Sable Island Horse Project field crew 2018

It was a pleasure to join this year’s Sable Island Horse Project crew out on the island itself to census the whole feral horse population. The project would not be the same without the dedicated crew and my experience on Sable island would not have been the same without the girls I spent my four weeks with. To the seven of us that made up the field crew this year, here’s a series of fact files to introduce and celebrate each of us:

Julie Colpitts

Julie Colpitts

Photo Credit: Sable Island Horse Project

Role: Team leader
Time on the island: Full field season (July-August)
Course and university: PhD at University of Saskatchewan (Canada)
Sable Island research: Population genetics structure in Sable Island feral horses
Twitter: @julie_colpitts

Chiara Fraticelli 

Chiara Fraticelli

Photo Credit: Diana Jeong

Heya! I’m Chiara Fraticelli and I came onto the project from the University of Exeter, Cornwall campus within my Conservation and Biodiversity Master’s course. I’m originally from Italy but did my university degree in the UK.

My main wildlife interest is African mammals, which begs the question, what was I doing on Sable Island studying horse behaviour? 😀 Well, horses have always been one of my favourite animals, and the possibility to study feral horses in such an exceptional environment was very tempting. Sable Island is a place where it’s unlikely for a person to go as a tourist, and even if you do, you can’t understand the challenges and problems involved in horse adaptation and reserve management by only staying a few hours. For my project I studied risk aversion and island tameness of the Sable Island horses. This is interesting because these horses evolved for generations without predators, such as humans. But is it because this is a learned behaviour or because the genetics changed? This was my question.

I really enjoyed my time on Sable Island, the place is amazing, the horses were interesting to study and the crew was very friendly. My favourite horses this season was a fearless foal in one of the big bands living near the centre of the island. I had to move away from him almost everytime I saw him because he wanted to come close and discover what I was!

Chiara's Favourite Foal

Photo Chiara took of her favourite foal

Coming soon I have an internship in Africa, where I will spend 6 months learning and working on park management. This is the direction I want my career to take, but we will see where life will take me.

Twitter: @Chiara_Frati
Instagram: _kiaraspace_

Check out Chiara’s social media pages and blog to follow her on her next adventure coming soon!

Kirsten Johnsen

Kirsten Johnsen

Photo Credit: Sable Island Horse Project

Time on the island: Full field season (July-August)
University and course: MSc at University of Saskatchewan
Main research interests: Population ecology, behavioural ecology, wildlife conservation and environmental impact management.
Main wildlife interests: Large mammals and birds (especially owls), but also snakes.
Sable Island research: Looking at whether drinking from a pond or well influences energy intake and energy loss in Sable Island Horses through observational behaviour surveys and taking samples of available vegetation communities. Also looking at those factors in relation to parasite counts.

What did I enjoy most about Sable Island: 
I really liked the ecosystem in general since it is so unique. The views were amazing, especially when I could see the ocean on both sides of the island at once. One of my favourite spots on the island is Bald Dune, since looking at it is like looking at a desert and it’s so unlike any other area that I have visited before.

Funniest moment:
When group pictures were taken at the end of the field season. Specifically when trying to take either an awkward 70’s pose or a soccer-style picture, where Ruth and I kept cracking up because there was such a delay on the camera timer and we could not keep a straight face for that long.

Favourite horses: 
While I think Lil’ Thing was my favourite overall, I also quite liked watching Rolex and Golds (a cute pair of siblings). Ripley and Orbit stand out as well because they were both pretty mischievous.

What’s next: I hope to have the data from this summer processed and analyzed within the next year. Eventually after school, I’d probably like to work in wildlife conservation/ecology. Ideally I’d like to work at one of the parks since I enjoy public engagement and studying lots of different facets of the same ecosystem to see how it all works together. Otherwise I would be happy working in environmental consultancy since I enjoyed the process of creating management plan suggestions in previous projects.

