Des Ursulines Building
300 Allée des Ursulines
4187231986 extension 1236
The interactions between predators and prey influence local and regional biodiversity. However, the respective effects of bottom-up (from prey to predators) and top-down (from predators to prey) forces on prey abundance and distribution remains to be clarified. Predator movements and foraging behaviours are generally determined by the distribution of the main prey, which in turn indirectly influence the distribution of alternative prey. We could then describe through a landscape of fear the distribution of predation risk that arises through predator movements. Among-individual differences in movement could also explain variation in space use, and thus influence predation risk across the landscape. Despite accumulating evidence for individual specialization in movement, the role of personality in animal space use remains to be explored.
The main objective of my PhD project is to better understand movements and foraging behaviour of an important predator of Bylot Island (Nunavut), the arctic fox, to then allow a better understanding of how movements and hunting behaviour influence trophic interactions. I will thus explain the observed variation in fox behaviour with the distribution of its main prey, lemmings, and through among-individual differences. I will also explore fox territorial behaviour and will try to better understand how variation in prey abundance and distribution influence territoriality. We will study fox movements and foraging behaviour using GPS and accelerometers mounted on collars, which will be installed on foxes during captures. A combined analysis of location and accelerometry data will allow a more precise determination of, among other things, home range parts used for hunting, home range sizes, and movements associated with territory defence. This will clarify the link between these variables and prey distribution. Because lemming abundance varies among years, we expect to observe among-year differences in fox movement and territoriality. The impacts of fox movement on prey like snow geese should thus also vary among years. There should also be within-year spatial and temporal variation in fox movement that is linked to goose nesting. Movement data will also allow to determine the importance of among-individual differences in fox behaviour, to finally evaluate the link with animal personality (personality traits like boldness and aggression will be measured using behavioural tests performed during captures). My project will thus allow a better understanding of fine scale movements and hunting behaviour of an important predator of the Canadian Arctic tundra, to especially allow a better understanding of how predation affects local biodiversity.