Principal Investigator: Gregory Thiemann
Funding: NSERC Discovery Grant.
The proposed research involves testing hypotheses around the environmental drivers and ecological consequences of individual specialization, using the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as a model species and target for conservation. As a long-lived top predator in a dynamic habitat, polar bears demonstrate several characteristics that promote individual specialization: interspecific competition is low, intraspecific competition may be strong, and individual foraging behaviour is highly variable. As a species that relies on the annual sea ice as its primary habitat, the polar bear is also vulnerable to demographic decline attributable to climatic warming. By identifying the factors contributing to individual fitness in an Arctic top predator, the research will lead to advancement in animal ecology and inform policy and action aimed at the conservation of polar bears, a species of significant cultural and economic importance in Canada.