In The News
Saint John Geneticist Oversees Synthetic Blood Research
November 13, 2016
Saint John native is supervising research at an Ontario university to develop synthetic blood for forensic training.
Paul Wilson is the Canadian research chair in DNA profiling, forensics and functional genomics and the director of conservation biology specialization at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont.
One of the university’s PhD students is developing a product that forensic scientists can use as an alternative to blood when conducting research and training.
Rethinking the North American Wolf - Genome sequencing suggests two endangered wolf species are coyote hybrids
July 29, 2016
When is a wolf a wolf? For more than 30 years, the question has dogged scientists, conservationists, and policymakers attempting to restore and protect the large wild canids that once roamed North America. Now, a study of the complete genomes of 28 canids reveals that despite differences in body size and behavior, North American gray wolves and coyotes are far more closely related than previously believed, and only recently split into two lineages. Furthermore, the endangered red and eastern wolves are not unique lineages with distinct evolutionary histories, but relatively recent hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes, the scientists report online this week in Science Advances.
Distinctions blur between wolf species - Blending of coyotes, grays leads to muddled canine identities
July 27, 2016
Wolves are having something of an identity crisis. Gray wolves and coyotes might be the only pure wild canine species in North America, a new genetic analysis suggests. Other wolves — like red wolves and eastern wolves — appear to be blends of gray wolf and coyote ancestry instead of their own distinct lineages.
Shadow Cat: Canada Lynx Silently Cross U.S. State, National Borders
The forest has eyes. And somewhere in the shadows of a winter dusk that falls across towns in northern New England, they’re watching.
The deep green eyes of the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) have the advantage in the region’s dark spruce-fir, or boreal, forest. They see without being seen. The better to go walkabout in new territories, say researchers who have tracked lynx in U.S. states such as Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Drawn to Caribou
In Canada’s Northwest Territories, an ecologist is replacing lab notes with sketches that blend genetic research with traditional ecological knowledge.
When Jean Polfus submitted her PhD proposal to determine the genetic relationships and population distribution of three subspecies of caribou in the Northwest Territories of Canada, artwork was not part of her plan. Somewhat to her surprise, however, just over a year into the project, she found herself developing visual aids that would bring together caribou genetics, sociology, language preservation efforts, and traditional hunting practices.
The Wildlife Professional
Special Focus - Canadian Wildlife (Fall 2015)
As August comes to a close, I start to look forward to the changing colors of the leaves and the chill in the air after the hot and humid days of summer in Maryland. This year, I am especially looking forward to the season’s change as it will mean it’s time to pack my bags for the 22nd TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Oct. 17-21.
In tribute to this year’s Canadian venue, the fall issue of The Wildlife Professional highlights wildlife conservation and management in this vast North American country, home to a stunning variety of landscapes, unique habitats and iconic wildlife species.
Woodland Caribou Series
Our Incredible World
Tanner and Frankie are the new investigative journalists for Our Incredible World. In this series on woodland caribou, their assignment is to learn as much as they can about why this species is at risk, and what is being done to make sure it doesn't become extinct. Each episode provides a new adventure and new insights. Deep in the boreal forest Frankie and Tanner meet with research scientists, and assist with field research. From an Aboriginal elder they learn about Cree lifestyle, and how Aboriginal traditional knowledge is helping protect the caribou. Finally, the team experiences the high tech world of CSI where caribou genetics is the mystery to be solved in the "crime lab." Throughout their adventures, Frankie and Tanner make a great investigative team.
US Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks to Delist the Gray Wolf
April 07, 2014
On June 7 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intention to remove the gray wolf, Canis lupus, from the federal list of threatened and endangered plants and wildlife. Among the first species listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it was being dropped not because it had recovered across even a large part of its former range but because the Fish and Wildlife Service had determined after forty years that Canis lupus was “not a valid species under the [Endangered Species] Act.”
Caribou poo 'important baseline' for DNA research - CBC Interview with PhD Student Jean Polfus of the Caribou Research Team
March 31, 2014
Some hunters in the Northwest Territories are being encouraged to bring home more than just caribou meat when they go on their spring hunts.
It's something most people like Jean Polfus want to avoid: caribou scat — or poop.
Caribou fecal pellets - or scat - are pushed into a plastic bag at Tets’ehxe (Drum Lake) in the Mackenzie Mountains. The scat will be studied to determine the genetic make-up of the Woodland Caribou herd. (Courtesy Jean Polfus)
US Wolf Delisting: Science Behind Plan to Ease Wolf Protection Is Flawed, Panel Says
March 18, 2014
Science news article articulating the recommendation of the expert panel on the USFWS proposed delisting of the grey wolf. Virginia Morell provided a well-balanced presentation of the discussion not rooted in the controversy over C. lycaon in eastern North America, but in that the existence Canis lycaon would have excluded the presence of grey wolves (C. lupus).
