Discipline: Biological Sciences
Taylor Soto - University of Wisconsin-River Falls
The ongoing argument over the evolutionary history and genetic composition of Canid populations within North America has become primarily relevant to the conservation and management of coyotes and wolves. Over a century ago, the over-harvesting of wolves led to the hybridization between Eastern wolves and Western coyotes in the Northeastern region of the United States, resulting in the coyote-wolf hybrid, the coywolf. Current research suggests that coywolves are highly adaptable and found across various regions of North America. The focus of this research is to use PCR-RFLPs (restriction fragment length polymorphism) to determine if coywolves are present in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A restriction site and a length difference in the control region of mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) was used to differentiate wolf and coyote haplotypes; the restriction site is present in wolves but not coyotes. The DNA was extracted using a QIAGEN DNeasy kit, then PCR was run with a primer pair constructed from the coyote and wolf sequences (Wiley et al. 1998). Specimens were gathered from different regions of the two states by collecting buccal, hair and tissue samples from taxidermists, roadkill and rehabilitation centers. During the pilot study we have found that the coyotes collected do not possess wolf ancestry in the mtDNA. Due to the findings of the initial study further research will be done by expanding the project from 10 to over 100 coyote samples. Future research will be focused on using this method so we can determine if hybridized coyotes are present in Minnesota and Wisconsin without directly interfering with wild populations.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): University of Wisconsin-River Falls Biology Department USE Grant from UW-River Falls (URSCA) McNair Scholars Program
Faculty Advisor: Kevyn Juneau, email@example.com
Role: This is my independent research project because I am the one who started it at UW-River Falls. With the help of my research mentor, Dr. Kevyn Juneau I was able to apply for grant funding and start the project in the fall of 2016. From then on, we have worked with taxidermists, wildlife rehabilitators and finding roadkill in order to collect samples for the project. As well as working with Como Zoo in Minnesota to get Gray wolf samples as a control. I have been a part of all aspects of this project including research, lab work, collecting data and presenting the research at top institutions.