Current Personnel

Marina Amato
Ryan Bolton
Jeff Brown
Joe Crowley
Bob Farmer

Sonia Gautreau
Sarah Holt
Elinor Hughes
Anna Lawson
Carrie MacKinnon
Jackie Porter

Njal Rollinson
Jake Rouse
Pam Wesley
Brooks Lab CARCNET 2005.JPG (2498168 bytes)

Marina Amato  
M.Sc. Candidate (January 2005 - ?)

Two summers of field research assistance studying the ecology of wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) made me fall in love with these attractive, fascinating animals and want to continue learning about them. For my M.Sc. research, I am conducting a genetic analysis of wood turtle populations throughout their range. Consequently, I am a lucky member not only of Dr. Brooks’ but also of Dr. Fu’s lab in which I will be carrying out my genetic investigation. (e-mail)

Ryan M. Bolton  
M.Sc. Candidate (January 2005 - ?)

Honours degree in Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, ON.

153_5377.jpg (86497 bytes)I received my undergraduate degree from Queen’s University in 2004.  For most of my life, I have been concerned with the conservation of Ontario’s herpetofauna and it was only until my years as an undergraduate that I was able to put my passion into practice.  Over the years, I have been fortunate to be involved with various studies of our native reptiles and amphibians.  During the summer of 2004, I was contracted to research the threatened Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera) – this is the star oddball of Ontario’s turtles and one that has fascinated me since I was a child.  This beast defies all the typical turtle conventions – it is remarkably fast on land and has a soft and leathery shell.

View Video of Softshell (requires latest version of Windows Media Player).

My graduate work concerns nest site selection and embryo hatch success in Spiny Softshells at Long Point National Wildlife Area.  Specifically, I am looking at the threats and limiting factors to nesting activity, the conditions of embryo hatch success (including nest site selection and microhabitat variation), and the threat of nest depredation by the larvae of a species of flesh-fly (genus Sarcophaga). (e-mail

Jackie Porter  
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2004 - ?)

I am interested in the effects of exotic earthworms on nutrient cycling in hardwood forests. The majority of earthworms in Canada are European species that have been introduced over the past 500 years; any native earthworms that might have lived in Canada were extirpated by the last glaciation. Earthworms consume large quantities of leaf litter and turbate the soil, which can alter the soil profile and, hence, the distribution of nutrients in the soil. I am examining the effect of earthworms on phosphorus availability in podsols, and the effect of changing phosphorus availability on the relative performance of mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants.

Sonia Gautreau
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2004 - ?)

Baby sloth.jpg (34544 bytes)I received my undergraduate biology degree at l'Université de Moncton in New Brunswick.  During my studies, I've had the opportunity to work with various species of insects, fish, birds and reptiles.  My current research will be looking at Leatherback turtle's (Dermochelys coriacea) nest site selection and general nesting ecology.  I hope to determine if Leatherback turtles randomly scatter their nest on the beach or follow particular nesting patterns.  My love for sea turtles started when I spent 3 months volunteering with Asociación ANAI in Gandoca, Costa Rica.  I will be conducting my research in connection with ANAI (http://www.anaicr.org).  During my spare time, I like to hike, camp and speak Spanish. (e-mail)

Bob Farmer 
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2004 - ?)

Honours Bachelor of Arts and Science (Combined Honours Biology), McMaster University, Hamilton, ON. 

Bob Farmer.jpg (27277 bytes)Changing my focus from conservation genetics early last term out of practical necessity, I am now exploring the role that provincial and national parks play in species protection.  Do southern Ontario's small, highly-developed parks act as refuges for the at-risk species there, or could some of them be population sinks?  My field work for the summer of 2005 will explore this question by counting daily roadkill frequencies, considering road density, traffic volume, and a number of other site-specific variables.  I hope that my results will help contribute to more responsible land-use management decisions at many scales. (e-mail)

Jeff Brown 
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2004 - ?)

