Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New tracking approach will help protect polar bears

23.06.2009
Queen's researchers combine Inuit skills, DNA analysis in integrated method

A new approach to tracking polar bears, developed by Queen's University researchers, will shed more light on the potentially endangered Arctic animal and help boost the economy of Canada's north.

Integrating the traditional knowledge of Inuit hunters with state-of-the-art genetic DNA analysis, a three-part method developed by biologists Peter V.C. de Groot and Peter Boag, is cheaper and much easier on the bears than the current tracking practice, in which they are spotted from helicopters, tranquilized and marked.

"The data from current aerial monitoring methods may be becoming less accurate with increased sea ice changes caused by global warming, and we need a more sensitive tool to monitor Canada's bear populations," says Dr. de Groot. "This [new] method, along with others being evaluated, should allow us to annually survey all of the country's polar bears, non-intrusively, with Inuit involvement, at a fraction of the current cost."

The Queen's researchers, including MSc Biology students Pamela Wong and Christopher Harris, are using a multi-phased approach to create a clearer picture of the polar bear population. First, a number of "hair traps" – fenced enclosures baited with meat – will be set up about 15 kilometres apart over a 600-kilometre area. Bits of hair left behind by the bears as they attempt to reach the meat are sent to Dr. Boag's lab, where the number and sex of the animals are determined using DNA markers. At the same time, samples of bear feces are collected and genetically screened by collaborators at the Laboratory of Wildlife Diseases at the San Diego Zoo for the presence of disease-causing agents that may infect polar bears.

Polar bear footprints provide the other two elements of Dr. de Groot's tracking method. As a testament to the strength of the Inuit ability to identify a bear's sex, age and size from its prints in the snow, some of the region's top hunters are allowing the reliability and accuracy of their diagnoses to be evaluated. The hunters' assessments, complemented by an analysis of digital images of the footprints, will be combined with the results of the genetic data to map the bear population's age and sex distribution, diet, movement and mating patterns.

The Queen's team has received up to $500,000 from the federal Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs to refurbish and upgrade research cabins in the McClintock Channel, west of Baffin Island. Local labourers will be used to haul building materials hundreds of kilometres by skidoo, and set up the cabins. Coupled with ongoing polar bear surveys in which local residents set up the sampling stations and analyze tracks, this work is expected to provide an economic boost for the communities involved. And when the refurbished huts – each equipped with wind turbines, generators, heaters and 15 beds – aren't being used for research, Inuit hunters may be able to bring in eco-tourists by skidoo to observe the bears in a natural setting.

The funding is part of the federal government's integrated Northern Strategy that focuses on exercising Canada's Arctic sovereignty, protecting the North's environmental heritage, promoting social and economic development, and improving northern governance.

Nancy Dorrance | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.queensu.ca

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

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...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

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...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

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...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

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...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

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)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>