Doing Research During a Pandemic: Dr. Patrick Bergeron’s Field Work

Doing Research During a Pandemic: Dr. Patrick Bergeron’s Field Work

With the virus still present and the population slowly getting used to this new normal, we are in a phase of gradual resumption of activities. Last April, the Government allowed essential ongoing research in Health, Natural Science and Engineering. Currently, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies is working closely with the Research Ethics Board and the Senate Research Committee on a policy and procedures to oversee in-person research with human participants. Even with the health (and family) constraints brought by COVID-19, academics have adapted and continued, the best they could and as safely as possible, their research and creative activities. Dr. Patrick Bergeron of the Department of Biological Sciences is a Bishop’s University example of managing those constraints, while conducting research with animals.

In May, Dr. Bergeron and his team started their annual field work near Mansonville (Québec) for their long-term population study of Eastern chipmunks. The Chipmunk Project aims to investigate and quantify the effects of both genetic and environmental factors on physiological and behavioral traits. This ongoing project, in collaboration with researchers from Université de Sherbrooke and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), started in 2004. About 1800 individuals have been monitored through these years and it was thus essential to maintain basic data collection to continue this longitudinal study and avoid losing track of reproduction and populations trends.

Each captured chipmunk is uniquely tagged, sexed, aged and measured. Docility and exploration tests are also done, and samples are taken.

In order to comply to safety procedures, special measures were put in place. This year, the field team was reduced to a minimum, and only two experienced graduate students and two researchers (Dr. Bergeron and Dr. Réale, from UQAM), working independently, were collecting data. This is an important change from a usual field season, which could reunite up to 10 students and researchers. In reducing the size of the team, they had to work especially long hours this year, showing their dedication to the project and to research as a whole. Interactions between team members were also limited in transportation to the field sites, and no material was exchanged on the field. To ensure their safety, they each had a walkie talkie to frequently report to each other.

Dr. Bergeron has varied research interests in local fauna, studying eastern chipmunks and wood frogs, but also in pre-industrial human populations! He is a member of the BU Agro-Biodiversity Team, a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research team studying how agricultural practices influence environmental quality.

To learn more about his projects, please visit his website.