadian National Management plan for bats and WNS, and by the Canadian Interagency WNS Committee:
- Determine gene flow and population structure of bats in Canada to better understand the movement of WNS between populations and across the landscape
- Investigate species and population differences in pathogenesis and susceptibility
- Investigate proteomic and functional genomic responses of bats to WNSMy objective is to address some of these knowledge gaps in ways that complement other, ongoing projects, to provide a unique perspective on mitigation of WNS and conservation of bats in the Canadian context.
Project: Evidence-based solutions for reducing the impacts of commercial fishing on bycatch and benthic habitat in the Canadian Arctic
Primary mentor institutions: Dr. Julia Baum, University of Victoria; Dr. Susanna Fuller, Ecology Action Centre; Dr. Scott Wallace, David Suzuki Foundation
Summary: The Arctic is the final frontier for Canadian conservation. As the planet warms and sea ice recedes, human activities are likely to increase drastically in this sensitive region. Commercial fishing is one activity that will intensify in the coming decades, and with commercial fishing comes destruction of seafloor habitat and species not targeted by the fishery (also known as bycatch). In my research program, I will endeavour to produce research that will inform the management of new and emerging Arctic fisheries to minimize their impact on non-target sea life. I will focus on two broad objectives. First, I will use the technique of meta-analysis to identify strategies that are mostly likely to be successful at mitigating bycatch, based on the relative effectiveness of mitigation plans developed in other fisheries around the world. Second, I will use spatial management planning tools to identify regions that will provide the greatest conservation bang for the buck – maximizing the protection of biodiversity while minimizing economic costs. This project will require extensive collaboration with regional stakeholders, NGO’s, government, and researchers. If successful, my scientific products will play a role in helping to minimize the impact of commercial fishing on ecosystems in the Canadian Arctic.
Project: Tracking migration and declines of songbird populations: Conservation of a declining aerial insectivore, the Purple Martin
Primary mentor institutions: York University; Purple Martin Conservation Association; Bird Studies Canada; Ellis Bird Farm
Summary: Tracking migration and year-round habitat use of migratory individuals and populations is arguably one of the most important conservation actions of our time for songbirds. It is also very practical, as it reveals spatial connections useful for conservation, and can levy funding and effort towards the conservation of specific, at risk populations. Using light-level geolocators we will generate the first complete, range-wide migratory connectivity map for a songbird. Canadian populations of Purple Martin and other aerial insectivores may be the most at risk, thus it is important to determine spatial connections between different periods of the annual cycle in order to better understand, and mitigate, population declines. My migratory connectivity work with Purple Martin provides a model system for investigating hypotheses for range-wide variation in population decline which will allow for better conservation and management of this and other