Elène Haave-Audet

Elène Haave-Audet


Introduce yourself:

I am a Master's student in Biological Sciences. I consider myself quite lucky because I get to study the things about which I am most passionate: birds and bats. This means that the line between work and pleasure often gets blurred for me. To unwind, you will find me in the forest watching the animals live their lives — which is also what I get to do for research! I will take any opportunity to get out into nature to spend time with the beautiful creatures that populate our Earth, be it hiking, skiing or kayaking!

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

My research is focused on understanding why animals of the same species behave consistently different from one another — that is, individual "personality" for lack of a better term. If we can understand why there is variation in how animals interact with the environment through their behaviour, then we might be able to predict in which instances certain "personalities" will confer higher chances of survival or increase the number of offspring they leave behind. In nature, variation is generally key to maintaining long-term populations, because there is a higher chance that certain members will be able to weather whatever conditions they are faced with at any given time. It is no different for behaviour. If behavioural variation is maintained through particular factors, we will be able to predict how populations are going to be affected in the face of changing conditions. Will certain expressions of a behaviour stand the test of time compared to others? What will happen if we lose behavioural variation in the population? These questions remain largely unknown, and I hope to contribute to laying the groundwork for addressing these questions in the future.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research?

The 3MT process has helped me see my work from an external perspective. I feel very connected with nature and how animals interact with their surroundings, but I often take that connection for granted. By thinking about my research more broadly, I have been able to put it into the context of the human condition — that is relate how animals interact with their surroundings with how humans interact with their daily lives.

Define "For the Public Good" in your own words.

I am a pragmatic person, so to answer this question, it is easiest for me to articulate how I think I can help achieve "For the Public Good". As a biologist, for me this means working to understand our world in order to share that knowledge with everyone. Not just collecting that knowledge, but making sure it is available for all to appreciate. For me, this means going on nature walks with children to get them excited about different bird calls, or it means writing a blog about bats so that people do not have to stay up in the middle of the night to appreciate the beautiful diversity of our planet.

What inspires you to do research?

The animals! They have been on Earth in various forms for hundreds of thousands of years, which is completely mind-boggling and inspiring. To think that animals can "make a living" in virtually any setting on the planet is awe-inspiring, and the reason I do the work that I do. How do animals do it? How did they come to be? How is it that the interactions among living things are maintained? I suppose it is this curiosity and marvel that inspires my research.

If you have to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

This is a hard question: I am a passionate person but not a sentimental one. I suppose, really, that I dedicate my work to any person, present or future, that wants to forge a connection with the natural world. Animals and the habitats they call home are in need of advocates and if my work can inspire some connection between people and nature, I suppose I have done my job.

3MT Keywords: infomation; decisions; survival