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 When corals eat plastics
24.05.2018 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

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: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>