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Frédéric Lesmerises


Ph.D. student

Department of biology, chemistry and geography, UQAR

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

418.723.1986 extension 1867



Research project

Effects of spatiotemporal heterogeneous landscape and individual characteristics on behavioural, distribution, population, and evolutionary ecology of gaspésie caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)

Resources available for animals are not homogeneously distributed. For a given species, a patchy environment can be defined as the perception of landscape discontinuities of its different resources where this structure is dynamic and naturally evolves over time with vegetation succession, climatic variation, and recently with anthropogenic disturbances. The niche theory states that a species can persist only if the abiotic and biotic characteristics, such as climate, vegetation, competition, predation, and parasitism, allow a positive population growth rate. However, humans have greatly modified natural landscapes. Roads, forest industries, mines, and urbanization are some threats that animals have to cope with in addition to natural constraints. By studying the behaviour and distribution of individuals we can understand and explain this compromise between the species’ environmental requirements and human caused constraints. Although many studies addressed this issue, there still is a lack of knowledge about the importance of individual variability and social interactions on animal distribution in a disturbed landscape. Thus, my thesis will focus on the effects of heterogeneous landscapes on individual and social behaviour and their implications for distribution, population and evolutionary ecology. Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) from the Atlantic-Gaspésie herds will serve as the model populations to address these general ecological questions. The biology and ecology of this sub-species is well understood and woodland caribou are known to be sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance and landscape change. Specifically, I will assess the influence of intrinsic (i.e., sex, reproductive status, and dominance) and extrinsic (i.e., season, predation risk, and patch quality) factors on caribou behaviour, especially the antipredator strategy and grouping dynamic. I will also assess interindividual and spatiotemporal variability in habitat selection by caribou and link this variability to intrinsic and contextual factors. At a larger scale, I will assess the impacts of intrinsic factors on survival. Finally, I will assess the relevance of ecotype classification considering only behavioural differences, making comparisons across other herds of woodland caribou found in similar environments. I will also assess if the space use strategies of those herds, relative to general ecological traits, are maladaptive in the context of changing human and predator influence. For this project, I expect to capture a total of 44 adult caribou (22M; 22F), proportionally distributed amongst three subpopulations (i.e., McGerrigle – Vallières , Albert and Logan ) and fit them with GPS collars programmed to acquire locations every 2 hours. These data will be coupled with behavioural observations in situ and vegetation and predator surveys that will be conducted during the two next summers.


Scientific communications

Lesmerises, F., Déry, F., Johnson, C.J., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2018. Spatiotemporal response of mountain caribou to the intensity of backcountry skiing. Biological Conservation, 217: 149-156. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2017.10.030.

Lesmerises, F., Johnson, C.J., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2018. Landscape knowledge is an important driver of the fission dynamics of an alpine ungulate. Animal Behaviour, 140: 39-47. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.03.014.

Lesmerises, F., Johnsons, C.J., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2017. Refuge or predation risk? Alternate ways to perceive hiker disturbance based on maternal state of female caribou. Ecology and Evolution, 7(3): 845-854. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2672.

Lesmerises, F., Dussault, C., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2013. Major roadwork impacts the space use behaviour of gray wolf. Landscape and Urban Planning, 112: 18-25. DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2012.12.011.

Lesmerises, F., Dussault, C., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2012. Réponses du loup gris au réseau routier et à la présence d'un important chantier de construction. Le Naturaliste Canadien, 136(2): 29-34.

Lesmerises, F., Dussault, C., St-Laurent, M.-H., 2012. Wolf habitat selection is shaped by human activities in a highly managed boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 276: 127-138. DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2012.03.025.

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