Donald L. Kramer

(Photo: Vanessa Kramer)


Contact information:
512-831 Dunsmuir Road
Victoria, British Columbia


(Retired 31 May 2010; not accepting graduate students)


Research Interests

I am a behavioural ecologist with particular interests in freshwater and marine fishes, rodents and domestic mammals. Behavioural ecology is concerned with the function or adaptive significance of animal behaviour, the discovery of general principles relating behaviour to the environment in which it occurs, and the application of those general principles to understand the distribution and abundance of animal populations. My current research focuses on space use and movement, including topics such as habitat selection, frequency- and density-dependent distributions, exploration and sampling, antipredator behaviour including vigilance, resource defence, and the implications of these processes for the effectiveness of conservation reserves. A “jack-of-all-trades” (despite its implications for mastery!), I particularly enjoy collaborative projects where I can relate my knowledge of the general principles of behavioural ecology to specific systems by working with individuals who know those systems well. Current and recent projects that I have been involved in with students and postdoctoral associates include studies of:

Schooling blue tangs on a reef in Barbados (Photo by Katrine Turgeon)
  • distribution and movement of coral reef fishes in relation to reef structure, fish density and reserve boundaries,
  • effects of supplementary feeding on behaviour, physiology, ecology, and evolution of chipmunks,
  • vigilance and other antipredator tactics of sciurid rodents,
  • adaptive significance of intermittent locomotion,
  • habitat selection and space use in damselfish, surgeonfish and squirrelfish,
  • behavioural ecology of mongooses in the Caribbean in relation to sea turtle conservation, and
  • field studies on sampling and information acquisition in chipmunks.
During the 1970s and 1980s, I carried out extensive studies on the ecology and evolution of air breathing and aquatic surface respiration as adaptations of fishes to water low in dissolved oxygen. I have no current research in this area.

Yellow-bellied marmot habitat near Rocky Mountain Biological Station, Gothic CO U.S.A. (Photo by Vanessa Kramer)

During the 1980s and 1990s, I collaborated with researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to supervise students exploring the applications of behavioural ecology to welfare and production of domestic mammals, especially pigs. I am not currently supervising research in this area.

My students and I have worked primarily at the Bellairs Research Institute, Barbados (reef fish) and a site near Mansonville, Quebec (effects of supplementary feeding on chipmunks). Other projects have been carried out in the laboratory at McGill, at the Gault Nature Reserve at Mont St. Hilaire, Quebec, at the former Experimental Farm of Agriculture Canada in Ottawa and in varied freshwater, marine and terrestrial systems of Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, British Columbia, Panama, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Barbados. Our research has been supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT).


I earned my B.S. degree in Biology from Boston College (1966) and my Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (1971). My doctoral thesis was a laboratory study of the roles of external stimuli and endocrine states in the onset of parental behaviour in a freshwater tropical fish. I carried out postdoctoral studies at the University of Ghana, West Africa (1971-73) and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (1973-75). Since 1975, I have been a professor in the Department of Biology, McGill University where I served as Department Chair from 1996-2000. I was a founding co-editor (with Staffan Ulfstrand) of the journal Behavioral Ecology, and I co-hosted (with Luc-Alain Giraldeau) ISBE2002, the biennial meeting of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology in Montreal. I retired on 31 May 2010 and am now living in Victoria B.C., Canada.

Eastern chipmunk (with cheek pouches full of food) at Mont St Hilaire QC
(Photo by Don Kramer)

Selected Publications

i. Distribution, space use and habitat selection of fishes

Turgeon, K., A. Robillard, J. Grégoire, V. Duclos, and D.L. Kramer. In Press. Functional connectivity from a reef fish perspective: Behavioral tactics for moving in a fragmented landscape. Ecology.

Vallès, H, W. Hunte, and D.L. Kramer. 2009. Variable temporal relationships between environment and recruitment in coral reef fishes. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 379:225-240.

Gotanda, K., K. Turgeon, and D.L. Kramer. 2009. Body size and reserve protection affect flight initiation distance in parrotfishes. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 63:1563-1572.

Valles, H., D.L. Kramer and W. Hunte. 2008. Temporal and spatial patterns in the recruitment of coral-reef fishes in Barbados. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 363:257-272.