Alice Liboiron

Alice Liboiron

Photo Credit: Sable Island Horse Project

Time on the island: First half of the field season (July)
Course and university: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine (Canada)
Sable Island research: Parasitology study of the feral horse population

Diana Jeong

Diana Jeong

Photo Credit: Sable Island Horse Project

Time on the island: First half of the field season (July)
Course and university: MSc student of Jocelyn Poissant at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary
Home: (London, ON) Canada
Main research interests: Genetic research for wildlife conservation/management
Sable Island research: Inbreeding depression and juvenile traits in the feral horse population

What did you enjoy most about this year’s field season: I loved getting to know my study system, the unique personalities of some of the horses, and the team of researchers that I would be working with in the future. Being out in the field would not have been as fun for Diana if I did not have the group of women I got to work with on the first half of the season.
Favourite memory of the field season: Getting the field team hooked onto old school throwback songs whilst working in the lab.
Funniest moment: During the first half of the field season, Alice taught us how to do the floss dance in the middle of the beach.
Favourite horse(s) on Sable Island: Any horse with unique facial markings for easy identification!

What’s coming up for you next? I am just starting my Master’s at UofC, so right now I’m just focussing on my courses and literature review. I hope to be able to get all the lab work done in time to potentially join the 2019 field season next year on Sable.
Career plans: I am unsure which career path to pursue currently, but I hope to be able to contribute to the field of wildlife health and ecology in some way, in whichever profession I choose.

Twitter: @chanwoorijeong and please follow @SI_horses (the Sable Island Horse project official twitter page)

Ruth Greuel

Ruth Greuel

Photo Credit: Ruth Greuel

Role: Plant guru
Time on the island: Second half of the field season (August)
Course and university: 
PhD at University of Saskatchewan
Home country: Canada
Main research/wildlife interests: Herbivory and grazing (large herbivores, primarily), rangeland management, nutrient cycling and dynamics. Grassland ecology in general. I also enjoy lichenology and plant ID.
Sable Island research:
Just beginning a PhD studying sea-to-land nutrient transfer, nutrient cycling through the system and how that may affect the horses.

What did you enjoy most about this year’s field season overall?
I love field work in general! Being outside and getting so much fresh air, exercise and time to think is such a treat after being cooped up with the computer during the rest of the year. I also really like meeting up with the rest of the field crew at the end of every day, winding down and talking about the things we each saw.
Highlight(s) of the field season:
Seeing a brand new foal just starting to walk around on wobbly legs! Or getting to see the blue flag irises in bloom (Iris versicolor).

Blue flag iris
Funniest moment: Taking our group photo out by the only tree on the island!
Favourite horse(s) on Sable: There are a few I get excited to see, but I don’t know all of their names or histories as well as other crew members do. There’s a yearling on the west end of the island that I call Bruno and I am especially fond of him.
What’s coming up next?
Continuing to work on this! More Sable Island field seasons, hopefully.
Career plans: Would love to continue to do research on wild places!


Laura Tuke


Photo Credit: Chiara Fraticelli

As people will already know from this blog and its Sable Island Stories series, I joined the second half of the field season on Sable in August this year, and had the best time. To recap on myself, I am based in my home country England, and I have just completed a Master’s in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter. As part of my degree, I got the opportunity to complete a research project looking at the quantitative genetics of foal body size in the Sable Island feral horse population. So in summary, I investigated if foal body size is due to genes and if foals are under selection for larger or smaller body size.

What I enjoyed most about my time on Sable Island, was getting to experience field work abroad first hand, and from it I got the opportunity to meet some great people, experience a different and unique ecosystem, and to learn more about myself as a person. My favourite moment of the field season, following my previous blog post, was spending evenings watching the spectacular Sable Island sunsets with the rest of the field crew.


Photo Credit: Kirsten Johnsen

Watching the horses day in and out, I grew a soft spot for a few foals that I ended up suggesting potential names for. My favourites were Hardy a foal I saw for the first time at only a couple of days old, Missy a very cheeky little foal, and Tilly who I named after my baby niece.


Hardy and his mum at a couple of weeks old

What’s next? I am currently taking a break to adjust to post-university life, before working towards my next goals. I am passionate about wildlife and its conservation, research and educating the public on wildlife issues, among other things, and so my ambition now is to get into the wildlife film industry to combine my greatest interests.

Twitter: @laura_tuke
Laura’s Wild World (this blog)

Thank you to Chiara, Diana, Ruth and Kirsten for providing me with the fact files for this blog post! 

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