Alaska Bear Project: Year Five

Now in its fifth year (and counting), the Alaska Bear Project continues to build momentum. Working in collaboration with Professor Tom Quinn from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Professor Aaron Wirsing just returned from Bristol Bay, Alaska, where researchers have been non-invasively studying brown bears hunting along six sockeye salmon spawning streams since 2012. Thus far, they’ve collected more than 2,000 hair samples for genetic analysis using barbed wires strung across the streams, and detected 121 individual bears.

Professor Aaron Wirsing, left, and Professor Tom Quinn on the tundra near one of their bear wires on Whitefish Creek.

Professor Aaron Wirsing, left, and Professor Tom Quinn on the tundra near one of their bear wires on Whitefish Creek.

This year, for the first time, they’ve also been collecting video using motion-activated trail cameras deployed in conjunction with the wires, and elsewhere, on each stream. They’ll be analyzing the videos to explore bear behavioral responses to the wires (e.g., do they learn to avoid them?), and to track the timing and location of different bear behaviors, including foraging and traveling. Working with Anne Hilborn, a doctoral student in Professor Marcella Kelly’s lab at Virginia Tech, they’re also using the videos as a means to better communicate their work and findings to the public.

Below, check out one of their videos from this summer, which provides a great example of the type of footage they’re collecting: a brown bear mother passing by with two cubs!

Photo © Blakeley Adkins; video © Aaron Wirsing.

Grizzly Mom with Two Cubs

Wildlife Seminar: Winter 2016 Schedule

The Wildlife Science Group at SEFS is proud to announce the Winter 2016 line-up for the long-running Wildlife Science Seminar (ESRM 455 & SEFS 554), which kicks off this afternoon with Professor Laura Prugh. As always, the speakers will be covering an incredible range of subjects, from snow leopard conservation in Central Asia to salmon predation and pileated woodpeckers.

You can catch the talks Mondays from 3:30 to 4:50 p.m. in Smith Hall 120. The public is always welcome, so mark your calendars and come out for some fantastic seminars!

Wildlife Science SeminarWeek 1: January 4
“Enemies with benefits: Integrating positive and negative interactions among terrestrial carnivores”
Professor Laura Prugh, SEFS

Week 2: January 11
“Top carnivores on the roof of the world: Ecology and conservation of snow leopards and wolves in the mountains of Central Asia”
Shannon Kachel, SEFS doctoral student

Week 3: January 18
No class (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)

Week 4: January 25
“Carnivore research and conservation in the North Cascades”
Dr. Robert Long, Senior Conservation Fellow, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle

Week 5: February 1
“Linking camera trapping and genetic sampling to study elusive wild cats: insights into carnivore ecology”
Professor Marcella Kelly, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech

Week 6: February 8
“Alien vs. Predator: Determining the factors that influence salmon predation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta”
Dr. Joseph Smith, UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Week 7: February 15
No class (Presidents’ Day)

Week 8: February 22
“Estimation of an unobservable transition: From dependence to weaning in the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus)”
Jeff Harris, SEFS master’s student

Week 9: February 29
Talk TBD
Jack Delap, SEFS doctoral candidate

Week 10: March 7
“Pileated woodpecker habitat dynamics in a managed forest”
Amber Mount, SEFS master’s student