Melanie Dickie is a Master's student under the supervision of Dr. Stan Boutin at the University of Alberta. Following a background in bird population studies, including an undergraduate thesis at the University of Ottawa titled "The importance of survey timing on shorebird density estimates at East Bay, Nunavut", Melanie made a leap to studying how human disturbance influences predator behavior.
Human disturbances can impact predator-prey relationships by influencing the numerical and functional response, consequently affecting predation rates. For example, oil and gas exploration in Northern Alberta is hypothesized to increase wolf (Canis lupus) predation on boreal woodland caribou (Rangifer terandus caribou) by increasing spatial overlap, increasing wolf populations, and increasing foraging efficiency. Wolves use linear features such as seismic lines, pipelines, and roads disproportionately to increase movement efficiency which impacts their functional response by increasing prey encounter rates. Restoring linear features is one option to mitigate an increased foraging efficiency, but first it is imperative to understand which features are preferred, how they are used, and their impact on the functional response. My research aims to assess if wolves select linear features, and if so which types of linear features, which biophysical attributes are important in determining their use, and how the use of these features impacts their movement behaviors. This knowledge can aid mitigation strategies by targeting specific features for reclamation and linear deactivation, allowing for more effective use of conservation resources.
Last Modified:2016-04-01 |