Southern Flying Squirrels Land in Canada
Wall Street Journal
December 13, 2013
What happens when a Southern flying squirrel meets a Northern flying squirrel, and the mood is just right?
A decade ago, the answer would have been nothing. But more recently, Canadian wildlife researchers collected DNA evidence showing the two species can and do interbreed, as the Southern flier's habitat moves northward.
US wolf conservation turns on taxonomic row
September 20, 2013
IT’S enough to make conservationists howl. The existence, or not, of the eastern wolf as a distinct species has become a battleground in the fight to restore the iconic grey wolf to greater swathes of the US.
What was an obscure taxonomic debate has become a major row, as the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) tries to justify plans to remove endangered species status from the grey wolf.
From Dolphin DNA to Goat Genomics
SHOWCASE - Trent University
April 01, 2013
From the prevention of poaching in northern Ontario to the preservation of habitats off the coasts of Taiwan and Hong Kong, Biology Professor Dr. Brad White uses cutting-edge DNA technology to bring about change at home and abroad. For Professor White, director of Trent University’s Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre, the work has always been about results
Monitoring the effectiveness of wildlife passages for medium-sized and small mammals along HW 175
March 01, 2013
There is increasing concern about the effects roads have at reducing connectivity for wildlife populations. Studies have shown that wildlife mortality for many species has increased with the presence of roads in the landscape. Roads are barriers to animals by limiting their movements and reducing the quality and the accessibility of the habitat that they need.
DNA: The Future of Wildlife & Fish Conservation in the 21st Century
Trent University & the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters
February 19, 2013
DNA is the most valuable resource on the planet, as it holds the information for all present life forms and for all potential life that may evolve. It has survived the test of time as an information molecule.
Now we have new technology to sequence all the information on many species within an ecosystem, many individuals within a species, and all the genes in an individual. This Third Generation sequencing technology will provide early information on the impacts of climate change, invasive species and emerging diseases to help managers and policy makers to make informed decisions. The technology will bring about profound changes to medicine, agriculture, and forestry. As our capacity in this field grows, it will stimulate the creation of new business opportunities in the region.
Coywolf on CBC's the Nature of Things
February 05, 2013
A new carnivore has slipped unnoticed into cities across the Eastern seaboard from Toronto to Montreal to Boston and even New York. A versatile, new top predator that feasts on everything from rabbits to deer to moose. Scientists say it is one of the most adaptable mammals on the planet but what surprises them most is how this remarkable creature manages to live right alongside us but just out of view. We share our parks, our streets even our backyards with these wild animals, that both fascinate and baffle scientists, but few of us have ever seen a coywolf.
Genetic evidence of multiple boreal caribou Ice Age lineages in Canada
Public Library of Science
February 05, 2013
A recent publication by Post-Doc Dr. Cornelya F. C. Klütsch of the Manseau/Wilson Caribou Conservation Research Group shows postglacial expansions of woodland caribou from three glacial refugia dating back to 13544–22005 years. These three lineages consisted almost exclusively of woodland caribou mtDNA haplotypes, indicating that phylogeographical structure was mainly shaped by postglacial expansions.
Red Wolf's Last Stand
Natural History Magazine
August 01, 2012
It’s early November 2011 on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The infamous Halloween Nor’easter that brought an early snowstorm farther north has blown down many a house. Now, days later, another nor’easter has snuck up on this flatline of beach. Along a row of stilt-legged homes, I set foot out of my car to see what the holdup is on Highway 12. Somewhere ahead the asphalt has cracked open under the weight of floodwaters. Sirens sound and the sheriff arrives to set up roadway barricades. Turning tail and heading for the mainland, he warns, is the only way out.
Lynx: The Cross-border Cat
July 01, 2010
Ron Moen rattles his grey pickup truck down a back road covered by hard-packed snow in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest, a few dozen kilometres south of the Canada–U.S. border. We’re surrounded by a winter wonderland of rime-tipped balsam firs and frozen lakes that stretches north to Ontario and beyond. Moen skids to a halt beside a steep snowdrift, and we step out of the truck into banks so deep, they stop the six-foot-tall wildlife biologist in his tracks. It’s early March, dusk is settling, and all is silent. Moen and I slog a few metres toward the forest edge and enter a thicket of firs and alders, their boughs doubled over with ice from a recent storm. His voice muffled by the collar of his parka, Moen whispers, “It’s out there. Somewhere.”
