Research Summary for Grizzly-PAW Website Theme 3B: Physiology
There is urgent need for biological markers of physiological function that can be used to detect compromised health in individuals and provide early warnings for poor population performance in threatened wildlife, such as the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos). If individuals are adversely affected by landscape change, this should be reflected by changes in physiological processes before adverse effects become apparent at the population level. Therefore, we hypothesize that resource extraction activities and natural disturbances in the landscape affect the health of grizzly bears. This study aims to (1) develop a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry multiple reaction monitoring (LC/MSMS/MRM) method to identify and quantify the expression of 12-16 proteins in skin that are associated with reproduction, energetics, and stress and (2) determine concentrations of hormones in hair that are associated with reproduction and stress in individuals (1) on different landscapes, (2) over time on different landscapes, and (3) relative to other measures of physiological function. Skin and hair samples have been collected from the free-ranging grizzly bears in the Yellowhead bear management area in Alberta, Canada. Furthermore, extraction techniques have been developed and validated in our laboratory to isolate protein from skin and hormones in hair. Preliminary analyses revealed 546 proteins identified by homologous sequences in the bear family, Ursidae. Out of these proteins, 8 have been sequenced in grizzly bears and are potential biomarkers of reproduction, energetics, and stress. Additionally, all hormone concentrations have been determined for the collected samples. The following steps include relating changes in protein expression and hormone concentrations to landscape disturbance. By developing these techniques, we aim to create a novel tool for scientists and managers to monitor species-at-risk on changing landscapes.