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Justin Roy


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 1909




Research project

Habitat use of female common eiders at East Bay during the pre-breeding and breeding seasons

The colony of common eiders nesting at Mitivik Island (East Bay) in the Low Arctic is the largest known and potentially the best studied eider colony in Canada. Indeed, this colony has been monitored for the last two decades. Nevertheless, little is known about daily activities performed by females in the pre-breeding season, which is the period encompassing their arrival on the island up to the laying of their first egg. We do know, however, that this period of time is critical for the females, who seek to improve their body condition to meet reproductive needs by means of hyperphagia (increased feeding rate). Importantly, decisions taken by a female in the pre-breeding season might substantially impact their subsequent decisions in the breeding season, and ultimately their reproductive success. Moreover, it appears reasonable to assume the existence of trade-offs faced by females in the pre-breeding season, whose outcomes are likely to impact the downstream laying and incubation phases. In order to fill this gap, the first objective of my research project is to describe the habitat use by female eiders in the pre-breeding season. Spatial location will be recorded at 5-minute intervals using small data loggers (GPS) installed on 50 females for each of the years 2016 and 2017. This will allow us to investigate a series of biologically relevant questions, such as the identification of the main feeding zones (and their associated preys) by females, the quantification of their residency time on the island versus foraging time around the island, and will ultimately lead to a better understanding of how these factors can explain the observed variability among individuals in the reproductive parameters (e.g. breeding or non-breeding, number and quality of eggs). Secondly, I will use the long-term database (1996-2015) of female eiders at East Bay to investigate potential carry-over effects (inter-seasonal effects in which an event occurring in one season of the annual cycle influences individual performance in a subsequent season). A typical example of such effects in the literature includes the lower reproductive success achieved by females in some avian species following harsh environmental conditions in winter. For this second aspect of my thesis, I will focus my attention on the potential effects of environmental conditions experienced by females during the moulting and wintering periods on the following breeding season(s). A precise quantification of the corticosterone level in feathers and the CMR analysis of individual capture histories (wintering-population assignment method) will provide an insight into the environmental conditions faced by females on their moulting and wintering sites, respectively.

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