Jeffery working.JPG (942987 bytes)My research is focused on the northern pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus) in southern British Columbia.  I am interested in learning the ecology and biology of this threatened species with an emphasis on the development of conservation strategies.  I am currently using radio-telemetry and mark-recapture studies to measure the effects of short-distance translocation on rattlesnakes and to determine the viability of translocation as a conservation strategy.

Growth and development in the southern Okanagan valley has lead to an increasing number of snake-human interactions as we continue to encroach on previously undisturbed habitat.  With this increasing level of interaction there is a growing need to develop better management tools to ensure the long-term survival of threatened species such as the northern pacific rattlesnake.  Short-distance translocations (e.g. relocation within the normal home-range of the animal) of “problem” rattlesnakes is a common management practice in the southern Okanagan valley and is currently recommended by several wildlife agencies including the BC ministry of Water Air and Land Protection and Parks Canada.  However, there is little data available to indicate whether translocation benefits the snakes through increased survival rates. (e-mail)

 

Joe Crowley 
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2003 - ?)

Honours degree in Environmental Biology, Nipissing University, North Bay, ON.

Joe on bluffs.jpg (404154 bytes)I have an honors undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology from Nipissing University and a diploma in Environmental Protection Technology from Canadore College. My studies have been environmental biology based and have ranged from forest ecology to environmental chemistry to biogeography. I have, however, always been especially interested in wildlife biology and most of my research has dealt with human impacts on wildlife populations. I have worked with a number of different organisms over the past few years, including terrestrial and stream invertebrates, salamanders, raptors, turtles, and small mammals. My other interests include drawing, wildlife photography, and writing. I also enjoy discussing, reading and writing about current environmental and conservation issues, focusing not only on the biology but also on the social, political, economic and philosophical aspects.

With human population exploding rapidly over the past century and the demand for energy and resources continuing to increase, humans are now placing more stress on the environment than ever before. The result has been a mass extinction of a magnitude that hasn’t been seen since the loss of the dinosaurs. Such impacts are painfully obvious even within Ontario, where several reptile species have already been extirpated and most of the remaining species have suffered substantial declines, with 67% being listed as Endangered, Threatened, or Special Concern by COSEWIC. One of the most obvious examples is the Massasauga, which was once found throughout almost all of southern Ontario and is now restricted to four isolated populations. These populations occur in areas that have lower road density and more natural habitat than anywhere else in its historic range and the Massasauga has, therefore, persisted only in areas that have not been substantially altered by humans. The focus of my current MSc. research deals with this relationship between human land use and reptile distributions within Ontario. I am comparing changes in road density over the past century as well as land cover data to past and present reptile distributions throughout Ontario. I hypothesize that local extirpations of reptile populations are due to expanding human disturbance. Therefore, I predict that road density (as a general indicator of human disturbance) will explain the current distribution of reptile species with reduced and fragmented ranges within Ontario. (e-mail)

Njal Rollinson
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2003 - ?)

Honours degree in Environmental Biology, Nipissing University, North Bay, ON.

crazy njal.jpg (170185 bytes)I received my undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology and Technology from Nipissing University in 2003. Over the past 4 years I’ve been involved in a variety of research, including monitoring woodland salamanders, helping out the rattlesnake recovery team at Killbear Provincial Park, and working with flying squirrels in Algonquin. I will be spending the next couple of summers examining the thermal ecology of earth’s most noble creature, the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata), in Algonquin Provincial Park. My extracurricular activities include playing chess and dungeons and dragons, lifting weights, getting lambasted by Ron, trying to figure out how to make my watch stop beeping every hour, and (accordingly) trying to understand relativity.  (e-mail)

Anna Lawson
M.Sc. Candidate (May 2003 - ?)