McDougall, P. and D.L. Kramer. 2007. Short-term behavioural consequences of territory relocation in a damselfish Stegastes diencaeus. Behavioral Ecology 18:53-61.

Valles, H., D.L. Kramer and W. Hunte. 2006. A standard unit for monitoring recruitment of fishes to coral reef rubble. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 336:171-183.

Sikkel, P.C. and D.L. Kramer. 2006. Territory revisitation reduces intrusion during spawning trips by female yellowtail damselfish. Animal Behaviour 71:71-78.

Gilbert, M., J.B. Rasmussen and D.L. Kramer. 2005. Estimating the density and biomass of moray eels (Muraenidae) using a modified visual census method for hole-dwelling reef fauna. Env. Biol. Fish. 73:415-426.

Morgan, I.E. and D.L. Kramer. 2005. Determinants ofsocial organization in a coral reef fish, the blue tang, Acanthurus coeruleus. Env. Biol. Fish. 72: 443-453.

Chapman, M.R. and D.L. Kramer. 2000. Movement of post-settlement fishes within and among fringing coral reefs in Barbados. Env. Biol. Fish. 57:11-24.

Chapman, M.R. and D.L. Kramer. 1999. Gradients of coral reef fish density and size across the Barbados Marine Reserve boundary: effects of reserve protection and habitat characteristics. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 181:81-96.

Kramer, D.L. and M.R. Chapman. 1999. Implications of fish home range size and relocation for marine reserve function. Env. Biol. Fish. 55:65-79.

Rangeley, R.W. and D.L. Kramer. 1998. Density-dependent antipredator tactics and habitat selection in juvenile pollock. Ecology 79:943-952.

Kramer, D.L., R.W. Rangeley & L.J. Chapman. 1997. Habitat selection: Patterns of spatial distribution from behavioural decisions. Pp. 37-80 In : Behavioural ecology of teleost fishes. Ed. by J.-G.J. Godin. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Chapman, M.R. and D.L. Kramer. 1996. Guarded resources: The effect of intruder number on the tactics and success of defenders and intruders. Anim. Behav. 52:83-94

Rakitin, A., and D.L. Kramer. 1996. The effect of a marine reserve on the distribution of coral reef fishes in Barbados. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 131:97-113

Swain, D.P. and D.L. Kramer. 1995. Annual variation in temperature selection by Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and its relation to population size. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 116:11-23.

Grant, J.W.A. and D.L. Kramer. 1990. Territory size as a predictor of the upper limit to population density in stream-dwelling salmonids. Can.J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 47:1724-1737.

ii. Behavioural ecology of small mammals

Leighton, P.A., J.A. Horrocks and D.L. Kramer. 2009. How depth alters detection and capture of buried prey: exploitation of sea turtle eggs by nest predators. Behav. Ecol. 20:1299-1306.

Leighton, P.A., J.A. Horrocks, and D.L. Kramer. 2010. Conservation and the scarecrow effect: can human activity benefit threatened species by displacing predators? Biological Conservation 143:2156-2163.

Leighton, P.A., J.A. Horrocks, B.H. Krueger, J.A. Beggs, and D.L. Kramer. 2008. Predicting species interactions from edge responses: mongoose predation on hawksbill sea turtle nests in fragmented beach habitat. Proc. R. Soc. B 275:2465-2472.

Hall, C.L., M.M. Humphries, and D.L. Kramer. 2007. Resource tracking by eastern chipmunks: the sampling of renewing patches. Canadian Journal of Zoology 85:536-548.

Makowska, I.J. and D.L. Kramer. 2007. Vigilance during food handling by grey squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis. Anim. Behav. 74:153-158.

Gibson, K.W., C.L. Hall and D.L. Kramer. 2006. Time-concentrated sampling: a simple strategy for information gain at a novel depleted patch. Canadian Journal of Zoology 84:1513-1521.

Trouilloud, W, A. Delisle and D.L. Kramer. 2004. Head raising during foraging and pausing during intermittent locomotion as components of antipredator vigilance in chipmunks. Animal Behaviour 67: 789-797.

Humphries, M.M., D.W. Thomas, and D.L. Kramer. 2003. The role of energy availability in mammalian hibernation: a cost-benefit approach. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 76: 165-179.

