Job Posting: Ecology Research Assistant

YHT_elkThe Ya Ha Tinda (YHT) elk herd was once one of Canada’s largest migratory elk herds. The elk migrated approximately 50 km from low elevation winter range on the YHT ranch west to high elevation summer range in Banff National Park. The number of elk that make this journey has declined the last few decades, to where half the population have lost their migratory behaviour. The decline of this population is thought to be predation related because wolves have been recolonizing Banff National Park during this period. However, most of the predator-prey related research on the YHT has been focused on wolves, yet elk face the difficulty of navigating a multi-predator community. Preliminary results suggest that cougars may be a major predator on adult elk whereas bears are likely to kill elk calves. These impacts on elk are yet to be measured, even though understanding predation by these species is key to making projections about the long-term persistence of the YHT elk herd.

This phase of the Ya Ha Tinda long-term research project aims to understand how carnivore diets (scat contents) differ spatially across a landscape, and how this reflects risk of predation to elk. Scats from 4 major carnivores have been collected over the last 2 years, and will be analyzed for presence of prey species, with a focus on elk. Spatial patterns in the diets of the 4 predators will be compared to the distribution of adult and calf elk kills. We predict that there will be a spatial gradient in predation across the landscape, with migrants and residents being exposed to differential predation. We are seeking a laboratory technician to participate in the Colleges and Institutes Canada CleanTech internship program for 6 months to assist a MSc student with sample analysis. The position includes, but is not limited to organizing, preparing and analyzing, identifying contents of scats. The position is laboratory focused, but may include several weeks in the field at the Ya Ha Tinda ranch, just east of the Banff National Park border to collect additional scats and radio-track collared elk.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities: The position includes, but is not limited to organizing and autoclaving samples, preparing samples for DNA and macroscopic hair analysis, identifying contents of scats, and data entry. Two main methods will be used to determine scat contents: macroscopic hair analysis and DNA fecal powder analysis. Training will be provided in biosafety protocols, laboratory techniques, scat identification, database management, geographic information mapping programs systems, graphing and presentation programs, and scientific writing. The technician will also carry out a side project of their choice that overlaps with the goals of the project, including completing a 2-page proposal, a talk on the project results and writing a completion report that compares the results of the 2 methods used.

Knowledge and Skills: (1) Ability to work independently and efficiently; (2) effective communication, positive attitude and willingness to work as part of a group; (3) strong attention to detail and ability to follow protocols; (4) desire to learn research skills, and (5) strong interest in wildlife ecology and conservation.

Eligibility: Eligible interns: (1) must be 30 years of age or under at the start of the internship; (2) must be a graduate from a post-secondary program in Biology, Environmental Science or another natural resources related field; (3) are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or person granted refugee status in Canada; (4) are not receiving Employment Insurance during their internship; (5) are not in school during their internship; (6) are available to work for at least six months.

The position available is a 6-month (3 October 2016 to 31 March 2017) Colleges and Institutes Canada CleanTech Internship ( and will pay ~2,075/month plus benefits. Please email a cover letter outlining how you meet the position qualifications above, CV and contact information for three references to Kara MacAulay, MSc. Candidate, Please apply as soon as possible as the position will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found.


Field Fun Friday


Second year male in 2015 with a light, indistinct necklace.

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The same male captured in 2016, now an after second year male with a bold, distinct necklace.

During the breeding season, male songbirds often have brightly coloured and contrasting feather patterns to attract females. These patterns often become more pronounced and defined in older adult males. One of the distinguishing features of the Canada Warbler is the adult male’s dark necklaced feather pattern, which gets darker and more distinct after their second year. Not only did our banded male from 2015 return to the same breeding location, but he came back in 2016 sporting a beautifully developed necklace, and was accompanied by a nesting female! Looks like a year abroad did wonders for this warbler’s appeal. Post and photos by Anjolene Hunt.