IAB Research Project Description

Evaluating Nutritional Condition of Arctic Ungulates

Caribou at the Institute of Arctic Biology Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station. Credit: IAB/UAF

Caribou at the Institute of Arctic Biology Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station. Credit: IAB/UAF

Caribou calf at the Institute of Arctic Biology Robert G. White Large Animal Research Station. Credit: IAB/UAF

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

Enabling legislation for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR) states that the Park will be managed to "maintain the wild and undeveloped character of the area. "The enabling legislation also indicates that one of the chief purposes for establishing the Park is to protect "populations of, fish and wildlife, including but not limited to, caribou..." One means of monitoring wildlife populations is to monitor the nutritional health of individuals in the population. Nutritional health can be evaluated by examining the body condition of individuals through assessment of fat and protein (nitrogen) stores. A variety of techniques have been developed to examine body condition including (but not limited to) chemical analysis of carcasses, relative body weight, electrical impedance, and ultrasound. Many techniques used to measure body condition require animals to be captured and handled. Animal capture presents a host of challenges including logistics, finances and safety. In wilderness, means of capture can be limiting and some wilderness users oppose handling of wild animals. We propose a cooperative study with the University of Alaska the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Western Arctic Parklands (WEAR) to refine and implement a noninvasive means of measuring body condition using molecule-specific isotope analysis of excreta collected in snow. Body condition will be measured in caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus). Urine and fecal samples from free-ranging animals will be analyzed and compared to relationships determined for captive animals that predict nitrogen balance. These findings will have direct implications to survival, reproduction, and recruitment in wild populations.

Project Funding

National Park Service
$48,480.00
1 Sep 2007 – 31 Aug 2009
IAB Proposal #08-022
UAF Grant #G4272
IAB Project #105


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
UAF-IAB-News-Info@alaska.edu