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 Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>