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SMU alumnus researches habitat fragmentation, alteration and climate change

November 16, 2006

Source: St. Mary's University

The coping ability of wildlife in Canada’s northern winter climate has long been a fascination. For Colin Garroway, the related field of behavioural and population biology is turning out to be a potentially endless reservoir of research material.

With climate change a persistent presence in the headlines of newspapers all over the world, Garroway’s research may help us to understand how this is affecting the natural world.

"This field appeals to me because there is such a broad range of interesting pure and applied research questions that can be asked. I can study basic science questions such as ‘how can evolution of social behaviour evolve?’ As well, questions applying knowledge of a species’ basic biology to important issues such as the impacts of habitant fragmentation, alteration and climate change," says the Saint Mary’s alumnus. He graduated from the University with a Master of Applied Science Degree last month and is currently pursuing doctoral aspirations at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

While at SMU (which also included an undergraduate honours degree in biology), he completed an MSc thesis on an animal species that is steeped in popular culture lore.

"For my thesis project I quantified the social structure of northern long-eared bats and examined within year variation in tree and roost site characteristics used by this species. I also completed a project examining the effects of winter weather on body condition and reproduction in white-tailed deer," he says

Garroway credits his time at Saint Mary’s with paving the way for his career and life’s ambitions. "I developed a lot of the interests I am pursuing and skills I am applying now for my PhD at SMU. I also learned the fundamentals of doing good research there. I was given opportunities and guidance needed to develop my own research questions and see a project through from start to finish. Knowing that I had a good foundation gave me confidence that I could complete a PhD and continue on in a research-based career."

Aiding cause on his path to the doctorate was the recent awarding of a $63,000 grant from NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada). Galloway is quick to say his experiences at SMU were being instrumental with making it possible to receive the award. "I got the NSERC funding based upon my work at SMU. After my (current) degree I would look to do a post-doctoral year or two aboard and finally settle to teach and continue research in a university setting as a professor."

The focal point of his explorations at the doctoral level is "understanding the evolutionary importance of social interactions and how these interactions affect the distribution of species both in disturbed and undisturbed landscapes. Specifically, using field based observations and lab based molecular and bioenergetic techniques, I hope to look at the causes and consequences of the evolution of winter sociality in southern flying squirrels. I also hope to examine what the implications of this species needing to live within a social group have on population persistence in fragmented landscapes and range expansion at the northern front of their distribution."

Saint Mary's University is known for its community outreach projects, both in Canada and around the world. Saint Mary's, founded in 1802, is home to one of Canada's leading business schools, a Science Faculty widely known for its cutting-edge research, a comprehensive and innovative Arts Faculty and a vibrant Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.


For More Information:

Paul FitzgeraldPublic Affairs OfficerSaint Mary's University, Public Affairs(902) 420.5514E-mail:



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