Congratulations to first year MSc student Michelle Hoang for winning best poster at the 2023 Wolves across Borders conference that happened last month in Sweden! Michelle presented on her plans to use hair and scat samples to study the genetic diversity and distribution of coastal wolves in BC and also presented some preliminary results.
Check out her poster and abstract below!
Wolves in coastal British Columbia and southeast Alaska are considered genetically, morphologically, and functionally distinct from their mainland conspecifics. They inhabit temperate rainforests that occur on offshore islands and along the mainland coast; a range that is naturally fragmented by mountain ranges, steep terrain, and expanses of ocean. Given the subspecies’ unique ecological and genetic characteristics, coastal wolves warrant direct conservation. A recent petition to list coastal wolves in southeast Alaska under the Endangered Species Act has sparked an urgency to gain a more refined understanding of the spatial extent and genetic connectivity among subpopulations in southeast Alaska and northwest British
Columbia. Thus, the objectives of this study are to examine landscape connectivity between coastal wolf subpopulations in northern British Columbia and identify corridors and geographical features that may influence genetic continuity between subpopulations. To accomplish this, genetic data will be collected from wolves using non-invasive hair snag boards and scat. DNA extraction and genotyping will use a vetted 24 microsatellite loci and will be conducted at Wildlife Genetics International. I will then use Omniscape to model connectivity using habitat data to inform different resistance surfaces and examine variability among predicted corridors. Then, with the program STRUCTURE, use genotype data to identify subpopulation
differentiation for the study area. I will then establish geocenters for each subpopulation, rebuild the Omniscape model to best fit subpopulation differentiation, and identify critical geographical corridors for connectivity among coastal wolf populations. The results of this study will inform the petition for listing in Alaska which has management implications for the subspecies as a whole. The Province of British Columbia should be proactive in addressing the conservation concern of coastal wolves and use this opportunity to collate data being collected in Alaska to produce a transboundary understanding of this subspecies to enhance the management and conservation of the subspecies as a whole.