Presented by Paul Wilson, Professor, Trent University
It has been 15 years since we collected the first fecal sample from caribou and were able to successfully extract high quality and quantity DNA from this material for genetic profiling. Since then and in collaboration with provincial, territorial and federal governments, Indigenous organisations, wildlife management boards and industry, we have analysed more than 40,000 samples from across Canada. We have developed a suite of field, laboratory and analytical methods, and have shown how genetic and ecological data can be used to generate information needed for management. Project collaborators have been highly proactive in recognizing the potential of this research in supporting a single web-based national database and repository through significant investments in field collections and in the development of tools and protocols. As a result, the national database and repository has allowed for greater collaboration and synergies between individual projects and provided a framework for large-scale and long-term monitoring work to support regional, provincial/territorial and national conservation programs. In particular, the data has been critical in assessing short- and long-term changes in population distribution, movement and demographic parameters. Based on this experience, we expand on this foundation and embrace new technologies such as next generation sequencing and deep learning to further develop population and landscape genomic methods for long-term monitoring of caribou.