As human populations increase globally, the interface of human-wildlife interactions become more expansive. Recognizing the nature of these interactions through applied research techniques is critical to conserving ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity worldwide. The SURREAL Lab currently oversees a number of projects that examine how resources are shared between humans and wildlife, which encompass a variety of terrestrial and marine species. Our projects look at how animals respond to external environmental stimuli, including anthropogenic disturbance and changes to ecological community structure. Through engaging with community partners, we aim to foster human-wildlife coexistence by generating research outputs that can inform effective conservation management and policy implementation. In doing so this work can serve to conserve wildlife populations and protect local community livelihoods.
Spatio-temporal interactions amongst carnivores in the Boreal Forest region of Alberta
Carnivores play critical functional roles in regulating ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity. The nature of competitive interactions among sympatric carnivores is contingent on a competitor’s ability to partition resources through inherited coexistence mechanisms. This project uses camera trap data to determine the environmental factors which facilitate or impede conflict mitigation strategies of cooccurring carnivores. The objective of this research is to recognize the distribution of perceived risk in relation to intraguild competition in Alberta’s boreal forest. This work hopes to expand upon existing knowledge of carnivore community ecology by looking at the relative influence of dynamic heterogeneity in landscape character and through exploring new spatiotemporal analytic approaches to understanding those relationships.
Whale behavioural responses to ship strikes and noise disturbance in the North Coast
Industry development and associative marine traffic is accompanied by ship-whale strikes and noise disturbances in the North Coast region where vessel routes intersect with critical whale habitat. This project, led by Chenoah Shine (MSc Student) investigates interacting patterns of ship and whale movement behaviour to inform vessel impact prevention in Gitga’at Territory on the north coast of BC. Agent based modelling approaches are being applied to simulate future vessel patterns, paired with field observations using drone technology to observe whale behaviour. Outputs from this combined methodological approach will describe how whales alter habitat usage in response to the presence of commercial vessels and will have the capacity to inform risk-mitigation solutions in constricted coastal waterways where complex coastal geography limits traditional management solutions.
Vessel movement patterns in the coastal waters of Southern Vancouver Island
In the coastal waters off south Vancouver Island people with varying commercial and personal interests co-occur and share resources with an array of large marine mammals year-round. Small-vessel activities have been identified as having unique impacts on the behavioural ecology of these animals. Ongoing projects in the SURREAL Lab look to understand how small vessels utilize the marine environment in the South Island region. One such initiative applies machine learning to detect whale watching vessel behaviour from automatic identification system data to inform policy concerned with monitoring and management of wildlife tourism. Another of our projects uses remote camera observation of vessels to improve monitoring of recreational boater and sports-fishing marine use patterns and pressures. Together through these projects, the SURREAL lab aims to improve our broader understanding of small vessel spatial presence and associated stressors on marine habitats. In doing so we can advance capacity for self-regulation to mitigate the pressures small vessels apply to the ecosystems on which they depend, and share with vulnerable and threatened species.