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Sandra Lai


Postdoctoral fellow

Department of biology, chemistry and geography, UQAR

Des Ursulines Building
300 Allée des Ursulines
Quebec, Canada
G5L 3A1




Projet de recherche

Characterization of the food web at Alert, Ellesmere Island

Climate change and the increase of human activities in the Arctic will cause major changes in the North in the next decades. The mechanisms which regulate Arctic ecosystems are not completely understood, but more knowledge is necessary to be able to maintain ecological integrity and the ecosystemic services on which northern communities depend.

This postdoctoral project aims to implement an ecological monitoring near the Canadian Forces Station Alert (Nunavut, Canada), a site located at the northern tip of the Canadian Archipelago and described as a “polar desert”, in order to better characterize the food web of this Arctic ecosystem. Contrary to other study sites in the Arctic, where the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is the main terrestrial predator, Alert hosts a population of arctic hares (Lepus arcticus) predated by arctic wolves (Canis lupus arctos). The ecological monitoring will use research protocols standardized across the Arctic to determine the species diversity and abundance. In particular, the abundance of animal species will be estimated using visual counts and faeces counts along activity transects. Emphasis will be placed on the two key species of the ecosystem, the arctic hare and the arctic wolf. The hare population will be studied more intensively using a capture-mark-recapture program, behavioural observations and GPS collars. Breeding activities at wolf dens will be monitored with automatic cameras.

Long-term ecological monitoring programs are essential in order to understand the cumulative effects climate change and human presence in the North have on plant and animal communities. The characterization of the ecosystem at Alert and the study of species for which ecological data is missing will allow us to better understand the forces regulating this relatively simple food web.


Scientific communications

Lai, S., Bêty, J., Berteaux, D., 2017. Movement tactics of a mobile predator in a meta-ecosystem with fluctuating resources: the arctic fox in the High Arctic. Oikos, 126(7): 937-947. DOI: 10.1111/oik.03948.

Lai, S., Quiles, A., Lambourdière, J., Berteaux, D., Lalis, A., 2017. Fine-scale population genetic structure of arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in the High Arctic. BMC Research notes, 10: 663. DOI: 10.1186/s13104-017-3002-1.

Rioux, M.-J., Lai, S., Casajus, N., Bêty, J., Berteaux, D., 2017. Winter home range fidelity and extraterritorial movements of Arctic fox pairs in the Canadian High Arctic. Polar Research, 36(Issue sup1: Arctic Fox Biology and Management): 11. DOI: 10.1080/17518369.2017.1316930.

Chevallier, C., Lai, S., Berteaux, D., 2016. Predation of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) pups by common ravens (Corvus corax). Polar Biology, 39(7): 1335–1341. DOI: 10.1007/s00300-015-1843-4.

Lai, S., Bêty, J., Berteaux, D., 2015. Spatio–temporal hotspots of satellite–tracked arctic foxes reveal a large detection range in a mammalian predator. Movement Ecology, 3: 37. DOI: 10.1186/s40462-015-0065-2.

Gauthier, G., Bêty, J., Cadieux, M.-C., Legagneux, P., Doiron, M., Chevallier, C., Lai, S., Tarroux, A., Berteaux, D., 2013. Long-term monitoring at multiple trophic levels suggests heterogeneity in responses to climate change in the Canadian Arctic tundra. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series B, 368(1624): 20120482. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0482.

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