IAB Research Project Description

IPY: Monitoring Body Condition of Caribou for the CARMA Network

Woodland caribou bulls in northern British Columbia photographed in March 2002. Credit: David D. Gustine/Graduate student/UAF

Any and all uses of these images must include photographer credit.

Several international groups began collaborating in 2004 to monitor wild herds of caribou across North America and Europe. That collaboration resulted in the CARMA (CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment) network. The mission of CARMA is to monitor and assess the impacts of global change on the human-Rangifer system across the circumarctic through cooperation, both geographically and across disciplines.

Canada’s International Polar Year program funded "Starting the clock for the CARMA Network: Global Change, Resilience and Human-Rangifer Systems of the CircumArctic" in January 2007. Monitoring body condition of caribou herds is a key component of this IPY project.

This proposal serves the main IPY project by providing validation and analyses for monitoring body condition of select herds in Alaska and Canada. We use the N isotopes excreted as urea in snow urine to estimate the average rate of body protein loss in each herd. Urea is derived from either the body protein or from the diet. Studies of captive reindeer and caribou indicate that the animal loses body protein stores when less than half the urea N is derived from the diet (Parker, Barboza, and Stephenson 2005; Barboza and Parker 2006). Fecal samples are used to estimate the isotopic as well as the floristic composition of the diet. Urine samples are used to isolate urea as well as creatinine. The N in creatinine reflects the isotopic composition of the body N in muscle (Parsley and Barboza unpublished). We therefore use the N isotopes in creatinine (body) and the fecal extract (diet) to determine the principal source of urea N and thus the likely loss of body protein stores.

Project Funding

University of Northern British Columbia
1 Aug 2007 – 10 Mar 2008
IAB Proposal #08-028
UAF Grant #G4470
IAB Project #104

University of Northern British Columbia
1 Jul 2008 – 10 Mar 2009
IAB Proposal #09-009
IAB Project #104

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412