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Other Projects

International Polar Year Report

The CCWHC has been linked to 3 International Polar Year (IPY) projects since IPY's official launch in March of 2007. The first project entitled "Resilience of Caribou and Reindeer Populations: Validation and Application of the Filter Paper Technique to Assess Exposure to Pathogens" continues to evaluate the use of filter paper blood collection as a method of community-based monitoring of caribou health across the Canadian North. The second project "Starting the clock for the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network (CARMA): Global Change, Resilience and Human-Rangifer Systems of the CircumArctic" is an international, multidisciplinary project to establish the current status of human-Rangifer systems and to evaluate the resilience of these systems. The third project, "Engaging Communities in the Monitoring of Zoonoses, Country Food Safety, and Wildlife Health," is led by the Nunavik Research Centre in Kuujjuaq, Quebec, and focuses on 5 main zoonotic pathogens in arctic wildlife.

These projects are empowering communities to test their own food and communicate the results locally, and to carry out general surveillance of wildlife health and disease. Educational materials have been developed, including a hunter training video, the Rangifer Anatomy Project, which integrates scientific and traditional knowledge of caribou, local school programs, and hands-on experience with integrating local-scale observations, sample collection and science-based monitoring. In addition to local educational programs and materials, the projects have provided opportunities for graduate and undergraduate training and projects among several Universities.

The projects continue to examine the diversity of pathogens and the effects of climate change on caribou and northern wildlife species and to examine the relationship of this information to the overall health of the animal and human populations.

Raccoon Rabies in Quebec

In conjunction with the government of Quebec and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the CCWHC is involved in a surveillance program designed to detect and monitor the spread of the raccoon rabies virus variant in the province of Quebec.

Several rabid raccoons and striped skunks have been detected as a result of this program.

Results of this surveillance programme have helped to target areas for control measures such as rabies vector density reductions and vaccination programs involving wild raccoons. In addition, public prevention campaigns can be directed toward regions where this zoonosis is most prevalent.

Epidemic Diseases in Double-crested Cormorants

A long-term study of epidemic diseases on one very large colony of Double-crested Cormorants in the southern boreal forest of Saskatchewan has been carried out by the CCWHC since 1994. The colony has varied in size from 11,000 to 4,000 nesting pairs during the study, with an average of 7,300 nesting pairs. Large-scale epidemic mortality, which killed 30-60% of fledglings, occurred in late summer on the colony in 11 of the 16 years of this study, with the frequency of epidemics increasing with time. Two very different diseases have been responsible for these epidemics: Newcastle Disease, a viral disease important to poultry, and Avian Cholera, a bacterial disease which affects many different wild bird species. Monitoring continues in order to learn what effect such high annual mortality may have on the colony in the long term.

Measures of Long-term Stress and Ecosystem Health

Resource managers must understand the impacts of human-caused landscape change on wildlife populations in order to make informed decisions concerning resource utilization and conservation. This research project is determining relationships between landscape structure and change, and the health of grizzly bear populations in the Rocky Mountain foothills to inform and enable management of the landscape. The working hypothesis is that negative effects of landscape change on grizzly bear populations arise largely as a consequence of long-term physiological stress in individual bears. Understanding the underlying mechanisms is critical for resource managers to ensure the conservation of this species at risk. Research objectives are to: (1) enhance geospatial tools for the monitoring of landscape structure, with particular emphasis on detecting changes likely to cause adverse health effects to resident grizzly bears, (2) develop a technique for detecting long-term physiological stress in grizzly bears, (3) determine relationships between long-term physiological stress and other measures of health (longevity, growth, reproduction, immunity, and activity) in grizzly bears, and (4) establish linkages between the health profiles of individual grizzly bears and the landscape structure and change within their home ranges along a gradient of human use. Detailed maps linking landscape structure with grizzly bear occurrence and health are being developed. Combined with predictive models of the effects of landscape change, these maps will provide resource managers with a better understanding of grizzly bear health and resource selection, and grizzly bear response to human activities in order to implement appropriate land management decision-making. Although this research concentrates on a single species and its environment, the significance and application of the research is much broader. The research team is pioneering a new approach to evaluating and monitoring the effects of landscape change on wildlife population health. Both the approach and the tools being developed hold promise for future application to other species at risk and, more generally, better conservation of wildlife populations.

Rangifer Anatomy Project

The Rangifer Anatomy Project began in 2008, building on our long-term work with northern hunters and government biologists in the Northwest Territories. We are integrating scientific information with the traditional knowledge of elders and hunters from northern communities to view caribou anatomy through their eyes. This interaction will enable the scientists to share their knowledge, obtain insight into the user needs, and will also provide opportunities to gather information on traditional uses of caribou from participating Dene, Inuit, Cree, and Métis hunters, youth, and elders. Communication of the results will be done in both web-based and print forms designed for scientists, students, youth, and hunters.

The project is funded by the CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring and Assessment Network, the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada PromoScience, and the UCVM Department of Ecosystem and Public Health.

Nova Scotia Moose Recovery Program

In 2003, the Eastern moose (Alces alces americana) on mainland Nova Scotia was declared an endangered species under the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act. The ability to evaluate potential factors limiting this population is hindered by a lack of information, primarily in the subject areas of genetic structure, health, illegal harvest, and habitat suitability and fragmentation. The CCWHC is an active participant on the recovery program, with the role of evaluating the moose population's health and assessing the significance of disease in the population decline.

Additional Projects

1. Health Assessment of Beluga Whales from the St. Lawrence Estuary

2. VHS on the Great Lakes

3. Wood Bison in NWT (Assessment of Disease Status of Bison in the MacKenzie Bison Sanctuary, NWT)

4. Black-footed Ferret Study, Grasslands National Park

5. Plague Mitigation Study, Grasslands National Park

6. White-nose Syndrome in bats