Talk: “The Use of Anthropogenic Linear Features by Wolves in Northeastern Alberta” by Melanie Dickie

Boutin lab MSc candidate, Melanie Dickie is defending her thesis on May 28, beginning at 9 am in CCIS 1-243.  All are welcome to attend!


Predation by grey wolves (Canis lupus) has been identified as an important cause of boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) mortality. Wolves have been hypothesized to use human-created linear features such as seismic lines, pipelines and roads to increase ease of movement resulting in higher kill rates. I tested if wolves select linear features and if they increase movement rates while travelling on linear features in northeastern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan using fine scale analyses with 5-minute GPS (Global Positioning System) locations from twenty-two wolves in 6 packs. In addition, I examined how the abundance and physical properties of linear features affects wolf selection of, and movement on, these features. Wolves selected all linear feature classes except for low-impact seismic lines in summer and trails in winter, with the magnitude of selection depending on season. In summer, compared to the surrounding forest, wolves travelled slower on low-impact seismic lines but 2 to 3 times faster on all other linear feature classes. In winter wolves travelled 2 to 3 times faster on conventional seismic lines, pipelines, roads and railways, but slower on low-impact seismic lines and transmission lines. In addition, increased average daily travelling speed while on linear features as well as increased proportion of steps spent travelling on linear features caused increased net daily movement rates, supporting that wolf use of linear features can increase their search distance. The selection of linear features by individual wolves was not related to linear feature density. In summer, linear features through uplands provided a greater increase in travelling speed relative to surrounding forest than wetlands, however this was opposite in winter. Furthermore, when on linear features, wolves selected and moved faster on linear features with shorter vegetation. Vegetation reaching a height beyond 1 m on linear features reduced movement by 23% in summer, whereas vegetation did not decrease travelling speed in winter until it exceeded 5 m. This knowledge can aid mitigation strategies by targeting specific features for reclamation and linear deactivation, such as conventional seismic lines and pipelines with vegetation regrowth less than 1 m, allowing for more effective use of conservation resources.

Melanie is supervised by Dr. Stan Boutin.

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Technician position available

Delta Waterfowl and the University of Alberta are looking for a technician to start work immediately in the Stettler, Alberta region. The technician will be assisting a graduate student from the University and will be evaluating upland nesting waterfowl. Day to day activities involve nest searching, monitoring nests, and checking hen houses. The technician must be able to work and live independently. Desirable traits include: interest in waterfowl, prior experience using quads, and general knowledge of vehicle maintenance. Position is paid and will last until July 15th.


If interested in the position or if you would like more information please email/send your resume to

Community Outreach by Wild49 Grad Students

This week several students from the University of Alberta visited Yellowknife as part of a Let’s Talk Science rural science outreach program, including Jessica Haines from our lab. During this week-long trip they visited several schools in Yellowknife to do hands-on activities on physics, chemistry, and biology, including talking about Yukon wildlife researched in our lab. You can read more about their adventures on the Let’s Talk Science blog (, but they have not been alone in taking time to volunteer in their community. Over the past year, many of our lab members have been volunteering with non-profits to do public presentations about science. We are passionate about our research and about science in general, and these are great opportunities for us to share our passion with others.

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The biggest event we volunteered at was the School of Witchcraft and Wizardy: Science is Magic through Let’s Talk Science at the University of Alberta. Our volunteers’ passion was contagious as children and their families enthusiastically learned about science in herbology and the owlery. In herbology, we shared our knowledge about strange adaptations that plants and fungi use to survive and reproduce. For example, did you know that there is a fungus that turns insects into zombies, manipulates them so they run to a good place for the fungus to release its spores, and then kills them and explodes out of their bodies? Or that acacia plants live in symbiosis with ants: the plant provides them with shelter and specially developed leaves for food, while the ant protects its host plant from herbivores and competing plants?


