Galpern Lab @ Department of Biological Sciences | University of Calgary

Conservation Ecology


Can animals move across landscapes? This network models a landscape as a terrestrial mammal might experience it, with green patches of habitat separated by the least-costly routes for movement.

Assessing landscape connectivity for highly-mobile animals

We are involved in several projects with the goal of understanding how features of landscapes may influence the movements of highly-mobile animals.  Both woodland caribou (in Saskatchewan) and bumble bees (in Alberta) figure prominently.

The organizing questions in this work are:

Can animals move to where they need to go (e.g. at various stages of their life history, or in response to environmental change)?

Which landscape features promote or inhibit movement?

How can we model landscape connectivity effectively for highly-mobile animals?

What types of connectivity models and tools best support planning decisions?

These questions have been at the core of our research for some time.  We have published a new method and associated software (grains of connectivity) for modelling highly-mobile animal movement, as well as tested these ideas in various publications using caribou genetic, telemetry and simulated data.  See also our review on landscape graph modelling.




Can we read the landscape from spatial patterns in genetic relationships? These simulated data analysed with MEMGENE (developed in our lab) shows that we can. The red structure slows the movements of individuals and their offspring (circles) over generations. Circles of similar size and colour show the genetic patterns.

Applied and experimental landscape genetics

As animals move they take their genes with them.  A mountain, a river, a road, or the lack of suitable habitat might get in their way, reducing movement and slowing gene flow. If this happens over multiple generations, we may be able to read this landscape signal from spatial autocorrelation in the genetic relationships among individual animals.

Our current landscape genetics research focuses around these questions:

Under what landscape and demographic conditions can we reliably “read the landscape” from genetic data?

Can we develop methods to improve the detection of spatial genetic pattern and the power of landscape genetic inference?

What can genetic data tell us about landscape connectivity in species of conservation concern (e.g. caribou and pollinating insects)?

Towards these goals, we have published a method and associated software (MEMGENE) to extract spatial genetic patterns and improve inference in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.  We have also developed a landscape genetic simulator (POPSCAPE) to support simulation experiments.  Our landscape genetic work on caribou, testing landscape connectivity predictions for these animals has also appeared in Molecular Ecology.


FEB 5/17 We've re-opened our search for a PhD student to work on bumble bees in Fraser Valley, BC blueberry fields. Co-supervised with Ralph Cartar here at University of Calgary. See posting here for more information.

OCT 13/07 We're recruiting a PhD student to work on bumble bees in Fraser Valley, BC blueberry fields. Co-supervised with Ralph Cartar here at University of Calgary. See posting here for more information.

JUL 17/17 University of Calgary is using our bumble bee and climate change work as part of a national advertising campaign. See this poster snapped as we sped by on Calgary Transit. Our part of the campaign can be found here

JUN 13/17: Summer is here, and we have started sampling in canola fields and in ditches in the Calgary area, near Duchess, and near Claresholm, Alberta. Big thanks to our grower-cooperators who allow us into their fields to sample insects and measure yield. And also to Canola Council of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and Alberta Conservation Association whose ongoing support has enabled us to expand this prairie cropland ecosystem services and conservation program.

JUN 8/17: We have been in the news. Here our beneficial insect project coordinator Jess Vickruck and Canola Council agronomist Gregory Sekulic talk to Grainews about our collaborative prairie research project. University of Calgary also reported recently on our bee work, here.
APR 1/17: Our field program is building. We have FOUR paid positions this summer for our various Prairie beneficial insect projects. Please contact Jess Vickruck if you are interested in applying. [Thank you for your interest. All positions are now filled. Closed.]

APR 5/16: We have THREE paid positions for field/lab assistants on our pollinator landscape ecology projects. See here for more information. Apply soon. [Thanks to those who applied. Now closed.]

DEC 14/15: It's always Bombus rufocinctus! We are looking for undergraduate volunteers starting in the new year to help us identify bumble bees from this summer's field collection. 1picrufo The infamous and abundant rufocinctus is anything but red-belted as the latin scholars among you have already suggested. Rather, it is a brilliant mimic with thirteen different colour pattern morphs that make our game of identifying prairie bumble bees especially fun. Fortunately we have a secret up our sleeve. Come join the rufocinctus gang and find out how to tell a real rufo (err--we think). Thanks to artist and bee ecologist Riley Waytes for our mascot.

OCT 26/15: University of Calgary tweets about our bumble bee climate change study as one of five "research advances that could change our world." There's always hope!

SEP 15/15: Very pleased to be advertising for a University of Calgary Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholar in pollinator informatics--or is that bee-o-informatics? See the job posting here.

JULY 16/15: We're quite excited about our team's new bumble bee climate change study just out in Science (Kerr, Pindar, Galpern, et al., 2015). The findings were covered by over 400 media outlets around the world (here's a list), with stories appearing in print, on the web, on the radio, in streaming video, on several Canadian TV networks, and in a few languages.

JULY 10/15: Here's University of Calgary's coverage of the main findings of our new bumble bee climate change study in Science.

MAY 1/15: We are advertising for several graduate positions in pollinator conservation and in landscape modelling (for caribou). Please read the ads here. Applications accepted immediately until filled. Start dates as early as Fall 2015 are possible.

APR 14/15 We are advertising for TWO summer field assistants to help with our landscape-scale pollinator field experiment. Please email Paul Galpern to inquire. UPDATE: These positions have now been filled.

APR 14/15 We are advertising for a summer research assistant to take a lead role in our walkshed project. Please see the job ad here. UPDATE: This position has now been filled.

FEB 1/15: We are gearing up for our summer pollinator field experiment in the Calgary area where we will look at how landscape context has influenced insect pollinators. We are also looking for volunteers to help us collect samples from insect traps.

DEC 1/14 We're looking for graduate students. Get in touch if you have any overlapping interests!

AUG 16/14: MEMGENE, new software for detecting, visualizing and conducting inference on spatial genetic data is now published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The package is available on CRAN. Helpful for landscape genetics!