Having grown up in Alberta, Mathieu Bourbonnais is no stranger to this province or the grizzly bears he is currently studying. His passion for nature drew him to a number of natural resource related jobs throughout the Y2Y region including working as Conservation Officer in Parks Alberta and as a wildland firefighter for Parks Canada.
Now Mathieu is trading in his various Park uniforms for lecture theaters, books and field work as an MSc student in Geography at the University of Victoria to help preserve the less than 700 grizzlies left in his home province.
While much research has looked at how human disturbances to the landscape, such as roads, affect the mortality rates of this iconic Yellowstone to Yukon indicator species, little research has examined how escalating human influence and changing habitat conditions affect the physiological state of individual grizzly bears.
Under the supervision of Dr. Trisalyn Nelson and in collaboration with the Alberta Foothills Research Institute Grizzly Bear Project through the Program Leader Mr. Gordon Stenhouse, Mathieu will quantify the spatial relationships between grizzly bear health and their environment.
Measurements of hair cortisol and body condition taken from over 500 bears will indicate the health of individuals in five Alberta grizzly populations. This, evaluated against environmental metrics detailing human caused influences, habitat disturbance, and quality of grizzly bear habitat, will shape our understanding of how one impacts the other.
Conservation strategies and policies will benefit from this breadth of information and help influence the long-term survival of this highly threatened population.