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Current Winner - 2020

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship

Département de biologie

Université de Sherbrooke

Until recently, most scientists thought that evolution occurred very slowly, with adaptive trait changes taking centuries. A researcher from Université de Sherbrooke, however, has shown that wild species can evolve changes in traits over a few years or decades—and that human activities accelerate the process.

Fanie Pelletier is an expert in eco-evolutionary dynamics. She has linked physical and behavioural changes in wild animal populations to anthropogenic pressures including hunting, climate change and resource extraction. In a remarkable study, Pelletier’s team demonstrated that mother bears have extended the period of time they care for cubs—a change in behaviour that can be attributed to changes in hunting regulations. Another project revealed that bighorn sheep horns are shrinking, a genetic change driven partly by trophy hunting.

Pelletier is now building on these breakthroughs to develop the ability to predict how wildlife populations may evolve in response to human activities, and how those responses might ripple through the ecosystem. Pelletier’s unique combination of evolutionary and ecological research provides valuable tools to understand how our actions alter the course of a species’ evolution, and suggests ways to improve our strategies for conservation and management of wild species.


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