polar bears

polar bears

Dance Your PhD 2014- No Way Home

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This is my submission for Dance Your PhD 2014. My dissertation is titled, “Phylogeography and Population Genetics of the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus).” Through my dissertation work I identified five lineages of black bears (Southwest, West, East, Great Lakes, and Central Interior Highlands). I also identified a region of admixture where bears from the Great Lakes and West mixed together following expansion out of three glacial refugia. Secondly, I examined the population genetics of bears in the Midwest where translocation from the Great Lakes lineage mixed with that of the Central Interior Highlands and created a second admixed genetic signature. Finally, I examined methods for identifying where an individual was born based on their genetic signature. These methods can be utilized to identify where illegally harvested animals came from to better understand illegal trade and support enforcement agencies. A primary goal of my dissertation is to understand population genetics across the range so that these methods can be utilized as enforcement tools. The title of the piece, “No Way Home,” is a reference to Dave Wilcove’s book of the same name. The book describes multiple ways in which human induced landscape changes have affected animal migration routes. I use the title two ways. First, to recognize the impact of ongoing habitat fragmentation in limiting dispersal and gene flow in many species, not just bears. Second, to tie in the use of natal origin identification for wildlife trade application; although we can use genetics in this way, an illegally harvested animal no longer contributes it’s genes to the population. Therefore, through habitat fragmentation or illegal harvest, there is, “No Way Home” for many animals. The music, “Wapsuk,” is by Kathleen Edwards and tells the story of the singer/songwriter’s first time seeing polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Manitoba. Sincerest thanks to the dancers of Mizzou Club Dance and Anthony Sigler for working with me, and to Melody Kroll for logistics to support the project. You can learn more about my work by visiting my webpage (http://eepuckett.wordpress.com/publications/), blog (https://wildlifesnpits.wordpress.com/), or via twitter (@EEPuckett).