• Comparative foraging ecology and social dynamics of caribou (Rangifer tarandus)

      Post, Eric Stephen; Klein, David R. (1995)
      The Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) Herd (SAPCH) and its two sub-groups were the focus of a study addressing the hypotheses: (1) food limitation during winter caused a decline in the herd; and, (2) higher calf productivity within the Caribou River group than within the Black Hill group was related to greater forage availability on the seasonal ranges of the Caribou River group. Intense, systematic range and calving surveys in 1991 and 1992 supported the hypothesis of food limitation during winter, and indicated that greater calf production in the Caribou River group was related to earlier commencement of the season of plant growth and greater forage availability on the summer range of that group, coupled with earlier parturition among females of the Caribou River herd. In a comparative study involving the two SAPCH groups and the West Greenland Caribou Herd, daily variation in sizes of foraging groups, densities of caribou within feeding sites, distances between individuals within feeding sites, distances moved by foraging groups, and frequency of group movement was modeled using the following ecological parameters: predation risk, insect harassment (by mosquitos), range patchiness, feeding-site patchiness, feeding-site area, and range-wide density of caribou. Models revealed that intraseasonal social dynamics of foraging caribou were governed in most instances by patterns of forage availability and distribution across landscapes and within feeding sites, in some instances by insect harassment and social pressures, but in no instance by levels of predation risk inherent to the ranges on which they foraged. In a study of the interrelationships between characteristics of graminoids and intensity of grazing by caribou, vegetation on each of the Black Hill and Caribou River ranges was sampled and tested for responses to clipping. Biomass density (g/m$\sp3$) of forage, shoot density (#/m$\sp2$), and nutrient and mineral densities (g/m$\sp3$) and concentrations (g/100g tissue) correlated positively with use of sites by caribou. Productivity and responses to clipping were independent of previous use, but consistent within ranges. These results indicate that caribou are sensitive to local variation in forage quantity and quality, and preferentially use sites with higher returns of nutrients and minerals.
    • Influence of weather on movements and migrations of caribou

      Eastland, Warren George (1991)
      Caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) are typified by use of calving grounds and by making twice-annual migrations between summer and winter ranges. This study used satellite technology to examine the influence of weather on calving site selection, autumn and spring movements, and timing and directionality of migrations of the Porcupine Caribou Herd (PCH) that calves in northeast Alaska and northwestern Canada adjacent to the Beaufort Sea. The reigning hypothesis that females select areas that become free of snow early for calving sites was rejected because females selected areas of $>$75% snowcover ($P=0.02$) preferentially for calving. Benefits from use of mottled snow for calving were access to vegetation in its early phenological stages and protection for their calves from predators. Access to nutritious forage and predator avoidance appeared to be the main reasons for calving site selection. Multiple linear regression models were used to examine rate and direction of autumn and spring migrations using weather data from U.S. and Canadian sources. Weather was found to be both an ultimate and an approximate influence on the rate and direction of autumn migration ($P<0.05$). Explanatory power of the equations was low ($R\sb{a}\sp2<0.41$). Proximal causes of movement were best explained by caribou tracking of vegetation phenology. Pre-rut movements in September lacked concurrence between rate and direction whereas rate and direction were related in October. Models of spring migration of parturient females indicated a common timing among years, late April and early May, and movements were significantly affected by weather ($P<0.02$), in particular snow depths and conditions that would affect foraging and traveling conditions. This study suggests that: (1) females preferentially use areas of delayed snow melt for calving, and (2) weather influences both spring and autumn migration of caribou, although the effect of weather may be more indirect than direct.
    • Molecular phylogenetics of arvicoline rodents

      Conroy, Christopher John; Cook, Joseph A. (1998)
      The impetus for this dissertation was an interest in geographic variation in Microtus longicaudus with a particular focus on populations in the Alexander Archipelago of southeastern Alaska. To establish a framework for interpreting intraspecific variation in M. longicaudus, I examined the phylogenetics of 28 species of the genus Microtus, including all North American species (Chapters 2 and 4). That study, which corroborates a rapid pulse of diversification noted in the fossil record, necessitated a deeper phylogenetic perspective. Thus, a third objective of the dissertation was to investigate relationships among genera of arvicolines within the framework of other murid rodents. I examined variation in the mitochondrial cytochrome b and ND4 genes using maximum parsimony, distance, and maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses. Relationships at several taxonomic levels appear intractable due to rapid accumulation and survival of genetic lineages. These rapid radiations were found among species, genera, and possibly subfamilies; however, strong support at these levels for other taxa (e.g., the monophyly of Microtus) suggests these genes have strong phylogenetic signal. Many of the well-supported sister species pairs within Microtus (Chapters 2 and 4) had been previously identified based on morphologic or allozyme work (e.g., M. pennsylvanicus and M. montanus, M. pinetorum and M. quasiater). The sequence data supported a clade of taiga dwelling species in North America and a clade of eastern and central Asian species. The southernmost arvicoline species of Mexico and Guatemala, though previously suggested to be derived from a single ancient invasion, did not appear to be either ancient or monophyletic. Within M. longicaudus, a large east-west phylogeographic break was detected that is equivalent in genetic distance to other sister species pairs in the genus. This break may indicate mid to late-Pleistocene differentiation (Chapter 3) within the genus. At higher latitudes, populations of M. longicaudus exhibited evidence of recent range expansion including absence of correlation between geographic and genetic structure; and pairwise mismatches among DNA sequences with a single peak and few differences.
    • Molecular systematics and biogeography of long-tailed shrews (Insectivora: Sorex) and northern flying squirrels (Rodentia: Glaucomys)

