Individual differences in behaviour and life history in chipmunks
I spent my PhD investigating the links between exploration, life history and stress reactivity to understand how pace of life syndromes arise (supervised by Denis Réale and Dany Garant). I studied an eastern chipmunk population near Sutton in Southern Québec. We found that individuals differ consistently in their exploration and that the exploration of an individual is associated with its reproductive life-history. With Rudy Boonstra, Murray Humphries, Rupert Palme and Fanie Pelletier, I also found that individual exploration and reproductive effort in a given year are both associated with cortisol stress reactivity. Thus, stress reactivity may be a central mechanism maintain pace of life syndromes. You can read the publications. I’ll upload posts on the latest results soon.
I am extending this by investigating how exploration is linked to aspects of chipmunks ecology. For example, exploration affects individual dispersal, space use, and reproductive tactics. We are also investigating whether exploration differences among individuals are associated with additive genetic variance.
Individual social specialization and mating system flexibility in water striders
I currently work at the University of California at Davis with Andrew Sih on water striders. In this species, individual differences in mating behaviour determine the overall mating dynamics. In turn, the mating dynamics will modify how individuals behave and determine their mating success.
The interplay between the group dynamics and individual behaviour may generate consistent individual differences in behaviour through social niche specialisation. Some individuals may also act as keystone individuals, and have a disproportionate impact on the overall group dynamics. These individuals could also modify the overall group dynamic in a way that favours their reproductive success. This is called niche construction. Testing these ideas requires clever experiments and a ton of data. We just finished a new cycle of experiments in the lab and so cool results will be coming soon.