Research Task: RB00CNJ.19.0
Task Manager: Sara Oyler-McCance
With the populations of many migratory birds and other animals on the decline, understanding their migrations and seasonal movements is often critical for devising conservation strategies. Today, new approaches being explored for tracking animals are based on intrinsic markers. Two groups of intrinsic markers that have promise are stable isotopes and genetic markers, particularly if used together. This pilot project will explore the use of both stable isotopes and two kinds of genetic markers, mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites, to understand the movements of Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga Columbiana), a bird whose population numbers and movements are sensitive to losses of high-elevation forest in the western U.S. and Canada. Clark's nutcrackers are of particular interest since they forage primarily on the seeds of whitebark and limber pine, two tree species affected by pine beetle outbreaks and blister rust. By combining genetic and isotopic techniques to understand patterns in population structure and movements of birds, this study potentially will provide information to help develop conservation strategies for nutcrackers. The study also pioneers an application of combined intrinsic marker techniques. The objectives of this study are to examine molecular markers (mitochondrial and nuclear DNA) in individual birds to determine whether there is regional differentiation in nutcracker populations. If we discover cases where specimens collected in geographically disparate locations are genetically similar, then chemical markers (stable and radio isotope values that are transferred to animals via food or water) will be employed to determine whether that individual can be linked to a geographic location where genetically similar individuals are more abundant.
For more information contact Sara Oyler-McCance