Kathreen Ruckstuhl

Dr. Kathreen Ruckstuhl, PhD



Faculty of Science, Department of Biological Sciences

Assistant Head, Graduate Programs

Faculty of Science, Department of Biological Sciences

Contact information

Web presence

Phone number

cell: +1 (403) 829-2063


Office: BI258

For media enquiries, contact

For media related inquiries, please contact Owen Stockden, Director of Marketing and Communications, at owen.stockden@ucalgary.ca


Phone or email


Educational Background

B.S. Biological Sciences, Bern University, 1989

Doctor of Philosophy Ecology, University of Sherbrooke, 1998

M.Sc. Zoology, Bern University, 1992

Postdoctoral research fellow University of Cambridge, 2004


Areas of Research


I am particularly interested in what drives gregariousness, the social organization within groups, affinities and associations between group members, cost and benefits of group living, such as competition for food and mates, parasite and disease transmission, and cooperation. I mainly study different ungulate species in the field such as bighorn sheep and elk (or red deer). Current topics under investigation include among others: Sociality: costs and benefits of group living and decision-making; dominance hierarchies and hormones in bighorn sheep; red deer and bighorn sheep social networks, and disease dynamics; sociality, mate choice and parasites; alternative mating tactics, and reproductive success.

Research done in my lab

Social networks and disease

While social network analyses have been a commonly used tool in the social sciences to assess efficiency of information transfer etc. in companies, social network theory has only recently been applied to animals. We are exploring social networks in ungulates, investigating individual positions within networks and their associated benefits and costs. One of the factors we are particularly interested in is disease transmission using social network analyses and agent-based models. This research is mainly done on bighorn sheep in Canada and red deer (Cervus elaphus) in Scotland (in collaboration with Prof. Tim Clutton-Brock, University of Cambridge, UK)

Sociality, mate choice and parasites

Parasites significantly shape their hosts’ life histories. We are interested in understanding how parasites affect mate choice, reproductive success and survival. How parasites and disease can spread through the social network (who are vectors, sources and sinks of parasites and disease). We research various populations of wild animals such as coyotes, red squirrels, bighorn sheep and elk. This research is carried out in collaboration with Profs. Susan Kutz, Karin Orsel (U of Calgary, UCVM), and Alessandro Massolo (University of Pisa, Italy and adjunct at U of Calgary, UCVM).

Parasites in a changing world

Parasites are ubiquitous and often host-specific. We are interested in investigating how climate change and altitudinal as well as latitudinal gradients affect the parasite development and prevalence of parasites in ungulates, with a current focus on bighorn sheep and their intestinal parasites. This is done in collaboration with Prof. Susan Kutz, UCVM).

Other ongoing collaborative efforts

  1. Longterm study on bighorn sheep population dynamics (with Profs. Marco-Festa-Bianchet and Fanie Pelletier, U de Sherbrooke, PQ, and Dr. John T. Hogg from the Montana Conservation Science Institute)
  2. Sexual segregation in vertebrates (in collaboration with Prof. Muyang Wang (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi, China), Dr. Joana Alves (University of Coimbra, Portugal)
  3. Breeding migration study (collaboration with Dr. J.T. Hogg, Montana Conservation Science Institute)
  4. Bighorn sheep disease screening in collaboration with Alberta Fish and Wildlife (AEP)
  5. Maternal stress and offspring gender in humans, bighorn sheep and ground squirrels (collaboration with Prof. Kathy Wynne-Edwards, UCVD and Dr. Peter Neuhaus, U of C, Alberta, Canada)
  6. Effects of capture on bighorn sheep (in collaboration with Prof. Nigel Caulkett)
  7. Coyotes in an urban environment (in collaboration with Prof. Alessandro Massolo)
  8. Life-history and dispersal in yellow-bellied marmots and Columbian ground squirrels (in collaboration with Dr. Peter Neuhaus)
  9. Physiological ecology on a variety of vertebrates (in collaboration with Dr. Vincent Viblanc, CRNS Strasbourg, France)  

Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
ECOL 413 Field Course in Ecology Fall 2022
ECOL 429 Ecology of Individuals Fall 2022
ECOL 603.6 Advanced Behavioural Ecology Winter 2023


  • Associate Editor, WSB, TWS. 2015
  • Editor for Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2015
  • Lifetime member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, 2015
  • Acknowledgment as reviewer, 2014
  • certificate of reviewing, 2014
  • Certificate of Reviewing, 2014
  • Outstanding reviewer, 2014
  • Certificate of Excellence in Reviewing, 2013
  • Logo, 2013
  • Associate Editor, WSB, 2011
  • Editor for Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2011
  • Elected lifetime member of Clare Hall College, Cambridge, 2011
  • President and Past President CSTWS, 2011
  • President and Past-President of the CSTWS, 2011
  • Recognition of work of a Swiss citizen, 2011
  • Elected Vising Fellow at Clare Hall College, Cambridge, 2010
  • Elected Visiting Scholar in Wolfson College, Cambridge, 2010
  • President-Elect CSTWS, 2010
  • Elected Vice President of the CSTWS, 2009


  • Parasite diversity and abundance variation in bighorn sheep populations across Southwestern Canada. University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Research Day. Calgary, Canada. [Poster]. G Gilleard; S Kutz; J Poissant; K Ruckstuhl; C Letain; G Bourgoin; G Hough. (2017)
  • A novel formulation of Alfaxalone increases the utility for remote delivery. Molly Patterson; Nigel Caulkett; Kathreen E Ruckstuhl; Peter Neuhaus. (2018)
  • Using herpes virus to map the colonization of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in Canada.. Susan Kutz; Chimone Dalton; Kathreen Ruckstuhl; Franciscus Johannes van der Meer; M Abdul-Careem. (2016)
  • Improving the study of parasitism in wildlife using deep sequencing analyses. 5th AgreenSkills Annual meeting. Edinburgh, United Kingdom.. G Hough; J Gilleard; K Ruckstuhl; J Poissant; G Bourgoin; C Letain; S Kutz; J Wit. (2018)


Google Scholar Link