Campus Directory: Gail Michener

University of Lethbridge

Gail Michener


BSc (Zoology, Hons.), University of Adelaide, South Australia; PhD (Biology), University of Regina, Saskatchewan


Behavioural ecology

Research Areas

Sexual differences in behaviour, Population biology of Richardson's ground squirrels, Spermophilus richardsonii


Professor Emeritus, Biological Sciences

Animal Behavior Society Teaching Award 2000
University of Lethbridge Distinguished Teacher 1993

Board of Governors' Research Chair 2003-2008 (University of Lethbridge)
Ingrid Speaker Medal for Distinguished Research 2003 (University of Lethbridge)
Merriam Award for Distinguished Contributions to Mammalogy 1994 (American Society of Mammalogists)

Selected Publications

Risch, T. S., G. R. Michener, and F. S. Dobson. 2007. Variation in litter size: a test of hypotheses in Richardson's ground squirrels. Ecology, 88: 306-314.

Broussard, D. R., G. R. Michener, and F. S. Dobson. 2006. Age-specific resource investment strategies: evidence from female Richardson's ground squirrels. Journal of Zoology (London), 268: 389-394.

Michener, G. R. 2005. Limits on egg predation by Richardson's ground squirrels. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 83: 1030-1037.

Goodwin, H. T., G. R. Michener, D. Gonzalez, and C. E. Rinaldi. 2005. Hibernation is recorded in lower incisors of recent and fossil ground squirrels (Spermophilus). Journal of Mammalogy, 86: 323-332.

Broussard, D. R., G. R. Michener, T. S. Risch, and F. S. Dobson. 2005. Somatic senescence: evidence from female Richardson's ground squirrels. Oikos, 108: 591-601.

Michener, G. R. 2004. Hunting techniques and tool use by North American badgers preying on Richardson's ground squirrels. Journal of Mammalogy, 85: 1019-1027.

Michener, G. R. 2002. Seasonal use of subterranean sleep and hibernation sites by adult female Richardson's ground squirrels. Journal of Mammalogy. 83:999-1012

Michener, G. R. and A. N. Iwaniuk. 2001. Killing technique of North American badgers preying on Richardson's ground squirrels. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 79: 2109-2113.

Michener, G. R. 2001. Great horned owl, Bubo virginianus, predation on Richardson's ground squirrels, Spermophilus richardsonii. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 115:543-548.

Michener, G. R. 2000. Caching of Richardson's ground squirrels by North American badgers. Journal of Mammalogy, 81: 1106-1117.

Michener, G. R. 1998. Sexual differences in reproductive effort of Richardson's ground squirrels. Journal of Mammalogy, 79:1-19.

In The Media

Board of Governors Research Chair Positions Announced; Legend; May 2003. Ground-Breaking Research; Community Report 2003.

Ingrid Speaker Medal for Distringuished Research, Scholarship or Performance; Legend; May 2003.

Research Interests



Funded by NSERC Discovery Grant 2008-2013

Current graduate students:
Catherine Ovens: Influence of matrilineal kinship on aboveground and belowground use of space by female Richardsonís ground squirrels


The primary objective of my long-term study of Richardson's ground squirrels (Spermophilus richardsonii) is to interpret behavioural ecology and social organization in terms of kinship and sexual differences in reproductive effort (see Michener 1998). My work with a population located 40 km N of Lethbridge, Alberta, focusses on life history, causes of mortality, effect of climate on timing of the active season, underground use of space, hibernation, and spatial associations among female kin.

Richardson's ground squirrels are medium-sized diurnally active obligate hibernators with a single annual mating season in March. Although the sex ratio at birth and amongst juveniles is 1:1, females have higher inter-year survival rates than males. Sex ratio of the adult population is biased, with 3-4 females per male (Michener 1998). Each female rears only 1 litter a year (usually 6-8 offspring), whereas each male has the potential to sire several litters, but provides no paternal care and rarely survives to a second mating season (Michener & McLean 1996). Males usually disperse from the natal area, whereas females settle in or near the natal burrow system, forming female kin clusters (van Staaden et al. 1994). Duration of aboveground activity varies with age and sex; February-June for adult males, March-July for adult females, May-August for juvenile females, May-October for juvenile males (Michener 1998). Consequently, different age and sex classes are exposed to different risks from biotic (e.g. predation) and abiotic (e.g. inclement weather) factors.

Current Research and Creative Activity

TitleLocationGrant InformationPrincipal InvestigatorCo Researchers
Kinship, paternity, and life history of Richardson's ground squirrels Southern Alberta Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant (NSERC), $23,100, 2005-08.

Gail Michener, University of Lethbridge

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