Matthieu Weiss-Blais
Master student
Department of Biology
Laval University

Supervised by:

Pierre Legagneux (Regular member)

Co-supervised by:

Joël Bêty (Regular member)

Research project description

Incorporating prey vigilance in a mechanistic model deriving the functional response of a predator in a natural system

Introduction: To dampen the negative impacts of global changes on natural systems, improving our knowledge of the functioning of s is a prerequisite for better integrated conservation actions. In this context, Pr. Joël Bêty’s research team developed recently a mechanistic approach illustrating prey consumption rate of a vertebrate predator, the arctic fox in a natural system. The mechanistic model includes measurable key components of predation such as detection probability and manipulation time of a prey item. This innovative model quantifies the interactions between the arctic fox, and its preys such as lemmings and snow geese. However, the model currently could be improved by including anti predator strategies. Behaviours such as vigilance and public information could explain why snow geese can benefit from a reduction of predation risk a high density. Objectives: Our main objective is to characterize the effect of prey vigilance on the attack rate of the arctic fox. We will quantify the effect of snow goose density on their capacity to detect the presence of an arctic fox and to how this affects nest protection against arctic fox. We will include such parameters in the mechanistic model for which other parameters have already been described. In parallel, we’ll refine our estimate for certain components of this model, such as fox detection probability of unattended nests and the daily proportion of time spent by the goose in the proximity of its nest. Study sites: This study will be conducted within the long-term ecosystem monitoring at Bylot island in Nunavut (73°08’N, 80°00’W) where both snow geese reproduction (since 1988) and arctic fox population are monitored (since 2003). Material and methods: We will collect behavioural data on vigilance and nest defense behaviour of geese by direct observations and manipulations realized in the colony. We’ll use paired artificial nests to measure the probability that a fox detects an unattended nest. The daily time spent by geese in the proximity of the nest will be measured through telemetric tracking of female goose nesting in Bylot. From the movement pattern of those geese equipped with GPS collars, we will first establish the location of their nest and then the time spent in the proximity of the nest during laying and incubation period. This nest attendance will also be validated on the field with camera traps. References: Beardsell, A., Gravel, D., Berteaux, D., Gauthier, G., Clermont, J., Careau, V., et al. (2021). Derivation of predator functional responses using a mechanistic approach in a natural system. Front. Ecol. Evol. 9:630944. Beardsell, A., Gravel, D., Clermont, J., Berteaux, D., Gauthier, G., & Bêty, J. (2022). A mechanistic model of functional response provides new insights into indirect interactions among arctic tundra prey. Ecology, e3734-e3734. Bêty, J., Gauthier, G., Giroux, J. F., et Korpimäki, E. (2001). Are goose nesting success and lemming cycles linked? Interplay between nest density and predators. Oikos, 93(3), 388-400. Lima, S. L., et Dill, L. M. (1990). Behavioral decisions made under the risk of predation: a review and prospectus. Canadian journal of zoology, 68(4), 619-640. Samelius, G.,

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