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Moose DNA being used to study mysterious population decline

The connection between climate change and the decline of moose in parts of northern Ontario is the focus of a new study by a Trent University researcher.

Trent University researcher collects meat samples from hunters to test the effect of climate change

Meredith Purcell, a PhD candidate from Trent University, is using DNA to discover why some moose populations are declining in Ontario. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

The connection between climate change and the decline of moose in parts of northern Ontario is the focus of a new study by Trent University PhD candidate Meredith Purcell.

She's asking hunters to volunteer small samples of moose tissue taken from across the province.

Purcell is looking at genetic markers that mutate quickly because their functions are tied to climate change.

"We are looking at environmental variables that may account for differences in these particular genes," she said. "We picked them, not only because they are of this particular type that will mutate quickly, but because their functions are tied to climate change"

Purcell hopes studying the moose DNA will explain why the animals are disappearing in so many parts of their range.

"Populations have been declining throughout Wisconsin, and now that has extended into Manitoba and we are just starting to see similar effects in Ontario," Purcell said. "So we see these populations that are declining, and some nearby are doing just fine. So we are trying to figure out why that is."

 Purcell said she is especially interested in getting samples from hunters in northwestern Ontario.

Meat samples about the size of a pinky nail is all that's needed for researchers to do a wide range of tests.The meat is sent in a small vial supplied with a kit that Purcell sends out to the people taking part. 

People interested in taking part in the study can contact Purcell through her web


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