Estimating Gunnison Sage-grouse Demographic Parameters Using DNA as an Individual Marker for Mark-Recapture Analysis

Research Task: 


Task Manager: 

Sara Oyler-McCance

Capture-recapture (CR) is a very important class of methods and models used to estimate population abundance, survival probabilities, and population trends of wildlife populations and to obtain movement information. A critical aspect of these methods is that the mark used on the animal must be unique, and permanent, for each individual animal. In just the past few years it has become feasible to consider using an individual's unique DNA as its mark. Such DNA "marking" has great potential advantages when "capture" can be related not to the animal but, for example, to hairs, feathers, or feces. Recognizing this potential, biologists have explored some aspects of DNA-based application of CR models (DNA-CR) to estimate population parameters. However, using DNA as a mark is not without problems from the standpoint of CR study design and analysis models. Experts in the area of CR theory are just beginning to develop rigorous inference methods to underlie and support these studies. Methods are urgently needed for designing studies wherein the data are appropriate for analysis, leading to proper, well-supported statistical inferences. To address this need, FORT geneticists will determine how well DNA markers work in mark-recapture studies to estimate population size and survival rates. Researchers will use a known set of samples (Gunnison Sage-grouse, Centrocercus minimus) to test the assumptions currently used in DNA capture-recapture studies and conduct a statistical-theoretical evaluation of this new application.

For more information contact:

Sara Oyler-McCance

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