Grant: $267,758 - National Science Foundation - Sep. 1, 2009
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Award Description: The Arctic is the most sensitive of the planet’s ecosystems to climate change. Recent increases in the rate of environmental change in the Arctic pose considerable challenges to the survival of culturally and economically important, arctic-adapted species such as caribou. An ability to disentangle the roles of extrinsic processes, such as climatic or anthropogenic changes to the arctic habitat, and intrinsic processes, such as density-dependent resource limitation, in the dynamics of populations would provide key insights for conservation and management of the arctic biota. However, such efforts have thus far been hindered by the scarcity of long-term data for natural populations. Here, contemporary evolutionary and ecological approaches are integrated for the first time to produce long-term reconstructions of the population dynamics of one surviving and two extinct and arctic mammals: steppe bison, horses, and caribou. To achieve this, the largest, most densely sampled ancient DNA data sets to date will be produced, focusing on two environmentally distinct arctic localities with exceptional chronological control and detailed paleoenvironmental records going back at least 250,000 years. These data will provide the first opportunity to directly evaluate the role of environmental change on the long-term dynamics and extinction risk of arctic fauna. A near-continuous time series detailing changes in the size and structure of bison, horse and caribou populations will be generated, spanning one complete glacial/interglacial cycle and several periods of major environmental change.
Project Description: Novel analytical techniques will be developed to (a) significantly extend the temporal range of paleogenetic reconstructions; (b) incorporate geographic and ecological data explicitly into demographic analyses; and (c) detect and quantify the role of intrinsic and extrinsic processes in the fate of natural populations of large herbivores. In addition, a detailed analysis of evolutionary information in mitochondrial DNA sequences will be performed, using high-throughput sequencing technology and novel experimental methodology to develop the first comparative temporal data set of complete mitochondrial genomes for sympatric (spatially and temporally) species. In addition, understanding how species respond to previous periods of climate change may improve our ability to forecast and mitigate adverse consequences of contemporary climate change for extant arctic species. Another goal of this research is to develop and make available a comprehensive paleoecological database of for two sites in eastern Beringia. This will include 1000 dated (radiocarbon and/or tephrochronology) bones from horses, steppe bison and caribou, linked to stable carbon isotope composition and morphological measurements as well as consensus and cloned mitochondrial DNA sequences. This database will be an invaluable resource for researchers interested in the preservation and decay of aDNA, the reconstruction of past population dynamics and arctic ecology. In addition, this research will result in novel extensions to the popular, freely available, phylogenetic inference software BEAST, which will enable deeper time reconstructions of demographic history and therefore a much broader diversity of scientific applications.
Jobs Summary: Nothing to report currently. (Total jobs reported: 0)
Project Status: Not Started
This award's data was last updated on Sep. 1, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.