Anna and Renard r.JPG (138150 bytes)I completed my Honours B.Sc at the University of Toronto in 2002.  Since 1998 I have assisted in several field studies on species including eastern massasauga rattlesnakes, eastern foxsnakes, bluegill sunfish and marbled murrelets.  I am currently studying the movement patterns and behaviour of the eastern fox snake (Elaphe gloydi) in and around Killbear Provincial Park.  The foxsnake is a relatively poorly understood species, listed as threatened by COSEWIC.  Since 2003, Carrie MacKinnon and I have used mark-recapture and radio-telemetry to learn about the movements and behaviour of foxsnakes in the Georgian Bay portion of their range.   For my thesis I plan on looking at potential methods of gene flow among hibernation site populations based on movement and mating patterns. (e-mail)

Carrie MacKinnon
M.Sc. Candidate (May 2003 - ?)
B.Sc. (abstract)

Carrie.jpg (152557 bytes)I will be undertaking a radiotelemetry investigation of eastern fox snakes (Elaphe gloydi) to study their behaviour, movement and spatial habitat use at Georgian Bay Islands National Park, the surrounding islands, and the Port Severn area of Georgian Bay.  Cursory comparisons of data from fox snake populations in Georgian Bay with populations in southwestern Ontario (Point Pelee and Pelee Island) suggest that behaviour, habitat use, and demography may differ significantly between the two regions.  For example, preliminary radio telemetry studies in Georgian Bay have shown that fox snakes swim considerable distances to and from their hibernation sites and throughout their active season, whereas southwestern Ontario fox snakes were never observed traveling over water.  I am interested in comparing fox snake behaviour at my study site with fox snakes at Killbear Provincial Park (Anna's study site), and contrasting this to the behaviour of fox snakes on Pelee Island.  Data collected during this study will contribute to the forthcoming recovery plan. (e-mail)

Pam Wesley
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2003 - ?) 
Research Assistant (Winter 2003) 
B.Sc. (Abstract

Bachelor of Science with Honours, Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON

Pam taking blood from WT.JPG (197251 bytes)In January of 2003, I completed my B.Sc. Hons., majoring in Zoology. I have been a member of the Brooks Lab since the summer of 2001, during which time I have volunteered as a field research assistant in Algonquin Park, worked as an office/research assistant, studied as a Zoo*450 student, and studied as an M.Sc. student.

For my M.Sc. thesis, I am studying stream selection and local habitat selection by wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) at the northern limit of their range. Wood turtle populations throughout their range have suffered declines due to habitat destruction and commercial collection for the pet trade. The key to conserving wood turtle populations throughout their range is the prevention of collection and the protection of critical habitat (i.e. nesting site, foraging site, hibernacula, etc.).  The goal of this study is to determine whether wood turtle communities select to inhabit particular types of streams and to determine whether individual turtles select their local-scale habitat on a day-to-day basis. If they are found to select their local habitat, I plan to determine whether their habitat preferences vary according to thermoregulatory, dietary, ontogenic or reproductive needs. The information gathered as a result of this study will further our knowledge of the wood turtle’s critical habitat and will assist wood turtle conservation efforts in Ontario and throughout their range.(e-mail)

Jake Rouse
M.Sc. Candidate (September 2002 - ?)

Jake.jpg (56925 bytes)My research is looking at the spatial ecology of two threatened snake species, The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platyrhinos) and the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), in a recently fragmented landscape. 

The construction of new roads through previously undisturbed habitat is a major concern for a number of Ontario’s faunal species at risk due to increased vehicle mortality, the destruction or alteration of critical habitat and population fragmentation arising from the barrier effect of roads.  Snakes may be particularly vulnerable to these effects because their limited mobility and their dependence on critical habitat may prevent them from moving to less disturbed areas.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has completed the four-laning of Highway 69 extending northward to Parry Sound, Ontario.  This new transportation corridor opened to the public in October of 2003 and is known habitat for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake and the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake which are both designated threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