      Demboski, John Richard; Cook, Joseph A. (1999)
      Insight into phylogenetic and biogeographic relationships among several mammalian taxa in western North America was provided with DNA sequences of two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and ND4). Members of two species complexes of long-tailed shrews (genus Sorex ) and northern flying squirrels (genus Glaucomys) were examined, and a common theme of responses to past climate change and glacial cycles was evident. Diversification events indicated by the DNA sequences provide new perspectives regarding the deep and shallow history of these taxa. Analysis of seven species of the Sorex cinereus complex (and related species) revealed two major clades within the complex, Northern and Southern. These generally corroborate proposed morphological relationships and correspond to broadly defined habitat affiliations (xeric and mesic), respectively. Within the Northern clade, amphiberingian species represented a monophyletic group suggesting Beringia was a center of endemism. Next, five species of the S. vagrans complex and related species were assessed. Significant molecular variation was revealed that does not correspond to morphological differences within the complex. Two major clades within S. monticolus were observed, a widespread Continental clade (Arizona to Alaska, including S. neomexicanus) and a restricted Coastal clade (Oregon to southeast Alaska, including S. bairdi and S. pacificus). A regional examination of genetic variation in the northern flying squirrel in southeast Alaska was also performed. Results suggested that southern islands in the Alexander Archipelago were the result of recent colonization (founder event). Finally, a comparative phylogeographic analysis of a reduced data set (S. monticolus), a molecular data set for the American Pine Marten, Martes americana, and other published molecular studies were used to reexamine the role of glacial refugia in the biogeography of the north Pacific coast. Previous ideas regarding purported refugia may be overstated and may be the result of limited geographic sampling. This thesis provides new perspectives on processes (e.g., post-glacial colonization) driving mammalian phylogenetic and biogeographic structuring in western North America.
    • Nutritional and ecological determinants of growth and reproduction in Caribou

      Gerhart, Karen Lynn (1995)
      I investigated the mechanisms by which differences in body weight and body composition (fat, protein) of female caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) from the Central Arctic and Porcupine herds might determine changes in pregnancy rate and calf growth. Allometric relations between chemical components and body weight variables were highly significant, despite tremendous seasonal changes in composition. Between October 1989 and May 1990, body fat and body protein of adult females of the Central Arctic Herd declined by maxima of 45 and 29%, respectively; an additional 32% of fat was lost by July. Extensive mobilization of fat and protein indicates winter undernutrition. Marked hypertrophy of liver and kidneys in summer suggests the presence of mobilizable protein reserves. Birth weights of calves were similar between sexes, but male calves grew relatively faster during summer and were significantly heavier than females in autumn. Both fat content and growth rate of calves declined between 4 and 6 weeks post-calving, perhaps in response to insect harassment. Weight gains of wild calves were greatly reduced or absent after 100 d of age, while captive calves continued to grow until 175 d, suggesting that first-summer growth of caribou is determined in part by nutrient availability. Birth weight and growth rate of wild calves from birth to 3-4 weeks of age accounted for nearly 79% of the variability in autumn weights, again implying summer nutrient limitation. Female caribou were unable to entirely compensate for the metabolic and ecological costs of lactation: in autumn, lactating females had 42% less fat and 9% less protein than nonlactating females. Unlike females from the Central Arctic Herd, those from the Porcupine Herd did not demonstrate compensatory weight gains over summer; instead, autumn weight was highly correlated to June weight. Probability of pregnancy was positively correlated with body weight and fat content in early winter. Females that extended lactation into November were less fertile than predicted by body size or condition. I believe that these females were exhibiting lactational infertility.
    • Physiological and ecological determinants of nutrient partitioning in caribou and reindeer

