Project

Moose Health in a Changing Environment

Project Summary

Affiliation(s): NCCWSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Margaret E Hunter (Southeast Ecological Science Center)

There have been increasing concerns regarding the decline in moose numbers along the southern range of their North American distribution. This has prompted varied research efforts to determine the factors contributing to the reduced local populations. Although heat stress from increasing temperatures could be a potential factor for declining populations in Minnesota, temperature increases have also occurred in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut where populations have been expanding in recent years. Alternatively, indirect climate effects from warmer temperatures may be playing a role, such as increased prevalence of parasites (e.g., brainworm, winter tick) to levels lethal to moose. Additionally, factors such as predation, differences in habitat, and fitness are being considered. Genomics has the potential to complement ongoing research by providing unique approaches to explore moose responses to stress through the examination of molecular differences in heat tolerance, immune response, or fitness in general. This project is utilizing such genomic techniques to study the responses of moose to environmental stressors throughout the southern periphery of their range in the U.S. Northeast, Midwest (Minnesota and Michigan), and Rocky Mountains. Because populations from those regions represent three subspecies, it is important to first understand population relatedness and any genetic variances through a genome scan. Secondarily, we will investigate actively expressed genes and cellular function, which may provide information on variation in immune responses to local stressors. Ultimately, we will look for genes that may be under selection, which could represent local adaptations to environmental conditions. This information has the potential to provide insights on moose fitness in a changing environment and aims to provide valuable information for managers in regions that are interested in maintaining sustainable populations.

Moose - Credit: Ryan Haggerty, FWS

Affiliation(s): NCCWSC

Principal Investigator(s):
  • Margaret E Hunter (Southeast Ecological Science Center)
Co-Investigator(s):
  • Laura M Thompson (National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center)

Start Date: December 2016

End Date: September 2018

Project Status: In Progress

Tags: Mammals, Moose, Genomics, Health, CSC, NCCWSC, 2016, 2017

Fiscal Year: FY 2016 Projects