Andean Bear Non-invasive Genetic Sampling

Haley Egan, Environmental Science

Third Place: Undergraduate Poster

Abstract:The Andean bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the only extant bear of South America. Due to anthropogenic activities causing environmental habitat losses, habitat fragmentation, and climates changes, Andean bear populations are declining. However, accurate data on exact population densities and distributions are nonexistent, and the Andean bear has remained listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN since 1982. To protect the Andean bear from extinction, conservation efforts are needed, but this cannot be done until major gaps in knowledge about the bears are overcome. Research on the bears has proved difficult due to extensive range, dense vegetation, rough terrain, and the elusiveness of the bear. Many different methods have been used in researching the bear such as camera trapping, trapping bears for genetic samples, and radio collaring bears for tracking. These study methods have yet to provide sufficient data, are expensive, and can prove harmful to individual within the species. We proposed the use of non-invasive genetic sampling techniques as a positive alternative. Our study was conducted in the Southern Ecuadorean Andes to determine the most efficient and effective method of the non-invasively sampling genetic material such as bear hair, scat, and saliva.