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Sheila Holmes

Sheila Holmes
I am an ecologist studying multi-species communities in environments where humans play a major role in shaping the ecological conditions. I am currently focused on ungulate communities in temperate Sweden and bird and mammal communities in the tropics of Madagascar.


Human-wildlife indirect interactions

Having spent a decade managing a lemur ecology and conservation research program, I came to Sweden to determine how variations in climate impact Sweden's ungulate communities. In doing so, I created a novel opportunity to apply the knowledge I gained on sustainable development while working in Sweden to my previous experiences studying multi-species communities in the human-dominated environments of Madagascar. In Rewilding Madagascar, my collaborators and I aim to determine the long-term impact of seed disperser presence on carbon storage, biodiversity, and human livelihoods in reforested areas of Madagascar’s humid forests, and link these to reforestation context and practices. In doing so, we will develop new methods of monitoring mammalian and avian seed dispersers in the tropics, and work to build capacity in the use of such methods by local organizations. This project also serves my broader research interests of finding ways to synergize sustainable development goals by promoting the ecosystem services provided by wildlife.    

I have recently expanded upon these research goals with Faunal Activities for Climate Action - a networking project involving European and African research partners to explore how seed dispersing and pollinating fauna can impact carbon storage and biodiversity conservation in Sub-Saharan African woodlands.  


Climate and population performance

As a researcher in the Megafauna and Sustainability (MegaSus) unit of VFM, I am wrapping up a project that investigates how climatic variation influences ungulate population performance in Sweden.  As the climate continues to change, we can expect warmer temperatures and increased precipitation in Sweden on average, but also more frequent and intense episodes of temperature and precipitation extremes.  We aim to determine how these shifts may impact Swedish ungulates, particularly the culturally and economically important moose.  This project makes use of long-term and, in some cases, publically available datasets recording weather, plant phenology and chemical composition, and ungulate observations and measurements.  Ultimately, we wish to determine how potential climate-induced changes to populations and communities may influence future ecosystem services of ungulate species and communities. 


Behavioural ecology and spatiotemporal relationships

I spent over a decade managing a lemur ecology and conservation research program in southeastern Madagascar.  This program is a collaboration between the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, University of Calgary, and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.  Situated in a recently deforested area, the site is home to a large community conservation and reforestation program, also run by the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership.  My work so far has been to develop baseline data on lemur community composition, genetics, and behaviour against which to measure the impact of future reforestation and deforestation events.  I have also investigated the spatiotemporal relationships of individuals that rely on the same limited food sources in the small areas of remnant habitat; this includes examining group formation within ruffed lemur communities, as well as measuring interactions between three competing species:  ruffed lemurs, red-fronted lemurs, and red-bellied lemurs. 


Selected publications

McManus N, Holmes SM, Louis EE Jr., Johnson SE, Baden AL, Amato KR. 2021. The gut microbiome as an indicator of habitat disturbance in a Critically Endangered lemur. BMC Ecology and Evolution 21:222. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-021-01945-z

Borgerson C, Johnson SE, Hall E, Brown KA, Narvaez-Torres PR, Rasolofoniaina BJR, Razafindrapaoly BN, Merson SD, Thompson KET, Holmes SM, Louis EE, Golden CD. 2021. A national-level assessment of lemur hunting pressure in Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology 43:92-113 (2022). DOI: 10.1007/s10764-021-00215-5

Holmes SM, Cromsigt JPGM, Danell K, Ericsson G, Singh N, Widemo F. 2021. Declining recruitment and mass of Swedish moose calves linked to hot, dry springs and snowy winters. Global Ecology and Conservation 27:e01594. DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01594

Razanatsoa E, Andriantsaralaza S, Holmes SM, Ratsifandrihamanana AN, Randriamiharisoa L, Ravaloharimanitra M, Ramahefamanana N, Tahirinirainy D, Raharimampionona J. 2021. Fostering local involvement for biodiversity conservation in tropical regions: Lessons from Madagascar during the COVID-19 pandemic. Biotropica 53:994-1003. DOI: 10.1111/btp.12967 

Morelli TL, Smith AB, Mancini AN, Balko EA, Borgerson C, Dolch R, Farris Z, Federman S, Golden CD, Holmes SM, Irwin M, Jacobs RL, Johnson S, King T, Lehman SM, Louis EE Jr., Murphy A, Randriahaingo HNT, Randrianarimanana HLL, Ratsimbazafy J, Razafindratsima OH, Baden AL. 2020. The fate of Madagascar’s rainforest habitat. Nature Climate Change 10:89-96. DOI:10.1038/s41558-019-0647-x

Baden AL, Mancini AN, Federman S, Holmes SM, Johnson SE, Kamilar J, Louis Jr. EE, Bradley BJ. 2019. Anthropogenic pressures drive population genetic structuring across a Critically Endangered lemur species range. Scientific Reports 9: 16276. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-52689-2

Holmes SM, Louis Jr. EE, Johnson SE. 2019. Range overlap and spatiotemporal relationships of frugivorous lemurs at Kianjavato, Madagascar. Animal Behaviour 155:53-65. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.06.025

Holmes SM, Louis Jr. EE, Johnson SE. 2019. Lemurs in fragmented forests: a conservation and research collaboration. In: A Behie, J Teichroeb, N Malone (Eds.). Primate Research and Conservation in the Anthropocene (pp.165-181). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316662021.010

Borgerson C, Johnson SE, Louis Jr. EE, Holmes SM, Anjaranirina EJG, Randriamady HJ, Golden CD. 2018. The use of natural resources to improve household income, health, and nutrition within the forests of Kianjavato, Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development 13: 9 pages. DOI: 10.4314/mcd.v13i1.6.

Holmes SM, Gordon AD, Louis Jr. EE, Johnson SE. 2016. Fission-fusion dynamics in black-and-white ruffed lemurs may facilitate both feeding strategies and communal care of infants in a spatially and temporally variable environment. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 70(11):1949-1960. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-016-2201-4.

Baden AL, Holmes SM, Johnson SE, Engberg SE, Louis Jr. EE, Bradley BJ. 2014. Species-level view of population structure and gene flow for a critically endangered primate (Varecia variegata). Ecology and Evolution 4(13):2675-2692. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.1119. 

Holmes SM, Baden AL, Brenneman RA, Engberg SE, Louis Jr. EE, Johnson SE. 2013. Patch size and isolation influence genetic patterns in black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) populations. Conservation Genetics 14(3):615-624. DOI: 10.1007/s10592-013-0455-1.

Brown KA, Johnson SE, Parks K, Holmes SM, Ivoandry T, Abram NK, Delmore KE, Ludovic R, Andriamaharoa HE, Wyman TM, Wright PC. 2013. Use of provisioning ecosystem services drives loss of functional traits across land use intensification gradients in tropical forests in Madagascar. Biological Conservation 161:118-127.