An intensive radiotelemetry and mark&recapture project is being conducted (2001-2004).  To date, we have processed over 400 snakes (marked, measured, and blood sampled) and have radiotracked over 40 snakes at the Highway site (before construction of the road began, during construction, and a pre-use period) totalling over 2500 telemetry locations.  This project has significantly advanced the scientific knowledge for both snake species. For example, spatial data collected within Killbear Provincial Park (1995-2002) indicated that the average size of Massasauga activity ranges were approximately 500m by 500m (25 ha). However, comparable spatial data collected from the Highway study site, clearly demonstrates that rattlesnakes can have activity ranges of 1000m by 2000m (200 ha). As well, spatial data for the hog-nosed snake indicates that their activity ranges can be 2to3 times the size of massasaugas at the highway site. These population and species differences underline the importance of comparative studies, as spatial differences of this magnitude would have substantial implications on assessments of road construction, fragmentation, relocation, habitat requirements, and gene flow.

Within 36 hours of the highway opening (Oct 7, 2003), 17 snakes were found on the highway surface throughout the study area; two Massasaugas, six Northern Watersnakes, one Eastern Milksnake, and eight Eastern Gartersnakes. Considering the condition of the identified snakes, it is highly probable that additional road-killed snakes were not documented.  This recently documented level of road mortality, along with three intensive years of telemetry and mark-recapture data, strongly indicate that local snake populations along the highway corridor will be heavily impacted in 2004.

Elinor Hughes 
Ph.D. Candidate (September 2003 - ?)       
M.Sc. (
Abstract)

Elinor_turtle.jpg (35994 bytes)Sexual selection models predict that an abundance of one sex in relation to the other will result in more intense selection on traits exhibited by the abundant sex.  Conversely, if there is a paucity of one sex, there will be less intense selection on traits exhibited by the scarce sex.  If these traits are true signals of mate quality, then in the latter scenario, individuals may mate with lower quality mates more frequently than they would if the sex ratio was even or biased in the opposite direction.  Turtles often exhibit unbalanced sex ratios either in favour of females or in favour of males.  Female painted turtles select mates based on specific traits that may or may not be true signals of male quality.  Hence, if there is a scarcity of males in a population, females may mate with males of low quality because there are no high quality mates in the vicinity.  My Ph.D. research will focus on two populations of painted turtle that have opposite sex ratios.  I will answer three main questions: 1) Are sexually dimorphic traits in male painted turtles (small body size and elongated foreclaws) maintained in the population by female mate choice and do these traits truly signal male quality?  2) Are there other factors that influence sexual selection in painted turtles (e.g. male mate choice, male aggression towards females)? And 3) is the strength or form of sexual selection influenced by the sex ratio of the population?  Using the data collected from these questions, I will create a model to predict the potential for sexual selection in painted turtles.  I will then test the generalizability of the model using data on other pond turtles. 

Many turtle species exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination, which contributes to the phenomenon of biased sex ratios observed in natural populations.  It is likely that long-term changes in local temperatures will exacerbate this trend, resulting in long-term sex biases within turtle populations.  If this is the case, then turtle populations may be at increased risk of extinction as a result of mating between low-quality individuals. (e-mail me)

Sarah Holt
Ph.D. Candidate (November 2000 - ?)
M.Sc. 2000 (abstract)

Holt.jpg (337909 bytes)I have recently completed my M.Sc. project "Development and Evaluation of a Model for Turtle Embryonic Growth" (abstract). This model allows researchers to determine the stage of development  in natural turtle nests using only the nest temperature profile and length of incubation. My current project involves looking at the inter-population variation in development rate and temperature sex determination. Last summer I spent some time with Dr. Fred Janzen and his crew on the Mississippi river in Illinois. I have several other projects that have developed on the side, including 1) variation in deformity rate with incubation temperature, 2) nest overwintering behaviour in painted turtles, and 3) the relationship between ectothermic species distribution and growing season length. I enjoy being a teaching assistant for several courses including mammalogy (92-4280), ornithology (92-4090), and the Algonquin Park field course (92-4410). In my spare time I also play hockey for the University of Guelph Women's Ice Hockey team. (web site)

 

Page updated September, 2005.

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