In the owlery, we discussed how owls are adapted to their environment and how they communicate. The students got to listen to owl calls recorded from the wild, check out some great owl specimens, and even meet Colonel Slade – a live barred owl! Colonel Slade took the attention in stride as she always does and was a hit amongst everyone who met her.

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We also volunteered with Let’s Talk Science at other events throughout the year. We visited schools to talk about how animal populations change and played games where the students pretended to be foraging animals. We also helped with other activities, such as flaming chemistry demonstrations or liquid nitrogen ice cream. We also volunteered with Nature Alberta last summer to talk to them about mammals. Children (and their parents) had the chance to look at and touch real animal skulls – including a polar bear, a grizzly bear, a bighorn sheep, and other Canadian mammals. We played games to talk about how animals use their adaptions to get food. Some of our Wild49 members have also done public lectures at museums, nature clubs, and at the Edmonton NerdNite.

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Overall it has been a great year devoted to sharing our knowledge about nature and science. Thanks to all of our lab members who have donated their time this year to educate others. And thanks to all the families, teachers, and students who have joined us to hear from us. We look forward to more outreach in the future!

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Post by Jessica Haines


Old squirrels are conformists


Check out this article featuring Boutin lab graduate student, Amanda Kelley’s research:


Kelley’s research findings were recently published in the journal Behaviour.  Click here to access the article abstract:


Job Posting: Yaha Tinda

AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY: We seek an intern to participate in the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program ( The successful intern will assist in investigating the decline of the partially-migratory Ya Ha Tinda elk herd in and adjacent to Banff National Park (see for more information).YahaJob_Capture

The next phase of our long-term research is to understand cause-specific mortality for elk calves as a result of maternal behavioural trade-offs made in terms of foraging and predation risk (wolves, bears, mountain lions and coyotes). The intern will use radio telemetry to monitor adult females for parturition behavior, assist in capture and tagging of elk calves, subsequently monitor both calves and adults, and complete a final report. The position will also include, but is not limited to, investigating elk calf mortality sites, behavioural observations, vegetation sampling, pellet plot surveys, remote camera surveys, and predator scat surveys using scat detection dogs.YahaJob_Calf

The study area straddles the boundary between Banff National Park and provincial land, in and around the beautiful Ya Ha Tinda ranch, Parks Canada’s working horse ranch, west of Sundre, AB. AT THE RANCH, THERE IS NO CELL PHONE SERVICE AND ONLY LIMITED INTERNET. THE CLOSEST TOWN (Sundre) IS 1.5 HOURS AWAY. The position available is a 6-month Science Horizons Youth Internship ( that will pay ~$2850/mo. including benefits. A shared room in the research house will be provided.DSC_0609

Applicants MUST meet the following qualifications. Preference will be given towards applicants who can demonstrate substantial knowledge/experience with plant identification and sampling:

  • The intern cannot be over 30 years old.
  • The intern must be a graduate of a post-secondary institution.
  • The intern must be a Canadian Citizen, have permanent Canadian residency status, or have been granted refugee status in Canada and legally entitled to work in Canada.
  • The intern cannot have participated as an intern in Science Horizons or any other Youth Employment Strategy (YES) Career Focus program before.
  • The intern must possess a valid, non-graduated Class 5 Canadian driver’s license.
  • Physically able to carry a heavy daypack while hiking 8-10 hrs. in mountainous terrain and grizzly bear country, even in inclement weather and colder temperatures.
  • Flexibility; ability to maintain a positive attitude while working and living closely with co-workers; ability to work long hours and odd schedules.

Hiring decisions will be made immediately. Please email Jodi Berg at

1)   A cover letter that explicitly addresses EACH of the following:

  •   why you are interested in working on the YHT Elk Project
  • how you meet EACH of the qualifications listed above

2)  Your resume/CV

3)  Phone numbers AND email addresses for three references that can speak to your ability to conduct yourself in the field and work as part of a team