Photo of Paul Smith

Paul Smith

Adjunct Research Professor

Degrees:B.Sc. (Trent), M.Sc. (British Columbia), Ph.D. (Carleton)
Office:National Wildlife Research Centre, Environment Canada
1125 Colonel By Dr., Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6

Current Research

Research Areas:  Conservation Biology and Arctic Ecology

Specifically:  Ecology of birds and their habitats, Arctic ecology, wildlife conservation, monitoring, and management

I’m interested in the ecology and conservation of arctic birds and their habitats.  Two key themes of my research are 1) evaluating the influence of changing conditions in the Arctic on the breeding ecology of tundra birds and 2) developing innovative approaches to improve knowledge of population status.  Techniques range from population-level demographic analyses to individual-level behavioral studies and my work is carried out from remote arctic breeding sites to temperate migration stopovers.  An important focus of my current work is to understand the effects of overabundant arctic geese on sympatric species such as shorebirds and gulls. Several populations of arctic geese have increased exponentially in abundance in recent decades, in large part due to nutritional subsidies during the non-breeding season. These now overabundant geese, especially Midcontinent Lesser Snow Geese, have caused considerable damage to arctic habitats. Few studies have evaluated the impact of overabundant geese on other birds but the possibility exists for strong effects mediated through habitat change or altered predator/prey dynamics. My work evaluates the mechanisms and magnitude of effects of geese on other tundra nesting birds and their habitats. Another key current project involves the use of tracking technology to enhance the monitoring of bird populations.  We’re combining modern technology with modern statistical methods to integrate behavioral data into monitoring programs, in order to improve our understanding of birds’ population status.  My research seeks innovative solutions to conservation challenges and I would be interested to hear from potential graduate students that share this interest.

Selected Publications

Iverson, S. A., H. G. Gilchrist, P.A. Smith, A. J. Gaston, and M. R. Forbes.  2014.  Longer ice-free seasons increase the risk of nest depredation by polar bears for colonial breeding birds in the Canadian Arctic.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Vol 281, No. 1779.

Smith, P.A., I. Tulp, H. Schekkerman, H.G. Gilchrist, and M.R. Forbes. 2012. Shorebird incubation behaviour and its influence on the risk of nest predation. Animal Behaviour 84: 835-842.

Smith, P.A., and A.J. Gaston. 2012. Environmental variation and the demography and diet of thick-billed murres. Marine Ecology Progress Series 454: 237-249.

Smith, P.A., C.L. Gratto-Trevor, B.T. Collins, S.D. Fellows, R.B. Lanctot, J. Liebezeit, B. McCaffery, D. Tracy, J. Rausch, S. Kendall, S. Zack, and H.R. Gates. 2012. Trends in abundance of Semipalmated Sandpipers: evidence from the Arctic. Waterbirds 35: 106-119.

McKinnon, L., P.A. Smith, L. Nguyen, J.-L. Martin, F. Doyle, K. Abraham, H.G. Gilchrist, E. Nol, R.I.G. Morrison, and J. Bêty. 2010. Lower predation risk for migratory birds at high latitudes. Science 327 (5963):326-327. Jan

Smith, P.A., H.G. Gilchrist, M.R. Forbes, J.-L. Martin, and K. Allard. 2010. Inter-annual variation in the breeding chronology of Arctic shorebirds: effects of weather, snow melt and predators. Journal of Avian Biology 41: 292-304.