Research Projects:

Noninvasive genetic survey of Eastern Wolves (Canis lycaon) in protected areas of southern Ontario.

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We are using DNA from noninvasive samples collected in southern Ontario’s protected areas to identify dispersal potential of Eastern Wolves from Algonquin Provincial Park to nearby areas with suitable habitat. Click here to find out more.

Effects of harvest pressure on Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans) population demography.

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Coyotes range across the majority of North America and are considered the archetypal generalist, able to adapt and thrive in a variety of environments. Coyotes exhibit much variation in diet, habitat use, activity patterns, and demography, making them an interesting animal to study, but often a difficult one to manage. The continued persecution of coyotes remains generally ineffective in controlling their numbers. Given the perceived increase in coyote numbers and conflicts with humans, we are undertaking this study to learn more about coyote life history in southern Ontario and better inform management of these animals. Click here to find out more.

Determining the distribution of Ontario Canis species and their associated hybrids.

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Ontario recognizes two Wolf species (Eastern Wolves(Canis lycaon)and Grey Wolves(Canis lupus). Most Grey Wolves in Ontario are hybrid animals with both genomes (ie.C. lupus x lycaon), so accurate estimates of densities are dependent on an accurate genetic characterization of canids within the range of these two species. This work has the specific goal of analyzing new samples from “gaps” in our previous sample distribution in Ontario, and includes the analysis of Wolf DNA samples from the neighbouring jurisdictions of Minnesota, Michigan, Manitoba, and Quebec. This will allow a more comprehensive analysis of the present day distribution of the various types of Ontario Canis species and allow further insight into the mechanisms of hybridization among the different Canis species in Ontario. Part of this project includes the maintenance of the Wolf and Coyote DNA Bank at Trent University.

Genetic analysis of indigenous dog remains excavated from mid-Holocene (~4500 years ago) archaeological sites in Ontario.

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The domestic dog has been connected with human activities for at least 15,000 years. In North America,
dogs represent the only mammal domesticated from an ancient wild ancestor. Genetic analysis of ancient dog remains, therefore, provides a unique opportunity to help clarify their impact on human migration and subsistence patternsacross North America. It also has the potential to identify the contribution of prehistoric dogs to contemporarydogs, wolves, and coyotes. This project is part of a larger project,under the directionof James Conolly in the Anthropology department at Trent University, aimed at understanding changing human settlement and mobility patterns. Click here for more information on the project or here to learn more about the Ancient DNA Laboratory at Trent University.

Understanding Wolf-Caribou interactions in northern Ontario.

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Forest-dwelling Caribou have experienced declining abundance and range retraction throughout large parts of the boreal zone in Ontario, resulting in the designation of Woodland Caribou as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act in Ontario and nationally under the federal Species at Risk Act. Inadequate food supplies may be one factor related to the recent declines in Woodland Caribou populations, but in general, unsustainable levels of predation are thought to be a major contributing factor. However, there is no reason to expect that a single factor explains caribou decline across all of Ontario and our goal is to develop a more complex model evaluation design that considers the impact of (and interactions among) multiple causal factors. Click here for more information. View photo gallery here.

Hybridization dynamics between Eastern Wolves (Canis lycaon) and Coyotes (Canis latrans) in central Ontario.

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Eastern wolves are listed as a species of ‘Special Concern’ in Canada due to concern about human impacts such as harvest and habitat loss (COSEWIC report). Whether hybridization represents a threat to the long-term persistence of eastern wolves in Ontario is not well understood. Therefore, studying hybridization dynamics between wolves and coyotes is necessary to assess the threat of hybridization to the persistence of the eastern wolf, and such studies should be conducted before eastern wolves become threatened or endangered. Click here for more information.