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Mark Boyce, BS, MS, MPhil, PhD, CWB, FRSC

Professor of Ecology


Biological Sciences


1. Movement Patterns of Elk.

We have been studying elk movements at various sites for several years, using recent developments with GPS radiotelemetry. Postdocs Tal Avgar, Simone Ciuti, and Henrik Thurfjell have been studying movements of approximately 180 elk in SW Alberta from the US border to the Livingstone Range and Porcupine Hills. Dispersal behaviour, individual variability, response to roads, behavioural response to hunters and industrial development are among the topics currently being studied.  M.Sc. student Tyler Trump is synthesizing long-term data on elk from SW Alberta to assist Alberta Environment and Parks in the evaluation of alternative harvesting policies. Quirks and Quarks interview from June 2017:

2. Cougar Population Ecology and Prey Selection.

We have 2 M.Sc. students, Samantha Widmeyer and Meghan Beale, studying cougar behaviour and ecology with special focus on their predation on bighorns. Field studies are focused on the Cadomin area south of Hinton, Alberta.  Working with Paul Frame from Alberta Environment and Parks, Samantha will evaluate the efficacy of extended cougar hunting seasons in mountain units of western Alberta. Meghan is monitoring radiocollars cougars to detect prey.

3. Harvesting Effects on Wildlife.

I am conducting a synthesis of the effects of hunting and other types of wildlife harvest on genetics, life history, and demography. This investigation involves research on density dependence, compensatory and additive mortality, uncertainty, and social disruptions, e.g., sexually selected infanticide. I am particularly interested in the Hydra Effect that emerges from an interaction between density dependence and harvesting. A variety of effects of hunting have been documented, but the extent and significance of these for management have not been synthesized. In addition, we have built models that can be used by Environment & Parks staff to evaluate alternative harvest policies, in particular those for elk being developed by M.Sc. student Tyler Trump and for mountain sheep by Mark Boyce. A new project on optimizing harvest policy for white-tailed deer in North Dakota will begin in 2018.

4. Carbon sequestration and conservation.

Ecosystems provide many services, including carbon sequestration. We are particularly keen on the role that native grasslands can play in sequestering carbon into the soil, potentially offering an avenue for grassland conservation funded by carbon credits. Jessica Grenke is studying plant diversity in context of carbon sequestration and storage.  A new postdoc will synthesize an evaluation of adaptive multi-paddock grazing practices in Canada’s Great Plains and Aspen Parkland.  Support from the Society for Conservation Biology is sponsoring a related project on avian diversity on Canada’s grasslands.

5. Predation effects on waterfowl production.

Working with Delta Waterfowl, Emily Blythe is pursuing a M.Sc. studying the effect of mesocarnivores, particularly striped skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and red foxes, on duck nesting success in central Alberta near Buffalo Lake and another study area near Viking, Alberta. In addition, Delta has installed hen houses to reduce waterfowl nest predation. We will be estimating resource selection functions to model the habitat associations of nest predation.

6. Sitatunga ecology in central Uganda.

Camille Warbington is a Ph.D. student studying the ecology and life history of sitatunga, a spiral-horned antelope, in papyrus marshes of central Uganda. She has determined that individual sitatunga can be identified by their horns and facial markings allowing estimation of abundance using mark-resight methods.

7. Barren-ground caribou in Nunavut.

Conor Mallory is Director of Planning and Policy for the Wildlife Department of the Government of Nunavut, on leave to pursue a Ph.D. in the Boyce lab to study reasons for decline of 3 arctic populations of caribou.  One hypothesis relates to the timing of caribou migration relative to the phenology of greenup of vegetation at calving grounds, and how this might be affected by climate change.