      Allaye-Chan, Ann C. (1991)
      The effects of season, migration, and reproduction on the adipose and protein dynamics of barren-ground caribou were determined from field collections of adult females from the Porcupine Herd. Radio-collared females recaptured over time provided data on animals of known reproductive status. Pregnant females averaged a daily loss of 50g body fat and 15g body protein during the last 60 days of gestation. Between June and September, lactating females preferentially deposited body protein but non-lactating females preferentially deposited body fat. In both cohorts, fat deposition increased relative to protein deposition in fall, but maximum fat deposition occurred in summer. Females that conceived averaged 220% more body fat and 17% more body protein than females that did not conceive. Fetal and birth weight positively correlated with maternal protein reserves, but not with maternal fat reserves. Fieldwork on free-ranging caribou were complemented with nutritional experiments on captive animals to determine the effects of energy intake, protein intake, the dietary protein:energy ratio, date, and body condition on nutrient partitioning between fat and protein deposition, and between maternal tissue deposition and milk production. In both lactating and non-lactating females, the proportion of tissue deposited as fat rather than protein increased between spring and fall but decreased with increasing fatness. Lactating and non-lactating females had comparable efficiency coefficients for net energy retention (60% and 65% respectively), but daily maintenance requirement for lactating females (456 KJ/BW$\sp{0.75}$) was twice that for non-lactating individuals (233 KJ/BW$\sp{0.75}$). Energy intake increased protein deposition in lactating females but increased fat deposition in non-lactating females. Production of milk dry matter, fat, and energy were unaffected by maternal energy intake, maternal protein intake, maternal body condition, or calf age. However, production of milk lactose correlated with maternal energy intake, while production of milk protein correlated with the maternal dietary protein:energy ratio. Prediction equations for body weight and composition of barren-ground caribou were developed using bone, muscle, fat, and organ indices. Prediction equations for body weight were validated with an independent data set.
    • Population Characteristics, Ecology, And Management Of Wolverines In Northwestern Alaska (Gulo-Gulo)

      Magoun, Audrey J. (1985)
      A radiotelemetry study of wolverines was initiated in 1978 as part of a larger research program sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in northwestern Alaska. The primary goal of this research was to determine aspects of wolverine behavior and ecology that are important to the management of wolverines in northwestern Alaska. Between April 1978 and May 1981, 26 wolverines were captured, 12 males and 14 females; 23 were radiocollared. Nine wolverine kits in five litters were produced by three of the radiocollared females between March 1978 and May 1982. The average rate of reproduction for the study population was 0.6 kits/female/year. Birth of kits occurred in early March. Kits grew rapidly, reaching adult size by November. Resident female wolverines maintained home ranges that were exclusive of other females except their offspring; average summer home range size was 94 km('2). Data were insufficient to determine if adult male home ranges overlapped; overlap did occur between adult and juvenile males. Summer home range size for adult males averaged 626 km('2). Data were insufficient to determine annual home range size. Denning and raising young had a major influence on the movement patterns of adult females. Movements of males were influenced by breeding behavior from late winter through summer. Wolverine social structure appeared to be typical of the intrasexual territoriality of solitary carnivores. Wolverines scentmarked frequently using urine and secretions from the ventral gland and anal sacs. Caribou and ground squirrels were the most important foods. Food was apparently limited during the winter months and influenced wolverine movements and productivity. The presence of caribou and moose may be the most important factor influencing wolverine populations in northwestern Alaska. Wolverines do not appear to be overexploited at this time, but an attempt should be made to obtain more accurate harvest statistics and baseline data to establish wolverine population size and structure in northwestern Alaska.
    • Population status and patterns of distribution and productivity of kittiwakes on St. George Island, Alaska

      Kildaw, Stewart Dean (1998)
      I studied populations, distributions, and reproductive performance of red-legged and black-legged kittiwakes on St. George Island in the summers of 1993-1995, where populations of both species have experienced generally poor reproductive performance and population declines of ca. 40% over the past 20 years. In 1995, I conducted a whole-island census of kittiwakes on St. George Island and found estimated breeding populations of 193,930 red-legged kittiwakes (81% of their global population), and 62,568 black-legged kittiwakes. In addition, I analyzed census trends on 51 land-based census plots on St. George Island and found that numbers of both species have stabilized in recent years. I experimentally evaluated the hypothesis that nesting red-legged kittiwakes on St. George Island are competitively displaced by larger-bodied black-legged kittiwakes to narrower rock ledges and higher elevations. I determined nest-site preferences of both species by attaching narrow and wide artificial nesting ledges within high-and low-elevation areas of St. George Island and found no evidence of competitive displacement: red-legged kittiwakes preferred narrow ledges, black-legged kittiwakes preferred wide ledges, and both species preferred ledges in areas where conspecifics nested at high density. Multiple regression analyses suggested that kittiwakes breed earlier and more successfully in summers preceded by cold winters and that inter-annual variability in kittiwake breeding success was unrelated to weather conditions during the breeding season itself. These results suggest that winter weather has indirect effects on breeding kittiwakes by influencing prey abundance several months later. Furthermore, strong winds impaired growth rates of kittiwake chicks in exposed nest sites and the growth of black-legged kittiwake chicks relative to red-legged kittiwake chicks. I identified two prominent patterns of within-colony spatial variability in kittiwake productivity and suggest that patchy "bird quality" or localized "information neighborhoods" may be responsible because traditional explanations do not apply. The "information neighborhood" is a new hypothesis which proposes that individuals are influenced by the breeding status of neighbors because their status represents an additional source of information about current breeding conditions that can be used to better tailor parental investment.