Branden Neufeld

About Branden

Research Associate/Lab Manager

Branden grew up enjoying hunting, fishing, and hiking in the outdoors in Saskatchewan. He is a former teacher from the Saskatoon area. He then returned to school to get his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology, joining the lab in 2017 for an Honour’s project on black bear denning in Saskatchewan’s boreal shield. His Master’s project was on primary productivity’s effect on disturbance-mediated apparent competition for boreal caribou. After some time as an environmental consultant, he is back in the Animal Population Ecology Lab as a Professional Research Associate. He enjoys spending time with his family and dog.
I have always been interested in habitat selection, especially how individual performance (e.g., survival and reproduction) can be influenced by an animal’s access to habitat resources and associated resource covariates, and demonstrating how these relationships might be modified by ecological processes (e.g., competition, predation, ecological succession, and cross-generational effects). I also dabble a bit on the molecular side of things, for example we are now hoping to quantify stress for individual horses of Sable Island (from cortisol in hair) and relate this to individual behaviour and performance. I also maintain an interest in population genetics; a very promising avenue to pursue concerning the Sable Island horses, where we are initiating brand-new research to establish the multi-generational pedigree of the horses and tackle questions about the micro-evolutionary processes that we believe are occurring (including sexual selection, horse colouration patterns) along a west-east gradient of habitat quality and density along the length of the island. We are all very excited about our work on genetics in the horses, which is seeing us expand our program to examine interesting questions of inbreeding and conservation genetics, and individual variation in gut microbial diversity and links with the island’s pedigree–even questions of antimicrobial resistance patterns in the Sable population (which is unique among populations considering its isolation and lack of history of modern veterinary care, including administration of antibiotics). The effects of density on individuals to affect population-level processes is particularly fascinating to me, and almost all of my projects touch on this to some extent. Some recent studies include effects of population density on interaction rates between individuals, which may influence the spread of wildlife disease, density-dependent habitat selection, and effects of density on dispersal, sex ratios, and intensity of mate competition and sexual selection. By examining individual responses (be it behaviour or morphology) to population-level phenomena like overcrowding or predation we may be able to identify opportunities for selection. My interests further include individual- and matrix-based models of populations with applications to theory, conservation, and management; scaling and sampling questions in ecology; population-level ecological genetics; and of course natural history. My questions have been primarily directed at the ecology of European and North American mammals, including populations of red deer, roe deer, caribou, moose, elk, feral horses, wolves, grizzly bears, polar bears, and seals.

I absolutely love Saskatchewan! It is a fantastic place to live and work. I reside in the town of Warman (just outside of the city of Saskatoon) with my wife and (now) four children.