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Thread: Help from hunters needed!

  1. #1
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Help from hunters needed!

    My name is Becky, and I'm a graduate student at UAA. I'm studying
    genetic variation and parasites of brown and black bears in
    south-central Alaska but need your help to conduct this study. We
    identify parasites within the intestinal tract of bears, and I hope to
    increase our data set with samples collected from hunter harvested
    animals.
    I am ready and willing to travel to the carcass to make the collections
    myself. If you are willing to help, please give me a call
    (907-227-5579) as soon as possible after you take your bear. I will do
    my best to respond to every call, but I have limited resources (no ATV,
    only a small vehicle).
    Thank you very much for your help. It's greatly appreciated.
    Becky

  2. #2
    Member AlaskaTrueAdventure's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Remote...but

    Becky,
    Initially sounds interesting. i mean who among us wouldn't give you one of our kidneys in the name of science?

    OK Seriously...it really does sound interesting. Really.
    But many of us hike several rough miles to get to the good places we have found in the last 20+- years when we go out to whack black bears. And for brown bears, I for one, will be exceptionally remote "towards Cold Bay". Because you will be warm here in Southcentral AK, are there any specimens we might be able to bring back to you. I mean, the carry-on baggage X-ray operator dude would probably love to see me bring back a bear colon or brain back to you. I can bring you a jar full of those wiggly white worms that crawn out of any gut would! But i generally flesh-out and salt them thumb size wart-like growths things on the face of older boars.

    Seriously...
    So...is there anything we can do...anything we can bring back to you?

    Dennis

  3. #3
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Thumbs up more on Becky's project - thanks Dennis!

    Hi Dennis,

    Thanks for getting back to me - no kidneys needed. Believe me, I know how hard this will be. It's more like a pilot study. I have the backing of USGS and ADFG - a biologist there will be collecting blood smears and fecal samples for me on their study of radiocollared bears. But I do like hiking, at least

    What I will be specifically collecting is:
    1. blood smears. Basically blood scraped across a microscope slide, in case I want to look for blood parasites.
    2. the last 10 cm of the small intestine, to look for parasites in.
    3. a sample of muscle tissue (from anywhere). This is where I will be getting DNA information from.

    These things won't be very large - just a bag and a small vial (about 2 ml) for the muscle. So if anyone is willing to help out in a larger way - collecting these samples and (preferably) freezing them - please contact me!

    Thanks again.

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    Thumbs up Beck...

    am piqued at what your thesis is, & what your abstract would look like, etc. etc. Send me a PM Please...

  5. #5
    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Default Collection kit

    You would be well served sending out collection kits to prospective participants.

    Blood..no problem

    Muscle...no problem

    Last 4 cm of Small intestine.....potential problem

    A run the mill hunter won't quickly be able to identify the ileocecal junction without some coaching. Some instructional materials with a kit just might get the poper education diseminated.

    Good luck. I'm hunting SE or I'd ask to help.

  6. #6
    Member L. G.'s Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bighorse View Post
    Last 4 cm of Small intestine.....potential problem
    Yo! Is there a proctologist in the house???

  7. #7

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    Sounds like a cool project! If I get a bear this spring I will be sure to get blood and muscle samples for you. Like Bighorse said though, I'm not so sure about the small intestine. It's all just a pile of guts to me. I'll do my best, though.

    Good Luck!

  8. #8
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Default

    Becky - I'm heading out this weekend and a few other times this spring in pursuit of bears. I've got boxes of microscope slides, so I can easily get you a smear if I harvest a bear. I'd also be happy to get you a muscle sample. As for the small intestine, should it be tied off on each end in order to preserve the contents inside? How quickly would it need to be frozen to make the sample useful? I could probably get it frozen within 24 hours this weekend, but on later trips it might not be possible for 48 hours. I can locate the ileocolic sphincter pretty well, so I'm sure I can find what you're looking for - just looking for some more guidance on proper preservation practices.

    No vials of blood needed?

  9. #9
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default

    Bighorse -

    Thanks for the advice! Yeah, I should probably get that stuff together. . . but happy hunting

  10. #10
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default

    Corn -
    You know, if you could just get any of the stringy parts - that would be awesome! The "small" intestine is the longer but thinner of the coiled up parts of the intestinal tract (large intestine = thick and short).

  11. #11
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Smile Wahoo - thanks Brian!



    Blood actually isn't all that useful for getting DNA from. (You probably know this next bit) Mammalian blood doesn't have nuclei = no DNA. Muscle tissue is way better. The blood smear is just to look at parasites. Incidentally, it's awesome that you already know how to do smears! I'm not that great at it. . .
    Good question about tying up the intestines, hadn't thought of that. As long as it all comes back together, it's not a problem. I'm just going to separate out the bear tissue/food particles from the parasites anyway.

    And for freezing: the sooner the better, but within 2 days is way better than I was hoping for!

    My thanks again!

  12. #12
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Ideas...

    Becky,

    I agree with others that it sounds like you have an interesting project ahead. I'm sure many hunters would be more than happy to help and as mentioned, it would probably be easiest for them to collect the samples and bring them back rather than call you out to the kill site.