Alien Species to the Rescue?
June 01, 2010
Naturalists have raised alarms about the growing number of “invasive” species hitching rides to new habitats and devastating local ecosystems. But as wildlife genetics illuminate the genome — the ultimate “barcode” for biodiversity — that assumption is proving shaky. The surprising finding: most transplanted species do not dilute genetic diversity in their new locales and may even enhance it.
Polar Bear Study Reveals Cryptic Genetics
SHOWCASE - Trent University
April 01, 2009
Trent biologist Dr. Paul Wilson, and Dr. Martyn Obbard from the Ministry of Natural Resources, have discovered cryptic genetic structures within Hudson Bay polar bears that may be impacted by future dwindling Arctic sea ice during the spring mating season. In a new study they identified three population clusters of Hudson Bay polar bears along the shores of Manitoba and Ontario that are maintained by on-ice breeding ‘groups’ resulting from predictable annual freeze-thaw patterns.
May 01, 2008
A state-of-the-art forensics lab in Peterborough is trying to stop those who kill or smuggle endangered species for profit.
The two steel shipping containers looked like any others. But amid heightened security in late 2004, their arrival from Ethiopia for delivery to an address in Toronto prompted Canadian Customs inspectors to take a closer look. In a secure warehouse in Brampton, Ont., Inspector Derek Kata broke open the sealed doors of the first container, then began matching its contents against the shipment manifest.
Trent University upgrades forensics lab with tablet PCs
Kathleen Sibley - itbusiness.ca
January 15, 2007
Trent University’s forensic science program might not boast the multi-million-dollar labs seen on TV’s various CSI franchises. But the Peterborough, Ont.-based school has taken one step
closer to the cutting edge, thanks to a recent HP Canada technology for teaching higher education grant of $80,000 of HP equipment.
The grant, which includes 21 tablet PCs, a projector, colour printer and digital camera, will make Trent the first forensic program in Canada to use tablet PCs in the field, according to program director Paul Wilson. Until now students in
forensic programs across Canada have used pen and paper for crime scene data collection.
City Could Learn from Tiny Ontario School
September 24, 2007
Saint John needs to find a niche and exploit it, says a former resident who was recently awarded a Canada Research Chair.
And Dr. Paul Wilson knows what he is talking about.
Wilson works at Trent University's Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre. The tiny Ontario university has created a niche in the area of DNA profiling and forensics. Last year, Trent opened the doors to a new $15- million building that houses the centre. The 60,000-square-foot centre is a far cry from the portable classrooms and closet-sized labs that used to be the home for students and professors.
Forensic Program Thriving in New Home
SHOWCASE - Trent University
October 01, 2006
Professor Paul Wilson's "Real Life" research cases give Trent students the edge.
Generating well-informed forensic science and building a greater understanding of the discipline as a whole are key objectives of Trent University's new Bachelor of Forensic Science degree. Housed in the newly opened DNA building, this joint program between Trent and Fleming College exposes students to all elements of forensics, including both human and non-human applications
Crossbreeding to Save Species and Create New Ones
The New York Times
July 09, 2002
In the 16th century, Calusa Indians on Marco Island, Fla., made a six-inch wooden carving of a kneeling panther-woman, her head and upper body feline, her lower body human. This hauntingly beautiful figurine is one of countless portrayals of human-animal and animal-animal hybrids -- among them satyrs and griffins -- found throughout the world for thousands of years.
Wildlife Forensic DNA Analysis as a Training Ground
June 14, 2002
I entered the field of molecular genetics in spring 1991 as the Forensic Technician in the Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, under the supervision of Bradley White. Since then, I have completed my master's and Ph.D. part-time while operating the day-to-day logistics of the forensic testing. Through my experience, first as the technician and eventually as the Forensic Supervisor of the facility when it moved to Trent University in 1997, it has become clear to me that this particular type of DNA application provides exposure to an incredibly diverse set of questions. Not only that, it is an excellent training ground for a wide range of potential directions within molecular genetics, well beyond the forensic skills one learns.
The Northeastern Wolf Question
Defenders Of Wildlife
January 01, 2001
It was 10:30 on a crisp, cold night in early March. Dana Smith, a 37-year-old Main construction worker and avid wildlife enthusiast, blew a series of barks on his coyote call and then howled into the wind. After several attempts, coyotes responded.
Smith then imitated the bleat of a young deer. The coyotes stopped howling. What happened next surprised even Smith, who has observed wildlife for years in these woods near his home in Bangor.