Abstracts (first author)
Assessing caribou ecotypes using functional genesPDF
Woodland caribou in Ontario use one of two distinct predator avoidance strategies during calving, commonly referred to as behavioural ecotypes. Migratory caribou undergo seasonal shifts in their range from boreal to tundra coasts while sedentary caribou disperse throughout the boreal forest. This project will assess the degree of genetic differentiation between caribou ecotypes within Ontario using functional gene markers. Range overlap and a mixture of caribou lineages in Ontario has made genetic differentiation challenging to detect with traditional neutral markers. Functional genes, however, are subject to selective pressure and may parallel differences between ecotypes. Six genes have been selected for analysis: Mc1R, DRD1, Cyt b, Opsin, IGF1, and PRKG1 several of which are known to vary among caribou subspecies. DNA will be extracted from multiple sources including blood, tissue, and feces. Functional genetic markers will be isolated using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) then sequenced using a next-generation sequencer to identify individual genotypes. Once sequenced, a statistical analysis will investigate whether a functional genotype can be ascribed more commonly to a particular ecotype. Determining the relationship between genotype and ecotype can provide insight into the adaptive potential of caribou in response to further northern development. Providing an alternative to mitochondrial classification may help to establish distinctions between caribou ecotypes for management purposes.