    Here's what I would suggest you do. Build a sample collection kit with instructions. Remember that size/weight are important as a hunter won't want to pack in something that won't easily fit in a side pocket on his pack. Write up and print out a single page instruction sheet and include a photo of the section of small intestine that you need so folks can figure out where to cut in the field. If you need 10cm (4in), then you'd best ask for 6 inches to ensure you get enough (don't use cm with hunters, we don't think that way - it's an inch or nothing).

    If you want details about the animal, kill location, or whatever, put those questions with fill in the blank spots on the instruction sheet.

    I'd then suggest you take a quart sized ziploc bag, fold up the instruction sheet and put it in there with 3 sandwich sized ziploc bags. Label one for the intestine and another for the muscle sample. Add a small plastic (not glass) purple-top (EDTA) vaccutainer blood tube (this will keep the blood from clotting and you'll be able to make your own slide mounts later). Ask them to pull the top off without spilling the small amount of clear liquid inside, fill it about 1/2 to 2/3rds full with clean blood from a major artery, and put the cap back on. Tilt it back and forth a half dozen times to mix the EDTA into the blood and then place it in the last ziploc bag. Put all the bags back in the quart bag. Bring the whole package back to you.

    If you provide such a kit ahead of time, you'll get a lot more samples back compared to waiting for calls to come out to kill sites. There are a number of folks who won't want to have strangers coming into their hunting sites in the first place. So you'll have to respect that aspect.

    Good luck with your project. When you have completed it, I'm sure everyone here would love to hear a summary of your findings also.
    Winter is Coming...

    Go GeocacheAlaska!

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    Default

    Becky,

    If you could come up with a kit like JOAT suggested I would definitely be willing to help.
    If not maybe even posting some pictures and descriptions might make it easier for some of us.
    Dave

  14. #14
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Default

    I would suggest getting collection dates on the samples too. It would be interesting to note the difference (if any) between the bears fresh out of the den in the spring vs just before denning up in the fall.

  15. #15
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default EDTA/the kits

    Hey Joat -

    Yes, I should definitely do that. I'm really just feeling things out right now, to see how interested people are - and I'm very excited at all the positive comments!

    As for the EDTA - I'm double-checking with my advisor on that. I'm not sure if it will mess up the smears for some reason - make the parasites less visible or interfere with later staining - so I'm also looking into heparin for that.

    But I really appreciate your input and advice! Seems like you've done something like this before. . .

  16. #16
    Member Toddler's Avatar
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    Default I'll play!

    JOAT has a good idea about the kit. I think you would get way more assistance than you need or even want. However, I think a lager data sampling would help your thesis, as I am sure you are going to have to discard some of our samples (probably mine) because someone made a mistake in taking the sample. Im planning on running a predator station this year and would be more than happy to help you out. Hell you might even be able to talk me into brining you along on a fly out. Id like to hear your Thesis as well.

    Drew
    Normal people believe that if something ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

    Scott Adams

  17. #17
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default fall vs. spring intestines

    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    I would suggest getting collection dates on the samples too. It would be interesting to note the difference (if any) between the bears fresh out of the den in the spring vs just before denning up in the fall.

    Yep, you hit on something that's been a topic of interest already. Parasites that feed on ingesta - what the bear actually eats - generally pass out of the system before hibernation, since the bear isn't eating anything during that time, so the parasites wouldn't survive. But parasites that feed on the bear's body don't pass out.

    Okay, any of you guys want to be on my graduate advising committee? These are all insightful comments!

  18. #18
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default FLY!

    Quote Originally Posted by Toddler View Post
    JOAT has a good idea about the kit. I think you would get way more assistance than you need or even want. However, I think a lager data sampling would help your thesis, as I am sure you are going to have to discard some of our samples (probably mine) because someone made a mistake in taking the sample. Im planning on running a predator station this year and would be more than happy to help you out. Hell you might even be able to talk me into brining you along on a fly out. Id like to hear your Thesis as well.

    Drew

    A fly out, SWEET! You know, even just the muscle tissue would be helpful, since the parasites are only one component of the study. And unless you cut off part of your own flesh and mix it around, you can't really mess up the muscle sample.

    Sample size is definitely a problem for this study, especially the genetic aspect. It's really not scientifically sound to extrapolate population genetics based on few samples - it would be bad of me to get 20 samples, say, and tell you that the bears are inbred - probably would get thrown out of school by a frenzy of mad scientists. Really, as you know (I'm guessing, since you do predator station work) most of the time on a study is spent collecting data, not analyzing or interpreting.

  19. #19
    Member Becky Sawyer's Avatar
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    Default pictures, soon to come then!

    Quote Originally Posted by Muskie View Post
    Becky,

    If you could come up with a kit like JOAT suggested I would definitely be willing to help.
    If not maybe even posting some pictures and descriptions might make it easier for some of us.
    Dave
    [slap on head] shoulda thought of that!

    There are some pictures on my profile, but those are for entertainment only (got to go out to the Near Islands last summer for bird surveys). Yes, another awesome light bulb from this forum. You guys rock!

  20. #20
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    Default Becky...

    please stick around after yer study too please, you could school some of us on here 'bout ecology, predator/prey relations within the ecology, & the impacts of abundance management for higher ungulate populations...

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