I am a postoctoral fellow. My research mainly focusses on the effects of urbanisation on wildlife from an ecophysiological and evolutionary point of view.
Currently, I am working at the Wild Urban Evolutionary & Ecology Lab (Center of New Technologies; University of Warsaw). Environmental disturbances can trigger new selective pressures, especially in urban areas in which human activities are likely to have the most drastic impacts. Chemical pollution such as trace metals are of particularly timely concern given their implication in several human diseases and their noxious effect on wildlife. I am testing whether oxidative stress covaries with urbanisation level and whether it is associated associated with trace metal exposure. I am also investigating the effect of oxidative stress and trace metal exposure on great tit fitness parameters, telomere length and on genomic variation. This project is financed by a Polonez grant (Marie Curie cofund).
After my PhD, I had an assistant lecturer position at the Pierre & Marie Curie University. My research in the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Sciences was aimed at investigating dispersal and habitat choice in earthworm, especially in a context of urbanisation.
Dispersal is an ecological process that enable organisms to colonize new habitats and have access to resources which availability differ with time and space. Therefore, dispersal capacity shapes the capacity of an individual to escape a low quality habitat. Investigating dispersal behaviour is necessary to understand population dynamic and the structure of the communities. I experimentally demonstrated the importance of habitat quality and population density in departure choice of epigeic earthworms, but my results also highlighted a great variability in dispersal behaviour that suggest different evolutionary histories between species, potentially linked to various selective pressures, for example due to different exposure to environmental disturbances.
Soil pollution due to anthropogenic activities might be a relatively new but concerning disturbance. I experimentally tested the effects of trace metal concentrations in urban soils on habitat choice of three species of endogeic earthworms that inhabit an urban or a rural environment, to test whether 1) earthworms choose their habitat according to metal levels in the soil, 2) habitat choice, 3) metal accumulation and survival differ between urban and rural earthworms. At the same time, I carried out a correlative study to understand how earthworms communities composition is linked to trace metal concentrations in the soil of the parisian gardens.
During my PhD, my research aimed at explaining melanin-based plumage polymorphism. More especially I tested the beneficial role of melanism to cope with high levels of trace metals. Interestingly, I found that zinc and lead concentrations in the feathers of the feral pigeon (Columba livia) increase with the pigeon darkness. This result suggests that eumelanin, the pigement responsible for the black colouration of plumage, coat and skin in numerous animals, could allow animals to detoxify themselves by transferring a part of the metals circulating in their bloodstream in their feathers (Chatelain et al. 2014 Biology letters, Chatelain et al. 2015 Global Change Biology). Trace metals, such as lead and zinc, are of great concern in urban areas and are likely to threat the urban wildlife. Indeed, I experimentally showed that lead exposure has consistent negative effects on the reproduction success (Chatelain et al. 2015 Global Change Biology), on some parameters of the immune response and on the transfer of antibodies into the eggs (Chatelain et al. In press. Physiological and Biochemial Zoology) in the feral pigeon. Therefore, we hypothesise that melanism could be selected in urban area because of the higher ability of melanistic birds to cope with the deleterious effects of some trace metals.
During my master internship in the Center for Behaviour and Evolution (Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University), supervised by Candy Rowe, I studied some parameters influencing predators' motivation to consume aposematic* and mimetic prey thanks to experimental studies on starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). First we showed that predation pressure on aposematic prey increases when decreasing temperature (Chatelain et al. 2013). This study gives an interesting answer to the temporal and geographical distribution of aposematic species. Then we tested the effect of the nutrious content of an aposematic model and his mimic on the predation pressure they both suffer. Both of these studies highlight new mecanisms involved in the evolution of aposematism.
*aposematism is a defensive strategy that associates a conspicuous phenotype and the production of toxic compounds.