Ranging from pale blond to almost black, the hair is filed in a chest freezer where the temperature is minus-77.8 degrees. Some of the tufts are almost 25 years old.
The hair will head to Canada in a few months to be analyzed at Wildlife Genetics International in Nelson, British Columbia, said Chuck Schwartz, head of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team based at MSU. The team is monitoring the genetic diversity of the Yellowstone grizzlies over time and wants to know when new DNA appears. The team will also compare the Yellowstone bears with those in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem where a similar study has been done.
"An objective of the study is to determine if bears from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem migrate to the Yellowstone," Schwartz said.
The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem includes Glacier National Park, parts of the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests, five wilderness areas and Bureau of Land Management property in northwest Montana. The Yellowstone Ecosystem includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, six national forests, and state and private land in portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
An estimated 550 to 600 grizzlies live in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, about twice what it was 20 years ago, but the population currently lacks diversity, Schwartz said.
"We know it's low," he said. "There are concerns about inbreeding and other issues because we don't have new genes flowing into the system on a regular basis."
Field crews from a variety of federal and state agencies plucked the hair the study team is storing, Schwartz continued. Each lock came from somewhere off the bears' shoulders, but the way it was collected varied. Some of the bears died of natural causes or were killed by humans. Other bears were temporarily unconscious while scientists fit them with radio collars or moved them to another location after they'd gotten into trouble. Some bears left hair behind while crawling underneath barbed wire.
"The vast majority of the time, it is routine," Mark Haroldson said of the collection process. Haroldson is a supervisory wildlife biologist with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. He has collected bear hair since the late 1980s.
Schwartz said researchers in Idaho can tell him if the hair came from one bear or several. They can tell him the bear's gender and whether the hair came from a bear at all. To answer the tougher questions, Schwartz turns to the Wildlife Genetics International, which routinely analyzes hair from grizzlies, black bears, wolverines and other wildlife in Canada and the United States. The Canadian lab examined the grizzly hair from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. It also analyzes hair collected by MSU graduate students in Yosemite National Park in California and Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.
Bear hair is tricky because the amount of DNA it contains is so small, said Steven Kalinowski, the students' adviser and a conservation geneticist in MSU's ecology department. Jennifer Weldon, manager of the Canadian lab, said dirty hair can challenge some researchers. So can hair that came from a dead animal and spent so much time in the elements that the DNA degraded.
Schwartz said shafts of the Yellowstone hair will eventually return to MSU so he can conduct other tests and have samples available when new study techniques are developed.
Evelyn Boswell | EurekAlert!
Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy