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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

U. Of Washington Researchers have been using dogs to sniff out and locate the scat of the remaining Jaguars found in the Uxpanapa Valley of Veracruz, Mexico.............They estimate that about 24 "Jags" still call this part of southern Mexico home..........The genetic markers found in the scat enable scientists to determine what features in the landscape attract or repel Jaguars. ...........Questions being investigated include:: Are jaguars really as sensitive to human activity as we once thought? Is their attraction to water stronger than their avoidance of roads or villages?.................Additional evidence gleaned from the genetic analysis helps predict so-called "pinch points", those areas that are critical to habitat connectivity,,,,,,,,,land that is essential to preserve in its natural state to allow for optimum Jaguar movement across the landscaoe, increasing the chances for reproduction success through many different Jaguars having a chance to meet up, mate and reproduce

How do Molecular Ecologists use Jaguar
 Scat for Conservation Science?
Step One:  Since jaguars cover a lot of ground – we need 
to too.  
We have surveyed two locations in 
southern Mexico to date for jaguar and
 puma scat, in partnership with University
 of Veracruz’s Centro de Investigaciones
 Tropicales (CITRO) and the Reserva
Ecologica El Eden.  There are not many
 jaguars left at these sites, so we were not
 sure what we would find.  It turns out
 that the Conservation Canines are experts 
at finding jaguar scat.

 In the Uxpanapa 
Valley of Veracurz, we ended up with 28
 jaguar locations confirmed, and 8 unique
 multilocus genotypes from scat samples
 (genotypes are genetic information that
 allow us to tell individuals apart, 
relatedness between individuals, and to
 assess genetic diversity).  That may not 
sound like a big number, but that's
 potentially a THIRD of the entire
 population of the valley!   

Step Two:  Waste not, want not. 
When species are rare, endangered, or
 just hard to find, getting every scrap 
of information from each sample is vital.
  Scat contains an amazing amount of 
information, but it takes a lot of hard 
work to pull that information out. 
 Many of the genetic or hormone tools
 available today do not work well on
 feces, or require a special set of 
protocols to get accurate results. 
 We at UW's Center for Conservation
 Biology have spent many years 
developing ways of getting genetic, 
hormone, and toxin data from fecal 
samples – you could call us expert


 After a lot of trial and error in
 the early years of my PhD program,
 I now have a great set of molecular 
markers to tell species apart, assign
 multi-locus genotypes, and even
 measure T3 thyroid and
 glucocorticoid stress hormones
 from jaguar scat!
Step Three: Show me the Data!    
From scat locations, we evaluate
 what constitutes jaguar habitat via
 resource selection probability 
functions (RSPF).   RSPF specifically
 tells us what features in the landscape 
attract or repel jaguars.  This phase of
 the analysis will help us answer 
questions like:  Are jaguars really as
 sensitive to human activity as we 
once thought?  Is their attraction to
 water stronger than their avoidance
 of roads or villages?  From the
 results of the RSPF analysis, we
 can predict the level of connectivity 
of the landscape with geographic
 models that apply electrical circuit 
theory to model wildlife movement. 

 The best part of this type of 
connectivity analysis is that it
 identifies out specific ‘pinch-points’
 on the landscape.  These pinch-points
 are places that can be targeted for
 conservation efforts, because they
 provide the biggest benefit to the 
connectivity of the whole system.
  This is a great way to focus limited 
conservation resources to specific
 geographic locations that will
 provide the most benefit to the
 population as a whole!    
I am particularly interested in how 
landscape features impact not only 
movement, but also gene-flow within 
and between populations.  Gene-flow 
is the ultimate measurement of
 functional habitat connectivity
 (not only where could they migrate,
 but where they actually migrate AND
 reproduce).  Using the multilocus 
genotypes from scat, I am analyzing 
genetic patterns within (landscape
genetics) and among (population 
genetics) putative populations. With 
the addition of this third field site, we
 will have an amazing ability to 
compare how different human pressures
 affect gene-flow.  The goal of this 
analysis will be, again, to make 
conservation efforts most effective. 
 For example, to maximize gene-flow,
 should we focus efforts on protecting 
the remaining forest fragments, or 
improving the connectivity between 
them with corridors?  WITH YOUR
 HELP, we will have an entirely new 
set of genetic data to add to our
 analysis – from an area that has 
never been studied before! 


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