Humphries, M.M., D.L. Kramer, and D.W. Thomas. 2003. The role of energy availability in mammalian hibernation: an experimental test in free-ranging eastern chipmunks. Physiol. Biochem. Zool. 76: 180-186.

Humphries, M.M., D.W. Thomas, C.L. Hall, J.R. Speakman, and D.L. Kramer. 2002. The energetics of autumn mast hoarding in eastern chipmunks. Oecologia 133:30-37.

Humphries, M.M., D.W. Thomas and D.L. Kramer. 2001. Torpor and digestion in food-storing hibernators. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 74:283-292.

McAdam, A.G. and D.L. Kramer. 1998. Vigilance as a benefit of intermittent locomotion in small mammals. Anim. Behav. 55:109-117.

Kramer, D.L. and M. Bonenfant. 1997. Direction of predator approach and the decision to flee to a refuge. Anim. Behav. 54:289-295.

Lair, H., Kramer, D.L. and L.-A. Giraldeau. 1994. Interference competition in central place foragers: the effect of imposed waiting on patch use decisions of eastern chipmunks. Behav. Ecol. 5:237-244.

Kramer, D.L. and D.M. Weary. 1991. Exploration versus exploitation: a field study of time allocation to environmental tracking by foraging chipmunks. Anim. Behav. 41:443-449.

iii. Behavioural ecology and farm animal welfare and management

Welp, T., J. Rushen, D.L. Kramer, M. Festa-Bianchet, and A.M.B. de Passillé. 2004. Vigilance as a measure of fear in dairy cattle. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 87: 1-13.

Pitts, A.D., D.M. Weary, D. Fraser, E.A. Pajor and D.L. Kramer. 2002. Alternative housing for sows and litters Part 5. Individual differences in the maternal behaviour of sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 76:291-306.

Fraser, D., D.L. Kramer, E.A. Pajor and D.M. Weary. 1995. Conflict and cooperation: Sociobiological principles and the behaviour of pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 44:139-157.

iv. Behavioural ecology of breathing

Kramer, D.L. 1988. The behavioral ecology of air breathing by aquatic animals. Can. J. Zool. 66:89-94.

Kramer, D.L. 1983. The evolutionary ecology of respiratory mode in fishes: an analysis based on the costs of breathing. Env. Biol. Fish. 9:145-158.

v. Other contributions

Kramer, D.L. 2001. Foraging behavior. Pp. 232-246 In: Evolutionary Ecology: Concepts and Case Studies. Ed. by C.W. Fox, D.A. Roff and D.J. Fairbairn. Oxford University Press, New York.

Kramer, D.L. and R.L. McLaughlin. 2001. The behavioral ecology of intermittent locomotion. Amer. Zool. 41:137-153.

Nakatsuru, K. and D.L. Kramer. 1982. Is sperm cheap? Limited male fertility and female choice in the lemon tetra, (Pisces, Characidae). Science 2l6:753-755.

Publication List and Reprint Requests

If you would liketo read any of my publications, please check my complete publication list. For most of my publications, there are linked pdf files. I did not retain paper reprints following my retirement.

Recent Graduate Students

Alexandre Ménard. Shelter holes as a resource for coral reef fishes, with particular reference to nocturnal fishes: squirrelfishes and soldierfish (Holocentridae), bigeyes (Priacanthidae), and sweepers (Pempheridae). M.Sc. 2007

Henri Valles (co-supervised with Wayne Hunte, U. West Indies). Interactions between recruitment and predation as factors affecting the abundance of juvenile coral reef fish in Barbados. Ph.D. 2008

David O'Brien (co-supervised with Carl Walters, U. British Columbia) Spatial aspects of predator-prey interactions in trout/minnow communities. Ph.D. 2009

Patrick Leighton (co-supervised with Julia Horrocks, U. West Indies). Behavioural ecology of the small Indian mongoose in sea turtle nesting habitat in Barbados. Ph.D. 2009

Stefanie LaZerte. Using thermosensitive telemetry to measure activity in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus). M.Sc. 2010

Katrine Turgeon. Territory relocation: how habitat quality, landscape connectivity and population regulation affect movements in a coral reef fish. Ph.D. in progress.


Updated Sept. 9th, 2014

Biology Home Page | McGill Home Page